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A move to Simonsbath

The following year, in 1857, John Karslake and his family moved to Simonsbath where John become the Estate Carpenter for Frederic Knight’s Exmoor Estate.   He would have known Simonsbath and the surrounding area well.  North Radworthy Farm, where John worked as a labourer in the early 1840s, is close to the boundary of the former Royal Forest of Exmoor and only 31/2 miles from Simonsbath.  It was the availablity of such an extensive area of summer grazing that was one of the principle reasons for the growth of North Molton’s wealth and trade.  Before the area was disafforested in 1818 large numbers of livestock were depastured there every summer.  For example in 1736, more than 30,000 sheep were grazed in the Royal Forest of which 7,721 were brought from North Molton, by far the largest number from nearby parishes.

John Karslake appears to have taken on a cottage and carpenters’ shop in Simonsbath and some land on Birch.   The property had previously been let to Charles Le Blanc.  The cottage was probably one of the Pound Cottages and the Carpenter’s Shop was probably the building at the far end of the Pound Cottage row, nearest to the Exmoor Forest Inn.

John Karslake paid £12.10.0 for half year’s rent of his cottage and land.  Married men employed on Frederic Knight’s Exmoor Estate did not pay rent for their cottages so it seems likely that he worked for the Estate as and when required but was also in business on his own account.    He is listed as a carpenter – the only carpenter listed in the parish - in Kelly’s directory of 1866 and Morris and Co’s directory of 1872.  This lends weight to the view that he was self-employed and doing work for the estate and elsewhere.

In the 1861 Census John’s  age is given as 35 and was living with his wife Ann (39), son William (10), Michael (8) Elizabeth (6), Mary Ann (5) John (3) James (1) and Edwin (3 months) .  James and Edwin had been baptised in Simonsbath; the others had been baptised in North Molton.