Tom Stentiford's Story

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In Issue 7 in our Archive, you can read about Owen Stentiford who went out to Newfoundland, met and married Harriet Hiscock and returned with her to Torquay, together with their family. They arrived back in England just in time for the birth of their last child on February 24th 1862 - a son who they called Thomas.

Throughout his life, he preferred to be known as Tom and throughout his life, he insisted that he had been born in Newfoundland, in spite of ample documentary evidence to the contrary.

And thus began the career of one of the most notable (or notorious - depending on your point of view) members of the Stentiford tribe. You are invited to make up your own mind about the  kind of man he was.


Torquay c.1900

Torquay c.1900


They say there's a black sheep in every family and quoting these old sayings is probably the only way that other family members can account for the actions of a relative who goes against the mores of society yet seems, in spite of everything, to remain likeable, even loveable.

We can quote from a first-hand account of his early years, written by a family member, Richard Hayward, who was close to him:

"As a young man, he was of very smart appearance and became a gentleman's valet. He got into a few spots of trouble and was at one time sent to Newfoundland to live with relatives of his mother. He worked his passage back on a boat which landed him in Teignmouth and arrived back home in Torquay hidden in a mail van, causing quite a concern to his family."

Family legend has it that the reason he had to leave England in the first place was that the police were looking for him - he returned to this country not knowing if he was still a wanted man, hence the journey hidden in the mail van. It would appear that before he left these shores (for the first time) he had openly boasted of his connection with a man called John Lee, known locally as "Babbacombe Lee" - known nationally as "the man they could not hang".

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