The Pobjoys of Norton St Philip Roots and Branches

Norton St Philip is a prosperous village seven miles south-east of Bath at the junction of the roads from Bath to Warminster and from Wells to Trowbridge and beyond. The Cistercian monks of nearby Charterhouse Hinton secured the right to hold a twice-annual wool fair there in the 13th century, and it became an important centre for the wool trade. The monks' guesthouse on the high road through Norton was in due course extended to form a wonderful coaching inn, the 'George'. A sniper reputedly shot at the Duke of Monmouth there shortly before the Battle of Sedgemoor in 1687. The village was the scene of a decisive skirmish, and subsequently witnessed some of the bloody reprisals.

On 5th July 1591 Walter Popeioy and Margarett Taylor married in Bath Abbey. They settled in Norton St Philip, where there were to be Pobjoys continuously for the next 250 years, practising trades such as clay-pipe making, carpentry, tiling and plastering.

In the mid-18th century William and Hester Pobjoy moved to Bristol, and some of their descendants are there still. Meanwhile, James and Bridget Pobjoy settled in Bath, and their great-grandson John and his wife Ann subsequently founded a Pobjoy dynasty in Newport, Monmouth. Jeffery Pobjoy, another brother of William and James, also settled in Bath with his wife Betty. His son Harry settled in Ireland early in the 19th century, and has many living Pobjoy descendants there and in Australia.

'My' Pobjoys also originate from Norton St Philip, where Richard Pobjoy and Mary Atkens married in 1702. Their great-grandson George settled in Bristol with his wife Ann in the 1820s. George and Ann had two sons who have living Pobjoy descendants: Henry, who shipped to Australia in 1860, and Edwin, my great-grandfather, who has Pobjoy descendants in Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire and California.

The Pobjoys of Foxcote Roots and Branches

Foxcote is a tiny hamlet nestling among the hills between Bath and Norton St Philip. In 1742 Robert Pobjoy, 'yeoman of Wellow', and Mary Rossiter, spinster of Foxcote, married at Great Elm near Frome. I have no documentary evidence of Pobjoys in Wellow - a village scarcely bigger than Foxcote - and my guess is that Robert belonged to one of the prosperous families of Frome cardmakers.

However, parish registers, leases, wills, census returns and other documents show how Robert and Mary and their descendants became bakers, millers, publicans and, in this century, farmers. There is a flourishing branch of this familly in Australia today, descended from Thomas and Louisa who emigrated in the 1880s.

Pobjoys and Popjoys in Trowbridge

Roots and Branches

Trowbridge and nearby Bradford-on-Avon became increasingly important woollen-cloth centres during the Industrial Revolution, with 'dark, satanic mills' lining the Avon and its tributaries. Life for the factory hands was hard, and there were frequent riots for employment and bread. More than half the local people belonged to nonconformist chapels rather than the Church of England.

William Pobjoy, a spinner of Frome, moved to Bradford with his family in the 1770s to be foreman of a small workshop. He may have been related to two brothers and a sister, William , Sarah and John Pobjoy, who all married in Trowbridge in 1803. John and his wife Ann had seven children, most of whom died young, but seven of their eldest son John's nine children were recorded in the 1851 Census. John himself died of phthisis just after the census, but though his widow Eliza lived in Trowbridge until her death in 1869, I have no further record of their children.

Meanwhile, John's brother William appears to have married in 1832 and to have had a son William. There are no records of the death of father, mother or son in England and Wales, but a possible solution to this mystery is to be found in Broughton Gifford...

The Popjoys of Broughton Gifford

Roots and Branches

In 1821 George Popjoy married Mary Gay in Broughton Gifford, a village near Bradford-upon-Avon, Wiltshire. They had seven children and Popjoy descendants of theirs stilll live nearby in Swindon. In addition to names common in Pobjoy families at this time - Hannah, John, George, William, Eliza - they had children baptised Walter and Nathan, names only found at that time among the 'missing' Trowbridge children. George and Mary's William died of smallpox in 1837, but the 1841 Census Returns list a five-year old son William in their household.

William is still in Broughton Gifford with his brother Walter at the 1851 Census, but emigrated to Philadelphia in 1856 and fought in the American Civil War. He kept a farm in West Pikeland, Pennsylvania, and died there in 1914 at the age of 77. Many of William's Popjoy descendants live in Pennsylvania and nearby states today, and they were in touch with their English Popjoy cousins as recently as the Second World War. Some of the family moved west to California.

William's brother Walter also emigrated to the USA and he and William married sisters, Margaret and Sarah Tallman. My guess is that John and Eliza's missing children - William's first cousins - also emigrated, and I hope eventually to locate records of them among United States archives.

George Popjoy of Broughton Gifford died aged 55 in 1845 after being kicked by a horse. I have no record of his baptism, but he must have been closely related to the Trowbridge Pobjoys to have fostered William. To have married in 1803, William, Sarah and John must have been born before 1788: the 1851 Census indicates that Sarah, by then widow of Robert Wingrove, was born near Trowbridge in 1771. It is possible that George was her little brother, though there are no other Georges associated with that branch.

The Swindon Pobjoys

Roots and Branches

Richard Pobjoy, born in Frome in 1800 according to Census returns, married Ann Ford in 1820 at Marston Bigot, a parish which included the mill at Spring Gardens in Frome where Richard worked as a cloth-dresser. Richard and Ann had nine children: Emma and Daniel and possibly Alfred emigrated to the USA and became farmers in Wisconsin. Between 1841 and 1851 Richard and Ann moved to Trowbridge, perhaps in search of employment like other Frome 'emigrants', perhaps because they were related to Pobjoys who had already settled there.

Their remaining son William married in 1859. Seven of William and Ellen's fourteen children died young; but five of their daughters and two sons did marry. Henry emigrated to Wisconsin in 1882 and married his Aunt Emma's daughter Eva. William married three times, but had children only by his first marriage. A grinder by trade, he and Annie settled in Swindon in the early 1890s and worked for Brunel's Great Western Railway. His Pobjoy descendants still live in Swindon.

The London Pobjoys

Roots and Branches

There have been Pobjoy/Popejoy marriages and baptisms in London churches since the 16th century, and it is difficult to tell where they all belong in the family genealogy. By the 1750s there were Pobjoy families living in Southwark and also near St George, Hanover Square who appear to be related to the Frome cardmakers, but who do not appear to have living Pobjoy descendants.

In 1787, however, William Pobjoy - almost certainly baptised in Cripplegate in 1769 - married Sarah Lee. William and Sarah settled near what is now Brixton, south of the Thames, then an area on the fringes of London where cattle were brought to supply the metropolis with meat. William and his sons went into business as butchers, shopkeepers, dealers and drovers; a notable exception was John, whose life took a very different direction.

William and Sarah had grandchildren by two of their sons, Francis and James, both of whom settled in Islington, then on the northern outskirts of London. Today there are Pobjoy descendants of both, in the London area and further afield.

The Thames Valley Pobjoys

Roots and Branches

James Pobjoy and Elizabeth Davis married in Aldgate in the City of London in 1774. I don't know where James came from, and the records I have for him and many of his family are partial and ambiguous; but he and Elizabeth had at least one son - John, one of only a handful of children baptised at St Andrew by the Wardrobe, Blackfriars - before he married Magaret Harris in 1784, presumably following Elizabeth's death.

James and Margaret had five children baptised in Blackfriars and Holborn, and their son John Thomas settled in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, after his marriage to Jemima Sharp in 1819. One of John and Jemima's sons, Joseph, became a railway signalman in Farnham, Surrey; while another, William, emigrated to Australia around 1860. William and Sophia, his wife, started a positive dynasty of Pobjoys in Victoria.

The Irish Pobjoys

Roots and Branches

Pobjoy connections with Ireland go back to at least 1553 when, according to Betham's abstracts from wills proved at the Prerogative Court of Ireland, Edmond Popingay made a bequest to his son Thomas. The original, sadly, was destroyed in the Customs House fire of 1922.

A mysterious A. Pobjoy was active in Dublin in the early 1800s making wax figures and mechanical models for the stage. He may have been connected with Mme Tussaud, who first exhibited in Ireland a few years previously. He was probably a relative of Jeffery Pobjoy of Norton St Philip, members of whose family did emigrate to Ireland. Harry Pobjoy modelled a fine stucco ceiling for Lord Meath in Bray in the 1820s. Descendants of his son Henry still live in the Dublin area, while his sonCharles and his family sailed on to Australia in the 1840s. Another Charles, son of Harry's brother Joseph, was probably the craftsmen who modelled the ceiling in what is now the Westin Hotel opposite Trinity College in Dublin. Two of this Charles's sons, Joseph William and Charles Henry, and his daughter Sarah settled in New South Wales. The many Australian members of the Irish branch use the spelling POBJE or POBJIE.

The Pobgees

Roots and Branches

Pobgees are descended from grandchildren of John and Elizabeth Pobgee. John was a currier who lived in Bruton, near Frome, at the end of the 17th century. His son William moved to East Grinstead in Sussex, and today there are many Pobgee families in Kent. Details of Pobgee families are being collected by Christel Pobgee, who can be contacted by email.

Popejoy families

Roots and Branches

'Popejoy' became a distinct surname variant during the 17th century. Some of the Popejoys of this period were carpenters in West Wiltshire, like contemporary Pobjoy/Pobjays in East Somerset. A Popingay family lived in Lambourn, Berkshire, in the 16th century and there were Popinjoys across the Hampshire border in Andover in the 17th and 18th century.

Children of Zachary Pobjay were baptised in Ramsbury, a few miles east of Marlborough, Wiltshire, between 1607 and 1620, and Pobjay/Popejoys were carpenters, maltsters and publicans in the village until the death of Thomas in 1762. Thomas had kept the 'Bell' in the village square, a coaching inn on the London-Bath route, and had been a constable of the parish.

There were also Popejoys in Overton near Marlborough in the early 1600s where Anthony Popioy was Vicar from 1646-55. Descendants of Anthony lived in London, Berkshire and Ramsbury to the east and in Stanton St Bernard to the west. Popejoys from Stanton St Bernard later settled in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire in the 19th century and near Ashby-de-la-Zouche in the Midlands.

The name 'Nathaniel' suggests a link between Anthony's family, the Popejoys of Burbage and the sizeable branch of the family in the USA descended from William Popejoy who left Bristol to work on a plantation in Maryland in 1680. Details of his descendants are held by Ray Flesher who can be contacted by email.

One notable Popejoy/Pobjay family living in the village of Wylye in the 17th century have left a very tangible monument to the name!

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