The Deacons of Westbury

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The Gowing Family

The Deacons of Westbury

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The spelling in some cases a little unusual. I have tried to copy the words verbatim.

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     Richard Deacon, Born ???? Married Ann Willis

          Samuel Deacon, Born 1748 Married Sarah Wilcox

               Joseph Deacon, Born circa.1766 Married Mary Harris

                    Benjamin Deacon, Born 1809, Married Emma Watts

                         Robert Watts Deacon, Born 1836, Married Martha Ellingham

                               John Benjamin Deacon, Born 1880, Married Annie Elizabeth Horn

The information contained within this page is the result of shared research. I wish to thank fellow Deacon researcher Yvonne Mitchell for most of it. In the coming months/years I hope to be able to personally confirm what is written and obtain copies of the certificates and census records etc. etc. It is very difficult to prove beyond doubt that what we believe to be fact is actually that. All we can do is interpret the records and piece together the facts as they present themselves in the hope that the resulting picture makes sense.

Richard Deacon

Richard married Ann Willis at St Mary's Church, Dilton, Wiltshire 22nd May 1738. At the same Church in 1748 Samuel was baptised, his parents given as Richard and Ann Deacon. No occupation was recorded for Richard and no maiden name for Ann.

Samuel Deacon

Samuel married Sarah Wilcox in Rode, Somerset in 1770. Rode is about 4 - 5 miles from Westbury across the Wiltshire/Somerset county boundary. Samuel is stated as being the father of Joseph Deacon in research that has been undertaken by the family of Joseph Deacon's wife Mary Ann Harris. It continues:

"Henry, (the youngest son of Richard and Jane Harris) married Ann Hopkins, 24th July 1770. She was the daughter of John Hopkins. They had issue one daughter Mary Ann born 20th March, 1771, she was married to Joseph Deacon (son of Mr. Samuel Deacon), September 1794. They had issue- Benjamin Deacon, Joseph Deacon, Ann Deacon and Samuel Deacon. Henry Harris died 20th August, 1810, aged 73 years."

It seems that Samuel Deacon converted to the Baptist ideology after his own son George was baptized at St Mary's Church in Dilton in 1770. It is a feature of the Baptists beliefs that a person should only be Baptized at their own request rather than at birth as was prevalent in the Anglican Church. The fact that Samuel himself was Baptized at birth suggests his father did not hold the Baptist beliefs. It is recorded that Samuel was Baptized again in August 1774 at Westbury Leigh Baptist Church. Samuel and Sarah are both mentioned in the minutes book of the Westbury Leigh Church.

Westbury Chapel

Samuel again comes to the fore in November 1810. Four years earlier in 1806 the incumbent Pastor of Westbury Leigh Church, Mr. William Marshman had died. His co-Pastor Mr. George Philips had claimed the sole pastorate of the Church resulting in major disagreements within the congregation. A division of loyalties caused the formation of a new Baptist Church at Penknap, a small area of land between Dilton Marsh and Westbury Leigh. It was agreed within the Church that Mr. George Philips and those within the Church that supported him, should form their own Church. 

The split within the Church at Westbury Leigh was documented in a book entitled "Twenty Golden Candlesticks" written by another son of Wiltshire Mr. W. Doel and published in 1890. At the time of writing the book Mr. Doel was the Pastor of the Baptist Church at Southwick, a small village south west of Trowbridge. The book goes into great detail about the formation and history of the Westbury Leigh and Penknap Churches and other non conformists Churches and Chapels of West Wiltshire. About the split within the Westbury Leigh congregation he writes:

No one will profit by a recital here of the altercations divisions of feeling which took place at Westbury Leigh 83 years ago. One circumstance only I relate. Mr. Phillips, on assuming the sole pastorate at Leigh, was accused of having been formerly a Wesleyan minister. When asked whether it was so at a Church meeting, he would not reply, which led to a party feeling between the pastor and some of the Church."

The split was also documented in the newly formed Penknap Baptist Church minute book, a partial transcription of which appears below. It appears from the pages of these books that Samuel Deacon was a prominent supporter of Mr. Philips and was one of the first five deacons to be elected, the other four were Felix Hall, Jeremiah Hewitt, Nicholas Hopkins, and Thomas Curtis. The new Church was named the  "Providence Chapel" of Penknap

First Minutes of Penknap Church

First Minutes of
Penknap Church

The first members of this church broke off from Westbury Leigh Church on the 12th day of April 1810: on account of some unhappy altercations which arose in that Church respecting Brother Phillip's ministry! After two years painful experience A friendly separation was agreed on between Mr. Phillips and his friends and the other part of the Church. The Articles  of agreements were as follows:
That each member stands in the same order as when Mr. Phillips came amongst us (except one who was suspended for immoral conduct) and that, what has taken place be endeavoured  by all to be buried in forgetfulness, and that all those things which have been written to each other on the occation [occasion] of the unhappy difference which has subsisted in the Church be destroyed on both sides, and also all things that have been entered on the Church Book relating there to be cut out and destroyed and no copies thereof kept on either side.
It's agreed that if any member of the Church should request a Dis***ssion  to any other Church of the same faith and order after Mr. Phillips is gone it shall be granted him!
It's agreed, that Mr. Phillips may occupy the house and orchard until Lady Day........

It is further agreed that a book of records shall be kept to insert the formation and progress of our Society, and the principal transactions relating thereto and to preserve therein a correct account of the admission and dis****sion, and death of every member of our Church
Covenant is agreed to by us all this 29th day of August 1810
Witness our hands. George Philips, Minister

Penknap Covenant

The Penknap Covenant
of 1810

Brothers Bracket Bracket

Samuel Deacon
Robert Milgrove, sen.
Jeremiah Hewitt
Thomas Jeffers
Abraham Dew
Thomas Bailey
John Hopkins
Nicholas Hopkins
Thomas Curtis
Robert Milgrove, jun.
James Hopkins
William Richardson
Felix Hall


sisters Bracket Bracket Ann Oxley
Hannah Palmore
Rebecca Langley
Sarah Hall
Sarah Tucker
Sarah Mills
Sarah Harris
Sarah Deacon
Hannah Bailey
Hannah Gunstone
Mary Hague
Lucy Hopkins
Mary Edwards
Leah Richardson
Jane Hopkins
Rachael Hall
Susan Eyers

More information on the Providence Chapel and it's history can be found here


Joseph Deacon

Joseph Deacon Tree

Joseph Deacon was a carpenter by profession, he was born, lived and died in and around Westbury. He married Mary Ann Harris at St Mary's Church Dilton 25th September 1794 and the couple produced eight children, however, it appears that four of their children were born before 1794. Of those children Noah and Samuel have been difficult to track but it is possible they didn't survive.
The census of 1841 shows Joseph and Mary were living in Chalford, Westbury, with their daughter Ann who had married Charles Doel. Ann had one daughter, Charlotte. James married Hester Bartlett in January 1808 and William married Mary Randal in 1812. Like their father before them, both earned their living as carpenters. William had one daughter Ann still living at home but James and Hester appear to be alone. Having said that the 1841 census is not specific when it come to house numbers and addresses. The next entry from James is Noah Deacon, his wife Mary and a one year old boy named James, everything points to this being James and Hester's son. The address written on the census form was simply Westbury Leigh. Joseph married Sarah Pearce in 1814 and they appear on the 1841 census living in Duke Street, Melksham, Trowbridge, Joseph's occupation is given as "clerk". In the 1851 census the family are still living in Duke Street, Melksham but Joseph is now a bookeeper. There is also a grandson living in, Joshua age 8.
Of all Joseph and Mary's children only Elizabeth is metioned in Joseph's will of 1844. He bequeathed all his "messuages or tenements lands and Hereditaments" to his wife Mary and in the event of her demise everything went to Elizabeth, no other child was mentioned. She was also to be the sole executor. Curiously Elizabeth married Robert Wring in Marylebone London February 14th 1825. In the census of 1841 she is living by "Independent Means" at Queen Ann Street, Cavendish Square, a far cry from the Wiltshire countryside. She appears to have missed the 1851 census but returns in 1861 to the town of her birth. Still living by "Independent Means" with her sister Ann Doel at The Hollow in Dilton Marsh, Westbury, a road that is still there today. Elizabeth died the following year age 71.

A Westbury picture page is available with a few photographs taken in the year (2000).
Click Here to view them.

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Deacon Family continued
Deacon Family Tree
Deacon Dynasty
Table of Contents
Littleport Page
Horn family Tree

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