Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Tale of the Hollymans, Somerset, United Kingdom, Part 1

by Glenn N. Holliman

Along the north-west Welsh coast of Great Britain lies the historic Royal Town of Caernarvon, where successive English and British monarchs have crowned each of their eldest sons 'Prince of Wales' at the impressive Norman castle since the time of King Edward I in the 13th century.

Until recently, Hollyman family researcher and writer Bob Hollyman-Mawson lived on a hillside adjacent to the ancient Roman fort of Segontium which overlooks the town. He now lives in the nearby city of Bangor, where its magnificent cathedral founded in 525 AD contains the revered remains of the Welsh King Gruffudd ap Cynan and various national princes. 

What follows is a fascinating story prepared by Bob of English criminal justice in the early 19th century.  While not directly involved in this misguided piece of jurisprudence, Hollymans lived in this area of Somerset and must have witnessed this horrific scene. 

Our author used as his sources, 'The Ken Hangings' by Derek B. Lilly (1993) from the book Clevedon Past by the Clevedon Civic Society, Somerset, England.  In addition information from Jane Lilly of Clevedon, Fred Cooper of Bristol, the Bristol Mirror and the Western Flying Post. 

For more information on this talented Hollyman genealogist and Somerset Hollymans, please refer to previous articles dated April 7 and 14, May 20, August 8 and September 10, 2012 .  I am grateful for Bob sharing this piece of history, a reminder to Americans of our English roots. - GNH


by Bob Hollyman-Mawson, Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales


"John Holman/Hollyman, c1638-c1689, Yeoman of Abbots Leigh, Bourton; Flax Bourton and Clapton-in-Gordano, Somerset, was my earliest known direct Hollyman ancestor.  John was probably also called John after his father, and the different spellings of their names were dependent upon the writing abilities and dialectical interpretations of contemporary scribes.

John had issue of John Hollyman/Holyman, c1662-1727/28, Yeoman of Westbury-on-Trym and Clevedon, Somerset. John had issue of John Hollyman, 1698-1737, Assessor and Collector of Land Tax.

John had issue of John Hollyman/Hollowman of Ken,1734-1766.  John had issue of John Hollyman/Holliman, c1760-1828, farmer and butcher of Abbots Leigh.  John had issue of John Hollyman, c1786-1857, another farmer and butcher of Abbots Leigh.  

John had a sister called Hannah, 1783-?, who married Benjamin Poole, c1780-?, at Bristol in 1804.They were both farmers of Laurel Farm, Ken, otherwise called Kenn. In 1830 Hannah was about 47 and Benjamin 50.  Hannah Hollyman and I, therefore, share the same ancestry.

                     The Historical Geography

 The village of Abbots Leigh is situated some four miles from Bristol.  It was at one time a thriving seaport city from which countless ships made their way along the Severn River into the Bristol Channel and from there sailed across the seas to West Africa, the West Indies and Colonial Virginia.

 These voyages resulted in many Bristol merchants becoming extremely wealthy due to the lucarative imports of slaves, tobacco and sugar.  Amongst these enterprising entrepreneurs were the Elton Baronet Lords of the Manor of Clevedon.  It was at Clevedon Court where my Hollyman ancestors were employed as successive Stewards.

Below the home of the Eltons at Clevedon

The Elton Galley was one of their slave-ships, and it was in some of these that they exported their manufactured shackling-irons to slave-masters. As many Hollymans were seafarers during those times it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that they participated in these acts, as well as being involved in the transportation of passengers overseas. Also, it is known that a number of them were passengers themselves.  Bristol, historically within and now on the borders of Gloucestershire and the County of Somerset, was constructed from the proceeds of considerable human suffering.
Lady Abigail "Bayly" and her husband, Sir Abraham Elton, MP for Bristol, 2nd Baronet of Clevedon Court (1679-1742)

It was here in Bristol that John Holyman, a Benedictine Monk and Doctor of Divinity born at Cuddington, Buckinghamshire in 1495, served as the second and only Catholic Bishop of Bristol between 1554 and 1558. Before he died as a classified Popish Recusant, John requested in his will that he be buried in the Chancel of Long Hanborough Church, Oxfordshire.

John appears to have been a silent Judge at the trials of the “Oxford Martyrs”, for I have not located any evidence of his words; so they must have only been uttered between himself and his fellow bishops behind closed doors. Due to the importance of his position, John would have been expected to witness their martyrdom whilst they were burned at the stake for heresy, one being Henry VIII's famous Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.

The coastal town of Clevedon lies some sixteen miles to the west of Bristol, and it is here that many of my Hollyman ancestors have been baptised, married and buried for over the last three hundred and fifty years. Furthermore, there are Hollyman connections with numerous villages and hamlets within the entire region of North Somerset.
It was at Ken, about two miles from Clevedon, where some dastardly deeds took place. It resulted in rough justice at the end of a rope and transportation to the other end of the world! " - Bob Hollyman-Mawson

And in our next post, we shall explore the nefarious deeds that led to executions and exile to Australia.
For information on Hollimans and allied families, please refer to the 28 March 2015 blog for an inventory of available manuscripts and data on Hollimans and allied families.

Have questions about Holliman family history? You are invited to join the Hollyman Email List at and the Hollyman Family Facebook Page located on Facebook at "Hollyman Family". Post your questions and perhaps one of the dozens Holyman cousins on the list will have an answer. For more information contact Tina Peddie at, the list and Facebook manager for Hollyman (and all our various spellings!).

We are all on a journey.  Through genealogy we can discover how families better themselves generation to generation.  When we understand the past, we know ourselves more fully and are more generously equipped to travel through our own time and place in the Cosmos. - GNH

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