17th century newsflash: Okehampton's thatched school house catches fire
Regular readers will know that I've been tracing backwards on my maternal grandfather's line, through my Edwards, Recket, Pudicome and Randall ancestors. Last time, I reached back to 1672 when my 7 x great-grandfather, Nathaniel Randall, was born in Okehampton in Devon. His father was John Randall and his mother was Jane (nee Wood).
John and Jane married on 27th October 1665 in Colan in Cornwall. They had five sons between 1666 (the year of the Great Fire of London) and 1676. The fire raged from the 2nd to the 5th September and their eldest son, William, was baptized just days later on the 11th September but thankfully, they were living a long way from London in Jacobstowe in Devon.
John Randall was appointed the Vicar of Colan in 1663 and in the following year he became the Rector of Jacobstowe. By 1670 his responsibilities had broadened when he became the schoolmaster at Okehampton Grammar School and the Chaplain at St James' Chapel, Okehampton.
Here is a transcript of the form of agreement which John signed...
"It is agreed on and fully consented to, that Mr. John Randall shall have liberty to teach scholars at the School House of the town and borough during the pleasure of the Mayor, Principal Burgesses and Assistants for the time being, and it is agreed on that the said Mr. Randall shall read Common Prayer at the Chapel mornings and evenings, and that he shall preach four Sessions Sermon every year, and that the said Mr. Randall shall instruct 6 or 8 poor children freely, such as the Mayor for the time being shall think fit, and that the said Mr. Randall for, and in consideration of his pains in the discharge of the duty incumbent upon him, shall have liberty to dwell in the school house, and that he shall have £15 yearly in the gift of the Mayor and Burgesses in recompense of his pains, and it is moreover agreed that the said Mr. Randall shall preach a sermon once every year at the election of the Mayor, provided it shall be free for the Mayor for the time being to have whom he pleaseth to preach at any session or election held for the town and borough. Witness our hands and seals this day," etc.
John had his own encounter with fire when, on 29th October 1670, the chimney in the school house caught ablaze. The thatch was destroyed but most of the timber was preserved and so the school house was rebuilt in the following year with "a chamber over it, and new heated".
On 13th May 1672, John Randall with the Mayor of Okehampton, the Vicar (Mr. Hussey) and many town inhabitants viewed some of the parish boundaries on Dartmoor Common. It was usual for the beating of the bounds, as it was called, to take place on Ascension Day or during Rogation week.
John died in 1680 and was buried at Jacobstowe on 8th December, described as the Rector of the Parish. He was buried in wool according to an Act of Parliament which was designed to protect the English woollen industry. He left no will but his estate was administered in 1681. The fate of his wife, Jane, is currently unknown.
Image courtesy of Sailom at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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Category: Ancestors Corner