The Bishop Stone Conundrum

The relationships described here are backed up by parish records. Only some of the interpretations remain in question.

Bishop Stone was baptized in Chipstable, Somerset in 1803 and was a life-long resident of the parish. The parish record for Bishop, and also for John 1800, Mary 1809 and Edmund 1812, list the parents as John and Mary Stone.

Who were John and Mary Stone? There appear to be two choices.

(1) A John Stone married a Mary Stone in Bishops Lydeard on March 10, 1799, perfect timing for the birth of first son John in November 1800 and Bishop in 1803. (Mary Stone was the daughter of John Stone and Patience Yendall of Lydeard St. Lawrence.) Stone family researchers believe that this John Stone was the son of John Stone and Elizabeth Selleck of Wiveliscombe and Chipstable. He was baptized in 1775 and would have been about 25 when John 1800 was baptized.

(2) There was another couple named John Stone and Mary in Chipstable at the time. Parish records show the dual baptisms of a son John Stone and a daughter Mary Stone on 27 Oct 1797, two years before the marriage of the #1 couple John Stone and Mary named above. This John presumably would have been slightly older than the first John described, because the two children of this John and Mary Stone were baptized three years earlier. The family relationships and marriage of this couple John and Mary Stone have not been identified.


The Stone family researchers with whom I have worked since the 1990s concluded that Bishop’s father was the first John Stone above, the second son of John Stone 1739 – 1799 and Elizabeth Sellick 1750 – 1804. John 1739 belonged to a long-time Chipstable family and lived in both Wiveliscombe and Chipstable. John and Elizabeth had six sons and no daughters, one of whom, in addition to John 1775, was Robert who was baptized in 1786.

Bishop Stone’s father John did indeed have a brother named Robert. A Robert Stone died in 1864 and in his will he named his nephew Bishop Stone as his primary heir and left a legacy of £200 to his brother John. The 1861 census noted that this same Robert Stone lived in the Wiveliscombe property called “Weare” that had been acquired under copyhold lease by Thomas Stone 1716 – 1789 father of John 1739, and remained in the family for three or more generations. Robert Stone was a victualler and a hotel manager. At his death he owned the Bampton Hotel in Wiveliscombe. After his death, his nephew Bishop Stone had some control of the hotel property, according to documents at the SHC. Robert’s will and the census data appear to confirm that both he and his brother John were sons of John Stone and Elizabeth Sellick.

So what is the conundrum?

1) In the 1851 and 1861 census Robert, the Innkeeper and uncle of Bishop and brother of John, gives his birth year as 1790, not 1786. His tombstone at St. Andrews, Wiveliscombe in 1864 states that he was 74 years of age (i.e. born 1790). Thus Robert is saying that his birth year was 1790, not 1786 when Parish records state that Robert Stone son of John Stone and Elizabeth Sellick was baptized. Did Robert fudge on his age? Could Robert 1786 have died and another Robert been born in 1790 – the same year his brother Joseph was baptized? There is no record of such burial or baptism.

There was, however, a Robert Stone who was baptized in Wiveliscombe in 1790. His parents were Robert Stone and Jane Chorley. Robert and Jane were married in 1788, and Robert was their first child. Unless this marriage was a second marriage for Robert, there is no room for an older brother John. To be a logical father for brothers John 1800 and Bishop 1803, John should have been born prior to 1780, well before the 1788 marriage of Robert Stone and Jane Chorley. He definitely would have been older than Robert the innkeeper. No other brothers John and Robert Stone who fit this scenario with Bishop Stone have been found. The 1775 baptism of the father John, son of John and Elizabeth and not of Robert and Jane, fits perfectly.

2) In Robert’s 1864 will, as well as naming his nephew Bishop he made a legacy to his brother John: To my brother John Stone the sum of two hundred pounds”. In 1864 John 1775, would have been 89 years old! Although at least one of John’s direct ancestors did indeed live into his 90s, 89 is nonetheless an extreme age and considerably older than his younger brother Robert. Furthermore, John’s death was reported in 1823 when he was 48. Specifically, a John Stone was buried in Chipstable in 1823 at age 48, exactly matching a birth year of 1775! So how could John have been named in Robert’s will if he was forty years dead? Tending to confirm the burial record, no census data 1841 – 1861 finds the family of John and Mary Stone in the local area.

Summary: Parish records: A couple named John Stone and Mary were the parents of Bishop Stone and his presumed three siblings. The data and years exactly fit the choice of John Stone (son of John Stone and Elizabeth Sellick) and his wife Mary Stone, married in 1799. This John did indeed have a younger brother Robert, baptized in 1786.  But Bishop Stone’s uncle Robert claims to have been born in 1790, not 1786, and his brother John to whom he left a legacy in 1864 was assumed to have died in 1823.


Can anyone shed any light on this conundrum?