Saturday, 14 January 2012

Exminster Devon, May 1822: Betsy Balcombe's Wedding

Exminster Parish Church Register, May 28th 1822.
(For a better image click on the above).

Edward Abell Esquire, Bachelor of the Parish of St Gregory London and Lucia Elizabeth Balcombe spinster of this Parish, married by Licence, with consent of parents, by H J Burlton, witnessed by Jane Balcombe, Thos Tyrwhitt, Francis Stanfler, RN, Jane Sophia Turner, Henry Brown.

The marriage was also reported in Trewman's Exeter Flying Post or Plymouth and Cornish Advertiser on May 30th 1821.

Interestingly the marriage was not witnessed by Betsy's parents, who presumably were absent, although Betsy was recorded as a resident of Exminster and presumably they lived there too.

The most interesting name on the list of witnesses is that of Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt (1762-1833), son of an Essex clergyman, educated at Eton and Oxford, with a distinguished career as private secretary to the Prince Regent, Member of Parliament and then Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod from 1812 until 1832. A local Devon landowner, Sir Thomas was the creator of Prince's Town, named in honour of the Prince Regent, where Sir Thomas founded the now famous Dartmoor prison originally used to house French and American prisoners of war.

Sir Thomas was also the inspiration behind the proposal to create a railway between Plymouth and Dartmoor in 1819. When the prospectus was published in 1819 William Balcombe was listed among the 61 subscribers.

The presence of Sir Thomas at Betsy's wedding and his connection with the Prince Regent inevitably raises again the old rumour that William Balcombe was the Regent's natural son. The most likely story however, is that he and his brother were sons of a naval officer lost at sea and, as was the practice in those days, were assisted in their education by the King's Bounty. (1) That at least is what his descendant Dame Mabel Brookes believed.

The bridegroom although recorded as being from London had in fact been educated in Exeter, and his family lived in Alphington in Devon. He served for a time in the Madras Army, and resigned around 1816. His elder brother Francis Tillet Abell became mayor of Colchester in Essex, the county from which Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt originated.

Edward and Lucia Abell had a daughter, soon separated but apparently never divorced, for at her death in 1871 Betsy was styled as the widow of Edward Abell.

(1) It appears that William Balcombe was born at Rottingdean in Kent in 1777 to Stephen Balcombe and his wife Mary (nee Vandyke). A younger brother also called Stephen was born in 1880.

1 comment:

Michel Dancoisne-Martineau said...

great research, John. Thanks a lot !!!