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Fley Will
Another interesting Will that has turned up is one belonging to Henry Fley (see transcript), the son of Anna Sophia Bass (1766-1843)  and Henry Fley (1763-1798). The younger Henry Fley (1799-1851),  was a printer "with Messrs Bartley Wilson at Bangor House Shoe Lane in the City of London". He died 27 October 1851 leaving a Will with plenty of  Fley and Bass family references and, intriguingly, mentions "...the Family Bible with clasp that descended from my great grandfather John Bass...".

This John Bass (1688-1762) is usually referred to as "John Bass at Strand" a shipwright who married Joan Withiel (1689-1740) on 4 January 1710 in Exeter St Mary Major. They were my 6xgreat grandparents.

By Indenture 26/27 July 1722, John Bass was able to buy the lands he had previously been renting at 2d per annum from the Manor of Lympstone. The lands were described (in a Release in Fee, ref. DRO 53/6 Box 38 number 22) as "part and parcel of the Green on Lympstone Strand. (A number of other villagers were also able to buy manorial land at the same time).
Several generations of John Bass and Joan Withiel's descendants are listed in this report.

When John Bass (1688-1762) died, his Will dated 26 December 1761 gave his estate, apart from annuities of one pound five shillings to Anna Sophia Hair and Sarah Warren to be paid by a charge on the land, to his sons Samuel Bass and Thomas Bass, who made an agreement dated 5/6 September 1768 to divide the lands bequeathed to them in Lympstone equally.

Sarah Warren and Anna Sophia Hair were the married granddaughters of John Bass (1688-1762) through his daughter, Sarah Bass, who married Joseph Fulford. An indenture dated 8 June 1804 eventually released the land from the annuity charge (DRO 53/6 Box 38 number 23).

Samuel Bass (1714-1796), who was a shipwright in Lympstone, married Jane Sommers 6 June 1749 at Topsham. He was my 5xgreat grandfather.

Samuel Bass's brother, Thomas Bass (ca1710-1788), was a shipwright in Teignmouth. He  married Martha Clay, the daughter of John Clay a Lympstone baker, on 22 January 1758, at West Teignmouth.

On 3 July 1775, the place Thomas Bass was occupying was advertised for sale in the Sherborne and Yeovil Mercury. He was mentioned in an  advertisement on the 5 May 1777 in connection with the sale of three Brigantines, Elizabeth, Tomcod, Drake . On the 19 May 1777 the Sherborne and Yeovil Mercury carried an advertisement in which Thomas Bass offered lodgings in his house "for the bathing season".

In 1780 Thomas Bass was offering a one guinea reward for the whereabouts of a runaway apprentice. In another advertisement on the 21 June 1787 Thomas Bass is mentioned in connection with the sale of the Brig Hope. It is not clear if he actually owned it or was only acting as the agent.

Some years after Thomas Bass's death he is mentioned as "a very judicious [boat]builder" when the sale of his pleasure yacht Elena was advertised in Trewman's Exeter Flying Post on 2 July 1795.

Samuel Bass (1714-1796) of Lympstone and Thomas Bass (ca1710-1788) of Teignmouth are featured in Indentures dated 2 September 1768 (see transcript), 5 September 1768 (see transcript), and Thomas Bass alone in one dated 7 September 1776 (see transcript). These are from a collection of Bass  documents in the Devon Record Office held under the reference 53/6 Box 38.

Samuel Bass (1714-1796) and Jane Sommers had 8 known children between 1750 and 1772. Amongst those were  John Bass (1752-1825)  who married twice: Rebecca Marshall and Elizabeth Tucker; my 4xgreat grandfather: Thomas Bass (ca1750-before1857); and Anna Sophia Bass (1766-1843), the younger Henry Fley's mother.

A Will has survived for my 5xgreat uncle,  John Bass (1752-1825), which helps to clarify the relationships(see transcript) and demonstrates that he was a man of substance in Lympstone, owning considerable property and a boat called the Neptune, which, it is to be supposed, was the reason he has a gravestone in the south aisle of Lympstone Church. (see my photo-album for the inscription).

A Will has also survived for my 5xgreat aunt, Mary Bass (1762-1826) in which she leaves everything, including two houses, to her sister, also my 5xgreat aunt, Anna Sophia Fley (1766-1843, nee Bass). (see transcript).

No Will has been found for my own 4xgreat grandfather, Thomas Bass (ca1750-before1857). Thomas Bass was noted as "deceased" when his son Samuel Bass (ca1781-1868) married for the third time in 1857.

Thomas Bass would have been a very old man when his nephew and niece, John Bass (1784-1832) and Sarah Bass ( 1777-1841), left his son, Samuel Bass, land known as “The Windmill” at Littleham Devon (located on The Point in Exmouth. The site is now the harbourside).

It is fortunate for me that Wills for two of the children of John Bass (1752-1825) have survived. Firstly, the Will (see transcript) of Sarah Bass (1777-1841), the child of his first wife (Rebecca Marshall, 1750-1782), who remained a spinster. Secondly, the Will (see transcript) of the eldest child of his second marriage (to Elizabeth Tucker, 1759-1821), John Bass (1784-1832),  who likewise remained single.

Without these two Wills, my descent from the Bass family of Lympstone would very likely have remained unproven. They show that John Bass (1752-1825) and my 4xgreat grandfather, Thomas Bass (ca1750-before1857), were brothers.

The really prosperous era for the Bass's in Lympstone appears to have been over by 1829 when John Bass (1784-1832) sold Pitt Farm. Perhaps the decline had begun with the battle of Trafalgar (1805). Certainly after Napolean was defeated at the battle of Waterloo (1815) there would have been less demand for warships.

The first of the extracts from Trewman's Exeter Flying Post would even suggest the decline had begun as early as June 1795 with the sale of a lime kiln, house, and land in Lympstone. Samuel Bass (1714-1796) was buried only nine months later, on 25 March 1796.

His son, John Bass, was still shipbuilding, e.g. the 178 ton Urgent, 12 guns, built 1804, and 539 ton Cyane, 22 guns, built 1806, but no evidence of anything afterwards. His brief partnership (dissolved 1806) with John Bishop in Tilney Rising's old yard at the end of The Strand, Topsham, is perhaps evidence of his struggle. The competition from Topsham has also been suggested as an additional cause of the failure of the Lympstone ship building activity in the early 19C with many of the workers moving to Devonport.

It is presumed that the John Bass Teignmouth mentioned as a bankrupt in the Trewman's Exeter Flying Post extracts is Thomas Bass's son, John Clay Bass. Other Exe Estuary shipbuilders were going bankrupt as well: e.g. Obadiah Ayles 1807, Thomas Owen 1814, both at Topsham.

For Obadiah Ayles matters appear to have resulted in prison: London Gazette - Issue 17164 published on the 17 August 1816
By order of the Court for the Relief of Insolvent Debtors:
"The petition of Obadiah Ayles, late of Plymouth, in the County of Devon, Timber and Coal-Merchant, now a prisoner for debt in the King's-Bench prison, in the County of Surrey..."

More light might have been thrown on Bass family affairs and relationships in Lympstone had a considerable number of their Wills not been destroyed in the bombing of the Exeter Probate Registry in 1942 (the night of 3-4 May, I believe). (see list)

Devon Record Office reference 53/6 Box 38.
Shipbuilding on the Exe Clive N. Ponsford 1988
The Raleigh Country Eric R. Delderfield 2nd Ed 1950
Devonshire Association Report and Transactions Vol. LXXXV (Plymouth) 1953
The Maritime History of Devon M. Oppenheim 1968
Exeter Cathedral S.C. Carpenter 1942
1 September, 1681; James Story [Captain HMS ANTELOPE]
extract from "An Account of what fishing Ships, Sack Ships, Planters and Boatkeepers from Trepassey to Bonavista..."Great Britain, PRO, Colonial Office, CO 1/47 (52i), 113-121v.
MHA 16-D-1-006. Transcribed by P.E. Pope.
Great Britain, PRO, CO 1/41 (62viii,ix), 167-168.
MHA 16-C-2-157. Transcribed by P.E. Pope.

See also Bass Update - A breakthrough!

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