The Tuckfield Memorial
The Tuckfield memorial, sited next to the more ornate memorial to Sir William Peryam in the chancel of Holy Cross, is described by Nikolaus Pevsner in his Buildings of Devon as ‘an uncommonly satisfactory work of its date’. It was put in place about 25 years after the Peryam tomb (in the early 1630’s) by Thomas Tuckfield in commemoration of his wife Elizabeth who died in March, 1630 and his father, John, who died a few months later in December, 1630. Thomas died some twelve years after Elizabeth, during the early years of the English Civil War and his bust was added. Each of the three sections of the monument has its own inscription.
The Tuckfield Memorial
The central, figure of Elizabeth leans casually, on a desk (on which rests a Bible) supported by her left elbow. Her black gown has a starched white ruff and her right hand rests on a skull. Her face and the skull are badly battered, possibly because the Tuckfields were ardent monarchists and she was identified as part of a property owning elite by supporters of parliament in the Civil War which started just a few years after the erection of the monument. We know that her son, John, became a Restoration Commissioner shortly after Charles II’s accession in 1660.
The two male busts which flank Elizabeth’s figure are undamaged, the one on the left is Elizabeth’s father-in-law, John and that on the right, her husband Thomas, who specified in his will of April, 1642 that he should be:
Thomas’s deep love for his late wife is apparent from the inscription under his figure:
Dignissimo Patri Clarissimo Qui
Conjuge Hoc Posui indignissimus
Thomas Tuckfield de Fulford
XII March 1630.
a translation of this part into modern English is:
I, the most unworthy Thomas of Fulford
Put up this monument for my most worthy
Father and my splendid wife
12th March, 1630
the second section of this inscription is a lamentation (quite possibly written by Thomas himself):
“Why doe I live a thrall of joy and all Bereft
Your winges were grown to heaven
are flown Cause
I had none am left.”
part of the inscription above the figure of Elizabeth is in similar vein:
“Nature & grace agreed in both to make
This perfect one
Whose choice of natures gyftes were polished by grace
Lovely to look upon
She fought the sacred fight sh’ath finished her race
She is rapt in glorie to behold the Almighties lovely face”
Again it seems possible that Thomas wrote these lines.
Thomas lived on to November, 1642 , but this date has not found its way onto any of the inscriptions on the tomb –indeed we don’t know whether his body is in the tomb – the early years of the English Civil War were ones of chaos.
The Tuckfields had been Lords of the Manor of Tedburn St Mary since medieval times. John Tuckfield, whose bust is on the left side of the tomb, is described in the inscription beneath it as being ‘of Teadbourne and Fulforde’, for he greatly extended the family estate in the early sixteen hundreds by the purchase of Little Fulford –now Shobrooke Park –from the daughters of Sir William Peryam whose more ornate tomb is next to that of the Tuckfields. The estate was called Little Fulford to distinguish it from the much larger Great Fulford Park near Dunsford.
John’s father, also called John, had been Mayor of Exeter in 1549 and oil portraits of him and of his rather austere-looking wife, Joan, can still be seen in Exeter Guildhall. The Tuckfields were prosperous wool merchants and the wool market was at its most buoyant in the C17th and 18th.
The John Tuckfield whose bust is on the left of the tomb, was born in Exeter 1555 and was 75 when he died in 1630, a very respectable age indeed for the time. We don’t know anything about his wife except that she pre-deceased him, but his will shows that they had at least five children: Thomas, Walter, Roger, Mary and Joan. Records tell us that Walter became Rector of Morchard Bishop (his father bought the patronage of the church in 1630), dying in 1639 and that Roger Tuckfield lived on to 1683 –he was 78 when he died –becoming owner of Raddon Court.
Thomas and Elizabeth Tuckfield
It seems likely that John Tuckfield’s eldest son, Thomas, whose bust on the right of the tomb, was born between 1580 and 1590. Thomas’s wife Elizabeth, the central figure of the tomb, was born Elizabeth Reynell, second daughter of Richard and Mary Reynell of Creedy Widger, in 1593. Elizabeth Reynell was the granddaughter of Sir John Periam, mayor of Exeter at the time of the Spanish Armada and brother of Sir William Peryam (the spellings of surnames were not regularised until the late C18th ), so she was Sir William’s great niece. Her mother was born Mary, or Maria, Periam in 1568 and had married Richard Reynell of Creedy Widger in around 1589. They had nine children of whom Elizabeth was the second oldest.
Thomas and Elizabeth had three children, Thomas, Walter and John. Elizabeth died 1630. She was in her late thirties. Possible causes of her death could have been puerperal fever, an epidemic disease such as typhoid or complications in childbirth.
Later Tuckfields and others
John, who inherited the estate on the death of Thomas in 1642, was born in 1625 and married late, to Mary Pincomb, in 1667. They had five children, three of whom died in infancy the survivors being two girls, Elizabeth and Mary. As there were no male heirs, John, after making generous bequests to his surviving daughters left the bulk of the estate to his brother Walter Tuckfield when he died in 1675. Walter, however, had himself died before probate was made of John’s will, so the estate was put in trust until Mary (15 years old) and Elizabeth (13 years old) reached their majority.
Elizabeth died unmarried in 1695, her sister however married twice, first to Colonel Francis Fulford (a member of the family which owned the Great Fulford estate) and secondly to Henry Trenchard. She had no children by either marriage, so when she died in 1728 the estate passed on to Roger Tuckfield of Thorverton (a descendant of Thomas Tuckfield’s son, Roger, and M.P for Ashburton). As he was unmarried, Mrs Trenchard –granddaughter of the Thomas and Elizabeth depicted on the tomb –left it entailed to another branch of the Tuckfield family, and it was one of these, John Tuckfield, who inherited it on Roger’s death in 1739.
This John Tuckfield, born in 1719, married Frances Gould, daughter of William Gould of Downes (great-aunt of James Buller M.P. and great-great-great aunt of Redvers Buller) and Elizabeth Quicke of Newton St Cyres, in 1740. He was Tory M.P. for Exeter between 1745 and 1776 and was the donor of the site of the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in Southernhay and joint founder of the hospital. His re-election campaign in 1761 was among the most violent ever recorded. As polling began a mob supporting the opponents of Tuckfield and his fellow Tory, John Rolle Walter, took control of the Guildhall, preventing others from voting. Thereupon the managers of Tuckfield and Walter assembled 400 farm labourers armed with mopstaves, who drove out their opponents. The opposition in turn drafted in a bigger mob, including a crew of sailors from Lympstone, who finally made the countrymen flee. One man died and many were seriously injured in the fray. John’s oil portrait can be seen in Exeter Guildhall.
John and Frances had no children and on John’s death in 1767 the estate passed to his brother, Henry, who was unmarried when he died thirty years later. The estate then passed to their sister, Elizabeth, also unmarried, so the descent failed when she died, aged 92, in 1807. A clause in Henry Tuckfield’s will meant that Little Fulford was inherited by Richard Hippisley, a fairly distant cousin. Hippisley assumed by Royal Licence the name and arms of Tuckfield on inheriting the estate, the family being known as the Hippisley-Tuckfields from then on.
Richard pulled down Peryam’s house and replaced it, on a different site, with one in stone (which was burnt down in the Second World War whilst in use as a school). He was made High Sheriff of Devon in 1813. His wife, Charlotte, had the lodge at nearby Posbury House converted into a training centre for school teachers, and adjoining this she built a chapel dedicated to St Luke, which was consecrated by the Bishop of Exeter in 1836. In 1838, the Reverend Frederick Shelley was inducted as curate and undertook to train the teachers. He remained there until 1845 when he married Charlotte Martha Hippisley, Richard Hippisley-Tuckfield’s niece and was appointed Rector of Bere Ferrers. The training school was moved to Exeter and subsequently expanded into St Luke’s Training College, now part of the University of Exeter.
Richard Hippisley-Tuckfield died in 1844 and was succeeded by his son, John Henry. It was whilst John Henry was Lord of the Manor that a coffin bound for Great Fulford was delivered in error to Shobrooke. Not wanting the mistake to be repeated, John Henry immediately decided to change the name of the estate to Shobrooke Park. John Henry was made High Sheriff of Devon in 1859 dying in 1880 to be succeeded by his cousin, Sir John Shelley.