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Perkins

Caroline Payne or Harriet PerkinsThe first record for the Perkins family in Chewton Mendip is dated 1731 when Cornelius and Eizabeth Perkins had a daughter, Mary,baptised in Chewton Mendip.The picture on the left may not be a direct relative of Cornelius and Elizabeth but is believed to have been Harriet Perkins who married James Speed  in Stratton on the Fosse in 1864. Perkins is a relatively common name and members of the family appear in most of the villages in the area and the lady on the left may have been Caroline Payne.
 The history of the Perkins family in Chewton Mendip probably goes back further than 1731. Cornelius probably had a brother called William who was married to Ann. William was not only living in the village at the same time and shed he same family name the both chose similar names for their children. However, there was a small number of first names used so that may just be a coincidence,
Cornelius was probably the same man who was paid by the parish for making and mending shoes for the poor in 1745. He may also have been the Doctor Perkins who was paid for treating various people.
 This combination of shoemaker and doctor was not so unusual in the days of the barber-surgeon but the poor book of  the period shows Doctor Perkins treating a range of ailments including rashes and resetting hips.
 William had a harder time. He was examined in by the parish in 1747 to determine if he had the right of settlement and would be entitled to poor relief. The subsequent records show he was successful his claim which proves he was either born in the village or had earned the right of settlement in another way.
 William was subsequently paid for making shoes for the poor in 1749 which supports the theory he was a brother of Cornelius but it could also mean that he was taught the trade as part of his poor relief.
 Cornelius was a recipient of poor relief when he contracted smallpox in 1758 and that probably caused his death in 1759. This counters the theory that he was treating patients for that disease earlier. A simple and brutal  form of immunisation was used where heathy people were deliberately infected with a small dose of live small pox virus. The only qualifications for this task was the ability to use a knife,  hence the link to shoemaking, and immunity to the disease acquired from fighting off the infection.
 William Perkins was being paid for making shoes in the 1760s and a Doctor Perkins was being paid for treating people in the 1770s so at least three men were involved in the village at the time.
 A William Perkins was bound to Richard Selway as an apprentice in 1776 which would have made him about 10 at the time. He coud have been the son of William and Ann as it was common for several generations of the same family to be supported by the parish. Ann Perkins  was recorded in the Chewton Mendip  as a rare recipient of poor relief in 1779 and she may have been buried by the parish on 9/7/1786.
 A William Perkins was still being paid for house rent in 1778 but he could have been the same William Perkins paying rent to Robert Kingsmill in 1791 (Somerset archive record DD\SAS/H70/12/7). Mary, the wife of William Perkins was buried in Chewton Mendip on 27/3/1803.
 The line of Cornelis and William Perkins may have died out but there is a gap in the records seen so far in the early 19th century.
Family history research shows that Harriet Perkins, probably shown above,  was born c 1847 in Stratton on the Fosse. She married James Speed in March 1864 in the Baptist Chapel Wells. She died c September 1904 in Wells. They probably moved into Honewell Cottage where there first daughter Annie Lydia was born in 1867. They raised aproximaly a dozen children altogether.
 Cecil Perkins is rememberd as living in one of the cottages that iare now reunitd as Lower East End Farmhouse.
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