The Great Property Swindle

One Hundred Pounds Reward!

This headline appeared on the front page of The Times in the run-up to Christmas 1850. “It is believed that there is property”, the writer said, “to a considerable extent belonging to the family of the Purseys or Pearcy of Pitminster, near Taunton, Somerset”. Offering £100 [about £6,000, today] for information leading to its recovery, he asked all letters should be addressed, post paid to J Pursey, 9 Charles Mews, Eastbourne Terrace, Paddington. [Charles Mews became Chilworth Mews in 1917.]

The person responsible for placing the ad was one Jacob Pursey, born Pitminster around 1792. A dealer in marine stores he lived with his wife Maria and daughter Mary. He was the eighth of nine children born to William (b abt 1753 in West Buckland) and Mary Cross.

I originally posted the above ad in September 2012 and asked for any information about Jacob or the land to which he was referring. More than two years later, I may have the answer.

I am in possession of a copy of an indenture dated December 16 1841 between Robert Mattock (who inherited Lowton House from Thomas Southwood) and one Thomas Pursey of Norton Fitzwarren. The subject of the indenture is a property called Camplins, formerly in the possession of a William Pursey.

Thomas was described as a yeoman who said he was “lawfully or rightfully and beneficially possessed of interested in or entitled unto” the property on the basis of an an earlier indenture between himself and William, dated December 1824.

In the 1841 census, there is only one Thomas Pursey resident in or about Norton Fitzwarren. He was living ay Hay House Farm, near the large country house of Montys Court, with his wife and daughter, both named Jane. Thomas is listed as a dairyman. I believe this Thomas to be the eldest son of William Pursey and Mary Cross, originally of West Buckland, born in about 1776. Among William and Mary’s eight other children was … Jacob.

Whether he was entitled to it or not, I believe that Thomas sold the property without informing – or being able to inform – his younger brother. (As Jacob was a dealer in marine stores in 1850, it is likely, he spent time abroad as a mariner or soldier in the years preceding.)

[Montys Court was itself up for sale in 2009, when the descendant of General Sir John Slade who built the house in 1838 and who commanded the cavalry under the Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular War, moved out.]

 

 


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