The Mystery of Maria Pinsent’s Parents

Maria and Roger

One of the mysteries that surrounds the Australian Yeo family who emigrated to Bathurst, NSW, Australia in 1839 is the parentage of Maria Pinsent. She had married Roger Yeo in 1814 and was just fifteen years old. They were married in Wolborough Church in Newton Abbot on the 21 st June, 1814, by licence, because she was underage. At that time Roger was living in Bristol and Maria was from Wolborough.

Both signed their names. They moved to Bristol where Roger was employed in the family stationery business. The following year Maria returned to Newton Abbot and her first child, Betsy Maria was baptised in Wolborough church on the 6 th July, 1815.

No baptism has ever been found for Maria, although her brother, John was baptised in Wolborough on the 11th October, 1799 and if they were twins then she was in fact only fourteen years old when she married. I think it is more likely that she was born the year before when her parents were not married.

On her assisted passage to Australia she has her parents as Thomas Pinsent, chandler and Elizabeth of Newton (Abbot).

Jenny McCarthy, Wendy McGill, Marion Fairweather and myself have all worked on this for years trying to find Thomas. Wendy even hired a professional researcher. Together we had numerous clues but Thomas still remained illusive.

My breakthrough came from Robert Pinsent, who lives in Vancouver and has spent years researching the family very thoroughly. He had Thomas as being the same Thomas who married Ann Ball. Tentatively I started to explore this possibility….

Robert was correct, there was only one Thomas living in Wolborough at that time. He was a chandler listed in the Bailey's British Directory [for 1784]; or, Merchant's and Trader's Useful Companion for the year 1784

Thomas Pinsent




Newton Abbott Devonshire


tallow chandler soap/candles/glue etc(s)




Address(Es): Newton Abbott, Devonshire


Occupation(s): tallow chandler, soap/candles/glue etc(s)

Source Date:


This Thomas had married Ann Balle at North Bovey in 1777, then they moved to Wolborough and their children were baptised there, Anna Thomasine Crout in 1777, Thomas 1779 died 1779, Thomas 1782 and Betsy in 1787.

Robert then told me that Ann (nee Balle) had died in 1794 and was buried in North Bovey. The entry in the North Bovey registers actually states she was from Newton Abbot. So Thomas was then a widower with young children. However it was to be another five years before he remarried to Elizabeth Pridham, a spinster from St Marychurch. On the marriage certificate it has “Thomas Pinsent. Widower of Wolborough”

But what is most important is his signature. Signatures are like DNA they are usually unique and Thomas’s was particularly distinguishable, written with a confident flow of the pen or quill. Just compare this with the one on Maria’s marriage certificate and they had to be written by the same person.

Thomas & Betsy's marriage certificate
Roger Yeo & Maria's wedding certificate
Thomas’s signature on his marriage to Ann Ball in 1777 is less conclusive
However his signature on his daughter Betsy's marriage to Westcott Doble in 1808 is identical to the two on the previous documents, proving beyond doubt this is the same person.







Kelly Farm, Lustleigh

So why had we not pursued this line before?....... We knew Thomas and Elizabeth had more children, John 1799, William 1808, George 1812 and Charles 1814, all baptised in Wolborough and on Charles’s entry it has his father’s trade as a chandler. But the Thomas married to Ann was a wealthy man and the children of that marriage had increased their wealth by marriage contracts. Thomas’s father, John who was also a tallow chandler and soap maker, had inherited South Kelly in Lustleigh and owned a house in Moretonhampstead with an annual Land Tax value of 12s a year. He also rented property called Bugged Down, Caphills and Court Tenement (taxed at an approximate value of L.2 14s 0d) from Lord Viscount Courtenay throughout the 1880s and 1890s. Land Tax Assessment records refer to him as John Pinsent "senior" in 1793, 1799 and 1800.

Mr. John Pinsent "senior" died in 1800, five years after his wife, Elizabeth. His will is summarized in the Durham, Ely, Exeter and Oxford Death Duty Registers for 1796-1811. He left a small annual bequest to the "Deacon or Leader of the Tabernacle in Moretonhampstead"

In it, he acknowledges his two sons, John and Thomas who had, presumably, received settlements previously and leaves most of his considerable estate to his grandchildren. “Thomas Pinsent, son of my son Thomas Pinsent of Newton”, who was only eighteen years old at the time was left four hundred pounds and an estate called Caphills in Moretonhampstead “subject to an annual payment to his father of sixteen pounds”. He was specifically debarred from transferring the property (by inference to his father – most likely because the latter had remarried the previous year and John intended the property to stay with his son’s first family). Thomas “Junior” as he logically was, was also given a leasehold interest in a property called Court Tenement in Moretonhampstead “subject to a payment of thirty two pounds to Moses Savery of Bovey Tracey …., Serge-maker and Joseph Wills the younger of … Ilsington” in trust for his granddaughter Mary Pinsent “during the life of her father” (his eldest son John Pinsent “Junior”) and, if she was to die before her father, then in trust for her younger sisters, Sarah and then Elizabeth, respectively. John also gave Savery Moses and Joseph Wills a one third part interest in the mine called South Kelley to hold in trust for his three daughters.

Significantly, he gave the remaining two thirds of the residual nineteen year leasehold interest in the mine to his son “Thomas of Newton, and Thomas, his son”. It is not clear whether equally, or entail and consecutively. Thomas Pinsent (presumable the grandson) maintained the family interest in Court Tenement and Caphills in Moretonhampstead until 1806 and paid Land Tax for a house there until 1814.

John also made a bequest of “ten guineas of gold” to his son Thomas’s daughter Elizabeth (presumably the Betsey described below) to be paid her when she became twenty one and, most importantly, he left his “grandson John Pinsent, son of Thomas Pinsent of Newton” the sum of sixty guineas of gold to be paid when he reached the age of twenty one years. There is no record of Thomas and Anne having a son John. However, Mrs. Anne Pinsent “of Newton Abbot” was buried in North Bovey in May, 1794 and Thomas married Elizabeth Pridham in St. Mary Church, on 2 nd June, 1799. The couple had a son John Pinsent baptized in Wolborough on 11 th October, 1799. Presumably, he was the intended recipient.

(Many thanks to Robert Pinsent for this new information which proves beyond doubt that John, Maria's brother was the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Pridham)

Thomas rented property called the "Blue Ball and gardens" in Wolborough (Newton Abbot), which was owned by Mr. Francis Drake and taxed at £10 7s 5d between 1780 and 1784. He also paid Land Tax of 13/9d per annum on a house in Newton Abbot in Keyberry Road (now East Street) between 1782 and, at least, 1829 where presumably he carried out his trade as a chandler. He owned Greenhill Estate in Kingsteignton (Land Tax L3 10/6d) in 1780 which is discussed in his daughter Anna's will, in 1799, and it became his son Thomas' principal residence in the mid-1800s.

It is possible that Thomas also acquired property in North Bovey from the Ball family, through his marriage to Ann. From 1780 onwards, he is reported to have owned and rented out Ponsford's Lettaford and South Lettaford (together taxed at L.1 17/11d) and some property at a place called Pawtry, taxed at L.1 3/8d. It is interesting to note that he transferred ownership of the Lettaford property to his ex-son in law, Joseph Pinsent in 1805 (some years after the death his daughter Anna Thomasine Croat) and it later became his principal Devon residence.

So why did his second family fare so badly?

Greenhill, Kingsteignton - 2009  

By chance I came across an original document written in 1872 after the death of his son, Thomas, regarding the sale of part of the Greenhill property, which its owner, Ruth Lidbury, kindly let me borrow. What was extremely interesting was that all Thomas senior’s property seems to have been shared out amongst his older children before his second marriage. In 1799, the year Thomas married Betsy Pridham, his daughter Anna had married Joseph Pinsent (from another branch of the family) and when she died later that year she mentions Greenhill and leaves her

“one equal half part of my interest in the rents, profits and proceeds arising out of an estate called Greenhill Estate in the parish of Kingsteignton, Devon, aforesaid now in the occupation of Mr W. Smale” to her beloved sister, Betsy. The other estates etc she left to her beloved husband, Joseph.

The estates then passed to Thomas’s son Thomas who had married Mary, the daughter of a wealthy merchant called Moses Savery and all seem to be part of the marriage settlement. he schedules are listed below:-

    • 19/20 November 1805 Indentures of Lease and Release of these dates between Thomas Pinsent (the only mention of Thomas senior) and Thomas Pinsent the younger of the first part and Moses Savery of the second part and Charles Luxmoore of the third part (This was part of the marriage contract between Thomas Pinsent, junior and Mary Savery, where the interests, profits etc were signed over to Moses Savery).

    • 23/24 April 1833 Indentures of Lease and Release of these dates between Richard Savery and John Foster of the first part and the said Thomas Pinsent the younger and Mary his wife of the second part and the said Thomas Pinsent the younger of the third part. (Richard Savery, son of Moses releases his interests to his sister Mary and Thomas Pinsent the younger)

    • 3/4 May 1808 Indentures of Lease and Release of these dates between Betsy Pinsent of the first part, Westcott Doble Wyatt of the second part Samuel Darke of the third part Thomas Bartlett of the fourth part and the said Moses Savery and Thomas Pinsent the younger of the fifth part. (Betsy married Westcott Doble Wyatt on the 26th May, 1808 and this is when she signed her interest in the property to her future husband)

    • 23rd/24th August 1810 Indentures of lease and Release of these dates the latter between the said Westcott Doble Wyatt of the one part and the said Thomas Pinsent the younger of the other part. (Westcott, Betsy's husband passes his interest in the property to Thomas Pinsent, junior)

    • 15/16 January 1822 Indentures of Lease and Release the Release between Joseph Pinsent of the one part and the said Thomas Pinsent of the other part (Joseph was married to Anna who died in 1799 when she left him her interest in the property. This is when he passes that interest to Thomas Pinsent, junior)

    • 15/16 May 1829 Indentures of Lease and Release the Release between Joseph Pinsent of the one part and the said Thomas Pinsent of the other part. (as above)

    • Trinity Term 10 George 4th Indentures of a fine levied in pursuance of the last mentioned Indentures of Lease and Release

    • 26/27 April 1833 Indentures of lease and release the latter between William Smale of the one part and Thomas Pinsent the younger of the other part. (From 1780 - 1800 William Smale occupied the Greenhills)

    • 28th April, 1833 Indenture of this date between Mary Pinsent and Richard Savery of the one part and the said Thomas Pinsent of the other part (Richard Savery, son of Moses, and his sister Mary release their intersts to Thomas Pinsent the younger)

    • 29/30 April, 1833 Indentures of Lease and Release the latter between John Nosworthy of the one part and the said Thomas Pinsent of the other part. (John Nosworthy releases his interests to Thomas Pinsent the younger.

    • 29 June 1833 Indenture between the said Thomas Pinsent the younger and Mary his wife of the one part and William Hull Terrell of the other part (Thomas and Mary, who now have sole ownership, rent part of the property to William Hull Terrell)

    • 8th June 3 William 4th (1833) Indentures of Fine levied in pursuance of the last mentioned Indenture

In 1841 Mary was residing at Greenhill with her daughters, Anna and Mary (Married to the Reverent Thomas Horton) and grandchildren, Mary, Elizabeth, Emma and Anna Horton. Thomas was a "merchant" who ran a linen and woolen drapery business in Devonport [Thomas Pinsent, Linen and Woolen Draper; 43 Market Street] during the Napoleonic wars and presumably benefited from increased activity around the Naval Dockyards. Thomas ran the business in person until around 1830; thereafter he appears to have returned to his estate at Greenhills in Kingsteignton. According to the electoral roll for the County, was living there between 1832 and 1834, and he was Constable for Kingsteignton Hundred in 1839 (Ugbrooke Archives) Thomas paid "Chief rent for Greenhill's, part of Gildon's and part of Blindwells", in Kingsteignton Manor from 1842 onward. However, at some point prior to 1830, he acquired a brewery in Highweek (Newton Abbot) and he may have had active interests there. This passed to his son, John Ball Pinsent. (More on the children of Thomas Pinsent and Mary Savery)

Greenhill was a massive estate in Kingsteignton, where I now live. As well as the farm it had attached to its lease many cottages and lands throughout Kingsteignton. This old map of Kingsteignton shows its importance in the early 1800's. The deeds which were kindly loaned to me by Ruth were for one part of the estate involving Exeter Road and Newpark. As part of the wishes written in Thomas's will in 1872, all of the estates were to be sold and the money shared between the family. Greenhillis now an old people's home, but alot of the estate was lost when the Kingsteignton By-pass was built in 1972. Greenhill Way goes right through the gardens of the estate. When the road was being built I found it quite sad to see a beautiful Victorian summerhouse standing on its own on the left hand side of the road, whilst the house was on the right hand side. There are now housing estates on all the land.

Thomas, junior, was living at Greenhill with his wife and their unmarried daughter Anna at the time of the 1851 Census. Anna appears to have stayed home and looked after her father until his death in 1872. He moved to Torquay in his declining years and he was living on Belgrave Crescent, Wellesley, at the time of the 1871 Census. In it, he is described as being an 89 year old landowner living with his unmarried daughter, Anna, aged 61, his daughter in law Agnes, aged 41, and his granddaughter Edith, aged 4, as well as a couple of servants. Thomas died the following year and his will (PCC) was proved by his daughter Anna, his son John Ball, and the Reverend Evan Edwards of Torquay “a dissenting minister”. The will refers to property in North Bovey called Potworthy (Pawtry?) and Barramore Bridge (Bridge?). His estate was quoted at £25,000. (More on the other children of Thomas and Mary)

Back to Thomas & Elizabeth nee Pridham

Elizabeth was just twenty one when she married Thomas in 1799 and pregnant. They married in June and John was baptised in October, just four months later. Elizabeth was not some scullery maid as she could read and write, but it is possible that Maria was the first child she conceived by Thomas and that for some reason she had to wait until she was twenty one before she could marry him. There is a baptism for a Maria Pridham daughter of Betty Pridham in the St Mary Church Parish Registers, dated 7th March 1797 and this is probably the correct one. By the time Thomas married Betsy he was forty five years of age. Thomas and Elizabeth continued to live in the leased accommodation in Newton Abbot, where Thomas had his business as a chandler.

They had three more children after Maria and John, William born 1808, George born 1812 and Charles born 1814. All the children were educated and eventually apprenticed.

Maria born 1797? married Roger Yeo in 1814 in Wolborough, Newton Abbot. It is a mystery how they met but I wonder if it was linked to the Yeo family business as Stationers. The piece on Kelly Farm on Mike Wills's excellent site on the Wills of Lustleigh, Devon mentions that John, father of Thomas married to Elizabeth Pridham, sold Kelly farm in 1797, just before he died in 1800, but leased back the mine, which produced a black shiny ore ( micaceous hematite) which was used for drying hand written documents and in Paint. Maybe Roger was interested in this.. He was involved in the family stationery business in Bristol. It had been owned by His father's brother, John Yeo but when he died in 1812 it was left to his two nieces, Mary and Elizabeth, daughters of Michael Yeo and Elizabeth nee Waldron. Mary married Alfred Eastman and the business moved to London where in the 1846 London Directory it is listed as:-

Eastman & Yeo, stationers, copperplate, lithographic & letterpress printers & account book manufacturers - 100 Cheapside.

In 1841 Roger & Maria's eldest son Thomas Roger, named after his grandfather, Thomas Pinsent and his father Roger, was working in the family firm as an apprentice and by 1851 he had full control of the business and didn't join the family in Australia for many years. He had no children and eventually returned to Swimbridge and died at Yeolands in 1899.

Roger and Maria also left their little three year old son, George Pinsent Yeo when they emigrated to Australia in 1839. He must have been a sickly child as he died in 1841 at just five years of age and is buried in Swimbridge.

John born 1799 to Thomas and Elizabeth, married Mary Todd in 1822 in Clerkenwell, London. Their first child, Thomas, was born in 1823 and baptised in Clerkenwell and died in 1825.

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, City Road, London, for Thomas Pinsent 16th October 1825 he was 2 years and 17 days old, the place of abode is Goswell Road.

Their second child, John was baptised on the 18th November, 1826 in Clerkenwell and on both entries John has his profession as a Tallow Chandler.

Between 1823 and 1834 John was a, “Wax and Tallow Chandler” living at 1 Ratcliffe Terrace, Goswell Road, London. An article in the Times advertising for a cook on 3rd February 1829 gives Mr Pinsent (Tallow Chandler) address as corner of Powell and Goswell Street Road.

John & Mary first travelled to America in 1832 arriving on the 26th September, 1832 in New York aboard the Wellington which left from London. With him was his wife Mary and son William aged 7, (born 1825). His trade was recorded as a soapboiler. On the 3rd January, 1837 Mary, with son William travelled from London to New York aboard the Montreal.

In the 1840 census John is living in New York Ward 8, with Mary and William. However they returned to England around this time as they were then living in London and John was at school in Durham. By 1850 they were back in New York and John was a confectioner.

In the 1857 New York City Directory John and his two sons are listed as confectioners

      • John Pinsent, confectioner, 217 Sixth Avenue
      • John Pinsent junior confectioner, 217 Sixth Avenue
      • William Pinsent, confectioner, 217 Sixth Avenue
      • W & J Pinsent, confectioners, 217, Sixth Avenue.

In 1859 John & son John were living at 370, Bowery listed as John Pinsent & son, confectioners and William was still living at 217, Sixth Avenue as a confectioner.

On the 27th September, 1859 he also travelled with his wife Mary aboard the Baltimore from Liverpool to New York and by then was an American citizen. In 1863 and 1864 John appears in the US IRS Tax assessment. Then living at 370 Bowers, New York

New York Directory 1869

      • Pinsent John, h 217 Sixth av.
      • Pinsent William, candy, 217 Sixth av
      • Pinsent John, saloon, 856 Sixth av

In 1870 he was living in New York Ward 16 District 1, New York with son William and his family and three servants. Son, William is listed as keeping confectionery.

The obituary for John is very precise. He died on the 31 st August and was 70 years and 11 months. Our John was baptized on the 11 th October, 1799 so this has to be him…

George born 1812 in Newton Abbot moved to London and married Elizabeth Leatt born in Covent Garden around 1842. George was a master tailor and had offspring.

Charles born 1814 in Newton Abbot moved to London and married Mary Follock ? also from Newton Abbot in 1833 at St George Hanover Square. He was a cheesemonger. After Mary died around 1852 he married Georgina Caroline Henley in 1854. Georgina was the daughter of John Creed Henly, who was a druggist in London. John Creed Henly was born in Newton Abbot and was part of the affluent Henly family who lived in Abbotskerswell. Charles and Mary had offspring, from one of which Wendy is a descendant. Charles and Georgina also had a daughter, Georgina.

The children of Thomas Pinsent and Mary Savery

  • Mary Savery Pinsent born 16th March, 1806 in Devonport and married Rev. Thomas Horton and had children
  • Thomas Pinsent born 1807 (baptized 4 th April, 1813 at Hope Baptist Church, Devonport; died aged 19 on 12 th April, 1826 and buried in Bovey Tracey (Baptist?) Churchyard.
  • Anna Pinsent born 10th June, 1809 in Devonport and married, 1874, Henry Milford, a barrister at Clifford’s Inn, Fleet Street, London
  • Elizabeth Savery Pinsent born 16th March, 1811 in Devonport, married, 1840, Thomas Gammon, a glass manufacturer from Small Heath, Birmingham.
  • Sarah Savery Pinsent born 1812 in Plymouth, died 1813 in Plymouth
  • Sarah Pinsent born 16th November, 1817 in Stoke Damerel, married, 1847, Thomas Smith James, a solicitor in Harborne, Birmingham
  • John Ball Pinsent born 30th October, 1819 married Hannah Davie Swain and had children - Brewer and Spirit Merchant in Newton Abbot
  • Richard Steele Pinsent born 19th December, 1820 in Plymouth, married, 1850, Catherine Agnes Ross and had children-Linen and Woolen Draper. His son Richard Alfred Pinsent was given a Baronetcy.

    The Pinsent Baronetcy, of Selly Hill in the City of Birmingham, is a title in the Baronetage of the United Kingdom. It was created on 3 February 1938 for Richard Alfred Pinsent. He was President of the Law Society from 1918 to 1919. His second son Clive is the grandfather of Sir Matthew Pinsent.

    Pinsent Baronets, of Selly Hill (1938)
    Sir Richard Alfred Pinsent, 1st Baronet (1852-1948)
    Sir Roy Pinsent, 2nd Baronet (1883-1978)
    Sir Christopher Roy Pinsent, 3rd Baronet (b. 1922)

  • Emma Pinsent, born 1823 in Plymouth died 1831 in Kingsteignton
  • Savery Pinsent, born 7th July, 1825 in Plymouth - Solicitor, Mayor of Durban, South Africa, in 1857, 1859.
PDF Tree for two generations of Thomas's descendants - Set the % in the Adobe Reader from 5% to 100%

Back to Thomas Pinsent and Elizabeth Pridham

My thanks to Robert Pinsent, Wendy McGill, Jenny McCarthy and Marion Fairweather for sharing all their research with me. Hopefully Robert can be persuaded to register all his in depth research with the Guild of One Name Studies as the Pinsents are quite a unique if not slightly eccentric family. Robert has so much more information on the descendants of Thomas Pinsent and Mary Savery as well as all the other branches and it is his research I have used re Thomas senior and his parents and without him sharing this with us we would never have solved the problem of Maria. If you e-mail me I will pass your interests on to him.

Also thanks to Ruth Lidbury for so kindly loaning me the original document relating to Greenhill.

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