The Arscotts of Colebrooke

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Arscott family were integral to Colebrooke parish. Three generations had held the post of parish clerk. Two of the mills, Colebrooke and Ford, were run by Arscotts and shoemakers, a blacksmith, a carpenter, and a tailor. Today, the only tangible evidence of their existence is the sampler that used to hang in the committee room at the Village Hall, which was rescued from The Old School when it was sold in 1960 and the memorial to Frederick Arscott in the church the north wall. FANNY ARSCOTT, the sampler maker, was born in Coleford in the cottage now known as Homeleigh. She was the eldest daughter of the eight children of William Arscott, a shoemaker and the parish clerk. After Fanny left school, she became an assistant in Wrefords, an Exeter drapers shop that later became part of Brocks Furnishings. After her father died in 1858, she moved back to Coleford to live with her mother. In 1876 Fanny became housekeeper to widower Henry Norton, a farm bailiff for the Sillifant estates and his three young children who lived at Lewis Cottage. Henry was the grandfather of the old saddler at Copplestone, Frank Norton.

In 1878 Henry and Fanny were married. Although baptised C of E, her father, William Arscott, was instrumental in spreading the Brethren movement in Colebrooke in the early 1840s. Because of this affiliation, he was forced to stand down as parish clerk and the position passed to his nephew Richard Arscott. William and evangelist Robert Gribble then set up a brethren meeting place at Coleford, initially in a cottage no longer in existence at Gribble’s, Coleford. They later acquired the building, which became the Gospel Hall (now an artist’s studio). They also built the little chapel at Coombehead (now a dwelling) on the Spreyton road, where William is buried. FREDERICK ARSCOTT, the younger brother of Fanny, was educated at Lapford College; as a result, he became a highly proficient mathematician. Whilst there, he also completed a beautiful calligraphy sampler. This was also rescued from the rubbish inside The Old School by the thoughtfulness of Mr Harold Pennington of Horwell, who later presented it to a Canadian branch of the family. Frederick’s first job was as a railways accounts clerk at Exeter. At the age of 27, he was transferred to Waterloo, where his mathematical skills resulted in one of the first superannuation schemes for railway workers. Even after his retirement, he still held a position as Consulting Accountant to the railways at Waterloo. He had six children, and his descendants, who mostly live abroad, still occasionally call on me.

© Neville P. Enderson