Two Pioneer Families from Northam & Appledore, Devon

Gabriel Tetherly and Nathaniel Piper were baptized in Northam & Appledore, Devon, England, in 1622 and 1627 respectively.

FH Map Northam and Appledore, DevonGabriel Tetherly came to New England sometime after July 1636, when his father, William, took as his second wife, Mary Harris, in Northam. William settled the family in Kittery, York, Maine.

Gabriel may have been a shipwright in Boston before purchasing land at Boiling Rock at Eliot Neck in Maine about 1660.

The sea was in the Tetherly blood. Gabriel married the widow Susanna King after 1653 in Maine. In 1692, Gabriel was appointed administrator of his brother William’s estate, late of Bideford, Devon, England. William was a mariner.

About four years later, administration of Gabriel’s estate went to his stepson-in-law, Richard King. In turn, Richard sold Gabriel’s land and shipyard to his son, Richard Jr.

Nathaniel Piper arrived in New England sometime later, but before December 1653, when he witnessed a deed in Ipswich, Essex, Massachusetts. About 1655 he married a Sarah Edwards in Wenham, Essex, Massachusetts. Nathaniel’s occupation is unknown.

These two men who came from the same small parish in Devonshire established their new homes in two very different seaside settlements.

Northam & Appledore and the Burrows

More than likely Gabriel Tetherly and Nathaniel Piper, born only five years apart, knew each other. Certainly, they would have known their ancestral village well and quite likely its history.

Appledore and Northam are located north of the Bideford peninsula, a relatively small area which “juts out between the sea and the estuary of the River Torridge.” In between the two towns is a “vast expanse of open sandy land known as the Northam Burrows.”

FH Map Brantona, NorthamThe Domesday Book shows Northam in Brantona, the Merton Hundred (now Shebbear). Appledore does not appear in the Book.

Northam was gifted to St. Stephen’s Church of Caen by Queen Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy, but was listed as being held by King Brictric, son of Algar, prior to 1066. Brictrac’s holdings had included Tewkesbury, Thornbury, and Whitehurst in Gloucestershire. The number of his holdings in Devonshire prior to the 1066 Conquest were large — 33 — yet he had none afterwards.

Matilda’s ecclesiastical gift was renewed by Henry I and Edward III. The manor later passed to the Priory of Frampton in Dorset, and then the College of Ottery St. Mary. Queen Elizabeth I gave it to the Dean and Canons of Windsor, in which gift it remains.

Northam by contemporary standards was quite large in 1086, with a total population of 37 households, 23 villagers, 5 smallholders, 8 slaves, and “one other.” There was enough land for 20 plough lands, 15 acres of meadow, 15 acres of pasture, 54 acres of wood lands, 1 fishery, and 2 salt houses. Livestock consisted of 23 cattle and 345 sheep.

Even earlier, in the first millennium, legend has it that there was a fierce battle fought between the local Saxon population and Hubba the Dane. The site where the battle allegedly took place, at the bend in the road, is known as Bloody Corner. This lies between Northam and Appledore. In fact, it is sometimes believed to have been the place where a bloody battle took place in 1069 between “the native Saxons and the Norman invaders.”

Sometimes referred to as the “sequel” to the Battle of Hastings, the lesser-known Battle of Northam took place on June 26, 1069.

[The battle] took place after Harold’s two bereaved and vengeful sons – Edmund and Godwine – raised an army in Ireland and sailed to the north Devon coast on 64 longships with the intention of claiming back the throne from the Norman invader.

It was not to be. The Anglo-Saxon and Irish force was seemingly surprised by a waiting Norman and English army, resulting in a nine-hour Battle of Northam which left 3,000 dead and the invasion force routed. …

A combination of factors, including the fact that sunset and the high tide coincided on that day, led to the [conclusion] that the battle could only have taken place within a few minutes of Godwine and Edmund’s landing place at Appledore.

The Battle of Northam “sealed William the Conqueror’s victory over King Harold’s family and in contemporaries [who] believed that it represented the climax of the Norman Conquest.”

According to the Subsidy Rolls of 1334, Northam already had a market granted by King Henry III in November 1252.

The earliest parish records entered for Northam, like many parishes in England, did not appear until 1538, as mandated by Henry VIII at the behest of Thomas Cromwell. Every parson, vicar or curate was required to enter the wedding, christening, and burial for every person in his parish.

Therefore, we have the dates of baptism for the three earliest recorded members of the Tytherly family, including that of John Tytherly in 1541, who was himself later a vicar at Northam.

The records for the Piper family are currently scanty in Devonshire. We do not know when the family may have arrived there.

The Tetherly and Piper families might have been well aware of some interesting facts particular to Northam & Appledore.

FH Map Kenwich Castle, Northam, DevonKenwith Castle, alternatively known as Henny Castle, Henniborough Castle, and Henni Castle, is an earthwork comprised of a natural knoll “fortified on upper slope by a single rampart with a simple entrance at the west end … [that] runs away to the east where there may have been a former entrance; Kenwith Farm interferes with it at the easternmost point.” The southwest base is cut into by a disused quarry. “The rampart has the appearance of a ledge and terrace on [an] oval-shaped mound. The top is relatively level and the enclosure” is about 50 meters running east-west. “There is an old pit at the east end and there was a wooded platform to its west but this no longer remains.”

This sounds like just the kind of place youthful adventurers would be compelled to explore.

Also, towards the Northam Burrows, south of Croyde, there is a cave “worn” into a “consolidated beach [which] discloses a large boulder of slaty rock behind which the red granite boulder is seen partly cemented in more or less consolidated beach material, false embedded in places, and containing pebbles. The boulders rest on the rock reef at 2 or 3 feet above the water mark.”

Nearby is the gravel beach of the Northam Pebble Ridge (video).

Again, the ideal places for young and youngish explorers.

One of the most interesting attractions, reported as recently as 1906, is one they were likely unaware of: the waters off the coast at Northam cover a submerged forest. This discovery, as did others, came in the mid-1800s when fisherman dredged up such artifacts as red deer, horse, hog, and long-fronted ox bones; a mammoth tooth; and a piercing-tool fashioned from a red deer antler.


See: William Page, ed., The Victoria history of the county of Devon (1906), for the information on the Northam Burrows cave, the Northam Pebble Ridge gravel beach, and the submerged forest.

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