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Synthesis in Research:

Heavitree, Jamaica

[an updated and edited version of an article originally published in the Heavitree (Devon, England) Local History Society newsletter no. 6 - August 2001]

And now there are three! Recent studies have uncovered a Heavitree in Jamaica to add to Heavitree Gap in Australia and our own Heavitree, Devon.

It had long been assumed (1) that the Heavitree down-under was the only other place in the world with the same name as the English one.

Now it can be shown that not only is there a Jamaican Heavitree but that it has strong local links and predates the Australian one (1871) by over 30 years.

Research is still on-going but this note outlines what has been uncovered so far. The Society would love to hear from anyone with further information (see contact details at end of article).

A chance remark kick-started the trail to the Caribbean. A society member mentioned hearing that a Heavitree, Jamaica could be found on the internet. Intrigued I agreed to investigate.

The obvious place to start was on the web and sure enough a search for Heavitree threw up a Jamaican reference.

This confirmed - with a map - that Heavitree was positioned at an altitude of 2480 feet in a mountainous area roughly in the middle of the island. Another Jamaican site records Heavitree as being in the political constituency of North West Manchester.

So far so good but what were the origins of Heavitree, Jamaica and did it have links with Heavitree, Devon?

Encouraged by the plethora of information on the internet I searched for more Jamaican sites and came across a real gem - a local historian's dream !

The site in question (2) holds a whole series of C19th archives including the names of properties and their owners.

And there amid all the lists in an 1840 almanac was Heavitree: Proprietor - John Davy.

I e-mailed the archivist, Patricia Jackson, and asked if she knew about its origins. She replied saying she didn't but that "in general landowners in Jamaica often named their properties after their homes, properties or home towns back in Britain".

So was there a Davy link with Heavitree? Our secretary, Den Perrin, checked the Parish records and found a number of Davys baptised and married in Heavitree Church in the C17th and C18th. But no obvious tie-ups.

Then by luck, Den, while looking for something else in the Devon and Cornwall Record Society files, found the potential missing link. A document referred to the will of a James Davy (1729-1813) and a bequest to his son, also James Davy "late of Heavitree, merchant, but now on his passage to Jamaica".

By going back to the Jamaican almanacs details of James' time there can be pieced together. In the 1808 edition he is recorded as a captain in the St. Elizabeth's Regiment of the Jamaican militia.

In 1810 James is down as owning the property of "Wear" with 75 slaves and 256 livestock (for photographs, please see Wear Pen 1984 and Wear pen house (a later photograph)). A Thomas Davy is also mentioned as owner of "Topsham".

The names Wear and Topsham are particularly helpful as they provide a big clue to the Heavitree connection. Records held locally in Exeter explain why.

James Davy (born 1729) married Mary Carter in Heavitree Church on 6 February 1758. They lived at Mere Farm, Heavitree but (and here is the link) moved to Wear in the parish of Topsham in around 1765.

James was a farmer and ran a lime and coal business. He passed this on to Robert, one of his sons (born in Heavitree), who branched out to become a major Topsham shipbuilder (a fascinating but separate story although it should be noted that some of his ships sailed to Jamaica).

There were several other children including Thomas, Rebecca, Mary (who married a Thomas Salter, Yeoman of Heavitree) and James.

It would therefore appear that James junior named his property after the family home of Wear. The other Davy holding (owned by Thomas - brother of James) was named after Topsham. This also still exists today.

The Jamaican almanacs give a year by year record of ownership and Wear continues to belong to James Davy until 1825.

The family burial vaults at Clyst St Mary confirm the situation. James died on 19 Oct 1825 aged 60. The inscription adds "late of the island of Jamaica".

Heavitree does not appear in the almanacs until 1840 when it is added to Wear under the ownership of John Davy. Wear had been briefly owned by James Lewis Davy (son of James) but John, another son, is down as proprietor from around 1830. James Lewis died in 1840.

It seems pretty clear that John was reflecting his father's Heavitree roots by naming the new property in this way.

Interestingly by 1845 both Wear and Heavitree (a combined total of 2,167 acres) were in receivership. Apparently this was a time of economic crisis and many owners defaulted on their mortgages or abandoned their properties.

Heavitree survived however and appears on an 1888 map of Jamaica - about five miles north of the railway line and road from St. Elizabeth and Trelawny. Wear is about two and a half miles away, south of the road and railway.

That's about where I've got to so far but I'm hoping to find out more about both historic and present day Heavitree, Jamaica. Thanks to the internet I'm already in touch with Davy family members around the world. One lady, in Australia, is descended from the Heavitree Davys and is related to Davys who owned property and lived in Jamaica. She confirms that "the Davy family named their Jamaican properties after their home area in Devon".

So it is good to know of another Heavitree and with this open up a new international relationship. Fitting perhaps that the Manager of Exeter City Football Club, Noel Blake, who was born in Jamaica, lived for several years on Fore Street, Heavitree, Devon. Let's hope for more links in the future.

Martin Weiler



1) Heavitree, Australia. Note by David Morrish published in April 1968


Jamaica links under new spotlight

New interesting details have come to light after our Society was asked to help provide information for a major anniversary in 2007. In March it will be 200 years since the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire.

The Devon Black History Group (DBHG) is intending to mark the occasion with various activities. They made contact with us because of our research into the links between Heavitree, Devon and Heavitree, Jamaica.

Now a member of the DBHG has used information provided by us to track down further knowledge of historic links using a good contact in Jamaica.

As a result we now know of a connection between families who owned land in Jamaica. Past newsletters have described how the Davy family, who came from Heavitree, founded several places in Jamaica including Wear, Topsham and Heavitree.

Nearby in Jamaica the Glanville family owned other landholdings including Exeter and Devon. It is a descendant of the Glanvilles, still living in Jamaica, who is now helping with on the ground research.

The property called Devon was, for a number of years, owned jointly by Samuel Glanville and a William Abell. There are two links here.

Firstly a good bit of delving has revealed that Abell was married to a Margaretta Neyle. After his death Margaretta married James Lewis Davy, a doctor in Jamaica and son of James Davy, our original Heavitree link. He died in 1840 and she was living at 44 Magdalen Street in Exeter when she died in 1873.

So we can imagine people locally in Devon being regaled by stories of namesake places all that distance away in Jamaica.

Secondly the Glanvilles came from Ottery St Mary where Samuel's father Thomas was the local solicitor. The Davys also had an Ottery connection as Thomas, brother of James above, was the local doctor there. He too owned property in Jamaica - Topsham; although he is not thought to have ever lived there.

All this and other information discovered previously points to quite a tight knit group with Devon and Jamaica connections.

One final bit of information has come to our attention through this new link and it is not a happy one. Apparently Alcoa, the mining company, have bought many of the properties in our area of interest and the land is due to be mined for Bauxite, including Wear. This was James Davy's original property there.

We don't yet know the fate of Heavitree but are trying to find out.

Martin Weiler

The author of this article, Martin Weiler, would be delighted to hear from anyone who can provide more information (historic or present day) on Heavitree, Jamaica. He can be contacted at aekw16@hotmail.com

Heavitree Local History Society can be contacted at pern@supanet.com

For updates on this topic, as of November 2007 and 2010, please go to Heavitree2

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