The Village of Newton Ferers and the Family

Holy Cross Church Newton Ferrers



 Newton Ferrers is a pleasant scattered village of some twelve hundred people on rising ground at the head of a small creek from the estuary of the Yealm river. It is seven miles south east of Plymouth and two miles from the coast. The Yonge family have been closely associated with the village and its church since James Yonge married Mary Upton of nearby Puslinch House in 1718


 "Newton" is Anglo Saxon and literally means "New Farm" and not "New Town". The "Ferrers" part of the name comes from the Ferrers family. Tenth century Normandy saw the emergence of a strong sense of lineage in the use of family names which were often toponymic in form i.e. the chief family in an area became known by the name of the nearest town or village.. One of the great families in Normandy at the time of the conquest were the Ferriéres family. Ferriéres is in the Manche province of the  Cherbourg peninsular.

 So Newton Ferrers means the manor of Newton  ( originally new farm ) owned by the Ferrers family as its lords. To call it simply "Newton would not be sufficient, there could be many places of the same name and of course adding the family name to a place would have given the Ferrers family prestige. It is very common for place names to have the suffix  of the Lord of the Manor though usually manors took the name of the first lord. There are several places in Devon and Cornwall named after the family such as Bere Ferrers and Churston Ferrers.

 There were many different versions of the name over the years and it was only in the 14th century that Ferrers became an accepted addition. The versions as they appear in various documents are NIWETONA in 1086, NYWETON and NIWETON in 1242, NEWENTON in 1249, NEWINTONE in 1279, NIWETON FERIERS in 1306, NEWENTON FERERS in 1328 and NEWATON FERYS in 1412.  

 A manor is simply a large agricultural estate comprising the lords house, a home farm, other smaller farms and a village with some common land. Puslinch although it is the parish of Newton Ferrers it is not in the manor of Newton Ferrers. It seems to have become its own separate manor in the 13th century.


 The church is first mentioned in the Saxon Geld Roll of 1084 when "St Mary of Newton" was one of those lands held free of this tax. This original church was probably made of wood and occupied the west end of the present church. It is not known when the church acquired its present name of  Holy Cross.

 During the rule of Bishop Bartholomew of Exeter 1161-1184 many churches in Devon were rebuilt or enlarged. This may well be what happened to Newton Ferrers church, for during the 19th century restoration the foundations of a Norman church were found.

 The church was probably rebuilt again early in the 14th century for there are a number of early English features. However by the middle of the century there were signs of neglect. Commissioners reported in 1347 that the portable cross was not good enough, the bells were insufficient, the missal lacked musical notes and the church had not been re-dedicated after enlargement.  The report concluded "let these things be amended."

 The upkeep of the church was paid for by a church rate levied by the churchwardens. In a document , originally with  the Puslinch records and written in medieval Latin, and translated by the Rev C.B. Yonge, there is an entry for 1409 in respect of one John Clerk who had not paid his rate for 20 years and who was ordered to pay the arrears and to "stand penance under the bell tower  imploring pardon"

 After the country recovered from the plague many churches were rebuilt or extended and Newton is no exception. It was enlarged in the perpendicular style, two aisles were added and the tower built of granite and topped by four fourteen foot high pinnacles was built.

 Early in the 16th century seats were put in the church which about a hundred years later were made into pews. The Reverend John Yonge writing to a Dr Miles, an antiquarian, in 1750 described them as being carved with saints and coats of arms. They were bordered with fragmentary Latin inscriptions which Yonge wrote in a somewhat  ironical way "are just fragments and therefore, I presume to all antiquarians, the most valuable"

 In the 18th century the Church of England  was a lethargic institution and this was reflected in the repair of its buildings. The Reverend John Yonge who took over the living in 1752 wrote to a friend that the church was "in a very ruinous and slovenly condition" although the church wardens reports in this period were to the effect that "everything is in good and sufficient repair."

 A partial restoration was carried out in 1866 when the gallery was removed and the roof was reslated in 1879,  both at the expense of the Reverend Duke Yonge.


 There are many Yonge graves in the churchyard and memorials in the church. The graves of the Yonge family are in two distinct parts of the churchyard. The older ones are in the North east corner, near the church while the more recent ones are in the south east corner. The latter group are all in the form of crosses made from Dartmoor granite. The particular quarry has now closed and any future crosses will be of Cornish granite. Some of m the more interesting are to:



 The grave of John Colborne is in the north part of the churchyard. The grave is surrounded by several graves of the Yonge family and four of his children. The Colborne  family were linked with the Yonge's, through several marriages.

 The grave  reads

 The Right John Colborne, Field Marshall, Lord Seaton, G.C.B. G.C.H,  G.C.M.G,  Colonel  2nd Life Guards  Colonel in Chief Rifle Brigade  Born February 1780, married 12th February 1831, died April 17th 1863  and Elizabeth  his wife, daughter of Reverend James Yonge of  Puslinch  Born March 7th 1790, died November 28th 1872 at Beechwood                                              



 The inscription on his grave (which is shown in the colour picture surrounded by Yonge graves) reads:

 In memory of Charles Burrell Yonge, priest, rector of this parish 1891-1940, second son of the Reverend Duke John of Puslinch. Born 6th April 1866, died 30th November 1943. Also Katherine Ada Helena, wife of the above, died 30th October 1966 aged 98.

 In the nave opposite the door, on the North wall, there is a plaque

 In memory of Charles Burrell Yonge, Rector of this parish from 1891 to 1940, died 30th November 1943. He planted the cyclamen in the churchyard.

 These still carpet the churchyard with mauve blossom twice a year.


 Duke Mohun Yonge died  10th November 1948 aged 79 years, forth son of the Reverend Duke Yonge of Puslinch. Also in loving memory of 2nd Lieutenant Geoffrey Bowen Yonge (T6), Devon Regiment, only son of the above, who died of wounds in France 1st November 1918 aged  19. Also Isabella Sydney Yonge (S5) died 31st March 1954 aged 94.

 Geoffrey  Bowen  Yonge's  name appears on the War Memorial in the churchyard.  He is buried in a CommonwealthWarGrave  Cemetery near Rheims


 On the floor of the Church, just before the chancel.

 Sacred to the memory of the Reverend John Yonge of Puslinch and Rector of this Parish. He died the 9th day of June in the year 1772 aged 25 years and 5 days. His once happy wife, infcribes this marble, an unequal testimony of his worth and her affection. Ah  cruel fate to stop thy gentle breath.

 He died on a fall from his horse, whilst out hunting but out of the hunting season!


 Some twenty members of the family are recorded as being Reverends, mainly in the 18th and 19th centuries. In this period in the families of minor gentry, such as the Yonge`s, it was very common for one son to be put in the church, especially with the 18th century the Church of England an intellectual backwater,  no great devotion to duty was required.

 In medieval times clergy had been almost universally poor and ignorant. By the 18th century many went to university,  and though there were still poor clergy there were also clergy who were comfortably off. Many clergy were seen in the 18th century less as people dedicating their entire lives to God but as ordinary people whose profession was to represent society in its moral and religious aspects in the same way as a lawyer represented the law without allowing it to dominate his life. There was time to carry out his professional duties and to live like any other country gentleman. He dressed the same, kept the same kind of company and pursued whatever other interests a country gentleman wished  to do.

 Many gentry controlled the livings where they lived i.e. the power to appoint the local priest. This they could appoint members of the family or even themselves! James Yonge 1679-1745 bought the living of Newton Ferrers and the family over the years took full advantage of the right


 The first date alongside each name is the date of appointment.

 1752-JOHN YONGE  RECTOR  752-1757. He married  Elizabeth Duke. He was instituted on his own petition as patron. Not unusual then but abuse of patronage became an increasing issue in the Church of England .

 1767 Richard Doidge

 1772-JOHN YONGE RECTOR 1772 He was the son of the above. While out hunting he was killed in June 1772 when he fell from his horse. He had held the position only seven months. Recounting this the reverend C.B. Yonge commented " What he was hunting in June I do not know!"

 1772- Richard Doidge

 1774-JAMES YONGE  RECTOR  1774-1797. He was brother of the above. James who died in 1797 aged forty nine after a years illness was rector for twenty four years. During this period of illness a Mr Halloran came to take the services, as curate in charge, but he apparently turned out to be a crook and an impostor and he was transported to Australia. Years later when James son, Admiral Edmund Yonge's ship called at the newly established  Swan River Settlement, he came across the  former curate in charge. He in fact prospered in Australia and became respected member of the community.

 1798-DUKE YONGE RECTOR 1798-1808. He was a brother of the above.

 1808-DUKE YONGE 1808-1812. He was a son of the above..

 1812-JOHN YONGE RECTOR  1812-1877. He was a son of JAMES above. A local trade directory of the 1890's states that John. on his death in 1877 was the oldest incumbent in the diocese. Up to this century it was the job of a master to ensure that his apprentices learnt their catechism and were confirmed. C.B. Yonge records that his grandfather John, who became rector in 1812. once asked a farmer how he was so successful in bringing forward his apprentices to be confirmed. The  farmer apparently told John Yonge "I tell them they can`t be confirmed before they have learnt the catechism, that they can`t be married before they are confirmed, so if they don`t come forward to be confirmed,  they  think they will never get married."

 1877-DUKE YONGE RECTOR  (R7) 1877-1881. He was a son of  JOHN  above.

 1882-Samuel Howard Archer

 1891 CHARLES BURRELL RECTOR  (S3) 1891-1940. He was a son of the above. This last Yonge to hold the living, was what we would now call an antiquarian.

 The family still control the patronage though in practice they alternate with the bishop in providing the rector.

 © R I Yonge 2013


Latest comments

27.10 | 10:41

Hi Ian....Has taken me a while but finally found your website. Brilliant. Will be in touch. Julian Hastings

20.06 | 13:06


Thanks. Praise always appreciated! I presume you are a descendant of Peter Herbert. You can email me on for fuller reply


19.06 | 23:35

I am the Great-Great Grandson of Walter Francis Duke Young. This is such a great website and so interesting to read about the Yonge family history!!

27.05 | 17:13

Thank you for this account of Charlotte M Yonge. I wouldn't say she was a recluse, however, judging by her letters.