Where did our Seppings ancestors live?
The earliest record we have is of William Seppings, son of Thomas Seppings, born in Fakenham, Norfolk, 1638. William, an Oatmeal Maker, and his wife Dorothy, had five sons. The second son, Robert, our ancestor, was born in Fakenham in 1666.
Fakenham, on the river Wensum, is 40 km west of Norwich and 30 km north east of King’s Lynn. The Saxon name Fakenham means Hamlet (Ham) on a Fair (Fa) River (Ken). In 2001, when I visited the region to see where our Seppings ancestors had lived, the population was 7,357 in 3,292 households. In the 1086 Domesday Book, Fakenham only had 150 residents. The hamlet was given a Charter in 1250 and became a market town. On the other side of the river was the larger community of Hempton which hosted pilgrims at its abbey. In 1536 Henry VIII abolished the abbey and Fakenham became the dominant centre with market stalls set up around St. Peter & St. Paul’s parish church.
Coxford Abbey Farm postcard
Coxford Abbey Farmhouse 2001
Robert Seppings, also an Oatmeal Maker, married Mary Hobbart in East Barsham, north of Fakenham, in 1706. They lived at Coxford Abbey Farm, Kings Lynn, North Norfolk, with their four children. ‘1712’ can be seen on the side of the building.
The remains of Coxford (Cokesford) Priory are in a field out the back, beyond an old brick wall to the south of the house. Founded around 1140, at St Mary’s church, East Rudham, the Augustinian Canons Regular transferred their community of priests to Coxford in 1216. The priory, dissolved by Henry VIII in 1536, was constructed of flint with stone dressings and is a grade II listed ruin.
In 2001, David and Ann Carter lived at Coxford Abbey Farmhouse. They allowed me to photograph the aerial image (1965) and the B/W postcard above.
Coxford Abbey Farm 1965
The remains of Coxford Priory are in a field beyond an old brick wall south of the house. Detail above front door of house.
Robert and Mary Seppings’ third son, Thomas (b. 1704), was our ancestor. Thomas, a Butcher, married Elizabeth Ballestone in 1726 at St Margarets church, Norwich, Norfolk. They had six children. Their third child, Robert, our ancestor, was born in Fakenham in 1734. Elizabeth died on the 4th of June 1752 and her husband Thomas died a week later on the 12th. Robert was almost 18 years of age and his youngest sibling was 11 years old. Elizabeth was buried on the 8th of June in the Churchyard at Fakenham, and Thomas was buried there on the 14th.
St. Peter & St. Paul’s church, Fakenham.
Thomas and Elizabeth Seppings were buried in the Churchyard in 1752.
Robert and Lydia Seppings married there in 1760 and all their children were christened there. Robert was buried in the Churchyard in 1781.
Thomas and Elizabeth Seppings’ son, Robert, became a Cattle Dealer. He married Lydia Milligen, daughter of a Linen Draper in Harleston, at St Peter & St Paul’s church, Fakenham, in 1760. Robert and Lydia Seppings lived in a house in Holt Street, Fakenham, where their seven children were born. All were christened at St Peter & St Paul’s church. Their first two babies died soon after birth. Three girls and two boys survived. The two boys were Sir Robert Seppings (b. 1767) and his younger brother Lt John Milligen Seppings (b. 1770), our ancestor.
Robert and Lydia Seppings’ home in Holt Street, Fakenham, where their children were born, including Sir Robert Seppings (b. 1767) and his younger brother, Lt John Milligen Seppings (b. 1770), our ancestor.
The home in Holt Street, Fakenham, is eight miles from Burnham Thorpe, where Admiral Horatio Nelson was born in 1758. (Captain George Vancouver was born nine months earlier in nearby King’s Lynn.) Robert Seppings’ cattle dealing business did not prosper, and from the age of twelve, his eldest son, Robert, carried letters to a neighbouring town by mule to contribute to the family.
The father, Robert Seppings, died in 1781, age 47, and was buried in the Churchyard at Fakenham. John Milligen Seppings and his sister, Lydia, had already been sent to live with their mother’s brother, Captain John Milligen, a retired Mariner in Plymouth, Devon. He and his wife, Martha, had no children, so in 1780 they adopted John, age 10, and placed him in the navy as a midshipman on Dunkirk, a store ship under the captain’s command. When John’s father died in 1781, his uncle adopted his older brother, Robert, age 14, and in 1782 put him to work at the naval shipyards at Plymouth as an apprentice shipwright under senior shipwright Mr Hensow. Captain John Milligen also adopted the boys’ six-year-old sister, Elizabeth Seppings, and two orphaned daughters of his brother, Thomas Milligen – Martha Phillips Milligen and Charlotte who would later marry her first cousin, Robert.
Map of Plymouth, Devon, 1820
Robert and Charlotte Seppings married in 1795 at the Parish church, Charles District, Plymouth. The navy board recognized Robert’s ingenuity and in 1804 moved him to Chatham as a master-shipwright. They lived at the Official house, Dockyard, Chatham, North Kent. When Robert Seppings was appointed to the office of surveyor of the navy in 1813 he worked in the South Wing of Somerset House, a large Neoclassical building on the south side of the Strand in London, overlooking the Thames, just east of Waterloo Bridge. Robert, Charlotte and their family of five surviving children lived at 6 Somerset Place, one of a row of houses used as dwellings for Admiralty officials on the western edge of Somerset House, until 1832 when he retired. The row of houses was demolished in 1856 for a Victorian wing. In 1989, I visited the North Wing of Somerset House where the Registrar office held all Birth, Marriage and Death certificates in England and Wales.
Robert and Charlotte moved to No 3 Mount Terrace, Taunton, Somerset, in 1832. Charlotte died there two years later and Sir Robert Seppings died there in 1840, age 72.
Sir Robert and Lady Charlotte Seppings’ home –
No 3 Mount Terrace, Taunton, Somerset (1989)
Lt. John Milligen Seppings married Ann Maria Marshall Lockyer at Charles the Martyr church, Plymouth, Devon, in 1804. They lived at Lime-kiln Lane, Greenwich, Kent, from 1804 to 1819 where nine of their eleven children were born. These children were all christened at St Alphages Church of England, Greenwich. Lt Edmund Henry Seppings, our ancestor, the first Seppings to live in Australia, was born at Lime-kiln Lane, Greenwich, in 1807. In the Baptism Register at St Alphages, John Milligen Seppings is listed as ‘Gentleman’. He was employed by the Royal Navy as Surveyor of Sloops and Comptroller of Revenue Cutters at Customs House, and Chief of Customs Service. Greenwich was a significant riverside town then but the rest of the borough was predominantly rural. Nearby Deptford and Woolwich had royal dockyards. Lime-kiln Lane is now named Greenwich South Street.
Edmund Henry Seppings was christened at St Alphages Church of England, Greenwich, Kent, in 1808. Map of Greenwich 1805.
In 1819, when Lt. John Milligen Seppings retired from the Royal Navy, he and Ann moved to Budliegh, East Devon, before purchasing Culver House, a classic double-fronted 3-storey plus attic, six bedroom Georgian home at 31 New Exeter Street (formerly Culver Street), Chudleigh, Devon, where their youngest two children were born. According to the Chudliegh History Group, the name Culverhouse Meadow appears in a will of 1679. All large medieval manors had dovecotes and a culver was a keeper of pigeons, a bird often used in cuisine. A ‘For Sale’ advertisement appeared on 29 April 1819 in the Exeter Flying Post. Lt. John Milligen Seppings was the first recorded occupier using the Culver House name and started living there in 1821. The Chudleigh churchwarden accounts records the first time payment received from ‘Mr Seppings for his seat £1 17s 6d’ in that year.
Chudleigh is a small town in Central Devon, between Newton Abbot and Exeter
Lt. John Milligen Seppings lived at Culver House until his death, age 55, in March 1826. In May, his wife Ann put the house on the market and advertised their home in the Exeter Flying Post. Her uncle, Edmund Lockyer Esq., was involved in the handling of the sale. Culver House consisted of ‘conviently attached and detached offices, courtlage, yards, coach-house, stables, and gardens.’ There were also two fields of rich pasture adjoining the gardens – ten acres amply supplied with water ‘in a high state of cultivations.’
Culver House advertisement in the Exeter Flying Post 24 May 1826.
Extract from the 1838 Tithe map showing Culver House, Garden and Meadow plots outlined in yellow.
In 1843, Eliza Jane Bicknell Seppings, second daughter of the late Lt John Milligen Seppings, married Thomas Yarde Esq. in the Parish Church, Chudleigh, Newton Abbot, Devon. They had three boys and a girl. The Yarde family bought Culver House and occupied it from 1851 to 1909. Eliza died in 1854. The Chudliegh History Group note the Yarde family were recorded as ‘making improvements’. The house was probably doubled in size for the Yarde family in 1851/52 and extended again in the early 1880s. In the mid-1930s, the house was converted to nine flats and a vicarage was also located there during 1948-1954. By the 2000s all the flats were empty and in 2015 the building was becoming derelict. In 2016, the property was sold as three separate lots (Culver House, The School House & The Old Vicarage) and by September 2017 the three sections were being restored.
The high stone wall fronting the property is an important feature of the New Exeter Street streetscape. The wall and gate piers are Grade II listed (28 April 1987). The gateway is now the main entrance to the public Culver Gardens – previously the garden of Culver House – which included a Victorian rockery thought to have been a fernery and is now restored as such.
The National Buildings Register entry:
A section of wall containing dipping place for drinking water and gate piers to the
drive of Culver House. Local grey limestone rubble with dressed coping stones and
ashlar gate-piers. Tall stone wall with a round-headed niche for dipping place
(disused). Tall gate piers of square section with pyramidal caps. Larger inner gate
piers have deep chamfered inside corners, the chamfers have stops or moulded
corbels at their tops on which there are flat cap stones.
Culver House, Chudleigh, early 2000s
In the 1841 census, Ann Seppings, age 55, of ‘Independent means’, was living in Main Street, Chudleigh, Devon, with daughters Eliza (25), Augusta (20), Charlotte (15) and Edward (15). In 1851, Ann M Seppings, Lieutenants Widow (68) was ‘Head of House’, living with daughters Augusta M Seppings (30), Charlotte E Seppings (29) and servants Rhode Drinkwater, the cook (63), and Ann Manley, housemaid (23), at 22 Cathedral Yard in the Parish of St Martin, Exeter, Devon.
The parish of St Martins covered 0.7 hectares. In 1821 there were 329 residents in 62 houses which dropped to 207 in 1867. All the houses are now shops and offices. The Seppings residence is currently Michael Spiers Jewellers (2017).
Ann M Seppings lived at 22 Cathedral Yard, Exeter, Devon in 1851 (house with blue shutters, now a jewellery shop)
Note: Lt John Milligen Seppings’ brother, Sir Robert Seppings, named his first son John Milligen Seppings (b. 1798) who had two children – Capt Edward James Seppings, born in 1826, Calcutta, India, who died, along with his wife and children, in 1857 at Cawnpore, Utter Pradesh, India, ending Sir Robert Seppings’ male line; and Charlotte Marianne Seppings, born 1828. In the 1841 census, could Charlotte (15) and Edward (15) have been those two children? Lt John Milligen Seppings and Ann M Seppings, had a daughter, Charlotte, but she was 19 years old in 1841. Charlotte E Seppings, age 29, was listed as living with Ann in 1851.
Ann M Seppings died in 1859 at 6 Lower Summerlands, Exeter, Devon
Photo & Illustration Credits –
Google Maps – Fakenham, Norfolk, England
‘Fakenham Sign’ photograph by Katherine Seppings (2001)
‘Coxford Abbey Farm postcard’ photo courtesy David and Ann Carter
‘Coxford Abbey Farm 2001’ photo by Katherine Seppings (2001)
‘Coxford Abbey Farm 1965’ photo courtesy David and Ann Carter
‘Coxford Abbey Farm old brick wall’ photo by Katherine Seppings (2001)
‘Detail above front door of house’ photo by Katherine Seppings (2001)
‘St. Peter & St. Paul’s church, Fakenham’ photo by Katherine Seppings (2001)
‘Seppings’ home in Holt Street, Fakenham’ photo by Katherine Seppings (2001)
‘Map of Plymouth, Devon’ Engraved by John Cooke (1820)
‘No 3 Mount Terrace, Taunton, Somerset’ photo by Katherine Seppings (1989)
‘St Alphages Church of England, Greenwich, Kent’ photo by Katherine Seppings (1989)
‘Map of Greenwich 1805’ Ordnance Survey First Series, Sheet 1 – GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Greenwich in Kent | Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time.
Google Maps – Chudleigh, Devon, England
‘Culver House advertisement’ Exeter Flying Post 24 May 1826.
‘Extract from the 1838 Tithe map showing Culver House’ courtesy Chudleigh History Group
‘Culver House early 2000s’ Image 1 & 3 – courtesy Clive Pearce Property, Truro, Cornwall; image 2 & 4 – courtesy Woods Estate Agents & Auctioneers, Chudleigh.
‘Cathedral Yard map’ courtesy David Cornforth Exeter Memories
Google Maps – 22 Cathedral Yard, Exeter, Devon
Google Maps – 6 Lower Summerlands, Exeter, Devon
The Gentleman’s Magazine p 422 (1843)