The family of Joseph Sleep (c1787-1855). This page explains the error in the North Hill parish register at the baptism of his son, William, in 1816, when William's mother was incorrectly named as Mary.

Joseph married in St Torney's Church, North Hill in 1809 to Jennifer Strike and they were both described as being of North Hill at the time. This indicates that although he was born in Tintagel, Joseph had been established in North Hill for some while. There is a baptism of a Joseph Sleep in Tintagel in 1787 and this would appear to be likely to be the same person as the one who married Jennifer Strike. It is not uncommon for Jennifer, as a name, to be interchanged with Jenifred and Jane, and it is not surprising to find her with the name Jane, as can be seen later.

Joseph and Jennifer's first born child was James, who was born in North Hill in 1810 and baptized in St Torney's. The family residence is recorded as Trebartha village which, for those who aren't local, is a hamlet consisting of a large manor house owned and occupied by the landed Rodd family, two lodge houses for the Rodd estate, a farm owned by the Rodds and half a dozen cottages also owned by the Rodds but occupied by their estate workers. The Rodds owned much of the surrounding lands and these were worked by Rodd employees, mainly agricultural labourers. It is almost certain that Joseph was a labourer on the Rodd lands.

There is no evidence of another Sleep family in the Trebartha area, let alone another one with a Joseph at its head and living in Trebartha.

Joseph and Jennifer's second child was Sarah, born in 1813. Once again her father was a labourer living in Trebartha. His name was Joseph and his wife was Jane, erstwhile a Jennifer.

Then, in 1816, a William Sleep was baptised in North Hill Church and his residence was given as Trebartha Village but his parents were recorded as Joseph and Mary. Joseph was recorded as a labourer. As there was no Joseph and Mary in Trebartha this is clearly an error on the part of the parish clerk or whomsoever completed the register. This can only be Joseph and Jennifer's son, William.

In 1819 Jennifer gave birth to their fourth child who was named Mary, probably after Jennifer's mother. Jennifer died shortly after the child was born. She was buried on the same day as Mary was baptised. Joseph's time spent at St Torney's that day was bittersweet with the burial of his wife and the hope for the future through his newborn daughter. Mary, however, did not survive much longer than three weeks and she was buried on 13 Aug 1819. The burial register entry shows that Mary was the next interment after her mother.

Joseph was left with three children to raise without a wife and eventually may well have come to 'an arrangement' with a local woman to help out. Jennifer's mother (Mary Strike, nee Hupper, c1750-1836) may have helped out in the early years after Jennifer's death but she was aging and her capabilities would have been diminishing. It seems likely that at some point in the 1820s Joseph's position as a labourer on the Rodd estate was lost and he moved to the northern end of the parish where it adjoins Lezant parish. This is close to where the Colmer family lived.

In 1830 Joseph remarried in Lezant Church (pictured here) to 46 year old spinster Mary Colmer (var. Comer); one of the witnesses to the marriage was William Ash of the Ash family that lived at Ruse's Mill on the River Inny where North Hill parish and Lezant parish join. Mary Colmer had a daughter named Jane who had been born illegitimately in 1804; nothing else is known about Jane.

As far as Joseph's children were concerned, at this time James was 20 years old and earning his own living as a farm labourer, perhaps in Lezant parish or in neighbouring South Petherwin.

Sarah was 17 years old and starting to make her own way in the world. She married in Bodmin to John Pack, a soldier in November 1833. Their daughter Mary Jane was born in Bodmin in February of 1834. A few days after their first wedding anniversary, Sarah was widowed. Leaving Bodmin and probably returning home, Sarah remarried in 1837 in Callington to John Goldsworthy, a miner.

William was 14 years old, probably still living at home but just about to venture away from the family, perhaps to work with his brother.

In 1841 Joseph Sleep and his wife Mary lived in Newtown, this is in North Hill parish but close to Ruse's Mill in Lezant parish. Joseph and Mary were together in the Poor House at Waycross in North Hill in 1851. Both were described as paupers and formerly were agricultural labourers. Joseph died in 1855 and Mary died in 1871. Both were buried in St Torney's churchyard.

The census returns for 1871 in South Petherwin shows James and his family living with a boarder whose profile fits exactly that of William, his brother born in 1816. Nothing, however, tells us whether they were brothers. In 1881 William was still in South Petherwin; this time he was lodging with Mary Crocker, a widow, and her two daughters. In both the 1871 and 1881 censuses William states he was married but no wife is with him. It is possible that he was a widower. His life between 1816 and 1871 remains a mystery but if we could find documents to tell us, we could perhaps prove that he and James were brothers. A William Sleep of a similar age, but born in Tintagel (coincidentally as was Joseph Sleep in 1784/7 above), does appear on the 1851 and 1861 census living in Lanteglos by Camelford. He is also present on the 1871 census in St Teath, so it cannot be the William Sleep who was lodging in South Petherwin.

The banner image shows the lane through Trebartha village