Stories about the Rev. James Fynes, Rector of St Andrews Church 1735-1774

(See also the guide to St Andrew’s Church history where it is suggested that family adopted the surname of Fynes rather than Clinton because the Clintons were out of favour in the mid-18th century as Jacobite supporters).

The Rev. James Fynes was Rector 1735-1774, and bought property round Moreton from the Courtenays among others, including the present Cross Tree House.  His property passed in 1774 to his nephew James who occupied Cross Tree House, and was associated with the Cross Tree (see below); he died in 1798.  His will named ‘Little Marsh, Long Parks, Adeley Meadows and Crandford in the Parish of Chagford..’

1.   James Fynes (alias Clinton)  (from family correspondence)

The Rev. James Fynes (Clinton) D.D. was the third son of Norreys Fynes (Clinton) of Whitehall, Lincolnshire, a staunch Jacobite and non-juror, great-grandson of the second Earl of Lincoln.  James was born in 1695 and educated at Charterhouse and Magdalen College, Oxford, afterwards becoming a Fellow of that college.  He married Elizabeth Bertie but had no children.  He was 38 years Rector of Moretonhampstead from 1735 to 1774.  A marble monument for which he left £40 or £50 in his Will was erected to his memory in the church but has been removed at some later period:  the inscription was as follows:-

‘M.S. Reverendi Jacobi Fynes alias Clinton, S.T. P. Apud Albury in Agro Oxoniense antiqua et illustri stirpe Comitis Lincolniensis oriundi; Literarum rudimenta Scholae Carthusianae ex fundatione; scientiam Collegio Santae Magdalenae apud Oxoniensis socius excoluit.   In quo Patroni Benignissimi Gulielmi subinde Vicecomitis Courtenay, et fratris ejus Henrici preceptor fuit.  Hujus parochiae per annos 38 Rector. Obiit April 29, A.D. 1774, aetatis 79.’

He was tutor to Henry Courtenay and while yet at Magdalen he began acquiring land in Devon.  We have an indenture dated 1732 – a lease from Sir William Courtenay, Bart. of Powderham Castle to James Fynes of Magdalen College, Oxford, Clerk, of a messuage in East Town, 20 acres, part of the Manor of Kenton, late in the possession of William Tripe; also rights on Kenton Marsh, Kenmouth Marsh, Southtown Marsh.  Annual rent 8/- and £2 of ‘lawfull money of Great Britain, at the feasts of St Michael the Archangel, the birth of our Lord Christ, the Annunciation of the blessed Lady Mary theVirgin and the Nativity of St John the Baptist ..’.  (Various other title deeds and leases exist relating to this Devonshire property).  The above lease is signed by William Courtenay.  Witnesses Dormer Fynes (brother) and James Allen.

James Fynes, nephew of the old Rector, inherited all his estates and at his death in 1798 he was succeeded by his nephew, the Rev. Charles Fynes-Clinton LLD (our great-grandfather) who seems to have sold off all the Devonshire property.

The above James Fynes left a Will now in our possession naming Little Marsh, Long Parks, Archley (or Adeley) Meadows and Crandford in the parish of Chagford.  He left legacies to his ‘worthy friend Miss Grace Trend’, to his servants Grace Saunders and John Hancock.  He directs that his body shall be ‘decently deposited in the vault where my late Uncle James Fynes was buried in the Parish church of Moretonhampstead and if the said vault shall be too small for that purpose I will and desire that the same shall be enlarged..’

This Will is attested by Mary Nield Hawkins, Knowling H. Hawkins and Rd. Hawkins; the codicil by Thos. Cornish and Richd. Hawkins.

James Fynes’ sister Mary married Thomas Hudson the artist, master of Sir Joshua Reynolds, & he painted the portraits of most of his wife’s family; there are 7 of them in the possession of our cousin Sir Lewis Clinton-Baker at Bayfordbury, Herts, and James is one of them.


2.  James Fynes junior and The Punch Bowl Tree:  Mrs Bray, Traditions.. of Devonshire, 1838, III, 200-1 (a note found in our files)

Among past worthies of Moreton, a local landowner called Mr Fynes; a magistrate, he was known as Red-post Fynes because he had all the gates to his fields painted his favourite bright vermillion to shew his good taste, though he never learnt to spell, and wrote to a friend that his wife had been brought to bed of a fine gull:

‘There was one spot in Moreton which Mr Fynes considered elevated him, whilst he filled it, to a post as important as any occupied by any magistrate throughout the whole county; and that was his seat as president in the Punch-bowl tree:  for it so happened there was in Moreton near his house a very old and very grotesque tree, cut and clipped into the form of a punch-bowl; whilst a table and seats were literally affixed within the green enclosure, to which they ascended by a little ladder, like the companion-ladder of a ship.

Here the worthies of the place, of the Squire Western school, would resort, and considered it a point of honour to drink until they could scarcely see each other across the table; and there they would often tarry ’till they ‘roused the night owl in a catch’; whilst nothing could be more ludicrous than the picture presented by this nest of Bacchanals in the midst of the smooth-shaven verdure, receiving all the dust from the high road beneath them, which mingled with the clouds of their own tobacco.  The Punch-bowl tree still, I believe, exists at Moreton, though the oddities of the place, who at one period gave it notoriety, have for years been in their graves.’ (Quotation from a letter to Robert Southey written in 1833).

3.  Document found in basement of former Nat. West Bank, by Rob Abraham, Jan 1999

18.5 x 11cm, rather worn and torn, mounted some time ago on paper.  There is a hole in the original document towards the top left.  Words in italics below are guessed; afd is aforesaid and I think Moydn is a standard abbreviation too.    The surname of the signature looks as if it might be S.

Jany 1770

     Ag[               ]Mr James Fynes (by the Consent of Lord Viscount Courtenay)

that he [                      ]Lease of 3 Lives in late Neck’s Tenement in the Borough of  M[]onhampstead for and at the Price of  a  Moydn by Way of a   Fine [       ]   the    afd.    Mr Fynes  agreeing  to    lay out Eighty Pounds at least in    [rebuilding]  the   P[remises],   also to be allowed    sufficient Timber    for   the   purpose   from   his   Ldship’s   Woods   or   Estates   in

Moretonhampst  afd.

Charles  ???????  

Records of Fynes property in 1780 and 1790

1780  Land Tax

     Under Lord Courtenay as proprietor:  James Fines for Kingwell.

Fynes is also a proprietor in his own right for his house and Charles Pooke’s house, and a tenant of the Baptist Trustees for Will Parks.   Thomas Neck  sen. and jun. appear as owner of a house and tenant for Church Parkes and Langhill, but no Courtenay property.

1790  Manorial Survey,

  No mention of Necks

  J Fynes tenant –    2/7 – late Elfords;   5/6 – Kingwell Down N

  execr of Rev Fynes –  24/43-4 –  House formerly Eastabrook and Hill;

                                     25/45 –  Coombe Tenement