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Robert Davis

Birthdate: (46)
Birthplace: Minehead, Somerset, England
Death: November 27, 1795 (46)
Minehead, Somerset
Place of Burial: Quaker Burial Ground, Alcombe, Somerset
Immediate Family:

Son of Robert Davis and Hannah Brocklesby
Husband of Sarah Tanner
Father of Reverend Robert Davis and Anna Davis
Brother of Thomas Davis; Samuel Davis; Richard Davis; Elizabeth Davis; Dr John Davis and 3 others

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Immediate Family

About Robert Davis

Ceased to be a member of the Society of Friends by 1794, at the time of his son Robert's birth.

Possibly because there were no other Quakers by this time in Minehead.


Quakers' turbulent past in Minehead

by Chris Lawson, research by Michael Sully

Quakers have had a long and sometimes difficult time since establishing themselves in Minehead several hundred years ago. Quaker Chris Lawson dissects the group's turbulent history.

There have been Quakers in Minehead for 350 years. Not many years after the movement began under the powerful leadership of George Fox in the 1650s, some of those fired up by his message came to Somerset and groups started in several places. Fox himself came to Minehead in 1668.

The first years were a time of considerable persecution. Four Minehead members were imprisoned in Ilchester jail for being absent from church and refusing to take the oath in court (saying that Christians should speak the truth at all times). Others were fined for refusing to pay tithes (taxes) to the church.

By 1676 there was an established Meeting in Minehead, using a building in the Bampton Street area. Following the Toleration Act of 1689, William Alloway, a Quaker merchant, registered his house as a place of worship for the group. Nonetheless, a few years later he had to be admonished by his fellow Quakers for engaging in smuggling.

Over the years, other buildings were built or used. In 1717 land at Alcombe was leased for a Quaker burial ground. Later the land was used by the Methodists for a chapel, which today has been converted to a private house though the old high wall remains.

Dwindling numbers

During the 18th century the Quakers became an accepted and often respected part of the local community. Some were appointed Overseers of the Poor and after the great fire of 1791 that devastated the heart of Minehead, it was a Quaker, Robert Davis, who organised a relief fund.

Members of the Davis family were also active politically and were amongst those promoting an alternative parliamentary candidate in the late 18th century to the one approved of by the Luttrells, the Lords of the Manor. He was elected, no doubt to the consternation of the local aristocracy.

The 19th century was a time of dwindling numbers for Quakers nationally and locally so the Meeting was closed for a time. The 20th century saw a revival of strength as new people moved into the area or became members and it was re-established, using hired rooms in the Church Institute for some of the time – quite a change from the uncompromising relationships with the established church in the 17th century!


Mr, Robert Davis the younger, of Minehead in Somersetshire, merchant, in the spring of the year 1779, sowed some seed of R. palmatum, which he received from Dr. Brocklesby; and planted out seven hundred and twenty of the plants, at the distance of five feet. The soil for the most part was sandy and light, the rest a deep black loamy garden ground. A great number of plants on the first soil died; but those on the latter continued for the most part vigorous, and produced larger roots than the other, although not superior, if equal in quality. It did not appear that the distance of five feet in any respect incommoded or injured the most luxuriant plants. In the summer of 1783, the whole plantation was taken up, and the number of roots was near, if not quite four hundred. The whole produced three hundred pounds of dried Rhubarb.

In 1795, Mr. Robert Davis beforementioned, of Minehead in Somersetshire, had the gold medal, for raising nine hundred and thirteen Rhubarb plants, and giving some account of their culture.

(Apparently he died before he could actually receive this award--see book mentioned below).

Much more on this topic in: Rhubarb: The Wondrous Drug, By Clifford M. Foust (see Google Books). The Society of Arts has archived many of Robert Davis's letters relating to the prize competitions that he entered for his pioneering rhubarb cultivation.

From: A Tour through Part of England, by Mary Shackleton, in the Year 1784

"in David Barclay's coach to his house in Red Lion Square, taking with us Robert Davis (who was in Ireland) & his brother."

Note: Mary Shackleton Leadbeater was brought up a Quaker in Ballitore, Ireland. Her "Annals of Ballitore" is a classic of local history. She was also a friend of Mary Davis.

A Robert Davis was a signatory of the first petition to Parliament for the Abolition of Slavery, from the London Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends, presented to Parliament on 16 June 1783.

Marriage record (Find My Past)

First name(s) Robert Last name Davis Name note - Marriage year 1793 Marriage date 1793 Marriage place Bristol Spouse's first name(s) Sarah Spouse's last name Inman Residence Bristol, Gloucestershire, England County Gloucestershire Country England Record set England Marriages 1538-1973 Category Birth, Marriage, Death & Parish Records Subcategory Marriages & divorces Collections from Great Britain

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Robert Davis's Timeline

January 10, 1749
Minehead, Somerset, England
July 24, 1794
Age 45
Minehead, Somerset, England
November 27, 1795
Age 46
Minehead, Somerset
April 5, 1796
Age 46
Minehead, Somerset
Quaker Burial Ground, Alcombe, Somerset