The Dowland Ansteys

by Gary. M. Ansteychief researcher of the Anstey story project.

Overview of the Dowland Ansteys

The Dowland Ansteys of Devon are a sub-branch of the Iddesleigh Ansteys, themselves a sub-branch of the Tiverton Ansteys, hence they form part of the South West Peninsula Anstey pedigree.

The patriarch of the Dowland Ansteys is John Anstey (b 1811 Iddesleigh) – we include in this sub-branch both Dowland and next-door Dolton.

John Anstey (b 1811 Iddesleigh)

John Anstey was born in 1811 in Iddesleigh to parents Bartholomew Anstey and Mary Weekes. He married Elizabeth Manning (b 1812) on 19 April 1832 in Iddesleigh. What is slightly bizarre is that John Anstey was labelled “John Anstey Junr” and they were “married by Banns with the consent of parents on both sides, they both being minors“, the witnesses who signed their names being both the fathers “Bartholomew Anstey” and “Aaron Manning“. Why he was called “junior” we do not know, but the signature of Bartholomew Anstey confirms he must be his son. In any case John Anstey and Elizabeth Manning moved to Dowland and later Hatherleigh and had children (all baptised in Iddesleigh):

  • Aaron Anstey (b 1833 Dowland – see below);
  • Elizabeth Anstey (b 1835 Dowland, married Mr Small [Smale] of Torquay);
  • John Anstey (b 1837 Dowland – see below);
  • Frances Anstey (b 1839 Dowland, known as Fanny);
  • Robert Anstey (b 1841 Dowland, died 1843);
  • Jane Anstey (b 1844 Dowland, married Richard Abel post 1861);
  • Mary Anstey (b 1846 Hatherleigh);
  • Thomas Anstey (b 1849 Hatherleigh, “Farmer of Instow near Barnstaple (Thomas had children Mary and ‘son’“. He married Elizabeth Bowden and in the 1911 Census the family was living at South Yeo Farm, Instow with their children Mary Bowden Anstey (b 1872 Kingford – see below); and Thomas Anstey (b 11 December 1887 Instow, living with his family at South Yeo Farm, Bickleton, Barnstaple in the 1939 Register and still living there in 1947 when his sister Mary Bowden Anstey died whilst living with them). Thomas Anstey (father) was a Signal Master at the time of his first child’s baptism in 1874 – they were ‘Bible Christians’ by religion); and
  • Emily Anstey (b 1852 Hatherleigh, living with her parents in the 1871 Census)

At the time of Aaron Anstey‘s baptism in 1833, John Anstey was a “miller of Dowland Mill“. By the 1839 baptism of Frances Anstey, John Anstey was a “labourer of Dowland Mill“. In the 1841 Census John Anstey was still living at Dowland Mill – he was now a farmer aged 30, living with his family. Their eldest son Aaron Anstey (b 1833) was next door in that Census, with the ‘Manning’ family.

By the time of the baptism of his son Thomas Anstey in 1849, John Anstey was a “miller at Monk’s Mill in Hatherleigh“. This is confirmed by the 1851 Census where he was a “Miller and farmer of 10 acres (employing 1 lab)” at “Montes Mill, Hatherleigh“. The labourer was in fact Samuel Weekes, presumably related to John Anstey‘s mother Mary Weekes.

By the 1861 Census John Anstey, together with his wife and their younger children were at Ash Cottage, Hill, Iddesleigh – he was a farm labourer. By the 1871 Census, John Anstey, his wife Elizabeth and their youngest daughter Emily, together with a granddaughter Emily Jane Smale (b 1865) were living at Turnpike Road To Torquay, Kings Kerswell, Newton Abbot – John was a labourer.

In early 1874 in King’s Kerswell Elizabeth Anstey (wife) died, so later that year John Anstey (widower) married Jane Perkin [Perking] (widow) in Lustleigh.

According to Thomas John Anstey (Tom)‘s Iddesleigh pedigree, drawn into his Black Book in 1911, John Ansteydied at Lustleigh. Small farmer, wife buried at Kings Kerswell“.

Aaron Anstey (b 1833 Dowland)

Aaron Anstey was born in 1833 in Dowland to parents John Anstey and Elizabeth Manning; he was baptised in 1833 in Iddesleigh. In the 1841 Census Aaron Anstey was next door to his ‘Anstey’ family at Dowland Mill, staying with the ‘Manning’ family.

Aaron Anstey married Jane Holland [Folland] (b c1835) in 1859 in Dolton and they had children:

  • John Anstey (b 1867 Dowland – see below);
  • Frederick William Anstey (b 1873 Dowland, baptised 14 February 1873 in Dowland. He was unmarried in 1911 living at Lower Upcott, Dowland with his parents – possibly known as ‘William’. He was married by 1930 when he attended the funeral of his nephew Albert John Anstey‘s first wife Evelyn in Iddesleigh);
  • Susan Anstey (b 1875 Iddesleigh, unmarried in 1911 living at Lower Upcott, Dowland with her parents. Still unmarried in 1916 living in Dolton when she attended the funeral of her nephew Arthur William Anstey in Iddesleigh, and still unmarried in 1930 when she attended the funeral of her nephew Albert John Anstey‘s first wife Evelyn in Iddesleigh)

According to the ‘North Devon Gazette‘ 30 December 1856 edition “Aaron Anstey, a labourer of Dowland, was charged with committing a trespass in Hawke’s Down Wood…Charles Squance stated that he was employed by Henry Toogoo, gamekeeper, and that having heard a gun fired, he went in the direction of the sound and saw Anstey in the wood with a gun. The keeper stated that nobody had a right in the wood, it being preserve for game.Aaron was found guilty and fined.

In the 1871 Census Aaron Anstey was visiting his Aunt Jane Manning at Vanstones Upcott, Dowland, he was a “farm servant, domestic servant“. His wife Jane and her son John Anstey were visiting the ‘Risden’ family at Village Hillars, Dolton. By the 1881 Census Aaron Anstey was living with his family at Smython Farm in Iddesleigh, Okehampton – he was now a “Farmer of 88 acres employing 2 servants” (bizarrely Jane Manning was now living with him as a “72 year old agricultural labourer“!)

In 1889 Aaron Anstey was ‘Vicar’s Churchwarden’ in Dowland. By the 1891 Census the family were living at Hawkdown, Dowland – Aaron Anstey was still a farmer. The ‘Exeter and Plymouth Gazette’ on 16 July 1894 reported that “Aaron Anstey, farmer, of Dowland, was fined for using a cart without having his name painted on it“.

By the 1901 Census the family were at Lower Upcott, Dowland – ditto the 1911 Census.

Aaron Anstey died in Torrington in 1914. His wife Jane died in the same year.

According to Thomas John Anstey (Tom)‘s Iddesleigh pedigree, drawn into his Black Book in 1911, Aaron Anstey was a “farmer at Upcott Dowland Dolton, who had children John; Frederick William; Susan

John Anstey (b 1837 Dowland)

John Anstey was born in Dowland in 1837, baptised in Iddesleigh on 4 June 1837 to “John, a miller and Elizabeth“, being parents John Anstey and Elizabeth Manning. According to Tom’s Black Book pedigree John was a “Farm bailiff to Mrs Risdon at Monks Oakhampton, having children ‘son’, drove Hatherley Coach about 1888; Henry, keeps Plymouth Inn in Oakhampton; Thomas, clerk Friary Station near Plymouth; Jenny marr Sampson of Tavistock; Mary, Lady’s maid last heard of in Cardiff”. This concurs with our research which is as follows:

John Anstey married Rebecca Saunders (b 1833 Broadwood Kelly) in Monkokehampton on 23 September 1859 (or 27 October 1860) – father confirmed as ‘John Anstey‘ – having children in Monkokehampton:

  • Alfred Anstey (b 1862, in the 1881 Census he was single and boarding at 5, Torrington Road, Hatherleigh, a “coach driver” so this is the son that “drove Hatherley Coach about 1888” per above. He died in 1889, buried in Monkokehampton on 9 August 1889);
  • Mary Elizabeth Anstey (b 1863, baptised 21 June 1863 in Monkokehampton, a “Lady’s maid last heard of in Cardiff“);
  • William Henry Anstey (b 1864, known as Henry and sometimes as Harry, baptised in Monkokehampton on 16 October 1864. He married Emma Harriet Friendship in 1888 in Great Torrington (as ‘William Henry Anstey’) having children Florence Mary Friendship Anstey (b 1889 Great Torrington, a dressmaker living with her mother in the 1911 Census. She married Herbert Henry Wightman in 1913 in Lynton); Alfred Anstey (b 1891 Hatherleigh, also known as Albert – in the 1911 Census he was an unmarried boilersmith boarding at 12 Herschell Road Exeter); and Emily Lillian Maud Anstey (b 1893 Hatherleigh, known as Lillian – an apprentice to a draper at 15 Fore Street Torrington in the 1911 Census). In the 1891 Census the family were living at Market Street, Hatherleigh where Henry Anstey was a coach driver. By the 1901 Census he was a licensed hotel keeper of the Plymouth Inn at West Street, Okehampton. The ‘Exeter and Plymouth Gazette‘ on 15 January 1907 reported “A THIRSTY BURGLAR OKEHAMPTON. Mr. Henry Anstey, of the Plymouth Inn, West-street, discovered Sunday morning that during the night his house had been entered. Coming downstairs, Mr. Anstey found that the door of the bar had been unlocked, and that a pane of glass in the window had been broken…” Henry Anstey died on 9 February 1907, buried in Okehampton on 13 February 1907. On 14 March 1907 the ‘Exeter and Plymouth Gazette‘ reported “Mr J. T. Timmins applied for a transfer of the license of the Plymouth Inn, at Okehampton, to Mrs: Anstey, widow the late Mr. Henry Anstey. The police raised objection, and further consideration of the matter was deferred to the 2nd April when a special meeting of justices will be held“. On 22 March 1907 “PLYMOUTH INN, OKEHAMPTON. Pyke Powelsland and Son have received instructions from the Representatives of the late Mr. Henry Anstey, to SELL, Auction, on WEDNESDAY, the 27th day of March, Horses, Carriages, Hay, Implements, Household Furniture and other effects…” By the 1911 Census Emma Anstey (widow) and her daughter Florence were living at 7 Cornmarket Street Torrington);
  • Jane Anstey (b 1866, known as Jenny, married Albert John Sampson in 1890 in Tavistock); and
  • Thomas Anstey (b 1871, a miller living with his father and stepmother in 1891. He married Alice Dawe in 1893 in Plymouth and they had children in Plymouth Winifred Mary Anstey (b 1894); John Thomas Anstey (b 15 November 1895, baptised 1 January 1896 at Plymouth Charles the Martyr); May Emma Jane Anstey (b 1901); Florence Maud Margaret Anstey (b 1909 to mother ‘Barriball’?); and one other (died before 1911). In the 1901 Census Thomas was a railway porter living at 32, Home Sweet Home Terrace, Plymouth and by the 1911 Census he was a railway foreman living at 146 Grenville Road Plymouth – per above a “clerk [at] Friary Station near Plymouth“)

By the 1871 Census the family were living at Monkleigh, Monkokehampton where John Anstey was an agricultural labourer (though the census gives his birth year as 1828, which must be an error, in Iddesleigh). By 1881 they were at Village, Monkokehampton (where John’s year of birth was now more accurately stated as 1840 in Iddesleigh).

Rebecca Anstey died in 1886 in Monkokehampton, buried on 1 June 1886 so John Anstey remarried Martha Parr in q4 1887 in Monkokehampton, having another son:

By the 1891 Census John Anstey was still an agricultural labourer living at Tuckingmill, The Village, Monkokehampton (b 1841 in Iddesleigh). By 1901 he was a “carter on a farm” living at Burrow, Monkokehampton (still with birth year given as 1841). John Anstey died in Monkokehampton in 1906, buried there on 23 July 1906 “aged 64”. His widow Martha Anstey was living with her son Albert in Village, Monkokehampton in the 1911 Census.

John Anstey (b 1867 Dowland)

John Anstey was born in Dowland in 1867 to father Aaron Anstey. He married Sarah Anne Northcott (b 1869 Iddesleigh) in 1893 and they had children in Iddesleigh:

  • Albert John Anstey (b 1894 – an Anstey Hero);
  • Arthur William Anstey (b 1895, we cannot locate him in the 1911 Census. He died February 1916 – the ‘Western Times‘ reported on 15 February 1916 “Death of Mr A. W. Anstey of Iddesleigh. Profound regret is extended to Mr and Mrs John Anstey of Smytham Farm, Iddesleigh, in the great loss they have sustained in the death of their second son, Arthur William. Taken ill on Monday of last week, he was removed to the North Devon Infirmary at Barnstaple the following Thursday for an operation to be performed. Despite all that medical skill and careful nursing could do however, he passed away early yesterday morning. Deceased was twenty years of age and full of promise for a successful future…“. The ‘Exeter and Plymouth Gazette‘ on 25 February 1916 added “Appendicitis developed…heart failure intervened and death took place…Mourners were Mr and Mrs John Anstey (parents), Messrs Fred and Albert Anstey (brothers), Mr and Mrs W. Anstey (Upcott), Miss Susan Anstey (Dolton); Mr T. Anstey (Barwick), Mr J. Anstey (Duke York), and Mr Albert Anstey (Fursdon)…“);
  • Reginald Frederick Anstey (b 1897 – an Anstey Hero)

In the 1901 Census the family were living at Smithon [Smython] Farm, Iddesleigh – where John‘s father Aaron Anstey had previously farmed in 1881 (see above). They were still there in the 1911 Census, together with (presumably) Sarah Anne‘s mother Sarah Northcott.

John Anstey and Sarah Anne were both alive in 1916, attending the funeral of their son Arthur William Anstey in Iddesleigh.

According to Thomas John Anstey (Tom)‘s Iddesleigh pedigree, drawn into his Black Book in 1911, John Ansteymarried Miss Northcott Sangthen? near Iddesley“.

Mary Bowden Anstey (b 1872 Kingford)

Mary Bowden Anstey, an Anstey Hero, was born in 1872 in Kingford, baptised on 3 April 1874 in Ashreigney to parents Thomas Anstey and Elizabeth Bowden. In the 1911 Census she was living with her family at South Yeo Farm, Instow.

During World War One Mary volunteered for the Red Cross. She served from October 1914 right through to the end of the war, and she was still serving in April 1919 as a Senior Nurse “Service rendered at No II Section. War Hospitals Exeter. 1914-1917“. At this time she was living at South Yeo Farm, Instow, Barnstaple. Mary never married and she was living with her brother at South Yeo Farm in the 1939 Register.

Mary died in January 1947 in South Yeo, probate was to Herbert Howell Shepherd ‘sub-postmaster’ – the ‘Exeter and Plymouth Gazette‘ on 3 January 1947 reported “Loss to Instow Death of Miss Mary Bowden Anstey: The death occurred, Wednesday, after a long illness, of Miss Mary Bowden Anstey, only sister of Mr. Thomas Anstey of South Yeo Farm, Instow, with whom she had resided for many years. Miss Anstey had been prominently identified with local Red Cross work, she was one of the founders of the Devon 72 Detachment of the Red Cross Society at Instow and for some years was Assistant Commandant. From 1914 to 1919 she was a Red Cross nurse at No 2 Hospital Exeter. Among other activities at Instow she was a school manager for many years until recent ill-health caused her resignation. She was devoted to the Methodist cause and had been organist at Instow Methodist Chapel for 50 years. She was secretary to the Instow branch of the Women’s Conservative Association for some years

Further Details on the Dowland Ansteys

We are actively on the lookout for Dowland Anstey experts alive today who are willing to add their findings and knowledge to this project. We are particularly interested in research regarding Dowland Ansteys who fought in World War One, preferably with personal souvenirs such as letters sent by the soldiers or military photos etc. 

Anybody who has such expertise and inclination, please contact us at

We have already uploaded bits of information and documentation about the Dowland Ansteys, and continue to upload more all the time (see Project Updates), however it is spread over various segments of the website.

The best way to find said information is to enter ‘Dowland’ in the search box at the bottom of this page and a list of relevant pages will appear.

Anybody who finds any mistakes on this page, please contact us at and we will correct it.

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