Stone Geography

Somerset parishes of interest to the Stones. Clayhanger is to the west of Ashbrittle, on the Devon side of the Somerset-Devon county line.
Somerset parishes of interest to the Stones. Clayhanger is to the west of Ashbrittle, on the Devon side of the Somerset-Devon county line.

By using these two links to the Devon and Somerset maps you can obtain a better view by zooming in. When finished viewing any of the links, return to the text by clicking the back arrow.

1611 Devon map Clayhanger area cropped

1611 Somerset map Chipstable area cropped

Introduction to Stone Family Geography

In seeking our ancestral Stone roots, let’s start four centuries ago when our first documented ancestors were being baptized, married and buried. The two maps shown here were first published in 1611/1612, at which time they were considered to be the first comprehensive maps of Great Britain. The date of these maps is appropriate for our family. 1612 was the year of christening of the last of the six children who were born to my ninth great grandfather, Richard Stone 1579 – 1653 and my ninth great grandmother, whose name as yet is unknown. Twenty eight to thirty five years later, in 1640 and 1647 to be precise, Richard and his second wife, Eleanor, produced a second Stone family. The focus of my genealogical study has been to trace these two descendant lines having the common ancestor Richard Stone. My emphasis has been on the particular line from his first marriage that immigrated to the United States and secondarily to the particular line from his second marriage that immigrated to Australia and New Zealand. We now have very close friends in New Zealand who are 9th, 10th and 11th cousins! The map portions shown here cover part of the border country between the Counties of Devon and Somerset and include virtually all of the parishes of importance to our family from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century. Of these two maps that I obtained from the web, the Somersetshire map is presented in a somewhat larger scale than the Devonshire map. I suggest a visit to Google Maps and Google Earth for various scale views of England’s West country.

Although some of our kin folk continue to live in this area to this day, the number of Stone descendants is very small compared to the population in the 17th – 19th centuries. My study of the family has placed primary focus on Captain Stone 1784 – 1821, descended from Richard Stone (1579)’s first marriage. Captain’s family moved from Somerset to Hertfordshire between 1809 and 1813 and then to Albion, Illinois in 1818. The family settled soon in Bone Gap, where Captain Stone’s daughter Sarah named her first son “Captain”.  

In 1833 Robert Stone 1789, the son of another and older Captain Stone from our Somerset family who descended from Richard’s second marriage, immigrated to Tasmania, Melbourne and then New Zealand. Robert Stone again used the baptismal name “Captain” in 1816 when he named his son Captain James Stone. “CJ” Stone became a leading financier and industrialist in Auckland in the 1840s, and his son Charles Burrell Stone was the first white child baptized in the new settlement of Auckland. The highly unusual baptismal name “Captain” pops up in the Stone family on other occasions.

Although the early seventeenth century spelling of some of the parish names differs a bit from the present form, I’m sure you will be able to identify them. 

Devonshire: Looking first at the Devonshire map, the parish of Clayhanger is just left of center and is on the border with Somerset. It is a small parish with barely 200 residents, as seen here from the south. The parish warrants a leisurely visit and perhaps a walk. The narrow lanes, all that Clayhanger has, will encourage a leisurely drive. All of Richard’s eight children, from his two marriages, were baptized in St. Peters Church in Clayhanger. Take the time to see the interior of the church. To the west of Clayhanger is the considerably larger town of Bampton, spelled Baunton on the Somerset map. There were Stones in the neighboring parishes of Huntsham, Holcombe Rogus, Hockworthy and others. On the Devon map, Ashbrittle is shown as part of Devonshire, which is incorrect. On the Somerset map you will see that it is within a small westerly bulge of Somerset just east and southeast of Clayhanger. They are very close. When we stayed at the Lower Westcott Farm B&B in 2006, we were physically in the parish of Ashbrittle yet only three fields away from St. Peters Church in Clayhanger. The lords of the manor for Clayhanger centuries ago were the Nutcombe family. Nutcombe House, northwest of the church and village, is worth a visit. The view north from Clayhanger looks toward neighboring Chipstable, Somerset

Somersetshire: Now take a look at the Somerset map. Even more parishes of interest appear there. Foremost is Chipstable, which I consider our family seat because the family has been represented there for more than four hundred years. Many of our ancestors and relatives were baptized and married in All Saints parish church or buried in the churchyard. One of our Stones, my second cousin John Stone 1789, became Lord of the Manor of Chipstable in 1827 when he purchased all or most of the original manor properties and established his seat there at his new country home called Bulland Lodge. At the time he was a successful barrister in Bath and then Bristol. He died in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset (birthplace of John Cleese), in 1868.

The Chipstable “home base” of our Stone line – Richard 1579’s first family’s line of descent, appears to date from the beginning of the seventeenth century. Although Clayhanger friends told me that there was a Venn Farm in Clayhanger centuries ago, the best known “Venn Farm” was in Chipstable on the county and parish boundary between Clayhanger and Chipstable. Robert Stone 1640 of Clayhanger and Ashbrittle (the New Zealand line) purchased 1/2 to 3/4 of the Chipstable Venn Farm in 1706 from the Bluett family heirs. It appears, however, that our Stone family had leased the farm since about 1600. When his first son, John, was baptized in 1602 in Clayhanger, he was John Stone alias Venne, as was his sister in 1604 – Joane Stone alias Venne. And in 1617 “John Stone Senior alias Venne of Chipstable” wrote his will. He well might have been the father of Richard Stone 1579 of Clayhanger. The presence of the Stones in Chipstable in the seventeenth and eighteenth century is well documented by parish records, wills and other documents pertaining to Emanuel Stone (son of Richard 1579 and my eighth great grandfather), his son Richard Stone 1640, and his sons William ca. 1670 and Robert ca. 1683 (my sixth great grandfather), and Robert’s three sons John 1711, William 1713 and Thomas 1716 (my fifth great grandfather. Both William and Thomas rose from Yeomen to Gentlemen while in Chipstable. Why the eldest son John remained a Yeoman even as he wrote his will in 1783 is somewhat of a mystery. Usually the eldest son has an advantage. It is clear that William’s stature rose when he married the daughter of a Gentleman (James White). His family lived thereafter at Withycombe Farm in Chipstable, a beautiful site, and the property on which William’s grandson John, when Lord of the Manor, built his country home in the late 1820s. Withycombe House was the birth site for many members of the Stone family. Thomas, my fifth great grandfather, was born there. He married Betty, the daughter of another Chipstable Yeoman (John Perratt), yet Thomas was a Gentleman later in life with property in Chipstable, Wiveliscombe, and Brushford. When Robert Stone 1670 of the NZ line purchased most of Chipstable’s Venn Farm in 1706, the first branch of the Stones (the “USA line”) moved their Chipstable operations to other properties including Withycombe Farm.

Ashbrittle was an important parish for our family. It is close to the east of Clayhanger along a narrow lane, with splendid views north toward Chipstable. Many Stones lived in this parish over the centuries and worshiped in St. Michael’s Church. Adjacent to the church is the famous 3,000 year old Yew Tree, which counts as one of Queen Elizabeth’s fifty favorite trees. Within the church, a number of Stone family members are shown as church leaders, along with familiar family or friend names like Burge, Hill, Moggridge, Norman, Nutcombe, as well as Stone. The closest Stone relatives associated with the parish were Richard Stone and Thomazine from the second family of Richard 1579, which I call “the New Zealand line”. Their family included children Thomazine, William, Robert and Grace.  Son Robert, born about 1670, in 1705 married Elizabeth Hill from Stawley, which is located close by, north of Ashbrittle and east of Clayhanger and Chipstable. In 1706 they moved to Chipstable to join their cousins from Richard’s first line of descent when they purchased half to three quarters of the Venn Farm on the south border of Chipstable. The descendants of Robert and Elizabeth Stone from the Venn Farm in Chipstable are for the most part well documented. Their son Robert, grandson Captain, great grandson Robert and great great grandson Captain James “CJ” Stone form what I call “the New Zealand line”. Their grandson Captain Stone 1756 returned in retirement to Chipstable and then to Ashbrittle after his career in the Excise (i.e. a tax collector!). His final two children, Asa and Jane, were baptized in Ashbrittle in 1809 and 1811. (For a long time we thought these daughters belonged to the younger Captain Stone 1784 – in the Albion, IL line, but when the true identity of the wife of the younger Captain Stone (1784) was clarified, it was clear that these two girls belonged to the elder Captain Stone, his cousin.)

The two parishes of Dulverton and Brushford, west of Chipstable, are where we found my sixth great grandfather Robert Stone after he retired from his working life in Chipstable. He was a Yeoman throughout, died in Brushford, but was buried in Chipstable. He married twice more when he lived in Dulverton and Brushford. At age about 55, he married widow Ann Baker Webber in Dulverton, but they had no children.  On Dec. 11, 1755, at age about 72, he married Elizabeth Venner (having already produced a base born son William Venner with her in 1753), and two weeks later on Dec. 26 they baptized a second son Richard. Quite a robust gentleman! When Robert died at age 82, his will provided that his son Thomas from his first marriage, my fifth great grandfather, would be guardian for the two boys until they reached maturity . William Venner alias Stone and Richard Stone can be traced in the Chipstable area later in the 18c.

Another parish to look for on the Somerset map is Clatworthy, where my fourth great grandmother Elizabeth Sellick came from. Between Clatworthy to the north and Chipstable to the south is Huish Champflower where my third great grandmother Ann Webber was born.

Wiveliscombe is an important town for the Stone family. My third great grandfather Captain Stone 1784 and his six brothers were baptized at St. Andrews parish church in Wiveliscombe. Their parents, John Stone 1739 of Chipstable and Elizabeth Sellick Stone 1750 of Clatworthy were buried here. Wiveliscombe is the local market town and worth a visit, both to the churchyard and the town. It is only a mile plus along Challick Lane from Withycombe Farm in Chipstable  to the church in Wiveliscombe. For a brew or a bite, stop in at The Bear Inn, in the center of the town.

Captain married Ann Webber Stone, the widow of his older brother William, in Bishops Lydeard. You will find that parish east of Chipstable and Wiveliscombe on the Somerset map. The Church of St. Mary in Bishops Lydeard is a handsome structure with a very tall tower. It has been included because of its style and beauty in books about English country churches. Captain’s older brother John Stone also was married in that church. His bride Mary Stone might have been a relative, but evidence is lacking. I suspect that Captain was working for his brother John when he married Ann.

Northeast of Wiveliscombe and just east of Clatworthy is the parish of Brompton Ralph. The widow of John Stone alias Venne (1602), oldest child of Richard Stone 1579, moved to Brompton Ralph after becoming a widow, probably to be near her sister in law Agnes Stone Hemburrow. Agnes’s husband was from a Brompton Ralph family. The 1659 will of John’s widow Richard (yes! – Richard – female) Parkhouse Stone has been very helpful in reconstructing 17c family history.

Looking again at the Somerset map, a number of other parishes of interest can be seen. Raddington was a separate parish centuries ago but now is part of Chipstable Civil Parish. Its tiny church is located out in a field with only a footpath to reach it. It was a popular church for marriages and is a delightful site to visit. Some of our family members were baptized in Raddington, and occasionally in both Raddington and Chipstable. The footpath between the Chipstable and Raddington churches is highly recommended and enables one to obtain a sense of the local geography – which is delightful! There were many Stones in Langford Budville, shown as Langford on this map, but their precise relationships to our Clayhanger – Chipstable Stones is not yet clear.