1.8 John Harris and Elizabeth Johnson and Lands in Somerset

John Harris of Radford (1596-1649) married as his first wife Elizabeth Johnson of Bonham in Wiltshire. Elizabeth died in childbirth in 1631, with her son John surviving.

Bonham Manor is in the south of Wiltshire, by Frome, just over the border from Somersetshire.


                                                               Bonham Manor House

The manor is believed to have Saxon origins although what remains is mainly Tudor. The former medieval chapel, dedicated to St. Benedict, is attached as part of the house

Elizabeth, and her sister, Penelope, were daughters of Emorbus Johnson, who was born circa 1570 and died circa 1616.
FILE - Survey "of all the deeds of all the tenaunts" of Penelope and Eliz. daughters and coheire of Emorbe Johnson - ref. DD\WHh/982/d - date: 18 Aug 1629

By the death of Emorbus the sisters inherited substantial land holdings in Somersetshire

FILE - Grant - ref. DD\WHh/835 - date: 13 Jun 1616
[from Scope and Content] From the Crown to Henry Compton, esq. and Alice Johnson, widow; of an annuity of £3 to be assigned by the Master, etc. of the court of Wards and Liveries, from the Manor of Bridge the manor or farm of Luige al. Lyde, and from lands in Compton Durvile, Doliswake, Seavenhampton and Somerton, Co. Som., which were some time Emorbus Johnson's now dead, and fell to the Crown by reason of the minority of Penelope and Elizabeth Johnson

Emorbus was the son of Brome Johnson who in 1576 received part of the Lyde manor/farm at Yeovil in Somersetshire. Brome and Emorbus had extensive land holdings in Somersetshire.

COURT FILE - Licence - ref. DD\WHh/830 - date: 21 Sep 1576 from Scope and Content] To Adam Martyn, gent. and Robert Pytt al. Pyttman, to convey the fourth part of the manor or farm of Lwyde (Lyde) in Yeovil, to Brome Joneson al. Johnson.

FILE - Grant - ref. DD\WHh/833 - date: 4 Nov 1587 from Scope and Content] From the Crown to John Hoskyns, gent, of an annuity of £6.13s. 4d. to be assigned by the Master: etc., of the Court of Wards and Liveries from the Manors of Luyde and Bridge, with lands in Bridge, Southpetherton, Over Stratton, Compton, Durville, Deliewake, Sevinghampton al. Sevington (Seavington), Dennys, Yevell, Wigheare al. Wigborough, Yvelton, Yvelchester and Woollavington, Co. Som. late Brome Johnson's who held from the Crown in chief and which have now fallen to the Crown on the latter's death by reason of the minority of Emorbus Johnson; together with the ward and marriage of the said Emorbus.

Brome Johnson died circa 1586

FILE - Inquisition-post-mortem of Brome Johnson - ref. DD\WHh/982/c - date: 22 Nov 1586

Yeovil flourished commercially during the medieval and post medieval periods and was an important centre for the woolen and linen industries in the 1600s but however it suffered during the civil war, with fire and the plague.

In 1611 Emobus married Alice Compton, daughter of Henry Compton of Wigbearer in Somersetshire. As a result of this marriage Emorbus obtained the manor of Lyde.

FILE - Marriage Settlement - ref. DD\WHh/834 - date: 20 Jan 1611 [from Scope and Content] Of Emorb Johnson, of Bonram, Co. Wilts, esq. and Alice Compton, dau. of Henry Compton of Wigbearer, Co. Som. whereby the Manor of Lyrge al. Lyde, in Yeovil, and the third part of Wigbears Manor were settled on them.

By the marriage of John Harris to Elizabeth Johnson (Circa 1630), the Harris family obtained the manor of Lyde at Yeovil, as well as other lands, and the family held the manor until 1685 when it was sold to by John, the son of John and Elizabeth, to William Helyar of Coker Court. A partner in the land holdings and the sale was Thomas Hele of Holbeton in Devon.

The Hele family had a long association with the Harris family. The Heles were from Holbeton, adjoining Aveton Gifford where a branch of the Harris family had their principal place of residence from the early 1500s. In 1581 Sir John Hele, and Christopher Harris of Radford received the abbey of Buckland in trust for Sir Francis Drake

Adjoining Yeovil was Forde Abbe, which in 1649 was purchased by Edmund Prideaux, Member of Parliament for Lyme Regis, fervent supporter of the parliamentary cause and, later, Oliver Cromwell’s Attorney General. In 1666 Ann Harris, daughter of John Harris of Manadon in Plymouth married Edmund Pollexfen . Edmund also had as a wife Admonition Prideaux, daughter of Edmund.

Also in the vicinity of Yeovil, some 4 miles away is Coker Court – the barton of East Coker was bought by John Dillon, husband of Jane Harris who was the aunt of John Harris who married Elizabeth Johnson. John Dillon acquired that property from Sir William Courtenay of Powderham in 1591 and sold the property in 1610.

At Kitley House adjoining Plymouth, home of the Pollexfen family is the shield showing the marriage of Edmund and Ann, and it also displays a coat of arms showing Pollexfen impaling Harris and Prideaux, the second impalement denoting his second marriage, to widow Admonition Prideaux.

John Harris the father who married Elizabeth Johnson, MP for Liskeard, was an avowed royalist and as such in the early 1650s, during the time of Cromwell, he was branded a delinquent and barred from the House of Commons with many of his lands seized and sold off. The law did allow for one fifth of such lands to be held in the family for the maintenance of the children of the so called delinquents – hence the Somersetshire land at Yeovil remained with the Harris family.

John died in 1649 and his son John inherited the Lyde property however he was faced with a permanent 10% fine, which was levied on all royalists and political opponents of Cromwell. This led to an uprising across parts of England in 1654 and persons involved in the resurrection were brought to trial. At this time the Lyde property was surveyed

Reference: DD\WHh/838A survey taken of Lyde Farm, nr Yeovil Creation dates: 1654 Extent and Form: 1 doc Scope and Content Being part of the possessions of Thomas Hele and John Harris esq. "at the measure of sixteene ffoot and Halfe per perch", 31 Jan. 1653(4).

.Young John Harris, at the age of 23 was so tried and confined for a time in the Dungeons of Plymouth Castle, but was freed later. With his trial imminent and his future uncertain, Young John proceeded by a variety of ways to place his properties in the hands of others – this included the sale of the Lyde property in Yeovill

Reference: DD\WHh/842-843Deed of sale, for £3600 Creation dates: 1658 Extent and Form: 2 docs Scope and Content From Thomas Hele, of Fleet Damerell, Co.Devon Esq., son and heir of Sir Thomas Hele, Bart, John Harris, of Radford, Co. Devon, esquire, Jonathan Rashleigh, of Menabilly Co. Cornw. esquire, Jonathan Sparke, of Plymouth, esq. and Anthony Williamson, of Wenbury, Co. Devon, gent, to William Helyar, of East Coker, esquire, of the Manor of Lyuge al. Lyde, near Yeovil, Co. Som.Dated, 1 Jan. 1657(8). Signed and sealed.

Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 the lands confiscated but not sold were returned to the family – as the Lyde farm had been sold it was not so returned.

John Harris, son of John Harris and Elizabeth Johnson, firstly married Dorothy Champernowne and secondly Mary Rashleigh before his death in 1677. He left children by both of his marriages.

(Entries in italics are from the UK Archives A2A network)