This information was supplied and written by Jack Earnshaw, one of the founding members of Friends of the Emm Brook.

Details of the Westcott family from 1798

The most notable member of the Westcott family in Wokingham is Thomas Manley Westcott. However, by the time he arrived here the middle “t” had been dropped and he was only known by the surname Wescott.

In 1861 he was living in Peach Street and was described as a “Miller and Timber Merchant”. Living with him were his wife, Mary nee Fry, together with Mary’s sister Eliza and Mary Ann the daughter of Mary’s sister Lucy Shorter. The family was still living in Peach Street in 1871, but with the addition of another niece of Mary’s, Louisa

By 1881 they had moved to East Heath Villa on Finchampstead Road.

In 1891, Thomas Manley Wescott was described as a widower, since his wife Mary had died between October and December 1888. However, Thomas had already remarried and presumably there was some reason for him not admitting the fact. His new wife was Susan Maria Shorter who he had married a few months earlier in Kensington. Susan was another daughter of his first wife’s sister Lucy. Lucy herself was living in Sittingbourne living with her sister, and was heavily pregnant with Thomas’s daughter Dorothy whose birth was registered in the April-June quarter of 1891. Dorothy’s birth was registered in Wandsworth. So why was he hiding the existence of his wife and daughter from the people of Wokingham?

In 1885 Local Government had been reorganised and Wokingham was declared a Borough. Thomas Manley Wescott was elected as its first Mayor, a position he held for two years.

By 1871 his two brothers and two sisters – William, John, Mary Ann and Elizabeth – had also arrived in Wokingham and were the owners of the Embrook Mill on Reading Road (near the present Woosehill Roundabout).

It appears that none of his siblings ever married and all died without leaving any children. William died in 1914, John in 1904, Mary Ann in 1898 and Elizabeth in 1895. In 1901 there was a Charlotte Wescott, described as “niece” living at the Embrook Mill with Thomas’ siblings. She inherited the mill and married Frank Heelas from the family who had the department store in the Market Place. I have yet to discover the connection between the family and Charlotte, who was born in Dorset about 1875.

Apparently Dorothy Wescott, the only descendant of the 5 Wescott children who came to Wokingham, was living as a spinster on The Terrace in the 1930s. So it appears that the family has died out completely.

Thomas Manley Wescott was baptised on 4th December 1830 in Bradninch, Devon. At the time of his baptism the surname was spelled Westcott. Bradninch is a small village south of Tiverton, several miles north of Exeter. His parents were Thomas and Mary Ann Westcott, living at Spread Eagles Farm in Bradninch. His father was a paper manufacturer. Thomas Westcott had married Mary Ann Manley at Bradninch on 22 October 1829, when Thomas was described as being “of Kentisbeare”. They were married by licence and it may be that the licence will give further details.

It is likely that Mary Ann, William and Elizabeth were also born somewhere in Devon, but their baptisms are not recorded at Bradninch. Based on census data it is worth investigating Cullompton as there was reference to them being from Langford, a hamlet in the Cullompton parish. John was born in Bristol in about 1838. I believe that his baptism was on 26 July 1839 at St Phillip & Jacob, Bristol. The family was living at Castle Green in Bristol in 1841 and only John was stated as born “In this County”.

There is a record of Thomas Westcott being involved in a court case in the 1840s in Bristol and I am awaiting details of this. Nothing further is yet known about the family until Thomas Manley moves to Peach Street, Wokingham and eventually the other children move to the mill.

A death record was registered for a Thomas Westcott in Wokingham in September 1867 and this may well be their father. I haven’t found what happened to their mother, except that there is a possible death in 1843 in Bristol.

The only other record in Wokingham is the death of a Susannah Wescott in 1856 – was this a daughter of Thomas Manley and Mary Wescott?

Where did the Westcott family and the Manley family come from? There is a baptism of a Thomas Westcott in Ottery St Mary, Devon in 1798 that would seem to fit but further research is needed. If this is the father of the five Wescott children then he was the son of Thomas Westcott and Dorothy Raddon who were married in Axmouth in 1786. This might explain the name of Thomas Manley Wescott’s only daughter.

There are many Manley and Wescott families throughout Devon and it will not be a simple task to trace the family back any further. There were certainly other Manley’s in Bradninch. At least two generations of Manley’s were butchers in the village. There were several mills, including paper mills in the area around Bradninch. Nothing is yet known about any connection with the Westcott family.