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, Farm bailiff to Mrs Risdon at Monks Oakhampton (John had 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));
  • 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 1873 Kingford, never married, living with her brother at South Leo [Yeo?] Farm, Bickleton, Barnstaple in the 1939 Register) and Thomas Anstey (b 11 December 1887 Instow, living with his family at South Leo [Yeo?] Farm, Bickleton, Barnstaple in the 1939 Register)); 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, unmarried in 1911 living at Lower Upcott, Dowland with his parents – possibly known as ‘William’);
  • 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)

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 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, a farmers son working at Smithon [Smython] Farm, Iddesleigh in 1911);
  • Arthur William Anstey (b 1895, 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“.

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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