"Boney is coming"

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In Issue 6, we told the story of the family of William and Ann Stentiford who lived in Honeychurch. William died in 1801 and was buried on 26 May in Sampford Courtenay churchyard. He left a widow and, seemingly, three daughters - Elizabeth, Ann and Jane plus two sons - William and Richard. 


Ann was the mother of several illegitimate children and we wrote about her too in the Issue 6. But you never know what you are going to find when you start delving onto the past and, quite by chance, more information has come to light about this family from a rather unexpected quarter.


For nearly 63 years between1689 and 1815, England was at war with the French. No-one in Devon could ignore this as the great Naval dockyard at Dock grew and grew and defensive forts were erected all around to protect them.


In 1793, the French War erupted again and this time, everyone in the county was affected as the recruitment drive spread even to the smallest villages who were compelled to find men to serve according to the size of their population. Single men were bribed with substantial sums to serve in the Navy and that money had to be raised by those who wanted to stay at home.


Napoleon Bonaparte

Food became very expensive as well as scarce and for the first time, there were food riots in Devon. As if this wasn't bad enough, wild rumours spread from place to place about the French in general and Napoleon in particular, accompanied by cries of "Boney is coming!" which rattled one and all. Soon this period of disquiet was being referred to as the "Napoleonic War".

Napoleon Bonaparte

crowned by himself 

Emperor of the French 12 Feb 1804


In 1802, an uneasy Peace was made with the French at Amiens but within a year Napoleon had declared war again and this time, openly made plans to invade England. The reaction over here was one of pure panic with central government issuing urgent instructions that each and every parish council should make plans to deal with an invasion should this event occurred. Molland is a small Devon parish close to the border with Somerset on the slopes of Exmoor. This is an extract from the plan they made to evacuate their remote parish:


To Mr. James Quartly:

On receiving orders for the removal of stock, you are to direct Edward Cockram, William Cockram, James Brewer* and William Lovell**, the drivers, to proceed with them to Molland Town, there to put themselves under the direction of Mr. Henry Quartly, the conductor and afterwards to obey his commands. The drivers are to take with them provisions for a few days.

There are in this parish 43 people which have living stock to remove in case of invasion and the Superintendents will forthwith provide themselves with proper notices similar to the above form and deliver, or cause to be delivered, in due time to each and every person which have stock, and therein to point out the line of march, as soon as they have received orders so to do, or the Enemy is near.


To the persons appointed to take charge of dead stock:

Mr. James Quartly, Mr. John Palfreman and Mr. George Frost:

You are to remain in your parish and to act as you shall receive orders from the General Officer or Deputy Lieutenant of your Division. If the Enemy should approach very near before you can receive orders to do so, you are to destroy the hay and corn and the cattle of all descriptions, particularly the horses not retained for public service and render useless all the unemployed carts and wagons, before you remove yourselves but this step is not to be taken unless in the last Extremity; and you are to assure all those whose property is thus destroyed that they will be repaid for their losses provided it shall appear that they have complied with the proposed regulations of Government and lent their best aid to promote the public service."


The London Inn and the Church at Molland

The London Inn and the Church at Molland - 2004


* Influenced by the derogatory cartoons of James Gillray, "Boney" was the nickname by which Napoleon was known to the English. 

**Still alive in 1851


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