Robert Yeo & Ann Syms


Robert Yeo (b. 1802) and Ann Syms of Moretonhampstead

Ploughing in the 1800's

Robert Yeo , son of Robert Yeo and Susanna Webber , was born on 9 May 1802 in South Tawton Robert married Ann Syms , daughter of William Syms and Ann Northcott on 16 Dec 1827 in South Tawton. Ann was born in 1807 in Spreyton, Devon. Robert was then 25 years old, and having been apprenticed from the age of ten until he was twenty one he would have found it impossible to marry until he was able to support a wife. Robert needed a house and was dependant on the farmer who employed him for this. The ‘tied' cottage, as it was known, produced all sorts of evils, the main one being that the farm worker and his family were completely at the mercy of the farmer who was also their landlord and such cottages as existed were all too often horrible, damp places, where illnesses prevailed. Devonshire farmers, as a class, were not noted for their generosity towards their workers and wages in the south of England were much lower than in Northern England where there was competition for labour between landowners and the factories and the local farmers knew this. A farm labourer would have earned about eight shillings per week. On this weekly sum he endeavoured to support his wife and children.

A Victorian Farmhouse

He would however have been able to grow his own vegetables and probably kept chickens and the odd animal for eggs and meat and milk would have come from the farm. Rabbiting was also a means of providing food, supplemented with the occasional bit of poaching, although this was the time when men, women and children were being transported for stealing just a loaf of bread. Robert would have worked a sixty hour week and Ann and the younger children probably earned extra money labouring at certain times of the year such as harvest time but there was no money for any luxuries and essentials such as sugar, pepper and salt, tea, candles, soap, soda starch and blue, boots, clothing and children's schooling would all have cost money. However, he lived in a beautiful part of Devon, with an abundance of fresh air and moving to the town wouldn't have given him the same quality of life or the same opportunities to supplement his income.

Robert must have stayed with Mark Cann for many years as in 1841 Robert and Ann were living at Spitlercross, South Tawton, with children Robert aged 9, Mary aged 7, Ann aged 4 and Joseph aged 1 all born in South Tawton. His sister Susanna (Coombe) was also living with them and working as a farm labourer, perhaps she was then widowed.

Harvesting in the 1800's

Between 1843 and 1847 Robert and Ann moved to Moretonhampstead and were living at South Cranbrook, where he was working as a farm labourer for Thomas Newcombe, a local farmer from Sampford Courtenay who had 220 acres of land with just four labourers. Cranbrook was an isolated farm and the nearest neighbours were more than a quarter of a mile away. Living with them in 1851 were sons John aged 7 and George aged 4. In the census it is recorded that George was deaf and dumb and in 1853 little George died of Phthisis, which he had had for two years. This is a painful form of tuberculosis which attacks the bones. He died on the 10th of December, 1853 at Cranbrook, Moretonhampstead and his father was present at his death.

The older children had left home and were all working as farm labourers or in service. Joseph, then aged eleven was living next door, as a farm servant, with Thomas Newcombe at North Cranbrook. However this took its toll and Robert and Ann were to bury another of their young sons, when Joseph died on the 19th October, 1860 at Hill, Moretonhampstead. The cause of his death was Scrofula, a form of tuberculosis which causes abscesses of the glands of the neck, which he had had for six months and he was just twenty years old.

By 1861 Robert and Ann had moved to Hill Farm, Moretonhampstead, another isolated farm, living with them was son William aged 9 and James Thomas, a boarder aged 6 months, born in the Newton Union (Workhouse). Their nearest neighbours were Robert and Susan Crout , whose granddaughter, Elizabeth, was to marry their son John. Robert and Ann stayed at Hill Farm for another eighteen years until he died on the 24th February, 1878 at Hill, he was then 78 years old and a labourer and his cause of death was disease of the brain, Hemiplegia which he had had for two months. Ann was then homeless as the cottage was tied to Robert's employment and she went to live with her youngest son, William at Lower Hisley Farm, Lustleigh where she died, three years later, on the 24th October, 1881. She was 79 years old and the cause of her death was chronic bronchitis.

Children from this marriage were:

    • Susanna Yeo born in 1829 and baptised on the 29th Mar 1829 in South Tawton. She married Thomas Dyer .
    • Robert Yeo born in 1831 and baptised on the 11 Dec 1831 in South Tawton. He married Ruth Ponsford .
    • Margaret Yeo born in 1833 and baptised on the 15th Dec 1833 in South Tawton. Margaret married John Hall .In 1851 Margaret was a servant living with George Powlesland at Great Course Beer, South Tawton and is incorrectly named Mary. In 1881 she was living at Lower Crownley, Bovey Tracey with her husband John Hall , an agricultural labourer.
    • Anne Yeo born in 1837 and baptised on the 16th Apr 1837 in South Tawton. She married John Thorne In 1851 Ann was a house servant working for Philip Cann at East Nymph, South Tawton and in 1881 Ann was living at Coombe in Buckfastleigh with her husband John Thorne an agricultural labourer and daughters, Martha aged 14, born Ashburton, who work at the Copper Mine, Thirsa aged , Mary aged 4 and Ada aged 2 all born in Buckfastleigh
    • Joseph Yeo born in 1839 and baptised on the 22nd Dec 1839 in South Tawton. He died in 1860 at Hill Farm in Moretonhampstead aged 20, and was buried on the 19th October 1860 in Moretonhampstead. At the time of Joseph's baptism, his parents were living at South Zeal, South Tawton. During the 1851 census he was an 11 year old servant on the farm of Thomas Newcombe at North Cranbrook, Moretonhampstead. Joseph was just 20 years old when he died on the 19th October, 1860 at Hill, Moretonhampstead.
    • John Yeo born in 1843 and baptised on the 27th Aug 1843 in South Tawton and married Elizabeth Crout , (Refer to chapter on John Yeo and Elizabeth Crout )
    • George Yeo born in 1845 and baptised on the 23rd Aug 1845 in Mortonhampstead. He died in 1853 in Mortonhampstead aged 9, and was buried on the 10th December 1853 in Moretonhampstead. Little George, who was deaf and dumb, was just nine years of age when he died.
    • William Yeo born in 1851 and baptised on the 9th Nov 1851 in Moretonhampstead. He married Mary Pike . (Refer to page on William Yeo and Mary Pike .)

Susanna Yeo and Thomas Dyer

Susanna Yeo , born in 1829 and baptised on the 29th Mar 1829 in South Tawton, daughter of Robert Yeo and Ann Syms , and married Thomas Dyer , born 1830 in Chudleigh, in 1857 in Mortonhampstead. Devon. Susanna died in 1870 in Moretonhampstead at the early age of 41.

In the 1851 census, Susan was a 22 year old unmarried House Servant in the house of George and Rebecca Rowe at Easdon, Moretonhampstead. Easdon is an extremely isolate hamlet, on the moors near to Manaton.

On the 16th April 1852 at Moretonhampstead she baptised her son Richard, she was then unmarried and a servant of Cranbrook. Little Richard was buried on the 4th June 1858 as Richard Yeo of Pepperdon Hall age 5 years old. Even though his mother had, by then, married a year earlier, he still retained the surname "Yeo".

Children from the marriage between Susanna & Thomas were:

    • Frank Dyer was born in 1858 in Moretonhampstead.
    • Thomas Dyer was born in 1860 in Ilsington
    • George Dyer was born in 1861 in Moretonhampstead and married Harriet Voyse
    • Thomas Dyer was born in 1863 in Moretonhampstead
    • Susan Ann Dyer was born in 1865 in Moretonhampstead and married John Brusey (b. 1861).
    • Walter Dyer was born in 1866 in Moretonhampstead
    • Mary Dyer was born in 1868 in Moretonhampstead

Susan Anne Dyer (b. 1865) and John Brusey of Coombeinteignhead

Susan Dyer was born in 1865 in Moretonhampstead, Devon. Susan's mother was Susanna Yeo who was a sister of John Yeo born 1843 who married Elizabeth Crout . She married John Brusey and it is interesting that her eldest son, William Henry married Beatrice Mabel Lee , daughter of Carrie's brother Harry Lee and Harry took as his second wife in 1926, her youngest daughter, Susan Anne. Susan married John Brusey , son of Thomas Brusey . John was born in 1861 in Netherton, Haccombe with Combe, Devon.

Children from this marriage were:

    • William Henry Brusey born on 2 May 1887 who married Beatrice Mabel Lee
    • Reginald J Brusey born in 1890 in Coombeinteignhead, Devon.
    • Lucy Brusey born in 1893 in Coombeinteignhead, Devon.
    • George Brusey born in 1894 in Coombeinteignhead, Devon.
    • Elsie Brusey born in 1897 in Teigngrace, Devon.
    • Susan Anne Brusey born on 25 Jun 1902 in Netherton, Haccombe with Combe. Susan married Harry Lee
    • Florence Louisa Brusey born on 2 Mar 1900 in Stokeinteignhead, Devon who married John Henry Brusey

Children from this marriage are:

  • Violet May Brusey born on 17 Jun 1922 in Coombeinteignhead, Devon, died on 3 Feb 1992 in Bromley Hospital, Bromley, Kent at age 69, and was buried on 3 Nov 1992 in Hither Green Crematorium, London. Violet married Frank Richard Fitzgerald on 4 May 1941 in Newton Abbot Register Office, Devon. Frank was born on 5 Feb 1917 in Camberwell, London and died on 22 May 1945 in Myanmar, Burma at age 28. Violet met James whilst he was working at Mercers Crossing signalbox during the second world war,
  • Maurice James Brusey was born on 28 Jun 1924 in 62, East Street, Newton Abbot, Devon and died on 25 Feb 1926 in Coombeinteignhead, Devon at age 1.

Violet next married James Harold Rubie on 14 Sep 1946 in St Swithun's Church, Hither Green, London. James was born on 29 Jan 1909 in Lewisham, Kent and died on 16 Dec 1981 in Lewisham Hospital, Kent at age 72.

Children of Violet & James are:-

  • Valerie Ann Rubie was born on 13 Jun 1947 in West Byfleet. Valerie married Leon Daniel Adams on 7 Jan 1967 in the LDS Chapel, Hyde Park, London. Leon was born in 1948 in Madras, India.
  • Robert Leslie Rubie was born on 27 Sep 1949 in Hither Green, London. Robert married Ann Elizabeth Johnson on 8 Dec 1995 in LDS Chapel, Orpington, Kent. Ann was born on 5 Feb 1945 in Halifax, Yorkshire.

Florence next married William Skedgell on 17 Nov 1934 in Newton Abbot Register Office, Devon. William was born on 18 Apr 1905 in Plymouth, Devon and died on 4 Feb 1963 in Brixham aged 57.

The child from this marriage is:

  • Mary Rose Ann Skedgell born on 16 May 1937 in Teignmouth, Devon and died on 9 Nov 2003 in Austria at age 66. Mary married Brian Beer in 1965.

Children of Mary Rose and Brian are:-

  • David Beer was born in 1966 in Newton Abbot, Devon.


William Henry Brusey (b. 1887) and Beatrice Mabel Lee

William Henry Brusey was born on 5 Feb 1887 in Netherton, Haccombe with Combe, Devon, son of John Brusey and Susan Dyer , and died on 18 Mar 1971 in Kingskerswell, Devon at age 84 of Coronary Thrombosis and Congestive Cardiac failure. William married Beatrice Mabel Lee , daughter of Harry Lee and Ellen Squires , on 12 Dec 1914 in Newton Abbot Register Office, Devon. Beatrice was born in 1897 in Doddiscomsleigh, Devon.

Children from this marriage were:

  • Albert Reginald Brusey born on 1 Jan 1915 in Newton Abbot Area, Devon. Attended Stoke school from 13th May 1918 until 15th October 1926 when he was excluded until further notice by Doctor's orders. Albert married Nellie Frankham .
  • Beatrice Maud Brusey born on 13 Jan 1916 in Newton Abbot, Devon attended Stoke school from 31st January 1919 until 24th June 1927 when the family left the neighbourhood then married Frank Platt in 1942 in Wellington, Somerset
  • Edward John Brusey born in 1918 in Newton Abbot, Devon.
  • Amelia Louisa Brusey born on 9 th May 1920 in Newton Abbot, Devon.
  • Olive Edith Brusey born on 12 th September, 1924 in Newton Abbot, Devon. Olive married Mr Smith and next married John Bastin .
  • Serita Primrose Brusey born on 30 Aug 1926 in Newton Abbot, Devon. She attended Stoke school from 12th October 1936 after transferring from Denbury school. Her last day at Stoke was 29th July 1943 when she transferred to Teignmouth school. She married Mr Trout .

Robert Yeo (b. 1831) and Ruth Ponsford of Spreyton, Devon


Robert Yeo , the eldest son of Robert Yeo and Ann Syms , was born on 11 Dec 1831 in South Tawton and died in 1907 in Spreyton, aged 76. Robert married Ruth Ponsford . Ruth was born in 1841 in Hittisleigh, Devon and was christened in 1902 in Spreyton. Robert's name was passed down by tradition, the eldest son was always called Robert, after his father, grandfather etc.

In 1851 Robert was an agricultural labourer working for John Langmead at Whitstone Farm, Bovey Tracey. Also with him was his cousin James Redstone.

By 1861 he had moved to Spreyton and was a carter working for George Cann at Heath Farm. In 1863 Robert married Ruth Ponsford at the parish church of Spreyton. The witnesses at the wedding were Thomas and William Honeychurch. Ruth was born in Hittersleigh, a neighbouring village and her father was Daniel. She was ten years younger than Robert.

In 1871 Robert & Ruth were living in Spreyton village with children Mary Ann, aged 7, William Henry aged 5, Edwin aged 3 and Albert aged 2, all born in Spreyton.

In 1881 Robert & Ruth were living in Falkadon Cottage, Spreyton, with children Mary Ann aged 17, Albert aged 13, George aged 10, Alice aged 8 and Elizabeth aged 1.

In 1891 Robert and Ruth were living at Ryders Beere in Spreyton, with children, Elizabeth aged 11 and Emily aged 8.

By 1901 Robert was 69 years old and Ruth 59 and they were still living in Spreyton and Robert was working as an agricultural labourer. Ruth died the following year in 1901 and Robert in 1907 aged 76.

Children from this marriage were:

  • Maryann Yeo born in 1864 in Spreyton.
  • William Henry Yeo born in 1865 in Spreyton and in 1891 was a servant living in Spreyton, unmarried.,
  • Edwin Yeo born in 1867 in Spreyton who married Mary Elizabeth Ann Palmer
  • Albert Yeo was born in 1869 in Spreyton who married Blanche Pyke.
  • George Yeo was born in 1871 in Spreyton who married Ellen Arscott
  • Alice Yeo was born in 1873 in Spreyton.
  • Elizabeth Yeo was born in 1880 in Spreyton.
  • Emily Yeo was born in 1883 in Spreyton.

Edwin (b. 1867) & Mary Elizabeth Ann Palmer of Littleham, Devon

Edwin Yeo was born in 1867 in Spreyton, the third child and second son of Robert and Ruth .

Holy Trinity, Littleham.

By 1881 Edwin had been apprenticed to William Hopkins , a boot and shoe repairer and was living with him in Spreyton village.

In 1891 he was lodging at 6, Palace Cottages in Withycombe Raleigh with Charles Francis, a shoemaker and Edwin was a shoemaker. He married Mary Elizabeth Ann Palmer on the 28th August, 1895 in the Chapel of Holy Trinity, Littleham, Exmouth. Mary's father was Charles Palmer , a jeweller and the witnesses at the wedding were Charles & Laura Palmer and Richard Hore .

In 1905, when their son Edwin Ernest was born, they were living at 13, The Parade, Withycombe Raleigh, Exmouth and Edwin was by then a bootmaker master. Edwin died on 13 Jan 1909 in Exeter, Devon at age 42.

Edwin Ernest Yeo (b. 1905) & Gladys Grant of Exeter, Devon

One of the children from the marriage was Edwin Ernest Yeo born on 18 Apr 1905 in Withycombe Raleigh. Edwin married Gladys Grant , daughter of Edgar Grant on the 9 th March, 1929 in the parish church in Heavitree. His address then was 81, Priory Road, Heavitree. Gladys was living at 22, Embleford Crescent, Moretonhampstead and her father was Edgar Grant , deceased. The witnesses at the wedding were Harold George Grant and Edwin's father Edwin. Edwin Ernest was a motor engineer. When Raymon was born in 1935 they were living at 12, Widgery Road, Exeter and Edwin was a corporation omnibus driver. Edwin died in 1969 in Exeter at the age of 63 of heart failure and his daughter Joan was the informant on the death certificate.

The children from this marriage were:-

    • Donald Charles Yeo born in 1929 in Exeter, who married Jean Allen and had four daughters, Linda Yeo , Ann Yeo , Donna Yeo and Gina Yeo .
    • Joan Yeo born in 1933 in Exeter who married Ivor Western .
    • Ramon Yeo born in 1935 in Exeter, Devon who married Judith Mason and was Mayor of Exeter in 1994
    • Edwin John Yeo born in 1942 in Exeter, Devon whose daughter, Sarah Yeo , is a talented folk singer who entertains many people in the Topsham area with her beautiful voice.

William Yeo (b. 1851) and Mary Pike of Moretonhampstead & Lustleigh.

William Yeo , was the youngest son of Robert Yeo and Ann Syms , born on 9 Nov 1851 in Moretonhampstead and died in Mar 1935 in Newton Abbot Area at age 83. William married Mary Pike on 26 Nov 1874 in Mortonhampstead. Mary was born in 1856 in Chagford and died in Jun 1923 in Newton Abbot Area at age 67.

Lower Hisley Farm, Lustleigh

In 1881 William & Mary were living at Lower Hisley in Lustleigh . William 's mother Ann was living with them and children, Mary Ann aged 4 years born Moretonhampstead, Emma E aged 3 born also in Moretonhampstead, Susanna aged 2 and William J aged 6 months born in Lustleigh. William was a farm labourer.

By 1891 they had moved to Wreyland Cottage which is between Lustleigh and Bovey Tracey and had more children, living with them were William J now aged 10, Millicent aged 9 born in Lustleigh, Edith E aged 8, born in Lustleigh, Rhoda L aged 6 born in Moretonhampstead and Harry Arthur aged 3 born in Bovey Tracey. Visiting them was a John Powey aged 34, a cab driver born in Torquay.

In 1901 they were living in St Marys Street, Bovey Tracey , living with them were daughter Edith now 22 and a printer in the pottery, Millie aged 22 working in the pottery warehouse, Harry aged 13 a general labourer, Mark aged 9, Alfred aged 5 and another child, William aged 4 all born in Bovey Tracey. There is some confusion over the ages of the various children in this census, most of them are wrongly recorded.

Children from this marriage were:

  • Maryann Yeo was born on 31 May 1876 in Moretonhampstead.
  • Emma Elizabeth Yeo was born on 18 Jul 1877 in Moretonhampstead.
  • Edith Ellen Yeo was born in 1881 in Lustleigh.
  • William John Yeo was born in 1881 in Lustleigh.
  • Amelia Bessie Yeo was born in 1881.
  • Rhoda Lucy Yeo was born in 1885 in Moretonhampstead and married Mr Caseley .
  • Harry Arthur Yeo was born in 1887 in Bovey Tracey.
  • Mark Henry Yeo was born in 1891 in Lustleigh and married Lilian May Grant
  • Alfred James Yeo was born in 1896 in Bovey Tracey and died in 1990 in Torbay area at age 94.
  • William Yeo was born in 1897 in Bovey Tracey.

Mark Henry Yeo born 1891 in Lustleigh, married Lilian May Grant in 1915 and had a son, Francis Mark Yeo born in 1915 in Asprington, Devon who married Ms Panniers in 1939 in Pontypridd, South Wales and they then moved back to the Totnes area of Devon and had an only daughter Sally Yeo in 1947.

Sadly in 1974 Sally was killed. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sally was a typist in the social security office in Torquay when a man with a gun went berserk. The man, a Mr Michael Brown apparently visited the office about six weeks previously to ask if he could have a job working at that office, but was told there was no vacancy and by then was desperate. He first shot a male clerical officer through the heart, a Mr John Legge aged 25, the father of a baby aged six weeks old. After shooting Mr Legge the gunman went upstairs and shot Mr Reginald Watkins , aged 46, an executive officer, at point blank range and killed him. As the gunman walked downstairs he shot Sally, aged 26 of Brankscombe Close, Torquay and she fell dying. Then the man shouted "I'm sorry, I can't go on any longer" and shot himself.

What a tragedy for the family, poor Sally was just 26 years old and at the prime of her life and certainly wasn't responsible for poor Mr Brown's problems, she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time...

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