Tuesday 6 May 2014

The Mystery of Anne Hughes

A number of years ago, as the Online Parish Clerk for Cornwood Parish in Devon, I was asked if I could find information on an individual by the name of Anne Hughes Phillips. The family believed she was related to their mother, Jessy Blight. They thought Anne’s father was named Roger Charles Phillips who apparently had been a resident of a place called Colza Farm. That seemed relatively straight-forward.

I did a quick look through my parish records and found the family, including the baptisms of the two sons of Jessy Anne (Phillips) Blight, Bennett Clive and Roger Stanley. In fact, I was able to find several generations of the Phillips family in the parish registers. Anne Hughes Phillips turned out to be a great-aunt of Jessy, who had been baptized as Jessy Anne Hughes Phillips. This also opened up the story of a namesake of them both.

There is a story in the Phillips family lore about an Anne Hughes who married a Phillips man in Cornwood parish, against the wishes of her own family. As a result, according to descendants, “she was disinherited and only allowed to take with her six silver teaspoons, engraved with her initials, and a small teapot and sugar bowl. It is assumed from their nature and value that the spoons were a Christening present which would explain why they were retained. The hallmarked date for the spoons seems to be 1802 or 1803.”
Set of six spoons engraved with initials AH presumed to have belonged to Anne Hughes of Cornwood, Devon
Bowl and Teapot presumed to have belonged to Anne Hughes of Cornwood, Devon
It was speculated that Anne was born in or around Cornwood parish about 1800, near the hamlets of Yondertown or Lutton or possibly near Sparkwell, in adjacent Plympton St. Mary parish. She was apparently held in high esteem and at least two members of the family, mentioned above, bear the name Anne Hughes as part of their own: Anne Hughes Phillips, born in 1839 in Cornwood; and Jessy Anne Hughes Phillips, born in 1911, also in Cornwood.

Having found several Phillips family members, I was then asked if I could find any reference to Anne Hughes, herself, to confirm the story. Her name was not in any records for Cornwood, Plympton St. Mary, Plympton St. Maurice, Harford or Ermington parishes although all of them had many representatives of the Phillips family. In fact, there were no Hughes families living in the area at all during the late 18th and early 19th centuries; so that was a dead end.

The only individual close in name was Anne Frances Hayes, daughter of Treby Hele Hayes, Esq. and his wife, Susanna, a major land-owner and occupant of Delamore manor. It certainly would have been frowned upon by this family had their daughter married one of the “common” people. But Anne Frances ended up marrying another nobleman by the name of William Mackworth Praid in 1831. So that was another dead end.

It is possible that Anne Hughes was born in a parish far removed from Cornwood, however, no marriage between an Anne Hughes and a man with the Phillips has yet been found for the relative time frame anywhere in Southwest Devon.

This is one of those family stories that cannot, or at least has not yet been supported by documentation. While they may yet be found a connection for the time being the existence of Anne Hughes will remain a mystery.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.