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Location: Lympstone, Devon, Englandmap
Surname/tag: Bass
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The Lympstone Connection

When William James Bass spoke to his grandson, Roy Parkhouse, about his ancestors in the 1940's, he was confined to his bed in the front room of 40 Elm Street, Cardiff. The tuberculous abcess in his left hip was causing him severe pain. (It was to kill him about 5 years later). He insisted that what he was about to say should be written down. This was done on the reverse side of four of his "bill-heads" as he called them. They still exist, held together by a rusting paper clip. The exact date the notes were made is forgotten, but the year is thought to be 1946.

The 1946 notes have been neglected for forty years as being too preposterous to believe - every family is supposed to have a similar tale to tell. However, it is now clear that a number of the "facts" have turned out to be true. Perhaps there are more truths to be discovered in the notes. The most important fact remaining to be discovered is how Samuel Bass, basket maker, of Topsham, and his father, Thomas Bass, a baker, the documented ancestors of William James Bass, are connected to the ship-building, land-owning Bass's of Lympstone. Perhaps it is just that they were more impressive to claim as relatives than the true ones - whoever they turn out to be? On the other hand, Lympstone and Topsham are so close together, that it is difficult to see how the families are not related. Certainly, Samuel Bass of Lympstone married Jane Sommers in Topsham 6 Jun 1749. Also, around 1804, John Bass, shipbuilder, of Lympstone was in partnership with John Bishop when he acquired Captain Rising's shipyard at the lower end of Topsham Strand, and John Bass built, sometime before 1815, Topsham, a man-of-war, the "Cyane"[1].

The contents of the four sheets of notes are recorded here, just in case they are of some relevance in the search for a connection between the Bass's of Topsham and the Bass's of Lympstone. The misspellings are repeated.

The Original 1946 Notes

Sheet 1 This contains a sketch of a family tree which, earlier than W.J.Bass's parents, appears to be wrong. It mentions a Mary Ann Bass and her guardian, Denham, and Samuel Bass, and John Bass. The relationships were not understood by a thirteen year old boy taking notes.
Sheet 2 This is headed "Property" and goes on literally as follows: "Farm, lime kilns, public house ("The Bass's Hotel" or Inn, altered to "The Railway") and all the village of Lymston. The Sextant(?) knows the facts. Worth £20,000 a year. Granfie's Great Grandfather sold the property for the rest of his life after which it would return to his eldest son. It didn't. Clumpton a solicitor in Lymston had a book with all the facts when Granfie and Johnie Rich went there. But he was an old man with very little business. N.B. Topsam, Lymston, Uffculme. (Pit Farm outside Lymston). When Granfie's father wanted his old-age pension he had to send to Exeter for his birth certificate. At first they wouldn't send it but on his writing again it was sent, with the information that no christian name was given for him when he was registered. So he had to get two people who knew him to swear that he was John Bass. N.B. John Bass was born on Christmas Day. Both the Bass's and the Norman's had lived in DEV for generations before. Bill Norman (Granfie's cousin on his mother's side) used to be in charge of the Victory. Pickford's bought their business of Bass before Bass's started to brew beer"
Sheet 3 This reads literally: "Granfie's father came back to Wales, Clumpton having been squared by the other side. Granfie and Johnie Rich went to Lymston (Lymton?). Granfie obtained wills 1 & 3, but the 2nd will, that of the father of Mary Ann and John was in SOM House. Granfie's father accused Granfie of receiving money from the property. So Granfie said that if Gordon Williams or Granfie's father could prove that Granfie had ever received any money from the property, or his father, he (granfie) would give his father his 2 horses and carts. (The two wills might have been left at Gordon Williams' after Granfie's father had given the case up, or Granfie's father might have kept them and burnt them in his rage.) N.B. Granfie's mother died when he was 12. Granfie's father appeared to be stingy, a person who cared for nothing or nobody but himself. A tip from a lawyer who had been thrown out of the business for embezzlement was to go to Pitt (Pit) farm and start cutting down a tree. The occupier of the farm would come out and ask what was going on. You would reply "It's my farm and I can cut down my own trees can't I?" The case would be taken to court and be looked into with obvious results."
Sheet 4 This describes a tombstone outside Lympstone Church which bears the name Miss Mary Ann Bass Sevell. Sevell was Mary Ann's housekeeper. W.J. Bass suggested that the Sevell had been cut afterwards so that the housekeeper could say that she was her sister or mother. There is mention of some Bass graves under the mat in the aisle. There is a note of a John and a William, one was drowned (Exeter), the other married had 2 sons, one went off, he had two children, Mary Ann and John (Denham was guardian). There is a note that Pitt Farm was so called because of a pit with water in it that could not be filled up.

Observations Decades Later (circa 1970)

It is far-fetched, yet John Bass's birth actually was recorded without a Christian name, he was born on Christmas Day, Pitt Farm does exist, it did belong to a John Bass.... The situation could be resolved a lot easier if there was any hope of reading the wills mentioned - however, most of Devon's wills, which were stored in Exeter Cathedral were destroyed by fire and water when the Cathedral was bombed in WW2.

Notice that Uffculme is mentioned. This may only be because his wife, Alice Jane Oak, had an Aunt who had married into an, apparently unconnected, Bass family who lived in the Uffculme area in the 1880's. On the other hand, it may signify a connection between the Bass's of Lympstone and/or Topsham and the Bass's of Uffculme.

The information about Bass selling to Pickfords appears also to have been true because according to an article in a Sunday Supplement (undated unfortunately, but thought to be late 1980s): "in 1777 a carrier called William Bass sold his business to another carrier (called Pickford) and took to brewing instead". It seems that The Bass Museum opened in Burton-on-Trent in 1977, using a building dating from 1866, and "is as complete a restoration of a 19th century brewery as you are likely to find".

NOTE: On the reverse of a souvenir plate from the Bass Museum of Brewing History:

" The Bass Museum of Brewing History

In 1777 the Trent and Mersey canal came to Burton on Trent and Mr William Bass, a carrier from London, opened a brewery in High Street using the canal for transport. Two Centuries later the Bass Museurn was opened to tell the story of Bass beer and the methods of transporting the beer throughout the world."

One final observation: in 40 Elm Street, they had two pictures hanging in the middle room (it would be called the dining room today), one was John Millais's painting called "The Boyhood of Raleigh"[2], the other was a painting of a lifeboat being launched from a beach towards a ship in distress. The first has definite associations with what people call "The Raleigh Country" - that area of East Devon bounded by Topsham, Exmouth, and Sidmouth; the second possibly has a connection. Perhaps they had belonged to William James Bass's ancestors.

Who was Samuel Bass's Father?

The connection to Samuel Bass (1782-1868) basket maker of Topsham, Devon, has been established. It is known he married three times. The record of his first marriage, to Elizabeth Ellett, 22 Nov 1812, in Exeter, Holy Trinity says nothing about his parents; however, his second marriage, 18 Jul 1842, does [3] mention "Thomas Bess" , who may have been living at the time. His third marriage, 28 Dec 1857, the certificate [4] also mentions "Thomas Bass", who was recorded as having died.

Was Thomas Bass connected to Lympstone?

2002 A breakthrough! In November 2002, proof of the connection between Samuel Bass (1782-1868), basket maker, of Topsham DEV and the Bass's of Lympstone was finally found. The Public Record Office had placed the PCC (Prerogative Court of Canterbury) Wills on-line at

My search found two promising-looking Wills:

1. John Bass of Lympstone Devon proved 14 December 1832 (PRO ref,: Prob 11/1807) [see transcript: [5]]

2. Sarah Bass of Lympstone Devon proved 7 April 1841 (PRO ref.: Prob 11/1943) [see transcript: [6]

In the first Will, John Bass (1784-1832) ) leaves land known as “The Windmill” at Littleham Devon to Samuel Bass of Topsham, basket maker.

He does not state what the relationship between them is. However, in the second Will, Sarah Bass (1777-1841, who is known from my researches to be John’s eldest step-sister and daughter of the marriage between the elder John Bass and his first wife, Rebecca Marshall ) refers to “my cousin Samuel Bass” when she leaves her part of their common interest in premises in Littleham to him.

From this, I deduce that Samuel’s father, Thomas Bass (a baker) must have been a brother to the above John and Sarah’s father, John Bass.

Unfortunately, I do not have a parish register entry showing this. Nevertheless the connection to Lympstone which my grandfather told me about in about 1946 is made.

I have concluded that the baptism of Samuel Bass (my 3xgreat grandfather) took place on 28 April 1782 at Gulliford Meeting House, on the outskirts of Lympstone, together with that of his sister, Sarah Bass.

My maternal grandfather's ancestry can now be traced back to my 8x great grandparents, William Bass and Agnes Adams, who married, 22 December 1646, in Lympstone Devon.


  1. "HMS Cyane (1806)," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed July 9, 2019).
  2. The original painting is in the Tate Gallery
  3.  : "Samuel BESS, of full age, widower, a basket maker, married, after banns, Sarah MOOREHOUSE, widow, of full age, a housekeeper, on 18 Jul 1842 in the parish church of Exeter St Mary Arches, in the presence of Johanna Samford and Isaac Byrne. Samuel BESS's father is recorded on the marriage certificate as Thomas BESS, a baker (with no 'deceased' - which suggests he may have still been alive). Sarah MOOREHOUSE's father is recorded as William NORTON, a labourer. The only person who could sign was Isaac BYRNE, the others made marks.
  4. "Samuel BASS widower, aged 60 years (!), a basket maker, married, after banns, Rosamund LEY, a spinster, 47 years old, a dress maker, on 28 Dec 1857 in the Exeter Register Office, in the presence of Jane BREWER and Catherine LEAR. Only Jane LEAR could sign - the others left their marks. Samuel BASS's father is recorded on the marriage certificate as Thomas BASS, deceased, a baker. Rosamund LEY's father is recorded as John LEY, deceased, a labourer. The residence at time of marriage was the same for both: Mary Arches Street, Exeter.
  5. John Bass 1832 Will: This is the last Will and Testament of me John Bass of Lympstone in the County of Devon Gentleman First I give and bequeath all that my moiety or half part of all that tenement plots of land and premises called or continuously known by the name of The Windmill situate within the parish of Littleham and Exmouth in the County of Devon unto Samuel Bass of Topsham Devon Basket maker his Executors Administrators and Assigns And also I do hereby give devise and bequeath all my real and freehold messuages lands tenements and Hereditaments whatsoever and wherever unto my four sisters namely Sarah Bass Rebecca Bass Ann Bass and Eliza Sivell equally to be divided between them share and share alike and to their several heirs and assigns subject nevertheless and charged and chargeable to and with the payment of all my just debts and funeral and testamentary expenses and the expenses of proving this my will And I do hereby declare that this is my will and intention that my said real and freehold messuages lands tenements and hereditaments shall be exclusively chargeable with the payment of my said debts and funeral and testamentary expenses and the expenses of proving this my will and that my Executrix hereinafter named shall be entitled to recover and receive such of the same as she shall pay and discharge out of my said real and freehold messuages lands tenements and hereditaments And I do hereby also give and bequeath all my mortgages and lands in mortgage and all my monies and securities for money and all my household goods and furniture and personal estate and effects unto my housekeeper Martha Dunham her Executors and Administrators and Assigns to and for her & their own use free and clear of all charges whatsoever and I appoint the said Martha Dunham Executrix of this my Will hereby revoking all former wills by me heretofore made and declaring this to be my last Will in Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand & seal this thirty first day of July one thousand eight hundred and thirty two --------------John Bass ------------ Signed Sealed Published and declared by the said John Bass the testator as and for his last Will and Testament (written on two sheets of paper) in the presence of us who at his request in his presence and in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses --------------Thomas Yard Searle------- R A Fischer ------------ John Lewis Proved at London the 4 December 1832 before the judge by the Oath of Martha Dunham wife of Thomas Dunham the sole Executrix to whom admon was granted having been first sworn by commission duly to administer
  6. Sarah Bass 1841 Will: This is the last Will and Testament of me Sarah Bass of Lympstone in the County of Devon I give to my daughter Susan the wife of John Seccombe of Tavistock in Devon Saddler all the household goods and furniture which shall be in my dwellinghouse at my death also I give and bequeath unto my Cousin Samuel Bass all my share right and interest whatsoever in all that leasehold estate and premises situate in the parish of Littleham & Exmouth in the said County which I hold in common with the said Samuel Bass and I give devise and bequeath unto the said John Seccombe and my friend Thomas Taylor of Lympstone aforesaid Baker their heirs executors admons and assigns all and every my messuages lands and tenements whether freehold leasehold or copyhold (except the said leasehold estate given to the said Samuel Bass ) and all my monies in the three percent consols and other monies mortgages and personal and testamentary estate and effects whatsoever or over which I have any power of appointment or other testamentary disposition upon the several trusts and for the intents and purposes hereinafter mentioned concerning the same that is to say upon trust to set and let my said messuages lands and tenements to the best advantage and call in all monies which may be owing to me at my death not on good security and thereout in the first place pay my just debts and funeral and testamentary expenses the expenses of proving this my will and the sum of ten pounds which I give to each of my nephews William Bass Sivell and Samuel Tucker Sivell and invest the surplus of the said monies from time to time in government or real securities with power to vary and change such securities for others of the like nature and out of the dividends to arise from my funded property pay unto my sister Rebecca the wife of William Salter the yearly sum of fifteen pounds by equal half yearly payments during her life the same to be paid into her own hands for her separate use independent of the said William Salter or any other husband and not to be subject to his debts control or interference and for which her receipts alone shall from time to time be good discharges and the first payment to be made on the first dividend day next after my death and pay all the rents dividends and income of the remainder of my property from time to time unto my said daughter or otherwise fully authorise and empower her to receive and take the same during her natural life for her separate use independent of the said John Seccombe or any other husband who shall have nothing to do therewith nor shall the same be subject to his ……. debts or interference and the receipts of my said daughter shall be good discharges for the same notwithstanding her coverture and after her decease in the lifetime of the said John Seccombe I direct my said trustees to pay the whole of the rents dividends and income of my said property unto the said John Seccombe during his natural life and after the decease of the survivor of my said daughter and the said John Seccombe as aforesaid I direct my said trustees to stand possessed of all my said messuages lands and tenements real personal and testamentary estate upon trust for all and every the child or children of my said daughter who shall be living at her decease and the lawful issue of such of them as shall have died leaving issue then living equally between them share and share alike as tenants in common and not as joint tenants their heirs executors administrators and assigns for ever the issue of any of the said children to take such part or share as their parent would have taken if living and so that no person shall take under the description of issue until his or their parent be dead the shares of such of the said children as shall be sous[?] to become vested upon their attaining twenty one years of age and in such of them as shall be daughters on their attaining the like age or marrying under that age whichever shall first happen provided that if any of the said children being a son shall die under the age of twenty one years or being a daughter under that age without having been married then as well the original share of the child so dying as the share which by virtue of this provision shall have accrued shall go to the survivors or others of the said children equally as tenants in common their several and respective heirs executors admons and assigns provided and I give full power to the trustees of this my will with the consent of my said daughter during her life to sell and dispose of all and singular my freehold and leasehold property or any part thereof and to make and execute all such deeds conveyances and assurances as shall be requisite to effect such sale or sales and I declare that the receipts of my said trustees shall be good and valid discharges for the sum or sums to be mentioned therein and that it shall not be necessary for any purchaser or purchasers or other person or persons nor shall they or he be bound or in any respect liable or accountable to any person or persons whomsoever for the application non application or misapplication of the purchase monies or any part thereof and the monies so to be received shall be held by my said trustees upon the same trusts as are hereinbefore declared with respect to the property from the sale whereof the same shall arise and I give to each of the children of my said daughter who shall attain the age of twenty one years the sum of one hundred pounds stock in the three percent consols the same to be sold out or transferred by my said trustees within one month after each child shall attain the said age and I appoint the said John Seccombe and Thomas Taylor Executors of this my will and I give to them their heirs executors administrators and assigns all the premises vested in use as a mortgagee or trustee to the intent that they may convey the same when necessary and receive into their hands all monies to become payable thereupon provided that in case my said trustees shall die or be desirous to be discharged from or shall refuse neglect or be found incapable or unfit to act in the said trusts it shall be lawful for the surviving continuing or acting trustee or the heirs executors or the admons of the last surviving or acting trustee with the consent of my said daughter during her life to appoint any other fit person or persons to supply the vacancy or vacancies and upon such appointment being made all the trust property shall be conveyed and assigned and transferred unto such new trustee or trustees jointly with the surviving or continuing trustee or if none then in such new trustees only upon the trusts aforesaid and every trustee so to be appointed shall have and exercise all the powers and authorities aforesaid as if he has been originally nominated provided that the trustees of this my will shall be chargeable only for such monies as they shall actually receive notwithstanding their joining in any receipt for the sake of conformity and that one of them shall not be answerable for the other but each for his own acts receipts and defaults and that they may reimburse themselves and allow to their cotrustee all costs charges and expenses they may incur in or about the execution of the trusts aforesaid and I revoke all former wills in witness whereof I have to the first two sheets of this my will set my hand and to this last my hand and seal the nineteenth day of February one thousand eight hundred and forty one Sarah Bass (LS) Signed sealed published and declared by the said Sarah Bass as and to be her last Will and Testament in the presence of us who in her and each others presence have hereto subscribed our names as witnesses Rd Price of Lympstone Devon Surgeon ------ Susan Nichols of the Same Place Spinster Proved at London 7th April 1841 before the Judge by the Oaths of John Seccombe and Thomas Taylor the executors to whom Administration was granted having been first sworn by commission duly to administer]

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