Turnover of Names Appearing in the Freeholders Books

There is no evidence from the composition of the books that the constables charged with compiling them simply returned the same names from one year to the next, without consulting the relevant tax assessments to ensure that the lists were kept up-to-date. Although some names appear regularly for a period of several decades, many individuals were included in the books for just one or two years. The returns made by the parish constables of Sampford Peverell and Luppitt through the century reveal a high degree of turnover in the composition of the lists. Between 1711 and 1780 a total of 58 men were included in the returns for Sampford Peverell, and 68 for Luppitt.35 39 of those from Sampford appear on lists covering a period of ten years or less. This includes 32 men named for no more than five years, of whom 20 are named just once. The equivalent figures for Luppitt are 44 named for no more than ten years, 29 appearing on the lists for five years or fewer, and 15 mentioned only once. These figures are slightly misleading, since they include individuals whose earliest appearance is in 1711 and those who are last mentioned in 1780, and are likely to have been returned before or after those dates.36 However, even excluding all of these leaves 57.6% of the Sampford freeholders and 48.5% for Luppitt entered in books covering less than a decade. Nonetheless, there was a substantial core of householders in each parish who were returned as potential jurors for a more extended period. In Sampford Peverell thirteen are named between 11 and 20 times, five remain on the lists for between 21 and 40 years, while the name Francis Taylor appears continuously from 1738 until 1780, with just one omission in 1754.37 For Luppitt, 15 are named on between 11 and 20 occasions, six for up to 30 years, and three appear on lists covering 31 years or more.

A further indication of the turnover of names in the freeholders books can be gained from comparing the average number of names returned annually with the total number of inhabitants for a parish mentioned over the course of a decade. Table 2 indicates that many more people were identified as eligible jurors during a given decade than appear in the listings for any one year. This is significant, since it suggests that whilst the yearly freeholders books contain the names of a small proportion of the total adult male population of the county, the percentage of the population who at some stage in their lives may appear in the lists was considerably higher. For example, the 25 inhabitants of Luppitt named between 1731 and 1740 represent one fifth of all householders within the parish.38 Therefore, the lists include the names of both substantial householders who were eligible to serve on juries throughout most of their adult life, and a significant group beneath them who may have only qualified for a short period of years.

  Luppitt Sampford Peverell
  Total number of names Average number of names Total number of names Average number of names
1711-1720 14 6.3 4 0.5
1721-1730 18 9.2 12 3.6
1731-1740 25 15.0 19 9.2
1741-1750 21 11.0 16 7.1
1751-1760 17 12.8 11 5.9
1761-1770 24 11.1 19 11.0
1771-1780 20 10.2 14 12.1
Table 2: Comparison of total number of names entered into freeholders books per decade with average numbers per year.

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  1. These figures make allowance for the likelihood that successive generations of one family shared the same name. A gap of ten years between entries on the freeholders lists has been taken to imply that individuals with the same name are two different people. For example, the name Henry Dawbney appears for Sampford Peverell between 1720 and 1723, 1733-1754, and 1769-. It has been assumed that the entries relate to three different individuals. In Luppitt, John Huggins presents more of a problem, the name appearing virtually continuously from 1725 until 1780. In this case, all entries have been taken to refer to the same person. [back]
  2. In particular, seven of the Luppitt names are last mentioned in 1780, so may continue into the later books not checked for this exercise, and four appear in the earliest extant volume so had probably returned before this. However, this still leaves almost half (33) entering and leaving the lists within ten years during the period covered. For Sampford Peverell, two of those appearing only once are named in the 1711 book, with three others who are named on ten occasions or fewer included in 1780. [back]
  3. These figures include eleven names appearing in 1780, who may continue to appear into the 1780s. Of these, seven had already been named on at least eleven lists by 1780. After 1780 survival of the freeholder books becomes patchy, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions about changes in composition after that point. [back]
  4. Simon Dixon (ed.), 'Episcopal Visitation Returns, 1744 and 1779', [, Luppitt parish, 1744 & 1779, accessed 9 Mar. 2007]. [back]