One of the most interesting homes I visited in Cornwood parish in 2004 was the ancestral home of the Shepheard family at East Rooke. The building today is an impressive two-story home on East Rooke farm, overlooking the Yealm River valley. The farm is located at the top of the valley, about three-quarters of a mile north of the village of Cornwood, along what is known today as Rooke Lane, and nestled against Dartmoor National Park.
Main house at East Rooke farm, Cornwood parish, Devon, England
(photo taken by Wayne Shepheard 2004)
Outbuildings at East Rooke farm (photo taken by Wayne Shepheard 2004)
Most of the East Rooke, together with the Middle Rooke lands are believed to have been continuously occupied by the Shepheard family from the 1600s until the last piece was sold in the early 20th century. The lands were passed down through the eldest males of the family, according to English law, and are referenced in several wills. To date no copies of deeds for the lands have been found. The last surviving copies may have been destroyed in a fire in Totnes, in 1990, when many of the records of Delamore Estate, the current owner, were lost.
Land tax assessment documents demonstrate both the 38 acre East Rooke and 24 acre Middle Rooke farms were owned by one of my 4th great-granduncles, Nicholas Shepheard (1761-1820), from at least 1781 until his death in 1820, and by his heirs afterward. The 1842 Tithe Apportionment map shows the parcels that were part of East and Middle Rooke.
Main residence at Middle Rooke farm, Cornwood paris
1841 Tithe Apportionment map showing Rooke lands, in Cornwood Parish,
owned then by Sampson Shepheard (1771-1856)
The buildings at East Rooke have been modified over the years. Detail from the 1841 map shows a slightly different layout of buildings than is present today. Part of the difference may be due to errors in the surveyor’s drawings however it does appear that some buildings were taken down and rebuilt, or enlarged after 1841, possibly using some of the same materials.
East Rooke farm buildings: left – 1841 tithe map; right – 2004 satellite photo
The interior retains much of its early charm, although has been updated with the latest amenities. One of the fireplaces looks to be original as does the granite floor in the front hallway.
Stone fireplace in main floor drawing room
Granite floor in main foyer
The property was sold in two parcels. East Rooke was sold after the 1856 death of my 4th great-granduncle, Sampson Shepheard, the last owner. Sampson had only daughters and he instructed his Executor to sell off all of his properties and divide the proceeds among the surviving women. Middle Rooke had by then been inherited by my 3rd great-granduncle, Richard Shepheard, as dictated by the will of another 4th great-granduncle, Nicholas Shepheard (the eldest brother of Sampson), upon his death in 1820. Richard’s son, Nicholas, was the final owner of the lands which were sold sometime after his death in 1919.
Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He serves as the Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.