mason Family 

Mason: a medieval occupational surname indicating a skilled stone mason, from the Old French ‘masson’ [1]


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Part 1: Isaac Mason Sr (c1787 - 1868)



Early life and marriage to Ann Collicott

The earliest known Mason was Isaac Mason who was born c1787 in Bere Ferrers (also known as ‘Beerferris’), a village on the Bere peninsula, north of Plymouth, Devon, England. It is possible his parents were Isaac Mason and Ann Crouch and he might have been baptised 25 November 1787 in Bere Ferrers Parish Church.

It is very likely Isaac married Ann Collicott (c1791 - ?) 26 December 1811 at Stoke Damerel Parish Church, Devon. They had five known children: John, Isaac, Elizabeth, William and James. The family settled in Tamerton Foliott (now written as ‘Tamerton Foliot’, a village across the river Tavy from Bere Ferrers (and now part of Plymouth). Some of their children may have had some schooling, unlike their parents. Isaac worked as an agricultural labourer all his life. He often moved, living in cottages that were probably associated with farms where he worked. Ann died sometime between 1851 and 1861 and Isaac died in 1868, aged about 84.


Children of Isaac and Ann

John (1812 - c1878) was born 17 November 1812 and baptised 06 December the same year in Tamerton Foliott Parish Church. He married Jane Beer (c1813 - 1873) 25 May 1834 at East Stonehouse Parish Church, Plymouth. They had ten children, many of whom died young: John Isaac (c1835 - 1840), twins Mary (c1837 - 1839) and Eliza (c1837 - 1840), Elizabeth Jane (c1840 - 1848), John Henry (1842 - ?), Jane Ann (c1845 - ?), Ellen (c1847 - 1937), Thomas (c1849 - 1850), Mary Elizabeth (c1850 - 1927) and Richard (1852 - ?). Jane was sometimes referred to as ‘Elizabeth’ on some of her children’s baptism records and this may have been a middle name. Like his father, John was an agricultural labourer but when he was in his 40s, he sought a seafaring life and moved to Stoke Damerel, Devonport, where HM Dockyard was located. John worked as a stoker (feeding coal on board a ship) but it seems he was not part of the Royal Navy.

Jane was admitted to the Devon County Lunatic Asylum in Exminster 14 September 1870. It is not known what her condition (described as ‘lunatic’) actually meant in modern terms. She was discharged almost two years later, 06 August 1872 as a ‘relieved’ patient, which meant she was not cured but someone was willing to look after her. Jane died a year later, aged 62, and was buried 13 November 1873 in Ford Park Cemetery, Plymouth in a common grave. However, a memorial reference to her was located in Section G, No 70, Row 8. John died c1878, aged 65.

More information about Isaac Jr (c1814 - c1904) appears in Part 2.

Elizabeth Ann (c1820 - ?) was baptised 16 April 1820 in Tamerton Foliott Parish Church. She worked as a house servant in Tamerton Foliott and then married mariner Joseph Teppett (? - 1861) at Stoke Damerel Parish Church 26 April 1855. Elizabeth was 35 when she married, which was over a decade above the average age for single women to marry. [2] They had two sons: Joseph Isaac (1856 - 1930) and Walter John (1857 - ?). Joseph Sr was stationed on HMS Vengeance and within a year, the family were living in another important naval city, Portsmouth. A year later they were back in Devonport, living in Morice Town.

Gunner Joseph departed England on board the gun vessel ‘Espoir’ 27 September 1860 which was ‘…employed on the African coast… cruising against slavers’, according to p4 ‘The Globe’, published 18 April 1864, upon the ship’s return to England. Although slavery within the British Empire was abolished in 1807 (though it took until 1838 to achieve), several European and South American countries continued the slave trade, as well as the United States (despite it being abolished there in 1808). [3] The ‘Naval & Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service’ 23 April 1864 gave a detailed account of the adventures of the ‘Espoir’ and Joseph took part in capturing ships laden with slaves. It was a hazardous voyage with three-quarters of the crew struck down with fever, although almost all made a recovery. Sadly, two did not, one of whom was Joseph. He died 12 December 1861 in the hospital on Ascension Island, the Royal Naval station in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

News of Joseph’s death would reach Elizabeth within a year. She was taken care of by the Royal Navy, receiving an annuity. Joseph Jr followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Royal Navy. He was able to attend the Royal Hospital School in Greenwich, London, which had been established to provide for the orphans of seamen, and became a respected naval school master. [4] Elizabeth lived with various members of her family in Plymouth and died in 1901, aged 81. She was buried 14 April at Hooe Parish Church.

William (c1822 - 1907) was baptised 29 December 1822 in Tamerton Foliott Parish Church. He worked as a farm servant in Saltash, Cornwall, just across the River Tamar from Plymouth. He married laundress Mary Elizabeth Hayman (c1829 - c1886) 23 October 1859 at Tor Mohan Parish Church, Torquay. Unlike William, Mary was unable to sign her name when she married. William was working as an ‘excavator’ at the time, a term often used to describe those working on canals or railway lines. From 1857 until 1859, a branch line was built by the South Devon Railway Company from Torquay to Paignton and it is most likely William was employed on this project. They moved to Stoke Damerel, Devonport, and then to Torpoint, Cornwall, across from the Devonport Docks. William worked as a labourer and then returned to being an agricultural labourer, being employed on Mutley Farm, just outside of Plymouth, for over a decade. They had only one child William Emmanuel (1863 - 1948) who became a builder. Mary died c1886, aged 57, and William moved in with his son and his family in Plymouth. William was still working at least until his late 60s. He died in 1907, aged 83, one year before the means-tested Old Age Pension Act 1908 was introduced which gave people over 70 a weekly pension of 5 shillings a week (about £14 in today’s money).

James (c1828 - 1923) was baptised 21 December 1828 in Tamerton Foliott Parish Church. Like his father and brothers, he started life as an agricultural labourer. He married servant Grace Veal (c1829 - 1871) 28 July 1850 at Stoke Damerel Parish Church. Neither James nor Grace could sign their name. They had both been living in Plymouth prior to their marriage but settled in James’ childhood village of Tamerton Foliott. They had seven children: Elizabeth (c1852 - ?), Thomas (c1853 - 1853), Fanny (c1854 - ?), Thomas (1857 - 1926), Mary Grace (1860 - ?), Annie (1864 - 1928) and Alice Mason (1868 - c1937). James’ ancestors had been baptised, married and buried within the Church of England but James and Grace’s last child was baptised in the Tamerton Foliott Wesleyan Methodist Chapel. Whether James and Grace became Methodists is not certain. Some of their children married within the Church of England as did James again after Grace’s death, even though the Marriage Act of 1836 allowed adherents of other faiths or other Christian denominations (such as Methodists) to be married in their own place of worship (provided it had been legally registered for that purpose). A chapel had been in existence in Tamerton Foliott since 1814 (according to a conveyance record held by the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office) and the family lived on the same street as the chapel (Fore Street) for a time.

Grace died in 1871, aged 42. James married widow Elizabeth Bayly or Bailey (c1834 - ?) 25 October 1875 at Charles the Martyr Parish Church in Plymouth. Elizabeth was a potter and had been married to mason George Ferris (c1838 - ?). Elizabeth had a daughter Frances (c1851 - ?) but it is not clear if George was her father. James turned to farming in Tamerton Foliott and then became a market gardener (as opposed to a domestic servant gardener). It is not known how much land he had but he worked for himself growing produce and selling it (probably in the local markets). Elizabeth died between 1901 and 1911 and James retired to live with his eldest daughter’s family in St Budeaux, Devonport. He died in 1923, aged 94.

Next: Isaac Mason Jr




Office for National Statistics: Median age at marriage: sex and previous marital statuses of bride and bridegroom (
International Slavery Museum website (