The English Origins of the P.E.I. Gorrills


Recommend Me! Suggest This Page To A Friend!

Submitted by George Edward Hart - gehart@sympatico.ca

There are additional generations of this family to share. Please direct Queries and requests for source information to the email link above!


The English Origins of the P.E.I. Gorrills

By George Edward Hart
gehart@sympatico.ca

Four young brothers named Gorrill, namely William1, John1, Richard1 and Humphrey1, came to Prince Edward Island from Kilkhampton, Cornwall in the 1840’s. I have researched their ancestry in Cornwall and north Devon.

The earliest known ancestor of the Gorrills of Prince Edward Island seems to be JamesJ Gorwyll, who married (a woman whose name is not given in the parish register) at Barnstaple, north Devon, in 1540. His son ThomasI Gorwyll, Sr., baptized 29 May 1542 at Barnstaple, married Elen Drew there 24 January 1565. Their son ThomasH Gorwill Jr., baptized 10 December 1575 at Barnstaple, married Joane Mantill there 18 June 1603. Their son SamuelG Gorwill, baptized 6 April 1608 at Barnstaple, was recorded as Gorwell when he married 9 April 1635 Elizabeth, daughter of Edwarde Barker and Judeth Horrowde (a family now known as Harrod). Their son WilliamF Gorwell, Sr., baptized 19 Nov 1651, became Gorrell when he married at Bideford 26 October 1676 Mary, daughter of Nicholas Taylor and Ursula Short. Their son WilliamE Gorwell, Jr., baptized 20 November 1678, became Gorwill when he married at Bideford 6 June 1695 Thomasin Mollten, daughter of John Molton and Catherine Pope.

For relief from this recitation of descent, you may find the origin of the name interesting. In A Dictionary of Devon Surnames the earliest reference is to Richard de Gorwella 1281. The name is said to derive from gor wielle, meaning "dirty spring". The early form Gorwill or Gorwell was pronounced in the Devon dialect as Gorrill or Gorrell. There is a place in Woolsery called Gorrill and a Gorrill farm south of there. In Barnstaple there is a suburb named Gorwell, which locals refer to as "Gorrell". The spellings in the parish register often depended on the ear or inclination of the vicar or parish clerk.

The next generations produced four Johns. JohnD Gorwill I, baptized 7 November 1695 at Bideford, married at Shebbear as John Gorrel 3 June 1724 Jane, daughter of Robert Collacott and Jane Robbins. The family then settled for a long time in Milton Damerel, about ten miles south of Bideford. There JohnC Gorrel II, baptized 11 March 1735 at Shebbear, married as John Gorril 14 April 1758 at Milton Damerel, Joan, daughter of William Bremicombe and Joan Collins.

Having lost three infant boys, JohnC Gorrel II and Joan Bremicombe rejoiced in the birth of a healthy boy, JohnB Gorril III, whose baptism they arranged 14 February 1768. JohnB Gorrill III married at Milton Damerel 9 May 1787 Grace, daughter of John Gowman and Elizabeth, daughter of Rev. Thomas Heale.

Finally JohnA Gorril IV, baptized 10 February 1797 at Milton Damerel, married at the beautiful old St. Mary’s Church in West Putford 5 April 1820 Sarah, daughter of Humphry Brooke and Catherine Oliver. This latter John had served an apprenticeship and had become a master cordwainer (pronounced cordner, a word derived from Cordova leather from which fine shoes and boots were fashioned). The family evidently moved after his first child, William1, was baptized 1 October 1820 in Milton Damerel—first to Sutcombe, a parish a little to the south, where Catherine1 was baptized 17 March 1822, then to nearby Bradworthy, where John’s elder brother William and his wife Elizabeth Hancock resided. At Bradworthy, John and Sarah Gorril had their third child, John1, who was baptized there 24 October 1824.

A short stop at the family of WilliamA Gorrill, baptized 30 December 1787 at Milton Damerel, and Elizabeth Hancock, baptized at Stoke Damerel 4 March 1789, and one line of descent from them! Their children, all born in Bradworthy, were baptized on these dates:

I. Grace1 Gorrill 25 March 1818

II. John1 Gorrill 3 December 1820

III. William1 Gorrill 29 June 1823

IV. James1 Gorrill 26 February 1826

V. Elizabeth1 Gorrill 8 June 1828

  1. William1 Gorrill, baptized 29 June 1823,

(a) married at Plymouth 27 March 1843 Elizabeth Edwards of Appledore, born about 1819:

1. Elizabeth Gorrill born 1846 at Appledore

2. Celina Gorrill born 1847 at Appledore

3. Clara Gorrill born 1849 at Appledore

    1. married at Stoke Damerel 3 Nov. 1860 Mrs. Susanna Perkins Hart, born in Milton Damerel in 1817

    1. William Joseph Perkins2 Gorrell, born 9 February 1862 at East Stonehouse; married Elizabeth Sheridan, born 28 Nov. 1866 to Francis Sheridan and Bridget McNamara, successful emigrants from Ireland to Smythesdale, Australia . A lieutenant in the navy, William Gorrill met her in Melbourne and married her there 28 December 1892.

    1. Elsie Gorrell, born 1894 at Devonport
    2. William Francis Sheridan3 Gorrell, born 3 Sept. 1895 at Devenport, married Rose Margaretta Walton, born 1895 in Islington, London, to William John Walton and Elizabeth Ann Vandeville Hales
    3. a. Elsie Dorothy Gorrell served in RAF in WW2; m. Peter Cull

      b. Albert Frances Gorrell, Royal Navy during WW2; m. Florence Davies

      Other children were evacuated:

      c. Joyce Margaret Gorrell m. John Owen

      d. Phyllis Edith Gorrell m. Eric Godier

      e. Stella Rose Gorrell m. Peter Higgs

      f. Ronald William Gorrell m. Sylvia Farrell

      g. Christine Elizabeth Gorrell m. James Perry

    4. Josephine Gorrell, 1898, Devonport
    5. Ellen Gorrell, 1899, London
    6. Albert John Gorrell, abt. 1903 London

[The above was provided by Joyce Gorrell Owen, of Toronto]

To resume the history of JohnA Gorrill and Sarah Brooke, they moved from Bradworthy to Kilkhampton, three miles from Bude Bay in the northern neck of Cornwall, where five miles away, at Morwenstow, Sarah’s grandfather William Brook had lived. John Gorrill set up his shoemaker’s shop in Tamar Lane. In the Church of St. James the Great were baptized Richard1 on 4 March 1827, Humphrey1 on 21 March 1829 and Elizabeth Grace1 on 19 February 1832. Their mother Sarah BrookeA never recovered her health after the birth of the baby girl and she was buried in the churchyard of that beautiful village 1 May 1832, in her 34th year. It is likely that Elizabeth Grace died in infancy. Sarah’s sister or brother in West Putford must have looked after the baby for John, who had to work in his shop to keep his young family. The register of St. Mary’s Church there records the burial14 March 1833 of Elizabeth Grace Gorrill, one year old.

The ancestry of SarahA Brooke, the mother of the four immigrant brothers, deserves equal billing with that of the Gorrills. Sarah was baptized at East Putford, Devon, 24 May 1798, the daughter of HumphryB Brooke and Catherine Oliver, where not only their eight children were baptized between 1784 and 1798 but Humphry himself 29 March 1759. Sarah Brooke’s mother, Catherine Oliver, was the daughter of William Oliver and Catherine Tallamay or Talemy. Humphry’s father, WilliamC, was baptized 18 July 1718 at Morwenstow, near Kilkhampton in Cornwall, and Humphry’s mother was Mary, maiden name not given. William’s mother and father were RichardD Brook and Grace Saunders, who were married at Morwenstow in 1706.

Five more Brooke generations back show the following marriages at Stratton, Cornwall:

  1. WilliamE Brooke and Mary Callaway 28 September 1688;
  2. FrancisF Brooke and Elizabeth Cottell 18 January 1664; (Cottell traced back to 1546)
  3. ThomasG Brooke and Christian Stanberry 5 May 1636;
  4. NicholasH Brooke and Alice Shorte 29 January 1612; (Shorte traced back to 1549)
  5. JohnI Brooke and Mary Luke 6 October 1577.

So JohnA Gorrill, the cordwainer, now had full responsibility for four boys between three and eleven years and a daughter of ten, who probably did much of the house work. Three years later he married Susanna Sargent. She must have been a kind mother to Sarah’s children, for William later called one of his daughters Susan Sargent Gorrill. John and Susanna had two children:

  1. Damaris Ann1 Gorrill, baptized 7 August 1836
  2. Samuel1 Gorrill, baptized 11 November 1838

Now where was Catherine Gorrill at the time of the 1851 census? She was living in Madeclose Cottage, the home of John Gorril, age 86, termed a pauper, perhaps because he was no longer earning a living. Born in Milton Damerel, he was most likely Catherine’s grandfather, JohnB III. Catherine was shown as a glover.

The following information about descendants of Catherine has been provided by Bryan L. Baker, of Paignton on the "English Riviera" in southeast Devon, himself a descendant.

In the Holy Trinity Church of Milton Damerel 10 April 1851 Catherine1 Gorrill married William Nichols, who had been born in 1828 to Richard and Grace Nichols. They lived at Venn Green. William had entries in Kelley’s Trade Directory of 1883 and 1893 as a master stone mason. Catherine is buried in the Methodist churchyard. Her headstone reads:

Catherine/Beloved wife of/William Nichols/ of this Parish/ who died on 25th June 1886 Aged 61 years [her real age was 64]

Farwell Husband and children dear/You have lost a buum friend/

I trust that we shall/ meet in heaven/Where joys will have no end

The children of Catherine1 Gorrill and William Nichols were:

I. Sarah Anne2 Nichols, born 1852, Venn Green, Milton Damerel

  1. Mary J.2 Nichols, born same place, 1854
  2. John2 Nichols, born 1857, mason; 1881 census showed him living at home, unmarried, a stone mason and mentally defective
  3. Nora Grace2 Nichols, born 13 November 1858 at Milton Damerel, died at Plymouth 14 February 1892
  4. Richard2 Nichols, born 1861; shown in the 1881 census as a stone mason living in his parents’ home; probably he, a plasterer, born in Milton Damerel, who was shown in the 1901 census of Plymouth with his wife, Salina _____, born in Wales about 1861.

!V. Norah Grace2 Nichols marrried in the Registry Office in Holsworthy on 13 September 1878 Thomas Gerry, who had been born 12 September 1857 at Launcells, Cornwall, the son of Richard Gerry and Ann Crocker. They settled in Plymouth, where Thomas plied the trade of carpenter. On 14 February 1892 Nora Grace died of puerperal fever at the age of 33 after the birth of her sixth child. Thomas also died young, three weeks short of age 40, of acute thrombosis 22 August 1897, leaving five orphan children between the ages of nine and nearly eighteen.

    1. Frederick James3 Gerry was born 26 November 1879 in Milton Damerel and died 14 May 1955 in Plymouth. Frederick was a shipwright and carpenter. In the Charles parish church in Plymouth 19 November 1903 he married Edith Blanche Hannaford, daughter of William Hannaford and Helen Tapscott. In that city she was born 26 May 1884 and died 13 September 1959. They had ten children:

    1. Frederick4 Gerry
    2. Gwendoline Alice4 Gerry, born and died in Plymouth; married 1st ____ Costello, who died; married 2nd Gordon Harold Putt in Plymouth

    1. Robert5 Putt
    2. Michael5 Putt

    1. Harold James4 Gerry, born in Plymouth, died in Canada; married Rosalie Caseby in Plymouth

    1. Wendy5 Gerry
    2. Daughter5 Gerry

    1. Hilda4 Gerry, born and died in Plymouth; married Ernest Sharpe

    1. Diane5 Sharpe
    2. Hilary5 Sharpe
    3. Christopher5 Sharpe
    4. Barry5 Sharpe

    1. Olive4 Gerry married Wilfred Treeby
    2. Thomas4 Gerry married Phyllis ____ in Plymouth
    3. a. Anthony Gerry

    4. Nora Ethel4 Gerry, born in Plymouth, died at Torquay 28 July 2000; married Harry Leslie Baker in Torquay

    1. Bryan Leslie5 Baker
    2. Roger John5 Baker
    3. Robin Grenville5 Baker

    1. Reginald George4 Gerry, died in Plymouth in November 1991; married Violet Edna Hedges in Plymouth

    1. Raymond5 Gerry
    2. Linette5 Gerry
    3. Malcolm5 Gerry

    1. Gladys4 Gerry, born in Plymouth, died in Crediton, Devon, 21 March 1995; married George James Collings in Plymouth
    2. a. Susan5 Collings

    3. Edgar Eric4 Gerry, born in Plymouth; married Doris Maude Broome in Plymouth

a. Stephen5 Gerry

The 1851 census of Kilkhampton showed the nuclear family of JohnA Gorrill and Susanna and their two children on their farm three miles out of the village, at Thurdon. By this time the four boys of the first marriage had emigrated to Prince Edward Island, the three eldest about 1845 and Humphrey about 1850. How did that come about?

On 26 May 1819 Susanna’s older sister Damaris Sargent married James Yeo, a widower, who in the same year was sent by the Chanter shipyard to Bideford, PEI, to help manage stores and the acquisition and loading of timber. He eventually took over that shipyard which William Ellis, Chanter’s master shipwright, had bought from the Chanter firm. One can safely assume that James Yeo and his able housekeeping and storekeeping wife influenced her sister’s stepsons to try their luck.

JohnA Gorrill, the father of the four brothers. is recorded in the 1861 census of Kilkhampton with his wife Susan, their daughter Damaris Ann1, 24, dressmaker, and son Samuel1, 22, shoemaker.

On 5 September 1861 Damaris Ann1 Gorrill (JohnA) married Thomas Parkyn of a comfortably-off farm family of nearby Morwenstow. Thomas Parkyn was born about 1833 in Stratton, Cornwall, a son of Richard Parkyn and Martha Webber Barrett and grandson of John Parkyn and Ann Rowett (see the Ancestral file v4.19 of the Parkyn family). Damaris Ann died 18 May 1913 and Thomas died 25 February 1914, both at Kilkhampton. In the years between 1862 and 1879 Thomas and Damaris had seven children, all but the first born at Kilkhampton:

  1. Martha Webber Barrett2 Parkyn, born 21 June 1862 at Morwenstow, Cornwall
  2. Samuel John2 Parkyn, born 8 September 1865, buried 22 March 1939 at Kilkhampton, married Norah Ann ____ of Welcombe, Devon

    1. Sam John Evans3 Parkyn
    2. Kate3 Parkyn

  1. Emma Jane2 Parkyn, born 11 March 1867
  2. Ann Sargent2 Parkyn, born 28 December 1868
  3. William2 Parkyn, born 10 April 1874
  4. Caroline Alice2 Parkyn, born 10 April 1874, died 19 May 1956 at Kilkhampton
  5. Richard2 Parkyn, born 18 May 1879, died 22 December 1961 at Kilkhampton

On 25 June 1868 Samuel1 Gorrill, 29, (JohnA) married Emma Gowman, born about 1840 in Pinhoe, Devon. Samuel inherited his father’s farm and shoemaking business at Thurdon. He and Emma had five children, all born in Kilkhampton:

I. John2 Gorrill, born in 1869, died at the age of four months

  1. Mary Elizabeth2 Gorrill, baptized 21 July 1871
  2. Richard Sargent2 Gorrill, baptized 8 November 1874
  3. William2 Gorrill, born about 1883
  4. Ellen2 Gorrill, born in 1885

In the 1881 census Susanna, 72, a widow, was living in the old home with her son Samuel and his family but she had died by the 1891 census. Richard was recorded as a shoemaker assistant. In the 1901 census Samuel was shown as a farmer and William as a farmer’s son

The North Devon Journal of 9 May 1867 reports: "John Gorrill fined 1s 6d and costs for allowing his cattle to stray on highway in the parish of Kilkhampton."

On 29 December 1869 when nearing the age of 73, John wrote a letter to his son William hoping his other sons would get to read it. It was found in William’s trunk after his death. John tells how Samuel’s wife had "a fine boy called John" but two weeks later she became ill with "measles and inflammation in the chest" and nearly died and then at age 3˝ months little John became ill and died a fortnight later. "Just after, your mother was taken ill. I thought she would have died but, thank God, she is recovered."

"Dear Child, I have sent three letters; I have had no answer. I sent you one before Mr. Yeo was home. I feel much obliged for what you have sent me by Mrs. Jones. One letter I sent to John, I hope he receives it safe. And one to Mr. John Yeo with his father’s and mother’s registers…. Catherine sent a letter to John. She means to send you one shortly.

"William Nichols and Catherine were home Christmas Day and Thomas Parkyn and Damaris Ann and the children. I should like to see all my children once more, but I think that can never be, as we are so far apart. But if we never see each other more in this world, we all meet in the Upper and Better World….

"Please give my love to Richard and his family, hoping they are all well, also to John and Humphrey and families…. I hope you will answer this. You will please excuse bad writing as my hand shakes, I remain

Your affectionate father and mother

(signed) John and Susannah Gorrill"

When John wrote "Dear Children" William was 49 and his wife Priscilla was 43 and they had ten children, one of whom had died in infancy. Mr. Yeo was the James Yeo and John Yeo was his youngest son, a bachelor, who later owned sailing ships in the world trade and became a senator of the new Dominion.

The dear old father of Catherine and her four brothers was alive for the census of 1871 and was still active in his trade and employing a journeyman. With him and Susan was their granddaughter Martha Parkyn, eight years old. John died in December, 1875 in his seventy-ninth year. I have seen his gravestone in the old churchyard of St. James the Great in Kilkhampton, where Gorrills and Yeos sleep together.

Chart of PEI Gorrill Origins

Legend: bp. for baptized; m. for married; s/o for son of; d/o for daughter of. Marginal numbers are for generations beginning with James Gorwyll.

  1. JamesJ Gorwyll
  2. ThomasI Gorwyll, bp.Barnstaple, Devon, 1542; m. 1569 Ellen Drew
  3. ThomasH Gorwyll Jr., bp. Barnstaple 1565; m. 1597 Elizabeth Copp, 1603 Joan Mantill
  4. SamuelG Gorwill, bp. Barnstaple 1608; m. 1635 Elizabeth Parker, bp.1608, d/o Edwarde Parker, bp. Barnstaple 1575 (s/o Thomas Parker) m. Judeth Harrowdein Barnstaple 1606
  5. WilliamF Gorell, bp. Barnstaple 1651, m. 1676 Mary Taylor, bp. 1651 at Roborough, d/o Nicholas Taylor, who m. at Roborough 1650 Ursula Short, bp. Roborough 1623 d/o Thomas Short
  6. WilliamE Gorwill Jr., bp. Barnstaple 1678; m. Bideford 1695 Thomasin Molton, bp. Westleigh 1683 d/o John Molton, who was bp. Hartland 1660 and his wife Katherine Pope, who were m. 1677 at Bideford
  7. JohnD (I) Gorrel, bp. Bideford 1695, m. Jane Collacott 1724 Shebbear, d/o Robert Collacott and Jane Robins, m. 1694 at Shebbear
  8. JohnC (II) Gorrel, bp Shebbear 1735, m. Joan Bremicombe 1758 at Milton Damerel, Devon, d/o William Bremicombe and Joan Collins (m. 1717 Holsworthy), d/o John Collins, bp. Holsworthy 1669 and Marie Rowland (m.Holsworthy 1695). He was s/o John Collins Sr., who was baptized at Holsworthy in 1633 and m. Joan Cole 1664 at Holsworthy. He was s/o Stephen Collins, bp. Holsworthy 1601 and Jane Garforde, who were m. at Holsworthy 1633. Stephen was s/o John Collins and Joane Jewell, who were m. at Holsworthy 1690
  9. JohnB (III) Gorrell, bp Milton Damerel 1768, m. there 1787 Grace Gowman, bp Dolton 1767, d/o John Gowman Jr. and Elizabeth Heale, who m. at Dowland 1655. John Gowman Jr, was bp at Beaford 1726 s/o John Gowman Sr. and Dorothy Rowcliffe, who m. 1723 at Beaford. John Gowman Sr. was bp. 1696 Beaford, s/o Henry Gowland and Susan _____.
  10. JohnA (IV) Gorrill, bp. at Milton Damerel 1797, m. West Putford 1820 Sarah Brooke, who was bp. at East Putford 1798, d/o Humphry Brooke, bp 1759, who m. Catherine Oliver at Buckland Brewer in 1784. For Sarah Brooke’s ancestry see the above text.
  11. William1, John1, Richard1 and New!!Humphrey1 Gorrill came to PEI.

Later chapters will chart the descendants of each of the four brothers. Those completed will show in red hyperlinks to the information above!


Dave Hunter and The Island Register: HTML and Graphics©

Last Updated: 04/26/2004 4:50:22 PM
Return to Top!
Return to Family Page!
Return to Main Page!