Thomas was born in 1717 and baptised on 24th April 1717 in Northleigh, Devon to parents Thomas and Grace Underdown (nee Pennington). He was their fourth child and third son, his elder siblings being James, Abraham and Mary.

Thomas was the first of his family to be baptised in Northleigh parish church. His father would become clerk of the Northleigh parish church, but when this started is unknown. It is possible that it began just before or after Thomas’s birth, and hence the baptism occurring in that location.

Death of Sister[]

Thomas’s younger sister Sarah died at aged 26 and was buried in Northleigh on the 5th June 1748.


Thomas married Joan Cox in Northleigh on the 2nd April 1749. He was 32 years old, which was considerably older for a first marriage at the time (but not when you consider his father had married at 38). Joan’s origins are currently unknown, but it believed that she came from the parish of Offwell.


Hornshayne Farmhouse, photo courtesy of

It appears that Thomas was a yeoman who farmed on a lease granted to him by the Prideaux family, the lords of the manor at Netherton Hall in Farway. The Prideaux family had a property called Hornshayne Farm that covered the corners of 4 parish tithe areas - Northleigh, Southleigh, Colyton and Farway. This was the property on which Thomas farmed and his family was raised. The farmhouse was built circa 1700 and is now Grade II listed. The property is generally listed in Farway.


Thomas also owned some land outright in the parish of Offwell, but where this was located is not yet known. It is possible that this land was inherited after his mother’s death, as Thomas’ elder siblings had been born and baptised in the parish of Widworthy. As the will of his mother has long been destroyed, we have no evidence to prove this.

The section of Samuel Underdown's will that mentions plots of land inherited from his father Thomas


Thomas and Joan would raise their family in Northleigh. In a 25 year period (between 1750 and 1775), they had 18 known children, all born alive. This is largest set of siblings we have located for the Underdown family and it appears that this made the family well known throughout the district.

Many of their children would go on to marry families also well established within the district, including the Whites, Bishops, Padys and Mitchells.

Eldest child and daughter Sarah was named after Thomas’s sister Sarah who had died two years before.

Daughter Anne, who was baptised in 1773, appears to have died sometime in her infancy. Exactly when has not been established, but it is believed to have been before 1775, when Thomas and Joan christened another daughter with the name Anna. Anne is the only one of the 18 children to have died before the age of 30.

The birth of Thomas & Joan Underdown’s eighteenth child, Anna, was eventful enough to be recorded in a local newspaper (The Sherborne and Yeolvil Mecury on 27/11/1775).

Covenant to produce deeds[]

There is a reference in the Devon Record Office to Thomas Underdown of Hornshayne, yeoman, and John Tozer of Ottery St Mary, yeoman, in regards to a covenant to produce deeds relating to tenements called Riders and Lambrookes of the Farway parish area. The document states that the two men each possessed a moiety of ten twelfths of the two tenements, and that the deeds were held by Thomas Underdown. The document is dated 21/10/1781.

First marriage of a Child[]

The first of Thomas and Joan Underdown’s 18 children to marry was second child and daughter Jane in April 1783. Youngest child Anna was 8 years old at the time, which means that all 18 children were still likely to be living in the house at Hornshayne until the time of this marriage.

Death of Daughter[]

Thomas and Joan’s eldest daughter, Sarah died and was buried in Northleigh on the 15th August 1783. She was aged 33, and is the only other child of this family (besides Anne) to die before her parents.


In Apprentice and Master Records held by the Devon Record Office, a Robert Smith was apprenticed to Thomas Underdown for part of Hornshayne Estate in 1784.

Another apprentice record from the Devon Record Office has a John Hill apprenticed to Thomas Underdown for Sand Pits Estate, in husbandry, dated 16/10/1788.


Thomas died in Northleigh in April 1795 and was buried in the local parish church at Northleigh on the 26th April 1795. His cause of death is currently unknown. He was aged approximately 78 years.


Thomas left a will on his death which is mentioned in his son Samuel's will. It is also listed in the calendar of Wills and Administrations for the County of Devon. Unfortunately, the will no longer exists as it was located in the Principal Register of Exeter when it was bombed during the blitz of WWII.

Samuel mentions in his will that he and his brother Robert inherited plots of land from their father in the parish of Offwell. This is likely to be the land mentioned earlier that Thomas may have inherited from mother Grace.

Wife Joan would outlive Thomas by 2 years.


Name Birth Death
Children of Thomas & Joan Underdown

Sarah bap 1/3/1750
bur 15/8/1783
bur Northleigh, Devon

Jane bap 8/10/1752
Northleigh, Devon
February 1836
bur Northleigh, Devon

Robert bap 12/1/1755
Northleigh, Devon
bur 10/4/1811
bur Northleigh,Devon

Abraham bap 6/1/1756
Northleigh, Devon
June 1837
bur 1/7/1837 Greenwich, London

Thomas bap 17/4/1757
Northleigh, Devon
Wilmington, Devon

James bap 6/11/1758
Northleigh, Devon
bur 16/6/1826
bur St Clement Dane, London

Philip bap 24/2/1760
Northleigh, Devon
March Q 1845
Lambeth, Surrey

Samuel bap 11/5/1761
Northleigh, Devon
bur 3/2/1812
bur Northleigh, Devon

Benjamin bap 6/10/1762
Northleigh, Devon
Branscombe, Devon

Joseph bap 7/5/1764
Northleigh, Devon
April- May 1799
bur Piccadilly, London

Elizabeth bap 27/5/1765
Northleigh, Devon
after 1839

Molly bap 6/7/1766
Northleigh, Devon

Agnes bap 5/4/1768
Northleigh, Devon
Northleigh, Devon

Noah bap 26/12/1770
Northleigh, Devon
bur 26/8/1837
Northleigh, Devon

Emanuel bap c 1771
Farway, Devon

Anne bap 12/4/1773
Northleigh, Devon
before 1775

Susanna bap 11/9/1774
Northleigh, Devon
September 1834
bur Widworthy, Devon

Anna bap 27/11/1775
Northleigh, Devon
after 1851