Thomas DEVENISH (c1589 - Aft 1638)

Keeper of Dorchester Gaol & House of Correction

Research Document only - Last updated Oct 2016

©Compiled by Michael Russell OPC for Fordington March 2009

NOTE:- Whilst there are lots of references to him in his role as Keeper of Dorchester gaol I know virtually nothing about his personal life. I am of course hampered by the loss of many key records associated with this period of our history and my own inability to get to Dorchester and access some of the records. Given the dearth of biographical material to date, I have simply quoted below verbatim entries that I have located which concern him and added comments where appropriate. I have included references to Thomas Sparrow (the previous and subsequent keeper of the gaol) and items about the gaol itself to better understand events. If anyone else comes across additional facts about him I would be grateful if you can make contact at Mikeatstrayleaves[insert @ symbol here]

I am therefore reduced to speculation (something I don't like to do at all) but in case it is of some use to a future researcher and before I forget I jot down my thoughts to date:-

I suspect that he was the son of a yeoman rather than a gentleman and came from that region within 7 miles or so north west of Dorchester where the name predominates. He probably came to Dorchester to work and this may well initially have been in the upholstery trade. He appears to have been ambitious and persistent trying to mix with the better off and more influential members of Dorchester, and perhaps because of this was not shy of taking on a role many would have lacked the personal resolve to undertake. I think he was probably serving in Dorchester gaol as an under keeper to Thomas Sparrow for several years prior to 1619. Although there is reference in Sir Francis Ashley's casebook to him being in charge of the gaol then as far as I can see Thomas Sparrow remained Keeper of the gaol until 1626. I have mixed views about the entry in 1620. He certainly would have been used to enforcing discipline and not afraid to mix it and if Nathan Devenish was a relation I can see them becoming involved in an argument with the Tithing man and Constable. In the 17th century nonconformists often resented paying tithes to the Church of England but the tithing man was responsible to the manor court for all misdemeanours committed by members of families within his tithing. Enforcement in the first instance was through the parish constable and then the court. The problem is that I think Sir Arthur Ashley would have referred to him as under keeper of the gaol not as a yeoman who is more like a minor gentleman but living off the land or a husbandman (farmer) with a larger landholding. We also know there were other people with the name of Thomas Devenish in for example Charminster so on balance I think this is more likely to be someone else. Another reason I doubt this was him is the next year 1621 he is made freeman and in 1622 Serjeant of the Mace. These indicate a rise in status and greater involvement in civic matters. The JP's spend £1,000+ on the gaol which was ready in 1624 so his election as keeper in 1626 was to an important and higher profile post. It is at this time that he invests in the Dorchester Company with presumably the usual contribution of £20.

On 28 November 1628 he is ousted as Keeper of the gaol for 'abuses' and Thomas Sparrow is put back in charge. He is however allowed to keep control of the House of Correction which was adjacent to the gaol and given an annual salary of £40 by the County to run it. The House of Correction was another of the Rev John White's and the governors drive towards the new social order and was designed to make people with lesser misdemeanours such as drunkenness or failure to attend church etc both useful, and subject to a corrective regime.

On the 5th April 1629 Thomas Sparrow dies and his place is taken by his son-in-law Renaldo Knapton who had married his daughter Cassandra and at the time was under sheriff of Dorchester. By 1631 however we start to get references to Thomas Devenish being in charge of the gaol again and it is clear he is back in charge of both in 1632 but the September Quarter Sessions that year shows that he has fallen out with the High Sheriff over mainprise. The Court side with the High Sheriff and on the face of it he losses half his income. According to William Whiteway's diary however he is made under sheriff 4 days later and in April 1633 the JP's purchase a cottage and ground for him in Fordington which probably explains the drop in income. In 1634 Renaldo Knapton signs the Fordington baptism and burial registers as churchwarden so clearly was still active in the area. The assault case in 1636 on Thomas Devenish's wife at least lets us know that he is married to an Abigail. Everything comes to a head in April 1637 when the Court losses patience over the proper rendering of accounts for the money it has laid out and there are clearly accusations that the prisoners were being ill treated. After an Enquiry Thomas Devenish is dismissed but allowed an appeal and although we don't know the outcome his place seems to have been taken by Renaldo Knapton again as there are references to him being keeper of the gaol in 1643 and his re-election to the post in 1662.

What happened to Thomas Devenish after he was dismissed is speculation but it is strange to get the name, which is not common, crop up again in the context of being Keeper of the gaol in Winchester; and the petition to the House of Lords has an arrogance and boldness about it that sounds familiar? His biggest claim to fame was that his mis-management of the gaol led to the establishment of clear published rules and much tighter controls. These rules were clearly established to put right previous abuses in his management which gives us an idea of the sorts of activities that he was using to generate private income.

M Russell OPC for Fordington



A scan of the International Genealogical index extraction programme and parish registers on [March 2009] only produces 8 records in the whole of Dorset relating to a Thomas Devenish pre 1637 when we know he was alive. I have not been able to link any of these to the keeper of the gaol but they are listed below for reference. In the 16th & early 17th century there seems to be a concentration of members of Devenish families in the area from Broad Sydling[now St Nicholas] Up Sydling, Stratton, Grimstone, Bradford Peverell, Charminster and Dorchester but also Corscombe. None are gentry references being to yeomen and trades like glazier. One or two of these are mentioned in Sir Francis Ashley's casebook.

Baptism Thomas Devenish 29 March 1580 at Bradford Peverell Dorset son of William & Marie Devenishe
Marriage Thomas Devenish 22 January 1596 Charminster Dorset to Agnes Fowkes :: OPC has transcribed as Agnes Kooke & date to be 23rd.
Marriage of Thomas Devenish 25 January 1606 Charminster to Mary Tyser
Baptism of Jone Devenish 17 November 1612 Charminster daughter of Thomas & Marie Devenish
Baptism Nicholas Devenish 20 December 1613 Charminster son of Thomas & Marie Devenish
Baptism of Thomas Devenish 16 July 1619 Charminster son of John & Ann Devenish
Baptism Thomas Devenish 3 November 1622 Stratton with Grimstone Dorset son of Nicholas & Anne Devenish
Baptism Thomas Devenish 10 December 1626 Charminster son of William & Margaret Devenish

Note: The records of the Kings Remembrancer at National Archives E134/44&45Eliz/Mich8 mentions a 'Sir Thomas Devenish Curate of Charminster & Stratton 1601 / 1602. he was ordained priest 1st June 1561 at Salisbury Cathedral and posted as Curate to Charminster 27 May 1567. This became Curate of Charminster & Straton 22 May 1576. He remained Curate at Charminster until his death recorded on the Church of England Clergy database as 6 Sept 1606.

Birth and Education:

[RT- page 450] Rose-Troup in her biography of John White published 1930 simply identifies him as keeper of the gaol and gives a birth date of circa 1589 but no source. [WW - page 172] In the biographical notes by Thomas D Murphy published 1991 he gives the birth as circa 1599 and again no source. If his source was Rose Troup there is a transcription error. The very first reference that we have to him is from Francis Ashley's casebook given below and this talks about him taking charge of the gaol in 1619. 20 seems young but possible - 30 more likely - As Rose Troup's assessment is earliest I have gone with birth circa 1589 for now.

Marriage and children:

[QS - page 323 see below] All we know is that he was married to Abigail before 1636

Background and Career:
File NOTES:-

[WW - Overview] DEVENISH, Thomas (b.c.1599) Upholsterer of Dorchester [derived from MRD admission of Freemen records 1621]

[FAC - 5] 3 Mar 1614/15 - Ashley casebook - Examination of Thomas Drinn of Dorchester -- long account but mentions:- "--sitting on a pall that enclosed the Keepers Courte" -- "saw" -- "out of Thomas Sparrowes Court". So Thomas Sparrow was keeper as early as 1614.

[FAC - 26] 23 Dec 1616 - Ashley casebook - Examination of Christian Barrow questioned by Thomas Sparrow

[FAC - 19] 29 Dec 1616 - Ashley casebook - Examination of Judeth Sparrow wife of Thomas Sparrow keeper of his Majesty’s gaole for the County of Dorset.

[FAC - 58] 29 March 1619 - Ashley casebook Examination of Austin Richards upon oath - ‘Who sayeth that on Saturday before prisoners were handed over to Thomas Devenish’ the prisoners having broken up some of the irons and planks neere the window grate on Sunday this examinant informed Thomas Sparrow asnd his underkeeper thereof, wherupon Sparrow sayd to this examinant “I would there were as cunning fellowes here as there have been, hold thy tongue fool, thow mayst help theyself and other good fellows to yf thow hast anie with in thy head”. And did advise them that they should escape the Monday night being the first night that Devenish tooke charge of the gaole. And the prisoners in the ward sayd that they would be joviall that night and then yf [if] they were dronke they should be putt downe. And that then a company of mad fellows would run down and make the gaol smoke, if this examinant would make the gaole weake in any place. And farther sayth that Henry Garrett being then in prison promised this examinant to procure him favour with the new keeper, and that he would get liberty for him to come up and down between the gaol and the wards under his custody, and then this examinant might escape and when this examinant should run away, Garrett would make as if he ran after him, and then they would run away together.

[FAC] 18 Apr 1620 - Nathan Devenish of Up-Sidling husbandmen in £20 :Thomas Devenish of Dorchester, yeoman in £10 bound over to the next session for beating of the Constable and tithing man of BroadSidling. Given the Devenish families living in Sidling area it cannot be assumed that this our Thomas Devenish the under keeper of the gaol as I would have expected him to be described as such.

[WW Overview] Freeman 1621 and, Serjeant of the Mace 1622.

[MRD - 422] 25th October 1621 Admission of the Company of Freemen of the Borough of Dorchester. Thomas Devenish upholsterer paid 3s 4d admission fee on 25th October 1621

[WW - 48] 30 Sep 1622 Joseph Whittle was put from his office of Serjeant and Thomas Devenish placed in his room.

[RT - 37] In 1623 the lack of a common gaol for the County was recognised and the High Sherrif, the justices of the peace and others purchased land in East street in Dorchester and spent at least £1,000 in erecting one which was finished in the summer of 1624 and was to accommodate among others incorrigible rogues.[Note: In 'The History of Dorchester' by James Savage written in 1837 it states 'The county gaol stood anciently where the public house called the Angel was situated. Before 1633, a new gaol was built at the lower end of East Street and John & William Churchill having accommodated the county with houses to erect it, it was ordered by the sheriff and magistrates that all grain used in the gaol should be ground at their east mills in Fordington; and if the gaoler bought his beer and bread he should buy it of those who ground their corn at those mills.]

[RT - 450] 1624-1626 Listed as an investor in the Dorchester company

[WW Overview] Keeper of the County gaol 1626

[WW - 86] 4 Dec 1626 Thomas Devenish, Sergeant (of the Mace) was made keeper of the common Jaile and Benjamin Derby chosen Sergeant in his place 15th December.

[PR Stinsford] 29 Mar 1627 Renaldo KNAPTON married his daughter Cassandra SPARROWE

[QS - 44] Sherborne 3-5 April 1627 - Abuse of bread allowances at the gaol

[QS- 78] 2 Oct 1628 Thomas Devenish is confirmed as Master of the House of Correction in Dorchester after a trial of 1 year by Quarter Sessions at Beaminster. At that time the Rev John Russell was a prisoner for debt  in the sheriffs ward or mainprise. Mainprise was the committal of a person who might otherwise be imprisoned into the friendly custody of someone who had given security that he would be forthcoming at a certain time or place; in this case by the Sheriff of Dorchester. Thomas Devenish had been allowing the Rev John Russell to act as minister to the other prisoners in both the prison and the House of Correction. The Court agreed that Russell be allowed £6.13.4d per year for this service plus £3.6s 8d per year lodging which was to be paid to Thomas Devenish as long as Russell remained. At the same Court four justices were appointed [Sir Francis Ashley, Sir Thomas Trenchard,Dr John Whetcomb and John Browne Esq) to supervise the Keeper, master House of Correction and prisoners to determine fees to be paid to the prisoners and to determine an allowance for the additional rooms and implements which Devenish provided.

[WW Overview] 1628 Ousted from keeper of the county gaol because of abuses

[WW - 100] 28 Nov 1628 Thomas Devenish was put out of the Keepers place and Thomas Sparrow was made keeper in his stead. Yet Thomas Devenish kept the House of Correction still, and had £40 per annum allowed him of the County for it.

[WW - 103] The 5th April 1629 This month Thomas Sparrow Jailekeeper died, and his son-in-law Knapton kept the Jail. [Note Rinaldo Knapton who was undersheriff in 1628 had married his daughter Cassandra]

[QS - 92] At Sherborne QS 14 - 16 Apr 1629 Thomas Devenish lately keeper and Master of the House of Correction is to be refunded £41.7s 8d that he had spent on additional buildings to the gaol and House of Correction. This is subject to his presenting the bills. He is to be paid £20 in hand and the rest when the treasurer has enough money. This does not seem to have been paid as at the Beaminster QS’s:-

[MRD - 651] 1629 aug 3rd Thomas Devenish on oath saith that he hath often forbidden John Gape of this borough to play at the ball in the prison court; that said gape came thither again on Winsday last, and the said Thomas Devenish having reproved him and his company and put them out of the prison court, the said gape and his company by his meanes retorned againe presently and would play there in despight of the said Thomas Devenish, and wished that he had the said gape out into the street, and the said Gape since abused this examinant's daughter in words and scoffes.

[QS - 107]  30 Sep - 2 Oct 1629 Andrew Kellway instructed to pay £20 on account to Thomas Devenish Master of the House of Correction

[MRD - 595] 8 Feb 1630 Thomas Devenish Keper of the Gaole who saith that meeting Phillip Nychols yesterday in the afternoone, going vp (up) the street this examinant asked him yf (if) he had bene with Mr ADIN againe to make him beleue he would be of theire or that Religion, whoe awnswered he had bene there, and that the Old Semenary and he weare fallen out, and he would xcome there no more, and shewed this examinant that he had told Mr Aden what strange doctrine Mr WHITE had preached the day before in his opinion, viz that Crist was made a simple inocent holding vp (up) his hands and shaking his head, and sayd that the Old Semenary did seeme to approve of what Mr White had said, which was the cause he would come no more at him.

[FFH - 162] 31 Mar 1631 Reference to Roger Pouncy abuse of the constable of Dorchester Richard Williams (whom he attacked with a corn pike) and the keeper of the gaol Thomas Devenish.

[QS - 167] At Sherborne QS 19-21 April 1631 Thomas Devenish Master of the House of Correction at Dorchester has laid out £5.6.7d for repairs and for tools for the prisoners to use. The Court orders that he be paid by the treasurer the implements to remain in the use of the house.

[QS - 195] At Blandford QS 10-13 Jan 1632 a handmill for grinding malt is to be erected in the House of Correction at the request of Thomas Devenish the master for the better setting on worke of sundry sturdy offendours. The treasurer of the western Division is to pay TD for his expenditure on the mill.

[NOTE:] The Calendar of State Papers (Domestic) for Charles I 1631-1633 Volume 211 dated February 1632 has an entry "Received on the 27 January their letter dated the last of December, requiring him to admit Thomas Devenish to be keeper of the gaol and house of correction for ..." Unfortunately I do not have access to the actual papers to get more than this short statement.

[QS - 214] At Bridport 25 - 27 Sep 1632 The Privy Council has heard the case of the differences between the High Sheriff and Thomas Devenish, Governor of the House of Correction and Keeper of the Gaol concerning mainprise. The decision of the PC is that the sheriff is to keep the right of mainprise. Devenish was previously paid £40 per annum when he did not have mainprise, but now this is to be reduced to £20 per annum paid quarterly.

[WW - 125] 1st October 1632 Thomas Devenish chosen as Undersheriff of Dorchester.

[QS - 254] At Bridport 24-26 Sep 1633 A cottage and ground in the manor of Fordington have been purchased by Justices Freke and Trenchard as feoffees in trust of Joan Gould, widow deceased. It was ordered at Sherborne that the cottage should be made over to Thomas Devenish keeper of the Gaol and Master of the House of Correction. John Gardner gentleman has now laid claim to it.

It appears to the Court that Since the building of the new gaol it was thought fit that the same piece of ground should remayne to the keeper for the time being for the ayring of his prisoners and the two remaining lives are ready to resign.

The court orders that Devenish is to buy out the remaining two lives in the cottage and ground negotiating with the steward of the manor of Fordington and make a new estate for the lives of Giles Strangeways, Thomas Trenchard and John Browne the younger esquires feoffees in trust for the County. The money is to be paid by the treasurer of the western division. Devenish is to continue to hold the estate as long as he is in office and is to maintain the house and fences.

[MRD - 664] 1633 Dec 30th Thomas Devenish keeper of the Goal, deposeth that Mr. John Gardner of Waymouth spake very disgracefully and disdainefully of the gentlemen of the county of Dorset, but especially of Sir Frances Ashley Knight Serjeant at law and Sir Walter Erle two of the justices of the peace of this county

[QS - 297] At Blandford 12-14 January 1635
House of Correction
Thomas Devenish
Master of the House of Correction claims £5.11s expenses for setting idlers to work. the Court orders the treasurer for the eastern division to pay him the sum. The materials purchased are to be left in the House of Correction when Devenish leaves office. The details are as follows.
One sackcloth loom £1.10s.0d
Four sleaves and harness (part of loom) £1.0s0d
Three stocks to beat hemp 12s 0d
Two hatchles to draw hemp (iron combs)£1.12s0d
Four wheels to spin hemp 1s 4d
Four new beetles (heavy hammers) 1s 4d
Two new wool turns (spinning wheels 0 3s 4d.

[QS - 323] Blandford 12-15 January 1636 GAOL CALENDAR
Walter Rideout gentleman is fined 20 nobles for being a barrator [disturber of the peace] is committed until he has paid and until he gives security  for his good behaviour for leaving Court without permission. Walter Rideout gentleman is fined 10s for an assault on Abigail, wife of Thomas Devenish

{QS - 334] Shaston 12-14 July 1636 RATES - An order is made that the justices shall investigate all hundreds tithings and parishes so as to balance the rates proportionately, because there have been so many complaints of unfair rating. These are the rates towards the gaol, maimed soldiers, House of Correction and bridge repairs.

[QS - 362] Sherborne 18-20 April 1637 Orders made for the good government of the gaol and house of correction have not been observed. Money has been given to the keeper and master Thomas Devenish but he has given no account of it. Information has been given of the hard and ill usage of the prisoners. The Court Orders Thomas Gollop Esq and William Lawrence of Wraxall gents to be appointed as supervisors for one year to ensure that all orders are observed, to take account of implements bought, of how the prisoners are employed and their treatment.

[QS - 379] Bridport 3-5 October 1637 John Gardner This Court doth give way that John Gardner gentleman shall have leave to buy an estate in a certaine house and piece of ground lyeing within the Manor of Fordington but neere unto the new built gaole in Dorchester now in the possession of Thomas Devenish Keeper of the saide gaol Which house and ground was heretofore purchased by this County and intended to be by the gaoler for the time being imployed for airing and refreashing the prisoners committed to the said gaole., but hath since been by the saidThomas Devenish converted to his owne private use and benefit contrary to such former intencion, soe as the said Mr Gardner doe compound with the County for their estate in the same and with Sir John Strangewayes knight or others the Princes officers of the said Mannour of Fordington that have power to grant a further estate therein.

[QS - 380] Bridport 3-5 Oct 1637 Thomas Devenish the Gaoler - At Blandford Assizes last July Justices Trenchard, Coker and Edward Lawrence gentlemen were ordered to join Thomas Gollop Esq and illiam Lawrence gentleman supervisors of the gaol, mainprise and House of Correction at Dorchester, to investigate abuses said to have been committed by the Keeper Thomas Devenish. As a result of this investigation and hearing the evidence in Court, Devenish is judged to be 'a very unfit man for the executing of those offices'. No further allowance is to be paid to him. He is to account for the time he has held tenement in the manor of Fordington beside the gaol, intended for airing the prisoner, which he has converted to his own use and received the profits, and for the money he has been given to buy implements. The next Sheriff is to appoint a fit person to the office. The Court orders that the part of the gaol used as a House of Correction for the county is to be settled at Sherborne as it used to be. Devenish requests a further examination of the case and the Court agrees that the same men will hear it again. He requests that John Browne Esq be present at the re-examination but the Court decides that it will be up to Browne whether he agrees or not. In the meantime Devenish is ordered to treat the prisoners better than in the past for as long as he remains gaoler.

[QS - 387] Blandford 9-11 January 1638 The re- examination of the case of Thomas Devenish is to be done between candlemas and the next assizes and Sir Thomas Trenchard is to be present. Devenish is to give notice of the place and time of the re-examination to provide an account of the sums he has expended. The justices and gentlemen are also to consider orders for the regulation of the gaol which will be confirmed at the next session.

[QS - 408/9] Sherborne 3-5 Apr 1638 Dorchester Gaol - orders for the better government of the gaole and Mainprise in Dorchester made and concluded at the Assize there holden the first day of march 1637 and confirmed by this court vitz>

1. Forasmuch as we found by experience and view that the house of correction and the gaol at Dorchester (as the house is built) could not be well be governed by one man nor stand together without great inconvenyences and disturbances to the Sheriff of the County and the prisoners,
And therefore at the last general Sessions at Bridport the old house of Corrections at Sherborne was established to be the chief and general house of correction for the County. It is now also thought fit that there shall be no house of correction within the same,
But that the rooms appointed for that purpose shall be converted to a working house for the employment of poor prisoners as well debtors as felons that shall be able and willing to get their livings by their labours,
And that the gaoler for the time being shall at his own charge provide such tools and materials for setting of the poor prisoners on work as every able man desiring work and dewly performing his Labour shall and may have four pence at the least for every days work,
And every woman and other person above the age of fowerteen and under the age of eighteen years may and shall have three pence at the least for every dayes worke.
And if they deserve more to have so much for their labour respectively as they shall deserve
And that the Court which was built for the benefit of those that were committed to the House of Correction at Dorchester (and debarred from them by the former keeper) shall from henceforth be converted to the comfort of the prisoners for air, water, and other necessary uses'

2. The Sheriff is to choose the gaoler and keeper freely and have full use of the whole house at Dorchester for his year of office. The gaoler is to enter into a bond with the treasurers for £200 in respect of the performance of his duties.

3. A sum of 1d per day per prisoner is to be allowed to the gaoler for bread to feed the poor prisoners who are to have their full allowance.

4. In respect of bread for other prisoners, the gaoler is to make no more than 1d profit on every dozen loaves.

5. The gaoler is not to brew beer for the prisoners but buy beer in the town at 12s per hogshead of best beer, which is to be sold at 1d per quart. Small beer is to be purchased at 6s per hogshead, and sold to prisoners at 1d for two quarts.

6. The maximum rent to be charged to prisoners for their rooms in the gaol is to be 14d per week, and only 6d per week in the Rendezvous chamber.

7. The keeper or his deputy is to read one chapter [of the Bible] and common prayer each morning and evening to as many prisoners as can be assembled.

8. Prisoners swearing and cursing are to be punished according to law

9. There is to be no tippling house in the gaol for townsmen or strangers. There is to be no playing at fives, bowls or other unlawful games in the gaol

10. Prisoners revealing plots of escape are to be well-treated and commended when they come to trial

11. A ledger is to be kept of all admissions and discharges, with the names of those committing and discharging and any punishments

12. The prison buildings are to be repaired at the expense of the County, and then well maintained, and the Chambers and Sinks thereof to be kept scowred and free from offence

13. The fee of 20s exacted by the gaoler from felons or non-bailed prisoners or for the first weeks lodging is no longer to be taken: fees are to be reduced to not more than 6s 8d for common committal in court, and to 13s 4d for delivery of any other criminal offender after his trial.

14. The treasurers of the County are to be supervisors of the gaol, for their year in office. They are to visit the gaol at least four times a year to inspect and report to Quarter Sessions

All these orders are to be enrolled on parchment and set up in the gaol

[QS - 412] Sherborne 3-5 Apr 1638 Thomas Devenish The Court continues the order concerning the re-examination of the case of Thomas Devenish by Thomas Trenchard and others with the addition that Thomas Gollop Esq and William Lawrence gentlemen are to charge Devenish with the sums of money he received from the county treasurers under pretence of repairing the gaol and other buildings and buying implements. They are also to examine whether he kept the gaol in good repair, and Devenish is to produce accounts of the sums spent or due.

[QS - 439] Bridport 2-4 Oct 1638 House of Correction at Dorchester is to be separated from the gaol and mainprise, and there are to be two separate keepers. Justices John Browne and Angel Grey Esq are to organise this, taking money from the treasurer, and the arrangement is to be authorised at the next Blandford Session. Signed Thomas Trenchard, Francis Fulford, John Strode, Richard King, Henry Drake, Edward Lawrence, William Coker. Hubert Husey

Note this represents the last of the transcribed Quarter session records so far produced by the Dorset Record Society

[FFH-206] 1643 - Keeper of the gaol Renaldo Knapton

[FFH-234] 1662 - 'Renaldo Knapton had been reappointed Keeper of the Gaol, and in March 1662---'

[FFH-238] 1664 - Keeper of the Gaol Renaldo Knapton

[OPC] - 13 March 1666/7 Mr. Renaldo Knapton buried in St George's Churchyard Fordington

[OPC] - 2 March 1680/1 Cassandra Knapton the wife of Renaldo Knapton and daughter of Thomas Sparrow dies and is buried in St George's Churchyard Fordington


Unknown after 1638

NOTE: In FFH page 223 there is ref to 'the widow Devenish being sent to Weymouth for an expensive course of treatment, she had to pay a third of the cost, the town paid another third and the rest was raised out of honest peoples purses' Unfortunately this does not give a date although the implication is that it was post 1645 and more likely mid 1650's nor a Christian name - there were however a number of Devenish families in Dorchester and the immediate area.

NOTE:- In the House of Lords Journal there are some petitions that concern a Thomas Devenish Keeper of the Winchester Prison. We know he left Dorchester in 1638 and I wondered whether he may have gone to Winchester? I have no direct evidence linking him but the timing seems right. The name is not that common and for it to be in the context of a Keeper of a jail increases the possibility that he simply went to a new location where he started again in the trade he knew.

Dated 14th November 1642:- Winchester-house.
The Lords and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, having taken into Consideration the great Want of a House, to make a Place for the Keeping of Prisoners, in these dangerous and troublesome Times; and being informed, that Winchester-house, in St. Mary Overies in Southwarke, is fit for such Employment; do this Day Order and Ordain, That the said House, and the Backsides thereunto belonging, be forthwith delivered unto Thomas Devenish, who is appointed, by this Order, to be Master of the said House, and Keeper of the Prisoners; and there to keep all such Persons in safe Custody as shall be sent to him, and committed to his Keeping: And, for so doing, this shall be his sufficient Warrant.
Resolved, upon the Question, That this Order shall be sent unto the Lords for their Concurrence

From: 'House of Commons Journal Volume 2: 14 November 1642', Journal of the House of Commons: volume 2: 1640-1643 (1802), pp. 848-850. URL: Devenish.

Dated 3rd December 1642:- Order for Winchester House to be a Prison. "Whereas the Lords and Commons in this present Parliament assembled, by an Ordinance of Parliament, have heretofore appointed Winchester House for a Prison, for the Safe Keeping of Delinquents committed by Parliament; and whereas some Claims have been since made, by Nicholas Young, Esquire, Keeper of the said House, of some Immunities belonging unto him, by Patent from Dr. Mountague, late Bishop of Winchester, and being intrusted with the Goods therein by the new Bishop: The said Lords and Commons, for the Satisfaction of the said Nicholas Young, Esquire, and for the further Regulating of the said Office of Keeper, and for the Reparation of the House, and Preservation of the Goods therein, do further constitute and ordain as followeth:
"1. That there be an Allowance, from the Bishop's Rents, or otherwise, for the necessary Reparations of the said House, which is now much in Decay, and wanteth present Repair.
"2. That all the Hangings, Bedding, Chairs, Stools, Pewter, and Brass, that is now in the House, be delivered over unto the said Nicholas Young; and that there be an Inventory taken of all such other Lumber Stuff as is there, which is to be delivered to the now Keeper, Thomas Devenish, who is required to give Security unto the said Mr. Young, for the delivering and making good of the same at his going forth.
"3. That the said Mr. Young (who now enjoys divers Rents and Commodities, by virtue of a Patent from the Bishop of Winchester, for his Life) do yield up the whole House, within the Two Gates, with the Keys thereof, unto the now Keeper Thomas Devenish, except only the outward Cellar and Wharfage; and that, in Consideration thereof, the said Mr. Young do receive all the Rents and Profits, which usually he hath done by virtue of his Patent, until St. Thomas-day next; and that, from that Time forward, the said Thomas Devenish, or other Keeper of the said Prison, pay unto Mr. Young the Sum of Twenty Shillings a Week, during the Time that it be converted unto a Prison.
"4. That, for the regulating of the Keeper's Fees for all such Prisoners as shall be committed unto him, he receive of ordinary Persons, not above Twenty Shillings; of Esquires and of Knights, not above Forty Shillings; and for any Degree higher, not above Five Marks.
5. That the Keeper may take of every Person, for his Chamber, Weekly, a reasonable Allowance, according to the Room or Rooms they shall desire to make Use of; and for such as provide their own Furniture, to have so much abated of the Rent as the same is worth to be hired from an Upholsterer.
"6. That, for such Wood, Billet, and Coal, as the now Keeper hath had, or shall make Use of, to be answerable for the same, according as it shall be valued, to the said Nicholas Younge."

From: 'House of Lords Journal Volume 5: 3 December 1642', Journal of the House of Lords: volume 5: 1642-1643 (1802), pp. 471-475. URL: Devenish

Dated 26 January 1643/4 :- Plot to betray Ailesbury - Mr Prideaux reports the Conference with the Lords concerning Ailesbury and presents the several papers which were there delivered by Lord Wharton: Which were all read; viz a letter from Captain Ogle, Prisoner in Winchester House to the Earl of Bristol; Propositions for peace: A safe conduct under the Kings hand with a blank of three names; the Earl of Bristols letter to Lieutenant Colonel Moseley; Lieutenant Moseley's letter to the Earl; Mr Devenishe's letter to the Earl of Bristol; The Kings Warrant to Mr Devenish to set Mr Ogle at liberty; Mr Devenish his letter, by Captain Ogle to the Earl of Bristol in figures; The Earls answer to Mr Devenish; The Kings warrant to Mr Devenish to raise two hundred men under his Son's command to be put into the garrison at Windsor; The Earl of Bristol's letter in figures to Mr Devenish; Sir George Strode's letter to Mr Samuel Crispe to pay 100 pounds to Captain Ogle; The Bill of Exchange for the payment of the said £100. Mr Samuel Crisps letter to Sir George Strode; Captain Ogle's letter to Lieutenant Colonel Moseley about the time of delivery up of the town: His Majestys Instructions to Lieutenant Colonel Moseley to blow up the magazine in case of sudden discovery. The Engines and Fireworks delivered by his Majesty's own hands for the said service, was presented to the House.

My Lord Wharton further said. That Ailesbury was much in the Kings eye. That Mr Devenish was very faithful to Parliament and in disclosure in the whole proceedings of the business; that he got Ogle to pawn his seal to him; and thereby got a new seal cut and opened Ogles Letters and sealed them with the new seal ---- [long account of action taken - commendation and promise of reward to Devenish] Journal of the House of Commons Volume 3 page 378

The Lord Wharton reported to this House a discovery of dividing the two Kingdoms of England and Scotland and the design of betraying the Alsebury [ie the Garison there] ; the effect whereof was to this purpose: " That Devenish the Keeper of Winchester House was dealt with to permit Captain Ogle to make an escape out of his custody which the said Devenish disclosed to some Lords; --- etc etc. Journal of the House of Lords Volume 6 Page 394

Dated 3rd March 1645:- Ordered that Devenish the Keeper of the prison Winchester House shall release and set at liberty John Ogle Esq he having entered into a bond according to the order of this house.

Dated 20 March 1646 as below.
"To the Right Honourable the Lords in Parliament assembled. "The humble Petition of Thomas Devenish, Keeper of Winchester House Prison; "Sheweth, "That there are several Prisoners committed to him by the Justices of Pence of Surrey, most of them being for petty Misdemeanors (who have lain in his Custody a long Time), at his great Charge, he having had no Allowance at all for them since the Time of their Commitment. "For the Easemento your Petitioner's future Charge; and forasmuch as Captain William Fortescue (a Gentleman of Quality) offers to give good Security to transport to Barbadoes as many of them as the Justices of Peace in the said County shall think fit to permit, so that this Kingdom shall be troubled with them no more, most of them being able young Men, and fit to do that Country Service, who (if they be detained in Prison till the next Quarter Sessions) will be discharged in Course, their Crimes being but for petty Things as aforesaid, whereby the Country on their Release will be in Danger of greater Mischief done by them. He therefore most humbly beseecheth your Lordships, as well for the easing of the Charge in their Keeping, as for the Kingdom's Good and Safety in their Removal from hence, who else might prove dangerous if any sudden Accident should happen (which God forbid), to be pleased to recommend it to any Two Justices of Peace of the said County, to examine the Premises, and, finding them to be true, to give Order for their present Releasement, upon Security to be taken for their Transportation to The Barbadoes Islands, for the Services aforesaid. "And your Petitioner shall pray, &c. "Tho. Devenish."

From: 'House of Lords Journal Volume 8: 20 March 1646', Journal of the House of Lords: volume 8: 1645-1647 (1802), pp. 222-224. URL:

Sources - see index in 'Dorchester Company' document: FAC: FFH: CCED: CLDS IGI Extraction programme: OPC Transcription of Parish Registers: RT: WW. There must have been some basis to estimate birth and to know that his trade originally was that of Upholsterer. Note I do not currently have access to records at The Dorset History Center [I live in Wales] which would undoubtedly add further to our knowledge. Also MRD = Municipal Records of Dorchester by CH Mayo 1908

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