Crossman Family History

Sorting through family history today, I found Barbara Tremlett’s history of my mother’s forebears:

The name Crossman is Anglo Saxon and toponymic, indicating the place at or near which our ancestors lived, so ours were in England long before the Norman invasion of 1066 and lived near a wayside cross or cross-roads, the Crossman name occurs in the Domesday Book and in the earliest records of Somerset.

In the 13th century there were three main branches of the family, led by Nicholas, Philip and Thomas Crossman. West Monkton was later mentioned as being the site of one of the main branches of the family.

In 1625 the parish register of Langport has two entries, recording the deaths of Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Crossman and of Thomas their son. A later entry records the marriage of Thomas to Joan Hart and in 1629 there is a record of the baptism of their son Richard, I have not been able to prove the connection between that Langport family and our William of c.1716 but as the names Thomas and Richard have continued to be used down through the generations I have little doubt that we are descendants of that family of 1629.

Our earliest proven ancestor was William Crossman c.1716-1788 who married Sarah c.1740 Of their seven children three are known to have married and we are descended from the fifth child, Thomas, borne in 1751.

In 1778 Thomas married Mary West in Langport Church, and as a young man was hired by a local farmer at a wage of £3 per annum. he stayed with this employer for about 5 years.

At the time of his marriage to Mary, Thomas was building himself a house at High Ham on what he described as waste land. He sought no permission to build there, and no objections seem to have been raised by the authorities. He used local stone which he carried to the site, so the only cost was in labour. Most labourers built their own homes in those days. The buildings were of simple square construction with flagstone floors under an unlined thatch. It took Thomas two years to complete his house and by that time he had enclosed land around it and had it under cultivation.

Thomas and Mary had three children, Richard 1779, Sarah 1781-1782 and Sarah 1785. Mary died at the end of March 1799, and towards the end of that year Thomas bought 4 acres of land in Huish Episcopi, sold under an enclosure act. He added to this by buying a further two acres from a Mr. Huckey for £70. Half of his land he farmed for himself and the other half he leased to Farmer Wheller at an annual rate of £5 .

In the title deeds the land was described as ‘part of Wagg Common’ but was always known as Wagg Drove. In her book of Huish, Isabel Wyatt says ” a map of 1820 shows Wagg Drove as uninhabited. The men who surveyed Huish for that map found one solitary “squatters ” house in Wagg Drove.

From this the Wagg Drove of our time (1933) is descended from “Girt-Girt Granfer” Crossman who enclosed and cultivated 6 acres of Wagg Common, leaving when he died half to his son and half to his daughter, they in their turn divided their inheritance between their children, who each built a house on their own piece of land, thus there grew up in ancient Saxon fashion a family colony. Others unrelated have built in the drove since then, but much of Wagg still remains in the hands of the descendants of its founder, Thomas bought the land because it was cheap, it was cheap because it was too muddy to cultivate, Oliver Cromwell had complained about the muddiness 150 years earlier because his troops became bogged down. Locals used to say that ducks couldn’t travel along the drove as it was too muddy for them to walk and not enough water for them to swim. Whatever the drawback Thomas succeeded in his plan and cultivated the land and grew withies in the stream that led to the river Parrett. The withies were in great demand for thatching.

In 1800 Thomas married for a second time, his new bride was Sarah Sweet and the couple moved into a house that Thomas had built in Wagg Drave where they lived for the rest of their married lives. Thomas died in 1832 at the age of 80 and Sarah died in 1837 aged 91. Thus Thomas founded the Crossman family of Wagg Drove.

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