John Evens

The village constable/tailor/smuggler at Mothecombe, on the West side of the River Erme, who wrote a diary of his exploits. He also wrote an account, 3 years previous to the beginning of the diary, detailing a voyage to France in 1834. Most of the information I have concerning Evens comes from Anne Scarratt (many thanks!) who has transcribed and filled in the gaps in the story. Hopefully I will have some more details up here soon.



  1. I dont know where this fits in, but some more interesting (!) information on John Evens… or one John Evens at least! in the Church Yard of St James the Less, Kingston, there is the gravestone of one Fanny Evens, wife of John Evens, who died in 1849, aged 54 years. It is not yet known whether there is any relation here to the John Evens at Mothecombe, although the dates don’t seem to match up at all

  2. Just a few interesting/boring/pointless linkages made from a trip to the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office (PWDRO) today – noticed that John Evens in his diary refers a lot to the following people in Plymouth:

    James Chenoweth (various spellings): Nothing came up per se, but from the magic of, you can identify a James Chenoweth of about the right age who, by the time of the 1851 cencus was living in Hampshire. so what you may say… However, James, born in Cawsands, was married to a Matilda, who was born in 1803, in Kingston! I havent been able to identify her maiden name yet, but will try and do this ASAP!

    George Roach: Mr Roach is mentioned a fair few times by John Evens, to do with smuggling adventures. Now although there were five persons of the that moniker in the Plymouth area who would be around the right age, wouldn’t it be somehow fitting (and ironic), if the same George Roach was also the man who received the contract in 1840 to build the orphanage in the city!! I still have to locate the exact document for this, but thought this was just too good a story to miss!

    Edmund Bentley: nothing as of yet, but all other characters seem to have been fairly interesting to date, so fingers crossed!

    • Hi, Matt,

      I’ve just been exploring your interesting website which cropped up whilst researching my family tree. My Great x 3 grandfather was George Roach, a fisherman of Newton Ferrers, born around 1791 and married to a Mary, born around the same time. Their daughter Maria was my direct ancestor, however her brother George, also born in Newton Ferrers could be the one mentioned by Evens in his diary.

      Maria married a coastguard who became a publican in Plymouth and along with her daughters she used to smuggle brandy in pigs bladders. Apparently there are several caves and tunnels which run underneath what is now Plymouth Aquarium. Probably the publican (William Stewart of the Naval Reserve in High Street near the barbican) trod a thin line between coastguarding and smuggling!

      It seems likely that this trade was a family one suggesting that Maria’s father George, was a Newton Ferrers smuggler. I think that the Mary he was married to was one of the Kingcome family as ‘Mary Kingcome’ has been used as middle names for some of the female family members. I’m still trying to find evidence for the link (difficult for pre-1837 marriages). If I find any more proof I’ll let you know (if you are still collating this)

      Kind regards,
      Maggie Pugh

  3. My 4x Great Grandfather is also the George Roach b~1791 in Newton Ferrers. I would be very interested to know more about this diary and the Kingcome link. Is the diary available to view at the record office?

  4. I would be very interested in the diary of John Evens as my 4 x Great Grandfather is the same George Roach b 1871 in Newton Ferrers and my 3 x great grandfather is his son, also George Roach b 1814. Is this diary available in any public records?

    • Hi, M., These two responses have just appeared on my email account today!! Your great grandfather x 3 is the brother of Maria Roach then (she was the youngest of that family). I found a transcript of the diary in the Plymouth Archives office near Sutton Harbour about 30 years ago, but it must still be there. It is fascinating social history of the time. Its nice to find a distant relative! Best wishes, Maggie


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