Sunday, October 2, 2022

63. ‘Bridges to Yesterday’ in Salem, Massachusetts: Part 2


Wolfgang Koch, the church member who delivered a greeting about Roger Conant from the latter’s home village of East Budleigh   

Founders’ Day Service at The First Church in Salem on 7 August 2022. The First Reading was presented by church member Wolfgang Koch:

Most of us are familiar with the fact that in the fall of 1626, Roger Conant led a band of people, a fishing company known as the Dorchester Adventurers, from Gloucester to Naumkeag. He and others from that group are among our founders. Of the 30 or so people listed in our Records Book who gathered on August 6, 1629 to sign and declare our covenant, the names we call out today are:

• William Allen,

• Peter Palfray,

• Captain Trask,

• John Balch,

• Thomas Gardner,

• John Woodbery

• And again, Roger Conant

At Naumkeag, historians have found evidence that these colonists were among those who built houses, interacted with the indigenous people of the area, and cleared and prepared the land for the planting of corn and tobacco and other crops. It is believed that Conant built the first house along the Bass River. When John Endecott arrived, along with all that went on in the peaceful transition of power, that house was disassembled and moved closer to here at what is now Essex Street almost opposite the Town Market. It's also worth a mention here that Roger's son, also named Roger, who was born in 1626 and recognized as the first colonist born in Salem.

Today we remember these people and others who established The First Church in Salem in 1629. As part of linking today to the founders of our community, the Archives Committee is in the process of building a type of sister relationship with Roger Conant’s hometown in the UK. Hearing about today’s service, this group, connected with the All Saints Church in East Budleigh Devon England, sent a message to be included in our service. East Budleigh is a small village in East Devon, about two miles inland from the sea. The small village is proud of its contribution to our colonial history. The statement says:

“To be read to the congregants of the First Church in Salem during its Founders Day service, 7th August 2022. The community of East Budleigh, Devon, England is delighted to celebrate with the First Church of Salem its Founders Day this year. The village’s Roger Conant Club is proud to recognize the founder of Salem as a calm, tolerant and peaceful leader among the early European settlers of America. His life was spent in a period of religious intolerance, in which people were persecuted and martyred for their faith. Roger Conant managed to shelter his family and community from the excesses, resolved disputes, and founded a successful settlement where he is honoured today.”

We will be hearing more from this The Roger Conant Club, the Church of England’s Raleigh Mission Community, and the Village of East Budleigh Devon. They will be loaning us artwork featuring Roger Conant that we will display, link to the 400th anniversary of Salem and later our church, the Ancestry Days events in 2023 and other opportunities that will be designed to further cement our relationship across the Atlantic.

Continued at

62. ‘Bridges to Yesterday’ in Salem, Massachusetts: Part 1


The First Church in Salem 

Image credit: 

Over the last few years members of the Roger Conant Club have been researching the life and times of the founder of the American city of Salem. The Club’s interest in East Budleigh’s ‘other hero’ has been enthusiastically welcomed by his descendants and by Salem residents on the other side of ‘the pond’.

Among the latter are members of the First Church in Salem, founded by Roger and his West Country friends nearly 400 years ago, on 6 August 1629. As you can read from the Order of Service below, it is one of the oldest Protestant churches founded in North America. It embraced Unitarianism in the early 1800s, and today the Church remains a self-governing congregation that follows its own by-laws and democratically elects its own officers.

Diane Smith, Chair of the Archives Committee of the First Church in Salem, invited the Roger Conant Club to contribute to the Founders’ Day service held last month.

‘I designed the Order of Service for the day to feature Roger Conant and the East Budleigh group with an eye toward doing more together in the future,’ she told us.

Here is a record of the service:


64. ‘Bridges to Yesterday’ in Salem, Massachusetts: Part 3


Image credit:

This was the Sermon written and presented to those gathered for the Founders’ Day Service at the First Church in Salem on 7 August 2022 by Diane Smith, Chair, Archives Committee:  

Founders Day is a very special day. The coming together of this church is a significant moment in the history of this country, but equally important is what our founders accomplished for us. Here we are today, you and me, together to play our part in the continuation of what people like Roger Conant, Captain Trask, Thomas Gardner and others began 393 years ago.

Today, we’ll focus on just a few things. For example, one of our members, one who took his lovely bride in marriage right here in this church, just published a history focused on our Founders, we had visitors from Tennessee who trace their family tree back to one of our Founding Pastors, a film crew from California spent some time here in our meetinghouse reflecting on the role of The First Church the witchcraft trials, and finally, for today at least, there is the group in England that loves to get together to talk about the character and integrity of one of our most prominent founders Roger Conant.

It’s hot, we all want to get out of here, so let me start with a quote. I have all these little scraps of paper all over my desk, hey, let’s be honest, all over my house and car. It can get a little messy sometimes. Like history can get a little messy sometimes. But a willingness to accept the imperfect with the perfect comes with the territory. To talk about our past, I will talk about our present.

On one of these scraps, I had a note to myself to remember the unicorn. It came from an article written by a History PhD candidate at William & Mary. She was digging through newspaper articles at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester. You know the place. It holds the diaries of our very own Reverend Bentley among many other critical materials that document Salem’s place in American History.

She was captivated by the old stories of the Gloucester Sea Serpent in the early 1800s. Early suspicions about the creature was that it was a water bound unicorn. If you don’t know the story, take a ride up to the Cape Ann Museum where you’ll see a 9-foot-tall sculpture of the legendary creature. They really know how to tell a story up there.

I mention it here because, on Founders Day we look back at our own history and we are reminded of the fact that often, Past is Present. And as I waded through my notes, which often include some gems that I came across while doing something else, I found a quote from this soon to be historian as she reflected on the Salem Gazette Sea Serpent article. She warned about the perils of reading into what we see and hear more than we should sometimes.

Ms. Gruntner said, “If incredulity is the enemy of observation, then perhaps all we who study the past have a lesson to learn from the unicorn’s plight. “Wanting to believe” might in fact be the best way to enter both a unicorn’s forest and an archive. With this mentality, we can take our finds, hooved or otherwise, on their own terms.”

And she’s right. And it’s why, even as a professional who has been in the education and information business for more decades than I want to count, I leave the history to the historians. We are very fortunate in this congregation to have more than a few. For example, this is a good place to mention that our own Benjamin Shallop has recently released his book, The Founding of 2 Salem: City of Peace. Ben focuses his book on the beginning moments, some of which we are here to celebrate today. The overview of book says, “Out of the disease, greed, and chaos of the era would emerge one of the most unique cities in the world. Learn how a working-class salter named Roger Conant became the first governor of Massachusetts and why Miles Standish tried to end this new colony of fishermen with brute force.” Ben and many others in our church community are here to help us keep our facts and details straight. They are always eager to help us understand better who we are by looking through the lens of yesterday.

But for today, we are here to gently glance at our ancestors, hold them in our hearts, and reflect on who they were and how they were as people. Like us they were living, breathing beings walking these streets and doing their best to be people together. Like us, they weren’t perfect and like us they had their days and moments that were admirable and amazing and others that were, as the kids say, not so much. We do our best to carry on their efforts to move from tolerance of each other to acceptance, and to embrace those who might feel like outsiders anywhere else but in Salem, and especially never outsiders in The First Church in Salem.

We have a modest Archives here which serves as a bridge to some pretty wonderful things. I think about how Sméagol became Gollum in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Making something too precious and holding onto it too tightly is rarely a good idea. Our Archives are safe and protected but controlled access to our humble collection, it turns out, is an amazing relationship building tool.

I saw this for myself recently in ways that pulled me outside of the Archives and into the light of relationship with people. Many of you were here in June when Wayne and Michael traveled from Tennessee to our doors to learn more about their ancestor Reverend Samuel Skelton. They were amazed at the stories we were eager to share about a man who went back 13 generations for them, but they were even more moved by the people they met here at the Sunday service they attended. Today Wayne and Michael are members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints without much knowledge about how they made their way there from the Puritan roots of Reverend Skelton. They were interested and eager to hear about our identity today as a Unitarian Universalist Church with its Gay Pride flag prominently waving and the principles of our liberal religion characterized by a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning". These were interesting and enlightening conversations that brought me to a place where I could feel the history of us, not just know it.

Another Archives people moment came with the arrival of a film crew working with an eighth grade class in Andover to raise awareness about Elizabeth Johnson Jr., a woman convicted of being a witch in 1692. Somehow her case fell through the cracks after the witchcraft hysteria was over and she was never exonerated. Maybe you saw the story on CNN yesterday “The last Salem Witch Exonerated” or read about it in the New York Times last week. The First Church in Salem plays a part in the documentary that was shot here earlier this summer. While looking at our Records Book entries from 1692 and 1712 for the excommunication and reinstatement of 1st Church members Rebecca Nurse and Giles Corey, we discussed if such a thing could happen again today. For me, it was a demonstration of how we live alongside our history, not in front of it.

I’ll end our moments together today by mentioning another way our Archives Committee helps to bridge our ancestors to the present moment. There is a group in Budleigh England who thinks Roger Conant, one of our most prominent founders, is as big a deal as we know he is. There’s information in this week’s Order of Service that provides a little more detail, so I don’t keep us here in the heat of August. I wanted to end on a mention of this budding relationship because all of you and other members and friends who can’t be here today, but carry us in their hearts, are the way and the reason for these relationships.

The All Saints Church is located in the Vicarage of the Raleigh Mission Community, in England. East Budleigh is the birthplace of both Roger Conant and Sir Walter Raleigh. In their conversations with me, they apologize for Raleigh’s role in bringing tobacco to the colonies. Given the rate of nicotine addiction and cancer, they are careful how they present this aspect of their history. But when it comes to Roger Conant, there are no such apologies. They see him, as do we, as a person ready to work hard, co-exist with others, and who came from a place of ethics and integrity to find peaceful solutions and live with a sense of commitment to the future.

Today, on this our Founders Day, we look to Roger Conant as one of many very human figures who helped to bring us to this place today. Our Founders are not imaginary unicorns remembered as being more than they were. The transcription of our Records Book from 1629 is easily revisited through the Internet Archives website in its entirety. Along with Ben Shallop’s book, primary source documents held by the most prestigious organizations in the state and nation, and our own materials there are plenty of opportunities to remember these ancestors all year long.

Yes, today is a very special day. Thank you for being here and thank you for your eagerness and commitment to keep this church going today, into its 400th anniversary and beyond.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

61. Talk: The Life and Times of Roger Conant by Ian Blackwell. Friday 30 September 7.00 pm (Doors open 6.15 pm)



A talk about Roger Conant, founder of Salem, Massachusetts, is being given in the church where his family worshipped over four hundred years ago. 

Ian Blackwell is a published author who is noted for his books on the Italian Campaign of World War Two rather than on 17th century history. 

However he and his American wife Bonnie have lived for nearly thirty years in Roger Conant's birthplace of East Budleigh, and Bonnie has a special connection to Salem. 

Both her parents can trace their roots to the Mayflower, and her father's family lived in Salem for many generations. Her great-grandfather was associated with the city's Peabody Essex Museum and her uncle was involved with the Salem Historical Commission. 

In researching the book, as far as possible, Ian has gone back to primary sources written at the time the Conant family lived in East Budleigh, for example documents held by the Devon Heritage Centre and the National Archives. 

He has also made extensive use of work done by reputable historians such as Dr T.N. Brushfield, who, after a career as a psychiatrist, moved to the area and wrote extensively about East Budleigh and All Saints' Church, becoming President of the Devonshire Association. 

Much of the writing on Roger Conant has repeated without question the errors made by earlier authors, some of whom have chosen to embellish his story, and untangling fact from fiction has proved to be a not inconsiderable part of the task.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

60. Of Flour and Salt: Roger Conant the Salter

The Salters' Company arms. The Latin motto means 'Salt Savours All'

Roger Conant's father Richard has been described as East Budleigh's miller, and the village mill house has traditionally been viewed as the family home. Recent research has shown that such stories need to be taken with a pinch of salt. (Sorry!)

 It is known that by 1620, when he was living in London, Roger Conant described himself as a salter. He may well have gained experience of the salter’s trade in his native Devon.

‘The horrid history of Hugo the salter’, sculpture by Angie Harlock in Budleigh Salterton's Fairlynch Museum. The display tells how the Prior of Otterton supposedly discovered the body of one of his salt workers who sadly drowned in a barrel of salted herring 

Salt had been harvested on the coast since Roman times, contributing to the prosperity of Otterton Priory. But by the 17th century it was being imported rather than harvested locally on Budleigh’s salt marshes.

And in any case the trade of a salter had evolved from merely gathering salt from brine in salt-pans. The term was used to refer to both employees of a salt works and to specialists in salting fish or meat. By 1726 Daniel Defoe was using it to describe traders involved in the ‘buying of cochineal, indigo, galls, shumach, logwood, fustick, madder, and the like’.

The modern day association of the London-based Salters’ Company with chemistry and science can be traced right back to salters’ use of chemical preparations involving such ingredients in a variety of industries.

Left:  Interior of a bag, purse and glove maker's workshop (woodcut by Jost Amman, 1568); 16th century kid gloves, on loan from Dents Museum, displayed in 2018 at Fairlynch Museum’s Raleigh 400 exhibition 

Leather workers were especially skilled in the art of transforming raw hides into the delicate material used to make these gloves, exhibited as part of Fairlynch Museum’s Raleigh 400 display in 2018.

Hides being processed at J. & F.J. Baker’s tannery 

Salt was traditionally used in the leather industry to prevent hides from rotting before they are tanned. It is still part of the process used at the centuries-old tannery of J. & F.J. Baker, in Colyton, home to the family of Roger Conant’s mother.  

Christopher's, the former tannery in East Budleigh
Image credit: Otter Valley Association

Could Roger Conant have learnt some of the salter’s skills nearer home? Until the 1830s East Budleigh had its own tannery at the house known today as Christopher's, a Grade II listed cob, stone and thatch cottage.  For 300 years it flourished as a tannery, supplying tanned hides for boots, shoes, and saddlery, including, it is said, buckets produced for the Tudor navies.

In 1609, aged 21, Roger’s brother Christopher Conant was sent to London, where he was apprenticed to Thomas Allen, a grocer, and was admitted to the freedom of the Grocers' Company on 14 March 1616.

Like the Salters, many members of the Grocers’ Company were associated with food preservation, important at a time when meat was often so ‘off’ that it needed spices to make it palatable!  

The Pepperers’ Guild, first mentioned in 1180 AD, was a forerunner of the Grocers’ Company, and was concerned with the import and storage of pepper and other spices: cloves feature on the Company’s coat of arms, above. Some Grocers were also apothecaries; indeed in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, some were prosecuted by the College of Physicians for practising medicine. 

Roger also left Devon for the capital to learn a trade, but no similar documentation exists for him: the records of The Salters’ Company were destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Top: ‘Men carry meat and other wares through the streets of London’ - c. 1615–16 Michael van Meer    © The University of Edinburgh; The Fish Market,1568, by Joachim Beuckelaer 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City

During his time as an apprentice salter, Roger Conant would have learnt further about how salt was used.  Before the advent of refrigeration, along with drying, pickling and smoking, heavy salting was one of the main means of preserving food. Hard cured fish could be stored for months and sometimes years. 

Apart from the tanning and leather industries, salt was also used in dyeing fabrics and in the formulation of medicines and ointments. 

Winchcombe, Gloucestershire. One of the roads in the town is named Tobacco Close  

The diversity of salters' interests can be seen in the case of the London merchant John Stratford, a member of the Salters' Company. In 1619, he purchased spare land in and around Winchcombe in Gloucestershire and planted tobacco, seen at this time as having medicinal qualities.  Unfortunately for him, the Act of Parliament banning tobacco growing in England was passed in that year, just as the first crop in Winchcombe was ready to harvest.

The Great Fire of London, depicted by an unknown painter (1675), as it would have appeared from a boat in the vicinity of Tower Wharf on the evening of Tuesday, 4 September 1666. To the left is London Bridge; to the right, the Tower of London. St. Paul's Cathedral is in the distance, surrounded by the tallest flames.  

Both St Ann’s and All Hallows Church were destroyed in the Great Fire of London, along with records of the Salters’ Company

It was in London, on 11 November 1618, at St Ann’s Church, Blackfriars, that Roger Conant married Sarah Horton. One might have expected the marriage to take place at  All Hallows’ Church, next to Salters’ Hall in Bread Street, where most salters attended.

Portrait of William Gouge by Gustavus Ellinthorpe Sintzenich (1821-1892) Collection of Mansfield College, Oxford 

But St Ann’s was known as a Puritans’ church; William Gouge (1575–1653), was the minister and preacher for 45 years, from 1608.

He was also a member of the 1643 Westminster Assembly of Divines, as was Roger’s elder brother John Conant. 

The Puritan tradition remained strong in the Conant family of East Devon.

You can access other posts on this blog by going to the Blog Archive (under the ‘About Me’ section), and clicking on the appropriate heading.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

59. Roger Conant – Further Reading!




Just one of the many books which mention Roger Conant

Our Roger Conant Club in East Budleigh, Devon, UK, is planning to launch a website devoted to the founder of Salem. I suggested that a section should include books, articles and website material devoted to Roger Conant, so I was invited to make a list. Well, I started, and this is what I have so far. There may be the odd mistake, and I’m sure that there could be many more items to be added. Please let me know if you think I’ve missed something.

I wonder whether the character of Roger Conant appears in a film.

Anyway, here’s my list:

Manuscripts and other documents:

The Conant Family papers are archived at the Peabody Essex Museum near Salem


Bailyn, Bernard The Barbarous Years, The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675, New York: Alfred A. Knopf  2012

Bartlett, Sarah S. Roger Conant in America: Governor and Citizen, An Historical Address Delivered at the Conant Family Reunion, Hotel Vendome, Boston, June 13, 1901. See Roger Conant in America as Governor and citizen by Sarah Bartlett

Bradford, William History of Plymouth Plantation. Edited, with notes, by Charles Deane, Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1856

[Does Bradford refer to Roger Conant, Book II, p.170?]

Conant, Frederick Odell A history and genealogy of the Conant family in England and America, thirteen generations, 1520-1887, Portland 1887.

Conant, Thomas Upper Canada Sketches, Toronto: William Briggs, 1898 [pages 9-20]

Endicott, Charles M. (1847) Memoir of John Endicott, first governor of the colony of Massachusetts Bay  (John Endicott and Roger Conant co-led Salem Village after John Winthrop moved the capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to Dorchester.)

Felt, Joseph B. – Annals of Salem, Salem: W. & S.B. Ives; Boston: James Munrow & Co., 1845

Gardner, Frank A. Roger Conant: Salem, 1626. The Leader of the Old Planters, Salem, Mass: Roger Conant Co-operative Bank, 1926

Gardner, Frank A. Roger Conant, Family Edition Supplement. Contents: A Visit to East Budleigh, by Wallace B. Conant; The Old Planters’ Grant of 1635: Notes communicated by Grace Patten Conant; collaboration in research by Alice G. Lapham; The Old Planters’ Path and the First Landing Place on Bass River, Salem, Mass [?], n.d.   

Hubbard, William A General History of New England, Boston, 1848

Lapham, Alice Gertrude The Old Planters of Beverly Massachusetts and the Thousand Acre Grant of 1635, 1930, Carlisle, Massachusetts: Applewood Books

Leavitt, E.W. (1890) A Genealogy of One Branch of the Conant Family, 1581-1890 (printed privately)  

Little, George Thomas Genealogical and Family History of the State of Maine, New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1909

Rose-Troup, Frances  John White, The Patriarch of Dorchester, Dorset and The Founder of Massachusetts, 1575-1648, With An Account Of The Early Settlements In Massachusetts, 1620-1630, New York & London: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1930

Shallop, Benjamin - The Founding of Salem: City of Peace. Paperback, 144 pages. The History Press, 2022

Sheppard, Lilian Raleigh’s Birthplace: The Story of East Budleigh, Budleigh Salterton: The Granary Press, 1983 [pages 45-46]

Shipton, Clifford K.  Roger Conant: A Founder of Massachusetts, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1944.  

Stone, Edwin Martin History of Beverly, Civil and Ecclesiastical: From Its Settlement in 1630 to 1842, Boston: J. Munroe, 1843

Thornton, John Wingate The Landing at Cape Anne or The Charter of the first permanent colony on the territory of the Massachusetts Company, Boston; Gould and Lincoln; New York: Sheldon, Lamport and Blakeman, 1854

Webber, Charles H. & Nevins, Winfield S. Old Naumkeag: an historical sketch of the city of Salem, and the towns of Marblehead, Peabody, Beverly, Danvers, Wenham, Manchester, Topsfield, and Middleton, Salem: A. A. Smith & company; Boston, Lee & Shepard, 1877

Roger Conant as depicted in fiction:

Olson, Charles – The Maximus Poems, New York: Jargon/Corinth, 1960

Hawthorne, Nathaniel – Main Street in The Snow-Image and other Twice-Told Tales, 1852



Daniel, David Why did Jeff Conant fly 5,286 miles from Berkley, CA. to visit us last month? in Otter Valley Association Newsletter, vol.38.1 (January 2017), pages 7-8.

Downes, Michael – A tribute to East Budleigh's other hero in Otter Valley Association Newsletter, Summer 2022, pages 13-15.

Sabine, Lorenzo - Report on the Principal Fisheries of the American Seas, in Cod and Whale Fisheries: Report of Hon. Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State, United States. Department of the Treasury pages 108-113, 293-298. Originally published in 1853.  (House-32-2-Executive-23.2-Serial-676.pdf)



Websites [Joseph Bolton]  [Vivien Brenan – East Budleigh – Historical Sketch]

[Lyndon Conants, UK]  [Michael Downes]   [Kelcey Mooney]


Gloucester historian Mary Ellen Lepionka kindly contributed the following three essays to my blog site, as follows: 

Roger Conant on Cape Ann Part I: The Dorchester Company [12 March 2019] 

Roger Conant on Cape Ann Part II: The Rescue Party [January 2020]

Roger Conant on Cape Ann Part III: Conant at Naumkeag and Salem Village [February 2020]  [Jim McAllister]  [Murray N. Rothbard]  [Michael Russell]   [Lawrence Taber, 2003: Roger Conant Tree: A Must See]  [N.Y. Terry] [Tim Farr - see section on Roger Conant]  [John Washington - see Summer 2020: the story of the painting 'Blessed Are The Peacemakers'.] 








Wednesday, July 13, 2022

58. Conant connections: Past and Present at St Andrew’s Church, Colyton

Continued from


Of all the buildings of Colyton, St Andrew’s Church with its octagonal lantern tower stands out as a local landmark. The church’s size is an indication of the wealth of the town and its merchants. From medieval times wool manufacture had been a major industry in Colyton. The Feoffees charter of 1546 mentions that there were six fulling mills along the River Coly, where wool was treated in a cleansing process.


The lower part of the two-storey church porch has been dated as from the 15th century. It was in a room above this porch that Colyton Grammar School began life, founded “for the goodly and virtuous education of children in Colyton forever”.



The priest’s door is set into a beautifully carved frame in stone from the famous Beer quarries.


A view of the church interior



The oldest item on display in the church is this Anglo-Saxon cross, probably dating from the 10th century and described as ‘the best pre-Conquest sculpture in the county’.


The image of a lion on the Anglo-Saxon cross


This stone screen was installed by Thomas Brerewood, vicar of Colyton from 1522 to 1544

Naturally many American visitors to Colyton descended from Roger Conant will be interested in his father-in-law, the Feoffee John Clarke, born around 1520. Some of them may also be fascinated by the various church monuments with their transatlantic connections, including family links to early settlers in New England.  


The Katherine Pole memorial monument

The Popham Colony is known as the first English colony in New England, and was named after its financial backer Sir John Popham (1531-1607), noted for presiding over the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh in his role as Chief Justice of England.  

Shown above is the memorial in St Andrew’s Church to Sir John Popham’s sister Katherine, wife of William Pole (1515-1587). She was the daughter of Alexander Popham (c.1504-1556), of Huntworth, Somerset. 

The monument to Katherine shows her kneeling surrounded by her seven children.

Her nephew George Popham (1550-1608) sailed from Plymouth in 1607 with two ships and about 120 passengers and crew, landing in August at the mouth of the Kennebec River. Popham captained The Gift of God which became separated from the ship Mary and John on the journey to New England. The two ships were able to rejoin along the coastline before looking for a place to build a colony. There, he erected the first English settlement in New England, Popham Colony. His first establishments included a storehouse and a historical fortification called St. Georges Fort.  


A coat of arms on the Katherine Popham memorial

The Pole family arms of a lion rampant on a field of fleurs-de lys are shown alongside the Popham family arms of two bucks' heads.  


The Mary Pole memorial monument

Members of the Pole family, leading landowners in the parish of Colyton, were also involved in the early settlement of North America. Mary Pole (1567-1605) was the eldest daughter of Sir William Periham, of Little Fulford, near Crediton, Devon, a judge who rose to the position of Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer.


An anonymous 19th century Portrait of Sir William Pole, husband of Mary née Periham, painted in the manner of Van Dyck. Image credit: Wikipedia

She was the first wife of Sir William Pole (1561-1635), who lived at Shute House and later at Colcombe House, both near Colyton. Known for his work as a Devon historian and antiquarian he wrote many unpublished manuscripts containing his researches into the history and antiquities of the county and the descents of its ancient families, their landholdings and heraldry.

Sir William was also an investor in The Virginia Company, an English trading company chartered by King James I on 10 April 1606 with the object of colonizing the eastern coast of America.


Old Shute House, near Colyton, Devon, home of the Pole family. Bird's eye view from west, painted prior to partial demolition of 1785. Image credit: Wikipedia

With Mary he had six sons and six daughters. One of the sons, a triplet, was William Pole (1593–1674). Baptised on 4 December 1593 at Shute, he matriculated at Oriel College, Oxford on 24 March 1610, graduating Bachelor of Arts on 3 November 1612. He entered the Inner Temple as a lawyer in 1616, and emigrated to America in 1637, where he died on 24 February 1674.

He and his wife, Mary Jane Greene, were the parents of at least two sons and three daughters.


Plaque depicting Elizabeth Pole, founder of Taunton, Massachusetts, located on the front of the Pilgrim Congregational Church. Image credit: Marcbela (Marc N. Belanger); Wikipedia

The third daughter, Elizabeth Pole (1588–1654), followed her brother in emigrating to America. She left Weymouth, Dorset, on 22 April 1637 on the Speedwell, travelling with two friends, 14 servants, goods valued at £100, and twenty tons of salt for fishing provision.

The pair played a prominent role in the foundation and incorporation of Taunton, Massachusetts in 1639–40, where Elizabeth died on 21 May 1654.  



The Sir John Pole memorial monument in St Andrew’s church, Colyton

Shown above is the monument with a life-sized effigy of William and Elizabeth’s elder brother Sir John Pole (1589-1658). He lies under an ornate canopy supported on Corinthian columns. Sir John lived at Shute and at Bromley St Leonards, Middlesex.  



The William Westover monument  Image credit: Mike Searle;

This exquisitely detailed monument commemorates the Colyton merchant William Westover (died 1617), with his wife and daughter. The inscription panel below also records the death and burial of William Drake in 1680, a descendant by marriage of the Westover family. William Westover was the grandfather of Thomas Drake (1635-91), who emigrated to New England and settled in Weymouth, Massachusetts in around 1653.


Inspired as I am by the idea of Roger Conant the Peacemaker from four centuries ago I found a special meaning for present times in a corner of the church. St Andrew’s has used its Lady Chapel to emphasise the need for peace and reconciliation to end the conflict in Ukraine. The colours of the Ukrainian and Russian flags have been used to decorate the screen, as seen above.  


Visitors are invited to light a candle.


Next to the blue and yellow drapes of Ukraine’s flag are printed posters displaying a prayer composed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and another by the Rev Dr Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London.

St Andrew’s church is not alone in this respect. There are Peace Chapels at Ripon Cathedral, Bath Abbey, Holy Trinity Church in Coventry, and St Andrew’s Church in Cobham. In Norwich, at St George’s Roman Catholic Church, the Holy Family Chapel has become a Peace Chapel for the duration of the conflict in Ukraine. Here, as in Colyton, visitors to the Chapel are very welcome to light a candle there and pray for peace.


Roger Conant intervenes to avoid likely bloodshed in 1625 at Cape Ann, Massachusetts. A dispute had arisen between West Country fishermen and separatist Puritans of the Plymouth Colony led by Myles Standish, their military adviser.  © John Washington 

I will definitely be sending a photo of John Washington’s painting ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’ to the Rector of the Holyford Mission Community of which St Andrew’s, Colyton, is part. It will be accompanied by an explanation of the link between his magnificent church and the son-in-law of Colyton Feoffee John Clarke: Roger Conant founder of Salem, Massachusetts.