John Bodman (1760 -1817)

John Bodman (1760? – 1817) & Mary Crook (1774 – 1847)

John Bodman is known to have been born around 1760 near Devises. John married Mary Crook on the 15th July 1795 at Tellisford parish church, Somerset.

Tellisford is a parish in the hundred of Wellow, county Somerset, 6 miles North East of Frome, its post town, and 6 miles South West of Freshford railway station. The village is


situated at the bridge over the river Frome, which here separates this county from that of Wiltshire.

About a third part of the village was burnt in 1785. The soil consists of clay and loam. In the vicinity is a fulling mill. The parish was in the diocese of Bath and Wells. The church, dedicated to All Saints, is an ancient structure with a tower containing three bells, and has recently been restored. The parochial charities produce about £4 per annum. There is a school with a small endowment.”

From The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) Transcribed by Colin Hinson © 2003

Farleigh Hungerford Castle


We know that Mary’s family came from the nearby village of Farleigh Hungerford. The

village of Farleigh Hungerford is 9 miles south east of Bath. It is famous for the castle which lies just beyond the village.

John and Maria had the following children:-

John Bodman       baptised 30th Aug. 1798  Farleigh Hungerford   click here
Mary Bodman           baptised 25th Dec 1802   Farleigh Hungerford
Job Crook Bodman  baptised 16th Sept 1804  Farleigh Hungerford
buried 14th Sept 1823 aged 20
Benjamin Bodman   baptised 14th Sept 1806  Farleigh Hungerford
Henry Bodman         baptised 25th Dec 1808  Farleigh Hungerford
died 1819  Farleigh Hungerford
William Bodman      born c 1810
Jacob Bodman          baptised 26th Dec 1813

Around the turn of the 18th century, when John and Mary’s first children were born, the life of the average farm labourer was meagre. Sir Frederick Morton Eden, travelling in the area recorded his findings and published them in a book in 1797, called ˜The state of the Poor”. He commented on the effect of amalgamating farms and the effect on smallholders who were evicted from their farms. He commented that the rapid rise of the Poor Rates is generally attributed to the high price of provisions, the smallness of wages and the consequent depopulation of the villages, which obliged the small farmers to turn into labourers or servants. A typical family, although not selected as being especially badly off had an income of six shilling a week in the winter, seven shillings a week in the summer and slightly more in the harvest. The children earned nothing and the family was dependant on the parish to pay their house rent and for occasional sums in poor relief. For clothing they relied on gifts from neighbours. Their food consisted of:-

Breakfast:-Tea or bread and cheese

Dinner:-Bread and cheese, or potatoes

Supper:-Sometimes mashed with fat from broth and sometimes with salt alone. Bullocks cheek was bought once every week to make the broth. Treacle was used to sweeten tea instead of sugar. Very little milk or beer was used.

Around the turn of the century, there was a great fear of a Napoleanic invasion. Countrywide, militia lists were raised giving the details of all able bodied men in a village and the weapons, transport etc that could be used, indeed a sort of dad’s army! Such a militia list was raised in 1804 for Farleigh Hungerford and 29 able bodied men are listed who were aged between 15 and 60. This includes 6 men who were appointed for the removal of horses and wagons conveying such persons who were unable to move themselves’. In the village there were only two wagons and two carts. John Bodman was one of these drivers and was appointed as the overseer of all the other drivers. Needless to say, these militia never saw action.

John Bodman next appears as he is mentioned in a Bastardy Order dated 3rd May 1810 against him for a female? child by Harriet Crook born 28th Mar 1810. The child is probably Daniel Crook, born 28 March 1810 and baptised Farleigh Hungerford, the illegitimate son of John Bodman. John Bodman was ordered to pay £2/18/- for the Lying-in and then support of two shillings weekly to the Church Wardens and Overseers of the Poor. Harriet Crook was assessed to pay one shilling and sixpence a week. Harriet born in 1787 in nearby Norton St. Philip was the daughter of  Daniel Crook, older brother of Mary Crook, John’s wife. Harriet was to have a further two illegitimate children in 1813 and 1819. She never married.

Harriet Crook and her child must have been the village problem family as in the year from Easter 1809 a third of all payments of parish relief were to Crooks.

The Overseas Accounts for Farleigh Hungerford wth spelling mistakes show:-
8 wickes pay for Hareat Crook at 2/- 18/-

Nov. 2 Paid Mary Bodman for tending Hareat Crook in her Laingin  12/-
Expencis at Bath with H Crooke 5/-
Mar 16 Paid Harriet Crook 2/-

5 wicks pay for Harriet Crooks Child at 2/-

55 wicks pay Harret Crooks child at 2/-
Expenses at Bradford & Freshford with Harriet Crook 2/4
Paid for wrrat (warrant? Another illegitimate child?) 3/6
Jurney self 5/-

17.9.1813 Paid Harriet Crook for the laying in month 1/-/-
Nov. 19th Harriet Crook put to bed. Looked after by Mrs Tazwell. (Paid for new bed, bolster & 2 blankets)
Paid 20 wks lodging to Mary Bodman for Harriet Crook at 6d/wk
To a coffin for H.C’s child
Bell & grave for H.C’s child
Pd for 2 bottles of wine for Job Bodman (medicine?) 10/-
H.C. with Mary Bodman 50 wks 1/5/-

H.C. with Mary Bodman 50 wks 1/5/-

These were difficult times. In the early 1800s there was a spate of volcanoes erupted all over the world. the decade from 1810 to 1819 was the coldest in England since the 1690s. This was mainly because of this volcanic  activity which shot out large amounts of dust into the stratosphere and blanketing the sun. The worst year was 1815/1816, with the mega-explosion of the volcano Tambora in Indonesia in 1815, which pumped out enormous amounts of ash and gave birth to the “year without a summer”. Northern Europe had frost and snow throughout June and July with the inevitable crop failures. Times were very hard for Agricultural labourers and work was difficult to find.

For many years, John Bodman.s later years and death was something of a mystery.   Many hundreds of hours of research of parish records of Wiltshire and finally Somerset over a period of two/three years were carried by Paul Bodman and myself before we were able to find out what had happened to him.

Eventually John bodman was found to have died many miles away from Farleigh Hungerford at Ilchester in Dorset on the gallows at the Gaol. With increasing obligations and low income he had turned to crime and highway robbery.

For full details of John Bodman’s trial, click here.

For full details of John’s death and time at Ilchester prison, click here.