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A. D. 1389-1662.
The Parish of Ugborough, Devonshire, England, in which neighborhood the English ancestors of the King family of Suffield, Connecticut, had resided probably for centuries before their descendants came to America, lies in the southwestern part of County Devon and is fourteen miles east of Plymouth. Immediately on the north lie the great wastes of Dartmoor, extending about twenty-five miles northward by an average breadth of ten or twelve miles—a land of crags, lofty hills, deep valleys, wild glens and rushing streams where Nature is seen in her wildest forms. A royal forest, established long before the conquest, occupies the central portion of this picturesque wilderness. In the wilds of Dartmoor the Erme and Avon rivers find their sources and between these streams, as they emerge from the Dartmoor, is the obscure but very ancient Parish of Ugborough with its picturesque church and its present vicarage at the little hamlet of Ivybridge. In this vicinity the artist of nature may find ample subjects for his brush.
Bounding Ugborough on the East is the Parish of South Brent; on the South is the Parish of North Huish; on the West the Parish of Earmmgton; and on the North nothing but Dartmoor.
The great Dartmoor is grand, wild, rugged and majestic. Huge blocks of broken granite, called Tors, crowning steep hills, rise suddenly in fantastic shapes, towering sometimes two thousand feet in height above the rolling mesa or table land. Right to the north of Ugborough, where the old Parish Church lies in the well wooded valley of the Erme, Ugborough Beacon, a lofty hill, rises abruptly to an altitude of twelve hundred and fifty feet. In the interior of Dartmoor are deep and mysterious pools amid the tangled wildwood and again traces of sepulchres and burial caves within stone circles to which run avenues formed by long parallel rows of upright stones, giving evidence of strange rites and customs of an ancient people who trod its wilds long prior to the Roman occupation.
The Parish Church of Ugborough is worthy of special mention. (See frontispiece of this book for exterior view of the church and its ancient churchyard.) It is a very ancient structure. The exact date of its erection cannot be given with accuracy. The Church is named in an old Charter of Bishop John of Exeter, whose bishopric was from A. D. 1186 to 1191—more than 700 years ago!
There are evidences in the architecture of the Church of three successive restorations, the distinctive character of which seem to prove conclusively that it is considerably more than 800 years old and possibly has stood there for more than 1000 years. The arch leading from the belfry to the nave is of Saxon architecture and evidently was built before the Norman conquest, as it is a well established fact that after the accession of William the Conqueror, A. D. 1066, Saxon architecture was wholly discarded. The old Font is Norman. On the bosses in the roof of the northern nave are two interesting and unique carvings. The records of the church show that the high altar was consecrated by Bishop Stapeldon Oct. 28, 131I and the Church was reconsecrated by him after material restoration and some additions, on February 21, 1323. It is well preserved and an excellent example of ancient Church architecture in England. Especially is this old Church of interest to our King Family for in its quiet church-yard sleep ancient ancestors. Tombstones without and memorial tablets within the church also record the deaths of many bearing the family name of King.
In this Church William Kinge and Agnes Elwill were married on October 16, 1642, and in it their son James King, the founder of the King Family of Suffield, Connecticut, was baptized on November 7, 1647. From this Church Agnes (Elwill) Kinge, the mother of James King of Suffield, was buried on April 7, 1662, after which the family came to America.
The presence in this neighborhood of a King family A. D. 1308 seems to be shown by certain court proceedings at Exeter, dated March 4, 1308, in which Richard le Kynge and Herlwyn Kynge
(without the "le") are mentioned (Calendar of Close Rolls published by British Government, pp. 12-13).
It is certain, however, that as early as the year 1389 a family named King (then spelled Kynge) lived in the vicinity of Ugborough, Devonshire. There exists an old parchment deed or charter, dated and executed in the year 1389 by Roger King (Rogerus Kynge), showing that he then lived at Dodebroke, (8 miles from the Parish Church of Ugborough), Devonshire, and conveying to John Sormonnd a building and grounds described in the deed as "situated at Redpitte, near the Font of St. Thomas the Martyr in the burg of Dodebroke." The parchment is in perfect condition and the wording thereon is in Monkish Latin with contractions and abbreviations, but plainly written and distinctly legible. The seal to the instrument is appended therefrom and is of red wax an inch in breadth and one quarter of an inch thick, without a crack or flaw. The insignia on the face or escutcheon of the seal stands out in sharp relief and on the reverse side there is a deep impression made by the thumb of Roger King (a precaution against forgery) when he pressed the wax against the engraved signet, which was his personal and hereditary seal, for from the time of Edward I every freeholder had his own seal, an impression of which was required to be filed at the place where the court in his county was held. (Stat. Exon 14, Edw. 1. See Blackstone's Com. Book 2, ch. XX, where the requirements of these ancient deeds and the seals thereto are very fully explained, while in Appendex No. 1 to Chitty's Blackstone the usual form of these ancient deeds—"Vetus Carta Feoffamenti"—is given and its similarity to the one executed by Roger King will at once be recognized. In "Warwick Castle and its Earls," by the Countess of Warwick, London & New York, 1903, will also be found some photographs of ancient charters which are in form and proportions like that of the Rogerus Kynge charter.)
The design on the red wax seal of Roger King appears to be a tree and on either side two distinct branches rising from the ground independently. It will be noticed that there are several witnesses to the document, the first being the then prepositus, Provost or Reeve, of the burg of Dodebroke.