the cobley family history
thomas cbley
Uncle Tom Cobley - the myths surrounding the legend.

This information about Uncle Tom Cobley is gleaned from several different sources.

"Tom Cobley had a son and mistreated the son badly" - The Lady Jun/Jul1996

He was a batchelor " - local newspaper

He disinherited his son Thomas for being too free with the girls and left his considerable
estate to this nephew" - Devon by W.G. Hoskins

"He is also said to have fathered all red headed children within a thirty mile radius although he was never married" - notes from Simon Martyn, fellow Cobley researcher

"Tom Cobley is on record as having lived in the tiny village of Spreyton, Devon, way back in the 17th Century" - The Lady

"11th January 1844 Thomas Cobley of Colebrooke age 82. Said to be the subject of the well-known song." - Burial records from the church at Spreyton

"An entry in Spreyton church records shows that Uncle Tom was 96 when he died in March 1794" - local newspaper

A tomb-stone dated 1784 stands in the Spreyton cjurchyard marking the grave of a Thomas Cobley who died at the age of 96 years - but this is believed to be the son and not the Thomas Cobley of Widecombe Fair fame" - The Lady

He died in 1794 at Puddicombe Park Spreyton and is believed to be buried in the parish but there is no trace of his grave. A dispute over his will reveals that he lived to the age of 99" - People and Places in Devon

‘In the churchyard at Spreyton there is a grave-stone with an inscription to the effect that in 1844 Thomas Cobley was buried there at the age of 82 and he is the one to whom legend has attributed the strange happening on the moor with a grey mare and six cronies" -
People and places in Devon

"In the churchyard is a headstone to Thomas Cobley, gent’ of Buttsford in the neighbouring parish of Colebrooke died 1844, aged 82. He was the nephew of the famous Uncle Tom Cobley who also lies buried in this churchyard" - Devon by W.G. Hoskins

"I am of the opinion that the traditional Uncle Tom Cobley who rode to Widdecombe Fair lived many generations ago, probably before 1597" - Mr William Pope in a letter to the Express and Echo 1939

"From this village of Spreyton on a day in September 1802, the following left for Widdecombe Fair - Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney, Peter Davy,Daniel Whiddon, Harry Hawke and Uncle Tom Cobley and all." - Inscription outside the Tom Cobley Tavern, Spreyton

There is an oil painting of him .....A well built man with his favourite hound resting its muzzle on his knee. His face is weather-beaten, honest and humorous" - People and Places in Devon

Mean and miserable, Tom Cobley owned a lot of property......Like all misers Tom Cobley was tortured by his wealth.......He mistrusted his is impossible to understand why such a miserly character is remembered in a happy ditty" - The Lady

"Thomas Cobley of Buttsford was a popular personality in his day’........He was very active in the sporting and social life of Devon........He had a reputation as an excellent farmer" - People and Places in Devon

""...the names of Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Davy, Peter Gurney, Daniel Whiddon and Harry Hawk are fictitious" - People and Places in Devon

Searching through the Crediton church register ........the late Preb. W. Smith-Dorrien found the names of Pearse, Stewer, Davy and Hawkes. This discovery supports the view that the Widdecombe outing started from the Crediton district" - Express and Echo

Hazel Lockhart © 2001

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