Newsletter 2 from Jennifer Topham, of Malmesbury, England

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The Risdons of Somerset
September 2003

The main topic in the next newsletter will on some interesting family facts - so watch out for this at the end of January. In the meantime have a lovely Christmas and a very Happy New Year. It seems awful saying this at the end of September, but already the shops are full of cards and puddings, so time will soon fly by!


As you will know by now, we are all descended from the children of Philip RISDON and his wife Rebecca. Where this couple were born and married, I have not yet discovered. However, Philip left a wonderfully detailed will, which enabled me to find his children. Philip and Rebecca’s first three children were baptised at Carhampton which is a parish adjoining Old Cleeve. The family must have moved into the Old Cleeve area circa 1720/1 as Elizabeth was baptised there in September 1721. From then on there were Risdons in the parish of Old Cleeve until the later part of the 1800’s.

There are records of Risdons prior to the above dates in the west Somerset area, but not to the extent that I am able to join them together into a family group or groups. For example there was a Phillip baptised in Milverton in 1633 and it is probable that the same man married at St Decuman’s Church, Watchet in 1653. Could “our” Philip be a son or grandson of this man?

During the 17th and 18th centuries there were four very distinct groups of Risdons. One was in Yorkshire, another in south Devon around Bishops Teignton, with the third and largest group in North Devon centered around Parkham and Barnstaple and finally our group in west Somerset.

There are various theories of where the name and family originated. I had read of them coming from Great Rissington in Gloucestershire, but can find no written proof of this in the Gloucestershire County Record Office.

There were also Riston’s listed in the 1600’s in Oxfordshire Feet of Fines records, with Risden’s in Kent in the Pipe Rolls about the same time. Then I was told at RDD that the family may have originated in Lancashire which is something I will have to investigate further when time permits.

During the later part of the 1700’s and early 1800’s there was a group of Quaker Risdon’s at Trull just outside Taunton. There is a Risdon House in 1 The Crescent, Taunton which is named after Abraham Risdon the head of the Quaker group. My great grandfather Edward Risdon lived at number 2 The Crescent for 10-15 years in the late 1800’s - strange isn’t it? The Quaker group definitely come from the south Devon Risdon family. Also, in Taunton Museum there is a drum with the Risdon name on it but unfortunately no first name, . This drum dates back to the time of the Monmouth Rebellion in the 1600’s. As many of the north Devon group “rode behind the flag” (ie fought) I suspect this drum which was found at the site of the Battle of Sedgemoor belongs to them.

My personal feeling is that we connect back (probably in the 1500’s) into the North Devon group whose pedigrees are well documented in The Heralds Visitations taken during the 1600’s, and where the name Philip was fairly common and patronymics (naming patterns) were practised. The name Philip rarely occurs in any other of the Risdon groups. Rather interestingly during the period 1837 to 1950 I extracted 13 Philip Risdons from the GRO (birth, marriage and death) indexes and 11 of these entries belong on our family tree!

Jennifer Topham, 2 Orchard Court, Arches Lane, Malmesbury SN16 0ED Wiltshire
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