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This is the true account of Mary Stentiford's application for a Settlement Certificate in the March of 1807. Her examination was conducted by the Church Wardens of Ugborough where she was a officially a sojourner and a full record* was made at the time of the answers she gave to their questioning.

 

The whole examination must have taken some considerable time because it is clear that she was being asked to account for her movements virtually throughout her entire life up to that point. What a task! Mary begins by saying that she was a single woman born in Ugborough. Her problem was that she could not fulfil one of the conditions of the 1662 Act of Settlement. Yes, she was born in Ugborough and her Baptism appears in that Register but she was unmarried and to gain Settlement, in addition to her birth right, she had to show that she had worked there for a period of at least a year - until she could do that, she was officially a sojourner. These are her notes as the Clerk wrote them down:

 

"When she was about 17 years old, she went to service and hired herself to John Savery (a farmer in Ermington, the next village) for one year at the wages of one shilling a week. She served out the year and received the wages as she wanted it. And at the end of the year, she settled up the account. She then hired herself to him for another year at the wages of three pounds. She served out the year and received the wages and then hired herself to him for another year at the same wages and served out that year.

 

Then she hired herself to Philip Edgcombe (who had taken the Estate the said Mr Savery had) for one year at the wages of three pounds, and served out the year and received the wages. She hired herself to him again for the wages of three pounds and ten shillings."

 

According to Mary, she stayed with Philip Edgcombe for a further four years before deciding to leave. At this point she seems to have returned to Ugborough and hired herself out by the day or by the job, a situation she says lasted for "a few months".

 

These were the days before the country had a Coast Guard Service so a Battalion of Dragoons was stationed in nearby Modbury - a sign of the concern about smuggling at this time. After a short period in the home of a Modbury farmer, Mary found herself employment with the widow of a Captain Crispin, lately of those Dragoons. She worked there for a year at a wage of three pounds and three shillings before moving on to a Mr. Widdecombe of the same Parish where she stayed for a year at a wage of three guineas after a month on trial. The Parish Clerk takes up her story again:

 

"She then went to live as a visitor with her brother in the Parish of Ermington, her parents being dead about a quarter of a year and then hired herself to a person at St Budeaux (Plymouth) for one month at the wages of five shillings and being taken ill, was obliged to leave her place and go to her brother's again until she was able to work again. Soon afterwards, she went to live with Mr. Hodge (of Ugborough) but being again taken ill, she stayed but two days with him and was then removed to the Poor House in Ugborough and remained there about a quarter of a year.

 

She lived with Mr.Crocker (in Ugborough) about a month and then went to Cornwood (an adjacent village) and lived there about five weeks. She had never hired herself for a complete year since that time but the last place she lived was at Mr.Jean's, a Lieutenant in the Navy residing in the Parish of Holbeton with whom she hired herself by the month at six shillings. She was paid her wages every month as it became due and was at liberty to leave him at the end of any month. She said that Mr. Jeans might turn her off at the end of any month."

 

 

*Mary's record is contained in the Settlement Records of Ugborough to be found in the branch of the Devon Record Office at Plymouth.

 

CONTINUED

 

 
 
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