Mary Jane's mother: Mary Tremlett

Extant documents finally establish that Mary Tremlett, by marriage Mary De Vial, was the mother of Sophia Elizabeth and Mary Jane De Vial.

She was the grand-daughter of Samuel Tremlett (1690 - 1765), a prosperous tradesman of Exeter in Devon.  Samuel's will, which was made in June 1764 with a codicil added in December of that year, and proved after his death in 1765, bequeathed 200 pounds to his grand-daughter on condition that she NOT marry "Mr Peter Viall" but rather "some other person of Good Esteem with and under the Good Liking and approbation of my Executor" i.e. his son Richard Tremlett.  If she did marry Peter Viall, then the money was to be held in trust for her for 80 years, with the interest available to her at the Trustee's discretion if she should be in want; and the principal otherwise held in trust for any children of hers upon their majority.  

Samuel's will does not refer to or identify Mary's parent/s.  He makes a bequest, however, to a Mary Bater, daughter of William Bater, woolcomber of Thorverton, "who lately lived as servant with my Grandaughter Mary Tremlett and since with my sister Mary".  He leaves her 10 pounds in consideration of the care she took of him while in Exmouth, and also 

"with desire and intent to make her some amends for the abuse and injury which I have been informed was and hath been given and done to her by my said Grandaughter's hand about the time of and since their separation"!  

Samuel provided well for all his immediate and extended family, and made a number of charitable bequests.  His son Anthony was designated to carry on the businesses he had established, and was to inherit intact the 'Royal Oak' estate, a collection of properties operating as the Royal Oak inn and malthouse.

After Samuel's death, his son Richard Tremlett (1723 - 1775) assumed responsibility for the trust for his niece Mary.   On his death, his will continued the trust for the children of his late deceased niece, under the trusteeship of his brother, executor and residual legatee, John Tremlett.  Richard did not marry.  He also was a merchant, and, judging by his Will, a man of some culture and sensibility.

John Tremlett (17?? - 1785) in his turn bequeathed trusteeship to the remaining original trustees (who included Kellow Nation, husband of his sister Elizabeth) and his sons John and Thomas.  By 1791, one Josias Lee was the sole survivor of the original trustees named by Samuel Tremlett.  The property left to Mary Tremlett's daughters under the terms of the original bequest, her marriage settlement and her own Will, was sold to victualler Robert Wreford for 400 pounds (see the abstract of the Indenture).  The property comprised:

All that messuage and tenement with the appurtenances formerly in the possession of John Halstaff, gunsmith, deceased then the said William Rogers and Mary Rogers which had formerly consisted of one ground room called the shop, two chambers and one cock loft over the same, one kitchen and two chambers and one cock loft over the same, a brewhouse and courtledge, all which were then lately built. All which said premises are situate in the parish of St Mary the Moor, otherwise St. Mary Major in the City of Exeter.

Samuel Tremlett's other surviving son, Anthony, was a successful fuller and merchant, under the business name of Anthony Tremlett and Sons.  He was one of the Trustees of the Mint Meeting House (Protestant Dissenters' Chapel).  His wife Mary White was the niece of gentlewoman Frances Hallett (nee White), widow the nonconformist minister Rev. Joseph Hallett.   Anthony Tremlett died in 1808.  His will contained bequests to his surviving children i.e his sons Samuel (1751 - 1832), Richard and James; and his daughters Frances, Elizabeth and Anna; the widow of his late son Edward; various grandchildren; and his nephew William Nation and niece Margaret Tremlett.  His obituary was published in the Monthly Magazine and British Register on his death in 1808:

[Deaths, Devonshire] In his 83rd year, Mr. Anthony Tremlett, a man who with great simplicity of manners, possessed the warmest sympathy of heart and benevolence of disposition, which were regularly excited in the course of active beneficence; engaged in mercantile concerns, he supported a uniformly fair unblemished character; and though he experienced a large share of the difficulties, unavoidably attending the interruption of commerce, which the late wares have occasioned, he always honorably discharged his obligations.

-- Monthly Magazine and British Register, Vol. 25, p.274 (1808)

His will does not mention either of Mary Tremlett De Vial's daughters, nor any of the descendents of his brother John.

Samuel's spinster daughter Anna (1729 - 1812) left, amongst various bequests to nieces, nephews and their descendents, a small sum to Mrs Sophia Pilcher (Mary Tremlett's elder daughter). She also left 50 pounds to her eldest niece Elizabeth Tremlett, in trust "for a purpose which I have mentioned to her".

As well as those mentioned in Samuel's will, Samuel and Elizabeth Tremlett had other children.  The Exeter Non-Conformist baptism record book, which was commenced around 1720, shows the first recorded baptism of a child to Samuel and Elizabeth Tremlet(t) as that of Elizabeth b.1722.  Subsequently, the baptism of two more daughters named Elizabeth, two sons named Thomas, and a son Joseph are recorded.   It would appear that the first two Elizabeths and the first Thomas did not survive infancy.   

  1. However, since the Exeter Non-Conformist records commenced in 1720, is is possible that Samuel and Elizabeth had children born before that date.  In fact, there is a record of the baptism of a Mary Tremlett, daughter of Samuel Tremlett Junior and his wife Mary, on 13th March 1740.   Samuel Junior and Mary  had another child, Eliza, baptised in 1750.  Further, the collection of Wills and Administrations Proved in the the Bishop of Exeter, 1559-1799 (accessed on, shows the death of a Samuel Tremlett in 1755.

  2. So far no direct evidence (e.g. baptismal record) has been found to confirm that the Samuel Tremlett Junior who was married to a Mary and fathered a Mary Tremlett in 1740, was the son of Samuel and Elizabeth.  However, it would not be surprising if Samuel and Elizabeth, Mary's grandparents, did name their first child Samuel after his father.  If this Samuel Junior died in 1755, this would account for there being no mention of him in Samuel Sr's will.  Neither does Samuel Sr's will mention a granddaughter Eliza: however, possibly she too predeceased him.

It is therefore possible to conclude that Mary Tremlett:

  •                      was not the child of Samuel the elder; nor of either Richard or John, sons of Samuel; nor of Anna, the spinster daughter, but
  •                      could have been either the nuptial or ex-nuptial child of Anthony Tremlett, or
  •                      could have been the child of another of Samuel's sons, about whom nothing is known (i.e. Thomas II or Joseph, or unknown other), or
  •                      could have been the illegitimate child of Elizabeth, 
However, the evidence strongly suggests that the father of Mary Tremlett (who is known to be the granddaughter of Samuel Tremlett b. abt. 1690, d.1765) was most probably Samuel Tremlett Junior (born sometime before 1720), the eldest son of Samuel Tremlett (1690-1765) and his wife Elizabeth. 

Richard seems to have been well-regarded and trusted by his family: his will suggests that he was a man of considerable sympathy with the less fortunate.  In particular, in his will he made individual bequests to several women he considered to be deserving, and set up a trust to pay "sober and devout" young women 20 pounds on their marriage, "with no preference to be given ... on the consideration of religious denomination, family place of birth or even colour of the skin, but that regard be only had to such merit as seems to be most likely to answer all the good purposes of marriage".  A particularly suggestive bequest was made to a Miss Mary Randal 'now living with Mrs Cookesley of Bull Hill in Exeter', of 10 guineas to be paid her immediately on Richard's death; a sum of one hundred and five pounds paid one year after his death; and an annuity of 30 pounds per annum.  Whoever Miss Mary Randal was, she was generously provided for.

It is tempting to infer that Richard's remarks might be an indirect commentary on the fate of his niece Mary: the silence of Anthony Tremlett's will on the matter of Mary's children allows the possibility that Mary was his child, disinherited when she declared her intention to marry Peter De Vial.  (It is possible that she already had a child, Sophia, by De Vial, since Sophia's imputed year of birth has been given as 1762).  

Providing evidence for this notion, Anthony seems to have been his father's main ally on the matter of religion.  Historical evidence indicates that Mary Jane Vial (Mary Tremlett's younger daughter) was raised a Catholic, implying that Peter De Vial was almost certainly Catholic also.  In light of Richard's remarks in his will, the matter of religion may have been a decisive factor in Samuel's opposition to Mary's fiance -- and of course, the Seven Years' War had only just ended.  A French Catholic would hardly have been a desirable match.

Against this notion lies the fact that, although Anthony outlived his parents and all of his brothers (as far as we know), in none of the wills of his family are there any direct references to Mary's parentage.  


The National Archives: Documents Online

PROB 11/1802  Will of Samuel Tremlett of Saint David’s Hill, Exeter, Devon

PROB 11/909    Will of Samuel or Samuell Tremlett, Merchant of Saint David Exeter, Devon

PROB 11/1873  Will of Richard Tremlett of Exeter, Devon

PROB 11/1008  Will of Richard Tremlett, Merchant of Saint David in Exeter, Devon

PROB 11/1478  Will of Anthony Tremlett, Merchant of Exeter, Devon

PROB 11/178    Will of Elizabeth Tremlett, Spinster of Exeter, Devon

PROB 11/1938   Will of Anna Tremlett, Spinster of Saint Thomas the Apostle, Devon

PROB 11/1555   Will of Anna Tremlett of Exeter, Devon

PROB 11/1669   Will of Hannah Tremlett otherwise Tremmlett

PROB 11/1893   Will of Margaret Tremlett, Spinster of Exeter, Devon

PROB 11/1128   Will of John Tremlett, late Merchant of Saint David in Exeter, Devon

Devon Record Office

D7/528/2/a-b            Indenture of lease and release dated 12th November 1791


UK, Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices' Indentures, 1710-1811, Ancestry World Archives Project,
Wills and Administrations Proved in the the Bishop of Exeter, 1559-1799, Ancestry World Archives Project,
Essex, Non-Conformist BMD Register RG 4/336, Official Non-Parochial and Non-conformist BMD Registers,