Gerald Devey (Exeter, Devon)
Max Slee (Adelaide, South Australia).
The following are extracts (with his kind permmision)
from Max Slee's book printed in 1976
There were two distinct Slee families
in Devon in the late 1400's, one family just north
of Barnstaple in the neighbouring parishes of East
Down and Shirwell, and the other at Coldridge near
the centre of Devon. Over ensuing centuries the members
of these families dispersed over most of Devon, although
until the 1700's they tended to remain in clusters.
These two major families apparently evolved independently
of each other and were possibly not related. The origin
of the surname is uncertain, being either (a) a nickname
– sly, artful, sagacious, or (b) an occupational
name – a slay maker made shuttles used in weaving,
or (c) a place name – slea or sley being Old
English for a grassy slope. This is a summary of the
Slee family of Coldridge.
When Queen Elizabeth I came to the
Throne in 1558 she had to find money to pay off the
debts of her father and others of her family, so she
had the grass lands ploughed up (perhaps the Parks
of Coldridge). On 26th January, 1562 she sold `in
fee simple to John Waldron of Tiverton and Robert
Northcote the elder of Crediton, the rectory of Colridge,
Devon, to hold in free socage Issues from all Saints
last, the advowsons of the Vicarage reserved'.
An Indenture, tripartite, was made
on 19th July, 1625,
"between Roger Slee of Tiverton,
Merchant, son and heir of the said George Slee of
the first part; William Slee of Uplowman, William
Hame (son-in-law of George Slee), William Coleman
(son-in-law of George Slee), William Spurway (son-in-law
of George Slee), John Berry (son-in-law of George
Slee), Robert Dayman, Peter Blundell (nephew of George
Slee), Peter West, Peter Spurway, Thomas Bury, and
three others, all of Tiverton, being nominated as
(Trustees in the Indenture, of the second part, and
Johane Slee, widdowe, Executrix of the last Will and
Testament of George Slee, of the third part; wherein
it is recited that she, by the advise of her overseers
had purchased a plote of ground within the town of
Tyverton neere adjoining to the dwelling house of
the said George Slee, in Peter Street there, and hath
erected and built uppon the same plote of ground six
dwelling houses for six poore women to dwell in, etc."
She purchased no yearly rent or annuity,
but made over to her son Roger Slee, £360 for
the purpose of carrying out that part of the Testator’s
Will. Roger Slee therefore conveyed to the said Trustees
"herein appointed and before named, and their
heirs, an estate of inheritance of and in the rectory
sheafe and parsonage impropriate of Coldrige in the
County of Devon with all and singular his rights,
members, and appurtenances" of which the testator
died seized, with a proviso that they should reconvey
to the said Roger Slee the said Rectory and parsonage
for three thousand years, reserving the annual rent
of £20. The said rent was to be paid over by
the Trustees to the Church-wardens and their successors
and to be applied by them for the reparation of the
almshouses and for the maintenance of the almswomen,
It appears from an old trust deed,
dated 5th March, 1647, that the trustees named in
the deed of 1625 demised the said Rectory of Coldridge
to Roger Slee, for the term of 3,000 years under the
rent of £20, payable quarterly on the four most
usual feasts of the year at the parish church of Tiverton.
According to a Covenant in the 1625
Indenture, upon payment of this rent Roger Slee or
his heirs could re-enter and regain control of the
Rectory of Coldridge and its lands at any time within
the next 3,000 years. Owing no doubt to the neglect
of the Trustees, no feoffment deed has been made since
1647 and the control of this Charity is now entirely
within the hands of the churchwardens. Of the Covenant,
no advantage has been taken, and the annuity is regularly
paid by the Hon. Newton Fellowes, of Eggsford, who
at present possesses the Rectory of Coldridge.
(ca.1490 - )
The Christian name of the earliest known Slee resident
at Coldridge is uncertain, though it was probably
Roger. He would have been born in Coldridge in about
1490. He married and had four known children:-
1. William Slee, born about 1525,
died 1585. (see below for more)
2. Alice Slee, born about 1530, who
married to Robert Waldron on 20-9-1556, issue unknown.
Robert was possibly the son of John Waldron, later
3. Thomas Slee, born about 1533,
he was possibly a yeoman (farmer) and according to
the Coldridge Churchwarden's accounts, in 1592 he
was paid 2/10d for a bushel of rye, a pound of butter,
and a cheese. He married (wife's name unknown) and
had three known children; 1. Joane, baptised 25-4-1578,
who married Paul Wheaton on 10-8-1597, issue unknown.
2. Agnes, baptised 21-2-1579, buried 2-3-1579. 3.
Nathaniel, baptised 2-2-1589.
4. Margaret Slee, born about 1537,
married Nicholas Shilston of Coldridge on 1-6-1567
– issue unknown.
William Slee (ca.
Born in about 1525, William Slee married twice. By
his first wife (name unknown) he had eight children.
His first wife died between 1577 and 1581, and he
remarried to his second wife, Grace, by whom he had
his ninth child, Andrew (born 1582). William was probably
a yeoman, and in 1556 he was paid by the Churchwardens
for the cleaning and carriage of armour, for use by
soldiers in the event of a Spanish attack, which was
considered imminent in that period. He was also presumably
literate, for in 1569, in company with Harry Dyer,
he was paid by the Churchwarden for being Clerk of
the Market at the Coldridge Cattle Fair, held annually
on the first Tuesday in March. In 1605, his widow,
Grace, was paid for hire of her horse which was used
to fetch armour from Barnstaple. William died at Coldridge
and was buried on 28-2-1585. His widow, Grace, was
buried there on 23-9-1619. The nine children of William
(see below for more details)
-Born in Coldridge in about 1555, the first
son of William Slee,
George is one of the most
notable members of the family. Spending his
childhood in Coldridge, he moved to Tiverton in
about 1575 where he began dealing in the cloth trade.
He married on the 10th August, 1581 to Joan Chilcott,
daughter of John Chilcott (also Comyns) and Eleanor
(nee Blundell), of Tiverton. He became one of the
wealthiest cloth merchants in Devon and made many
charitable bequests. He died in Tiverton and was
buried in St. Peters Church, Tiverton, under a noble
slab of black marble which was deeply engraved with
the following; `Hereunder lyeth buried the bodye
of George Slee of Tyverton, Merchant, who departed
this life the first of September, 1613...'. There
follows a list of his donations to the poor of various
places. His wife Joan died on the 13th June 1630,
and in her Will she also left charitable bequests
to the poor. George and Joan had seven children;
2. ELIZABETH SLEE -
was baptised on 6th June, 1559 and married William
Reade of Coldridge. She had several children including
a daughter, Julian, who married a Mr. Brooke.
3. THOMASIN SLEE - was baptised
on 2nd June, 1562 and married John Fletcher (also
Dart) and had issue.
4. JOAN SLEE - was baptised on
22nd October, 1566 and married on 19th November,
1580 to Augustine Berry and had issue.
5. AUGUSTINE SLEE
(see below for more) - was baptised on 3rd October,
1570 and lived in Coldridge. He married Joan Smith
and had ten children, many of whom died from plague.
6. PAUL SLEE - was baptised on
22nd March, 1572, buried 13th February, 1573.
7. THOMAS SLEE - was baptised on
4th March, 1574, and married on 9th November, 1622
to Mary Luxton and had three known children. He
was buried on 25th February, 1629. His children
1. George Slee -
baptised 28th February, 1623, buried 25th May,
1669. He married and later settled at Lower Frost.
By his wife, Jane, who died 21st June, 1704, he
had ten children: 1. Mary, baptised 1648, married
in 1670 to William Warren. 2. Thomasin, baptised
1650. 3. Jane, baptised 1652, married 1686 to
Bartholomew Gibbins. 4. Joan, baptised 1654, married
1676 to Richard Hare. 5. Hester, baptised 1656,
married 1678 to Thomas Ellworthy. 6. Susanna,
baptised 1658, married 1676 to Thomas Stoneman.
7. George, baptised 1661. 8. Thomas, baptised
1664. 9. Bridget, baptised 1666, married 1689
to Thomas Packer. 10. Elizabeth, baptised 1668,
died 1706 unmarried.
2. Roger Slee - baptised 1626.
3. Alice Slee - baptised 5th
July, 1629, buried 7th November, 1629.
8. NICHOLAS SLEE - was baptised
30th August, 1577 and who married and is believed
to have had issue - details unknown.
9. ANDREW SLEE - was baptised
on 25th March, 1582 and buried on 13th December,
1582. Andrew was the only child of William by
his second wife, Grace.
(1570 – 1620)
Baptised on 3rd October, 1570, Augustine lived in
Coldridge and married Joan Smith on the 29th July,
1591. His occupation is unknown and little detail
could be found of him. He is mentioned as a beneficiary
in the Will of his brother, George Slee of Tiverton.
He was buried at Coldridge on 18th February, 1620.
He is recorded as having made a Will, but like most
old Devonshire Wills it was destroyed in May, 1942
as a result of an enemy air raid upon Exeter that
destroyed the County Probate Office. The years 1620
and 1621 would have been a tragic period for the family,
for in those years occurred the deaths of Augustine
and five of his children. The cause of these deaths
is unknown but presumably it was plague, which chiefly
attacks persons between the ages of twenty to sixty.
All but one of his children that died were over twenty
years, and his younger children appear to have survived.
Plague recurred sporadically in this period in degrees
that ranged from local epidemics to
huge pandemics. The ten children of Augustine and
1. MARY SLEE -
2. PHILIPPA SLEE - baptised 27-11-1593,
3. GILES SLEE - baptised 23-4-1596,
4. WILLIAM SLEE - baptised 8-11-1599,
5. GRACE SLEE - baptised 19-3-1601,
6. ROGER SLEE (see below for more)
- baptised 2-10-1605, who married Mary Cookerow.
7. WALTER SLEE - baptised 28-8-1608.
8. SUZANNE SLEE - baptised 10-6-1610.
9. JOHN SLEE - baptised 17-7-1612.
10. JOAN SLEE - baptised 13-7-1614,
(1605 – 1698)
Baptised on 2nd October, 1605 at Coldridge, Roger
married late in life and had seven children that are
known and possibly an eighth. His occupation is unknown,
but presumably he was involved in agriculture. At
the time of his death, aged over 90 years, his occupation
was a gardener, probably market gardener. He married
at Coldridge on 19th June, 1649 to Mary Cookerow,
and he spent all his life in Coldridge. He died in
1698 and was buried on 20th October of that year.
His wife Mary died 31st October, 1708. The eight children
of Roger and Mary were:
1. GRACE SLEE -
baptised 24-2-1649, buried 18-5-1650.
2. THOMAS SLEE - baptised 2-3-1650,
who possibly married and had a son, Nicholas Slee
who later lived at Halberton.
3. JOHN SLEE (see below for more)
- baptised 5-10-1653.
4. AUGUSTIN SLEE - born 23-8-1655,
5. GEORGE SLEE - born 10-5-1658,
he married Dinath (or Dinah) Fursdon at Coldridge
on 4-3-1688, and later lived at Barnstaple and Zeal
Monachorum. He was buried on 27-8-1716, and Dinath
was buried at Coldridge on 14-2-1732. The couple
had twelve children born between 1689 and 1711.
6. NICHOLAS SLEE - baptised 31-3-1663,
7. MARY SLEE - baptised 2-5-1667,
she married at Coldridge on 6-2-1698 to Samuel Luxton.
8. AUGUSTINE SLEE - born in 1670/71,
it is believed that he was the eighth child of Roger
Slee. He married on 4-6-1694 to Mary Stevens of
(1653 – 1710)
Baptised on 5th October, 1653 at Coldridge, like his
father he married late in life. His occupation is
unknown. He married on 23rd December, 1707 to Grace
Westerne and the couple had two sons. John died before
his second son was born and he was buried on 17th
May, 1710. Grace, who was apparently some years younger
than John, remarried at Coldridge on 20th March, 1736
to William Bennett. The two sons of John and Grace
1. JOHN SLEE (see
below for more) - baptised 3-5-1708.
2. ROGER SLEE - baptised 9-6-1710.
Nothing further is known of him.
(1708 – 1768)
Baptised at Coldridge on 3rd May, 1708, he was deprived
of his father whilst an infant. He spent the early
part of his life in Coldridge until, presumably whilst
young and unmarried, he left the town of his ancestors
and moved to Sampford Peverell, a village near Tiverton.
He married there, though no record can be found of
the marriage. The first name of his wife was Elizabeth.
John settled in Sampford Peverell in about 1725 and
resided there the remainder of his life. Sampford
Peverell is situated about five miles from Tiverton.
John died there and was buried on 3rd May, 1768. He
made a Will, but the record of the Administration
of the Will was destroyed in Exeter in May, 1942 by
enemy action. His wife, Elizabeth, was buried at Sampford
Peverell on 24th January, 1781. The nine children
of John and Elizabeth were all baptised at Sampford
that little boy from Coldridge
(ca. 1555- 1613)
Born in Coldridge in about 1555, the
first son of William Slee, George is one of the most
notable members of the family. Spending his childhood
in Coldridge, he moved to Tiverton in about 1575 where
he began dealing in the cloth trade. Tiverton, about
18 miles from Coldridge, had by that time become famous
for its woolen kerseys. Upon the death of his father
in 1585, George no doubt received a good inheritance
and with this capital he was able to become one of
the most prosperous merchants of Tiverton. He married
on the 10th August, 1581 to Joan Chilcott, daughter
of John Chilcott (also Comyns) and Eleanor (nee Blundell),
The Blundells and Chilcotts were prominent
families and benefactors in Tiverton. Eleanore Blundell's
brother, Peter Blundell, founded the famous Blundell's
School in Tiverton. Built in 1604, Old Blundell's
School is now the property of the National Trust,
and externally the buildings remain almost unaltered.
The triangular lawn in front of the school was the
scene of the fight between Jan Ridd and Robin Snell
Blackmore's classic novel, `Lorna Doone'. Samuel Wesley,
elder brother of John Wesley the founder of Methodism,
was a Headmaster at the school in the 18th Century.
In his Will, Peter Blundell left £1,000
to his niece Joan Slee, and £2,200 to George
Slee and his children. George was one of the Executors
of Peter Blundell’s Will and a feoffee to carry
out the erection of the school. George Slee's brother-in-law,
Robert Chilcott, founded the Chilcott School in St.
Peter Street in 1611. Still standing, this building
is now the Council Chamber of the Tiverton Rural District
Council. George was engaged for most of his life in
the business of manufacturing and exporting the kerseys
of Tiverton to various places in both England and
overseas, and importing wool and other materials necessary
for the manufacture, by which he acquired a good fortune.
Most of his exporting and importing was done by sea,
via Exeter. In 1608, Tiverton was described by a contemporary
writer as being thronged with rich clothiers, and
the Monday Market as being famous for its Tiverton
THE GREAT HOUSE OF ST. GEORGE is a
fine Jacobean mansion built in about 1605 on the eastern
side of St. Peter Street as a home for George Slee
and his family. The Great House is one of the historic
buildings of Tiverton. A two-storey stone building
with an attic, the front has mullion windows with
relieving arches. The main
entrance, a round arched opening, enters into a screened
passage that retains the original doors and paneling.
The building is now the offices of the Tiverton Rural
SLEE'S ALMS HOUSES were founded by
George Slee in 1610, and built in 1613 according to
directions in his Will. This building adjoins the
Great House of St. George. A stone building, it has
a gallery access at the front, with leaded casement
windows on the ground and first floor. Martin Dundford
described the almshouses in his ‘Historical
Memoirs’ in 1790; “usually called the
Widow's Almshouses . . . they are six single rooms,
three on each floor ... they also have galleries in
front and ... are floored with timber. Behind are
small herb gardens, but no chapel. They were built
about the year 1613, since which time few alterations
have been made besides common repairs. . .”
In his Will, George Slee bequeathed
£500 for the erection of the almshouses and
directed that they should be `for six poore aged woemen
to dwell in'. The women, who had to be aged at least
`three score years', were to be nominated by his wife
Joan during her lifetime, and afterwards by the Tiverton
Churchwardens. The six women, who had to be of honest
name and fame, were paid 12 pence per week every Saturday
for their maintenance. Over 350 years later, Slee's
Almshouses are still serving their original purpose
and are currently occupied (1976), though internally
they have been considerably restored to suit modern
George Slee was very involved in the
activities of Tiverton. In a Brief dated 1612, King
James I mentions George Slee as one of the persons
authorised to deal with collections in various places
to relieve the distress caused by a major fire in
the town. In his Will, George Slee left numerous charitable
bequests to the poor people of various places. His
Will contained a total of 44 different bequests totalling
in cash £4,120, as well as considerable personal
and real property in the parishes of Tiverton, Coldridge,
Uplowman, and Halberton. In modern terms, George Slee
was a multi-millionaire.
He died in bed in his home on the
1st September, 1613, making a codicil to his Will
some few hours before his death. Two of the minor
bequests in his Will were forty shillings to the `grave
and learned preacher' who conducted his funeral service,
and to twenty poor elderly men of Tiverton a gown
(or coat) worth 20 pence each, 12 pence in cash, and
their dinner on the day of his burial. He was buried
on the north side of the screen of the chancel of
St. Peters Church, Tiverton, under a noble slab of
black marble which was deeply engraved with the following;
`Hereunder lyeth buried the bodye of George Slee of
Tyverton, Merchant, who departed this life the first
of September, 1613...'. There follows a list of his
donations to the poor of various places. His wife
Joan died on the 13th June 1630, and in her Will she
also left charitable bequests to the poor. George
and Joan had seven children;
1. Roger Slee
- Born on 23rd June, 1582, Roger became a merchant
clothier like his father. He resided in his father's
home for many years. On 9th September, 1604, he was
made a Freeman of Exeter, his fee for admission to
that position being pardoned by the Mayor of Exeter.
Being a Freeman entitled him to certain privileges.
In the first Charter of Incorporation granted to the
Borough of Tiverton in 1615 by King James I, Roger
Slee is named as one of the first twelve assistants
to the Capital Burgesses. The Charter included the
right for Tiverton to hold two Fairs annually. In
1616, he was Churchwarden for the Clare portion of
the parish. He was also a feoffee
in the Will of Peter Blundell. He married (wife's
name unknown) and had four children;
1. Elizabeth Slee - it is believed
she died in 1620, unmarried.
2. Joan Slee - Joan died in about
3. Julian Slee - believed to have
married Richard Drake in 1631, issue unknown.
4. George Slee - born in 1614, George
spent most of his life in Coldridge. He married Margaret
Tremayne of Chittlehampton in 1637 and had two known
children. He died at Coldridge in 1689 and his wife
died there in 1696. His known children were;
1. George Slee, born about 1643 –
no record can be found of him either marrying or having
children. It is possible he moved out of Devon. 2.
Mary Slee, born 1640, married to George Kelly, of
Coldridge. She died in 1706 - issue unknown.
2. Eleanor Slee - Born 30th January,
1584. On 3rd April, 1598, Eleanor was one of thirty-three
persons burnt to death in the great fire in Tiverton
which consumed 400 houses and several chapels, and
destroyed £150,000 value in money, plate, and
3. Julian Slee - Born 3rd October,
1590, she married in 1607 to John Berry of Tiverton.
The couple had several children, the eldest being
John Berry, born about 1608.
4. William Slee - Born 26th May,
1592. William matriculated through Oriel College,
Oxford University, on 25th January, 1611, at the age
of eighteen. In 1614 he was admitted as a student
of the Inner Temple of the University. William married,
and with his wife, Mary, he took over his father's
estates in Uplowman parish, where he was to spend
the remainder of his life. His father, in his Will,
left him lands and tenements at Widhayes and St. John's
Land in Uplowman parish, and a tenement at East Sollark
in Halberton parish. In 1641 he was a signatory to
the Devon Protestation Returns. He died at his home
at Widhayes in October, 1647 (Will held by P.R.O.).
William had no children.
5. George Slee - Born 16th December,
1595, died 15th May, 1597.
6. Eleanor Slee - Born 1st November,
1598 and married on 26th July, 1614 to Daniel Perryman.
Had several children, details unknown.
7. Joane Slee - Born 8th July, 1601
and later resided with her brother William at Uplowman,
and married on 16th April, 1619 to William Ham of
Coliton. William Ham had formerly been employed by
her father, George Slee, as his agent in London. The
couple had two known children; John and William.
From White's Devonshire
Directory of 1850
SLEE'S ALMSHOUSES, in Peter street, were founded in
1610, for six poor widows, or aged maidens, by George
Slee, who left £500 for their erection and endowment.
The endowment is a yearly rent charge of £20,
out of the rectory of Coldridge, and from it each
almswoman has 1s. per week. The churchwardens are
the trustees, and the almswomen have each a further
weekly allowance of 1s. from the dividends of £360
navy five per cent. stock, left by Mary Marshall,
in 1803. The residue of these dividends is divided
among the most necessitous poor parishioners, according
to the donor's will.
104 VIEW OP DEVONSHIRE.
[ Book II ].
" Here under lyeth buried the body of George
[Slee of Tiverton, Merchant,
who departed this life the 1st of September, 1613,
He gave by his will, to bo
distributed to the poorest people of Tiverton, 50£
; to the parish church and
church-yard of Tiverton, 10£ ; to and for the
building of an aims-house, for six
poor, aged, and honest vpomen, and to purchase rents
for their maintenance, at
12d. the week to each of them, 500£; to fifty
poor crafts-men, of good and honest,
fame, 100£; to the poorest, honest, and painfuUest
labourers in Tiverton, 10£;
to the parish church of Coleridge, for the relief
and keeping on work of the poor-
est people there, 10£ ; to the poor of the parish
of Halberton, 40s; to the poor
of the parish of Uplowman, 40s. He left behind him
living, two sons and three