Sitting at a comfortable 20,591 words although I'm beginning to wonder of I can stretch the story to 50,000 and certainly quite a few hundred will be lost during the editing process - but I don't need to worry about that at this stage when it's all about the writing.
Excerpt from today
An excerpt from a family history, prepared in 1972 by E J M Holmyard before the advent of the internet and genealogy sites, gives the following information.
‘Samuel Holmyard was born near Exeter, Devon and was the village school master at Pensford, near Bristol. He is also named as the father of the first Hugh, who in turn became the father of the Hugh Holmyard who was transported to Van Diemen’s Land in 1842. There is also a reference to Samuel Holmyard having moved to London by stagecoach.’
With a number of Samuel Holmyards living in England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it is too easy to begin scrambling up the wrong ancestral tree and end up on a limb that leads to nowhere. There was a Samuel Holmyard living in London and another living in Devon and both came to an unfortunate end. The former was a widowed commission agent and proprietor of a furniture store who was murdered by his grandson, while the second was a school master of Pensford in Devon, with a wife and five children, who was hanged at Livery Dole for presenting a forged cheque. Although his occupation at the time of his execution was given as school master, it is also stated he forged the cheques from his work rooms. This suggests some form of manual activity, possibly as a hatter, following on from his apprenticeship in this trade in 1776 and later a master fuller to Samuel Loring in 1777, Abraham Chubb in 1782 and Charles Please in February 1783. By 1796 he appears as a stationer master to apprentice John Turner, that being a seller of books, paper and writing implements. This Samuel appears to be a closer match in age, occupation and location to the information given by E J M Holmyard so he became the focus of my research at this point.
Livery Dole in Exeter, Devon, is an ancient triangular site between what is today Heavitree Road and Magdalen Road, in the eastern suburbs of Exeter. This was the main execution place for Exeter, with the condemned transported by cart from South Gate Prison. From 1531 to 1818 hangings were performed on a site near College Avenue known as the Magdalen Drop or Maudlin. This area has contained an alms-house and chapel since 1591. In the 12th Century, a hospital dedicated to St Mary Magdalene was built outside the South Gate to accommodate lepers and the road leading to this became known as Magdalen Street; an area is now known as Bull Meadow. This tradition was continued in 1435 when William Wynard opened a hospice for infirm paupers and priests in Magdalen Street. Various early maps show both Maudlin and Magdalen as names used. Exeter City Prison was founded in the 16th century in the South Gate, at the bottom of South Street. The keeper of the prison lived there and there were rooms for debtors and for those convicted of criminal offences. Those found guilty of misdemeanours were confined either in the House of Correction in Goldsmith Street or in Exeter City Workhouse. In 1819, influenced by the movement for penal reform, the Chamber of Exeter built a new prison on a site at the junction of Queen Street and Northernhay Street, where the Rougemont Hotel now stands. This combined the functions of the former gaol and the house of correction, housing prisoners awaiting trial, convicted felons, those under sentence of transportation, misdemeanants, debtors and deserters from the armed services. The prison was sold in 1863 and the prisoners moved to Devon County Prison in New North Road, Exeter.
Samuel Holmyard was the last person to be executed at the Magdalen Drop in 1818. Found guilty of printing forged notes in his workshop in Sun Lane off South Street, he was transported by cart from South Gate Prison to Magdalen Road, according to an account written in 1865 by James Cossins:
‘Homeyard was taken to be hung at Magdalen temporary drop for forgery, Nov. 13th 1818, he being the first hanged by the city authorities for thirty-two years. A large crowd accompanied him. He was sitting in a cart, with a book in his hand, his coffin beside him, the clergyman walking by the side. He was the last County of Exeter prisoner from the South Gate prison to be taken to the Magdalen Drop for execution. This was also the first City of Exeter execution for 32 years.’
An earlier account from Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post November 19th 1818 states:
‘Friday last, Samuel Holmyard was executed on the Magdalen-road, pursuant to his sentence at our late Quarter Sessions, for a forgery on the City Bank. He appeared truly penitent, and met his fate with calmness and fortitude. William Davis, his associate, and who was to have suffered with him, received a respite on Wednesday evening last.’
The City Bank also known as the Exeter bank is still standing and is now the home of actor Michael Caine.