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The following is a transcript of the original manuscript dated May 1934, and described as the 3rd edition. It came to Combs Researcher Matthew Coumbe ( from older family members, and was provided to the Combs &c. Research Group by Matthew in July 1998. Matt adds: We do not know for sure who wrote this manuscript, although it is thought to be one of two people or, written between them; i.e., either or both, Edward Holton Coumbe , died 1942, or Victor Maynard Coumbe, b 27 may 1874 (on the family pedigree it shows him VMC as the author). Victor is long dead , we do not know at present of any off spring. Edward Holton Coumbe , was a barrister at law, 1914 - 18 commander of 1/9th county of London battalion, mayor of Stoke Newington 1922 -23. What the history doesn't include is that this man was married but had about four mistresses, and one legitimate child , and eleven illegitimate children , one of his mistresses ran 'Langhams' the hotel in London , and was no doubt funded by E.H.C. in this venture. At Christmas a large Christmas party was held for all the children ,including the illegitimate ones. He is also believed to have gone into business with other ladies. It has been suggested that it was one of his clerks in his chambers who may have typed up the original document.

Copyright is not marked on my copy of either document, in any case copyright expires in the U.K., fifty years after the death of that person. This copy has been re typed by me, and is unaltered in any way, other than bracketed ipso facto definition. The whereabouts of the original copies are unknown , but bearing in mind it was typed in 1934, it could well have been destroyed by now, either in the Blitz, or just thrown out (Not every one shares my love for family history). The copy that our family members have is a photocopy of a carbon copy. The family tree pedigree is hand drawn/written in copperplate, and will be provided as soon as it can be scanned and uploaded. This document has far more information than the family history, including discussion of people being in the USA having emigrated from the Marhamchurch area of Devon. The copy I have came from my uncle who say's it came from Aunt Ethel, who married a Colebrooke, but was originally born a Coumbe.

Notes: Bradstone, Devonshire is less than 3 miles from the Cornwall border.

The History of the Coumbe's of Devonshire and Cornwall

The Earliest records - circa 1130 AD - 1365 AD

The earliest known ancestor of the family was William de Cumba, born circa 1130AD. his son Richard de Cumbe, received land by legal transfer at Farwood in Colyton in 1199AD, possibly by means of arrangement with Walter, Abbot of Quarrier (Isle of wight), and his grandson, Richard de Cumba was mayor of Exeter, and witness to important charters. The Mayor's eldest son was William de le Stone, whose descendants remained in the Bridestowe district, while the presumed younger son lived in the Exeter district, he and his descendants being engaged in the Ecclesiastical affairs, one being lay Canon of Exeter in 1302, and two others clerks or clerics.

Count Gilbert of Brionne (Normandy, France) - murdered in 1040 AD, possibly the earliest known ancestor.

There seems a possibility that the family's earliest known ancestor may have been Count Gilbert of Brionne, a benefactor to the Abbey of Bec (Normandy). His son Baldwin , the Norman Sheriff, was lord of Okehampton castle, and ancestor of the Redevers and Courtney's, Earls of Devon. the youngest son of Baldwin was Richard, Sheriff of Devon , and it has been suggested that William de Cumba , was born circa 1130 AD, might have been Richards grandson, as Robert, the second son of Baldwin, was provided for with lands in Normandy in 1090 ad, if so William de Cumba and his descendants would sink in the territorial of honours scale to the rank of Sieurs or Knights, ipso facto (by that very fact), though they were never forced by writs to apply for and receive knighthood, which gradually became regarded as burdensome.

The facts which have suggested the possibility of a descent from Count Gilbert are as follows :-

  1. Richard de Cumbe received a transfer of land at Farwood in Colyton in 1190 AD from Walter Abbot of Quarrier- an off shoot of the Abbey of Bec, of which Count Gilbert of Brionne, Baldwin the Sheriff, and the latters three sons were benefactors.
  2. Henry le Riche, brother of Richard de Cumba , the Mayor , was enfeoffed of the land of le stone and waterlete by lady Muriel de Bollay of Bridestowe in 1228 AD. and is thought the latter that the ownership of the land is traceable to Baldwin the sheriff.
  3. Comb or Combebow near Bradestowe is the only place between Okehampton and Launceston at which point a fort could be placed, and there are still remains of a fossee (a long narrow trench), bailey, mount, and quadrilateral, so that it seems probable that Baldwin the Sheriff, as lord of Okehampton castle , would place a relative, viz - a de Cumba or a de Combe, in command of the fort, thus forming a chain of castles:- Okehampton, Combe and Launceston, to control the wild moorsmen, the Combe Manor House afterwards being built on lower level.
  4. Baldwin, the Norman Sheriff, held bradstone under William the Conquerer, and the de Combes also held land there at a very early date.


This man born in 1484 AD and died 1604AD thus being 120 years old at time of his death. He married probably about the year 1518 AD, and had various descendants, of whom fair particulars are known in some cases. he probably lived at Baucombe in Bradstone, and was interred under the floor of the porch of Bradstone church, and description of his tomb 'here lyethe the body of john coumbe buried 16th of November, being six score years of age, A.D. 1604'

It is worthy to note that his birth took place in the last year of the reign of the yorkist ,King Richard 111, and that he lived thought the whole of the Tudor period and died in the first year of the reign of the first stuart, King James 1st.

The Rev. R. Kelly , wrote on the 23rd April 1890,giving extract from the former rector of Bradstone church, "the slab tombstone erected to your ancestor, , which formerly stood on the floor of the south porch'' but when the church was restored it was put up outside the wall of the church.''

The Coumbe's of other districts, adjacent to Bradstone.

There are various families of the name at Dunterton, the next parish to Bradstone, and among them, between 1659AD and 1727 AD , biblical names often recurred , e.g. Tobias, a lessee of lands at Treewoodloe, Southhill parish, near Callington; many were called john and among other Biblical names are Jonas, Sarah, Jonathan , and Philip. apparently both families, especially the combes of bradstone, stray into the kelly registers.

In the family tree of the compiler of the pedigree and history Major E. Coumbe , there are many references to land at Treewoodloe and Southill Treewoodloe passed to Manatoon of Kilworthy. Devon in 1732. It seems probable that there are Combes still living at Treewoodloe. in Dunerton register are Abraham's and Rebecca and Mary as well as others between 1676 and 1781 AD

Thomas Coumbe -The Smuggler Squaire 1620 - 1675.

John Coumbe (the Methuselah) interred in Bradstone in1604 AD was of course a contempory of Richard Combe the fourth lessee, but their relationship has not yet been established beyond doubt.

From Robert Coumbe descended Oliver Combe who married Margaret , the latter was probable a woman of the Gubbins family- a clan like the Doones , who lived on the Lydford moor; and Thomas the son was the energetic , versatile as adventurous person who became known as the "Smuggler Squire".

It must not be supposed that smuggling in those days was held in the disrepute with which such adventures are now regarded. Import duties were so burdensome that many of the gentry and even the Clergy were implicated, and the latter even lent their churches towers as stores for smuggled goods.

This Thomas combe was probable born in the year 1620 AD, and seems to have lived in Baucombe in the Bradstone area. he became church warden in the year 1666A.D. and gained great wealth from his association with the smugglers at Bude, and smuggled silks, Brady and wine in his cart, carrying sand to Tavistock and Exeter. Major E.H. Coumbe knows the exact position from which smugglers signaled at the head of what used to be the run-way for boats from Bude to Holsworthy and Launceston with sand in the later generations on the canal. This sand was used to break up the heavy loam land of Devon in the days before the employment of artificial manures, There was a great trade in such sand for about two centuries. There is a hotel on the North road into Exeter called the Bude Hotel, and according to family tradition, Coombe street in Exeter is associated with the name of the Smuggler Squire, but no evidence has been obtained in support, of such contention.

According to another tradition, on one occasion , Thomas Combe's illegal activities were discovered by the Government and although he adopted a policy of non -resistance to escape extreme measures, even sending his horses to convey the smuggled goods to the Government deport, he was subject to the most exact and crushing fines.

Thomas Coumbe married a lady of much younger than himself, named Bridget, she was pretty , tall, fair , auburn haired and a descendant of Sir Ralph de Blanchminster a Cornish Knight who followed Richard Coeur de Lion on the Third Crusade, and found the Blanchminister charity at Bude on his return. His tomb is in Stratton church.

Note:- in the fourteenth century, the Blanchministers held Scilly isles, and used one of the sea encircled rocks for a grim purpose, any person convicted of a felony being taken to this rock with two barley loaves and a pitcher of water, and being left there until the sea claimed his body.

The smuggler squire resembled in habits and style of the Squire Western of the Fielding's novel 'Tom Jones'. The source of his sudden acquired wealth was a mystery to many of his comtempories. he brought farms apparently more or less all the way from Exeter , and according to old deeds, and old tales, more or less along the abbots way and else where, contain reference to him, but the difficulties of precise knowledge on such private mater are great. According to family tradition he owned land from "Sea to Sea", i.e. from Bude to Exeter. He had a number of illegitimate children, to whom no doubt some of the farms were bequeathed. He was a brown, hard, stern looking man with one blue eye, the other he wore a patch having lost an eye in a duel, and was a regularly dressed in leather with a bob wig. he rode regularly weekly to Exeter market.

His chief entrepot for smuggling were Bude and Widemouth, and about two furlongs from Marhamchurch towards the sea is the spot to which major coumbe was taken as a boy by an old cousin, Robert coumbe of Bude, from which signal flares from Widemouth bay or Bude haven could have been seen by the smugglers at sea, and from where similar flares from the land could be seen by smugglers at sea. Hence the preventative men could be evaded by the Smuggler Squire and the smugglers.

one of the farms owned by the smuggler squire was called 'Wood Knowle' still near Marhamchurch church , near Bude. There is a old Wood Knowle in the valley, and anewer one on the hill. it is an old whitewashed house similar to that at Baucombe.

Woodknowle being a good centre on the coast, probably because his headquarters, and supported by the fact that his great grandfather, William Coumbe of Marhamchurch, took this farm by inheritance.

The smuggler squire was buried in1675 AD in bradstone. apparently he had come back there late in life . we know of only four of his descendants from Bridget of Blanchminster, Thomas , baptised in AD, Robert Coumbe of Kelly, baptised in 1672 AD, Katherine, baptised in 1665 A.D. and a child who died early in infancy.

Thomas coumbe - the dandy squire 1668 - 1723A.D.

The son of the smuggler squire. also named Thomas was baptised in February 1668 AD , he lived at Baucombe. In 1695 he married Christina Hawton of Stoke Climsland. this lady was a descendant of Sir John Arundell who was Vice Admiral of the west in the reign of Henry viii and possibly in the time of Elizabeth , and who is buried in an elaborate tomb in Stratton church, with his two wives, one on each side and figure of his children kneeling apound the edges, Thomas was church warden at bradstone in 1713 AD.he was an extra ordinary man , contrasting to his hard old father, due no doubt to the Blanchminster blood. he was slim, tall and handsome with yellow hair and blue eyes and always dressed in red and blue. he was fond of hunting and hawking and was buried at bradstone. his children were Thomas Combe or Coumbe, born circa 1696 AD, Nicholas born 1698 and Robert born 1700 AD.

Note It is interesting to notice the recurrence of the name Nicholas. we only know of a Nicholas de Cumbe who owned rents at Cumbe - Fishacre in 1228AD, and Nicholas , son of Ralph de combe of Bradestowe. Robert , the son of the dandy squire, married Elizabeth Frost on the 13th February 1738 and died five years after marriage in the year 1743, which will account for the pathetic inscription on his tomb stone, (restored in 1930's) :- Death's head , time dial 12 p.m., inscription reads'' here lies the body of Robert coumbe, who departed this life the 15th may 1743, married 5 years, readers , "Beneath this stone doth lie one who in his best strength did die, when presents his fatal hand, who can his conquering power withstand, Grim death soon summoned him away, and his sun set even at noon day". The tomb in the chancel, but was removed to the church wall.

Thomas Combe or Coumbe of Baucombe 1696 - 1762

We now return to Thomas Combe or Coumbe of Baucombe , born circa 1696 AD , he was the son of the Dandy squire and married the honor Hambley at Blisland on March 31st , 1729 AD all his children were born and registered at Bradstone, and he himself died there in 1762 AD, he seems to have led quite an uneventful life, engaged in agriculture and acting as church warden in 1729AD, it is several generations before some of the wild blood of the "Smuggler Squire" or the Blanchminsters wells up again.

The period 1696-1762

The children of Thomas and Honor were ; Thomas , born 1730AD at Bradstone, Jane born 1731,Honor born 1734, Robert born 1739 and William baptised in 1744. the latter inherited Wood Knowle, as preciously recorded. Thomas appears to have always resided at Bradstone, where the next three children were buried , both of the daughters unmarried and of mature years. Robert died in 1755 AD.

William Coumbe of Marhamchurch, baptised 1744 , died 1805

William was born at Baucombe , and baptised on November 3rd, 1744 . He married Jane Wells of Bridgerule, a descendant of the Marhamchurch family, and inherited Wood Knowle, once the property of the "Smuggler Squire". he left an elaborate will, being evidential a man of some property, and was buried at Marrhamchurch 29th march 1805. he was a small land owner, squireen farmer and miller. This William Coumbe kept up the family tradition in name. his son being william born 1776, Thomas born 1778. there was also a Honor and for the first time for several generations an Edward.

From 1805 AD onwards

William born in 1776 AD obtained a post as Supervisor of Excise at Bude, rather a amusing fact considering he was a descendant of the "smuggler squire". he had eleven children including William, Richard, Edward and John, these four sons noted in order of birth, were William the Supervisor , married Sarah Maynard of Taunton. he died at Hounslow in 1841.

Most of the descendants of William Coumbe of Marhamchurch, married locally, many were buried at Marhanchurch, and there are poetical inscriptions on several of the tombstones, similar to that recorded on the grave of Robert who was buried at Bradstone in1743 AD.

Most of the descendants of William the Supervisor left the West Country, and many grandchildren of William Coumbe of Marhamchurch did the same. The migration took place between the years 1820 and 1840 . The descendants are to be found in London, and various parts of England , in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. some were drowned at sea , some have lived in China and others served as officers and privates in the great war .

In Stuart times Henry Bidlake joined the Royalists, but Oliver Coumbe served under Col.Sir J. Cloberry, on the side of parliament. the Coumbe's were active churchmen, often fulfilling the post of churchwarden, but in Wesley's time some became Methodists.

Adventurous Coumbe's in the Victorian times.

The most interesting in the modern times were Herbert Coumbe and Alfred Coumbe, two cousins who went together to New Zealand to join an uncle and aunt, who had emigrated from Launceston about 1845. after staying in the colony for about a year, they sailed to Fiji and Alfred was nearly killed by being clubbed by the Fijians in a tribal fight, but Herbert saved his life. the two cousins then went to Somoa, at that time , of course, scarcely known, Herbert was a fine young man, tall with blue eyes and auburn hair. He fascinated the Samoans who begged him to remain, made him a chief, gave him large grant of land, and married him to a number of wives ! he remained there some years, and becoming ill , with consumption, returning to New Zealand where he died. Alfred left the island as a carpenter on board a American whaler , and had a terrible time patching her up almost hourly while rounding the Cape Horn. he arrived safely in Boston, and then came home, afterwards returning to the United States were he prospered as a timber merchant. Herbert left a wife and baby daughter in England, and about the year 1900, Major Coumbe in his capacity as barrister, was instrumental in securing the sale of Samoan land, and providing her title through the father. most of the land had gone to his native children, or been sold to pay taxes, but Annie Gubbins the grown up daughter received a few hundred pounds.

Additional notes

The Coumbe - Bidlake descent, tracing ownership of the estate of Henry Bidlake the Royalist.

Ralph of (raffle) de Combe, 'Ralph of thye aliases', had two(or four) sons, the elder being Nicholas and William de Combe. the sons of William in the order of birth were William, Ralph from whom the Coumbe family name descends and john de combe Bidlake:-

The latters youngest son was: Geoffrey de Bidlake, whose younger son was: john de Bidlake, married Alice, daughter of Richard de Combe, John Bidlake married Joan combe.

Thomas Bidlake.

Henry Bidlake.

John Bidlake, the Bidlake family recorder.

William Bidlake .

Henry Bidlake , the Royalist.

Note, in the above table, the erroneous information given by John Bidlake family recorder to the heralds circa 1586 has been corrected.

- end -

Ed. Note: See also The Combs-Bidlake Visitation

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©1998, Matthew Coumbe and the Combs &c. Research Group