Exeter Surgeon John Arscott wrote his will on 4 July 1824. Unmarried, he had no children, but at that time had two nephews: Richard Westlake, born in 1792, the son of his sister Elizabeth and John Westlake, and Robert Fewings Arscott, born in 1802, the son of his half-brother Joseph Fewings Arscott.


Joseph Fewings Arscott (1756-1840) was a collector of excise living on St David's Hill in Exeter. He married Priscilla Milford in 1777. They had two daughters, Priscilla and Mary, and two sons, Joseph and Robert. Both sons trained as surgeons in Exeter. Joseph died in 1823 aged 23 of "dysentery and consumption". He was buried in Zeal Monachorum, his mother's home village.


"Of Sons the most dutiful

Of Brothers the most affectionate

Of Friends the most sincere"

Although in his will John Arscott left one thousand pounds to his nephew Richard, the wording of the will was "if the said Richard Westlake shall be then living ". He must have realised that Richard was ill; in fact Richard died just 13 days later. John Arscott died in Bow four months later on 17 November 1824 and was buried in Sampford Courtenay, his birthplace. All his property in Bow, including Fair Park, was left in trust to his other nephew Robert Fewings Arscott and his heirs.

Robert Fewings Arscott

Robert Arscott inherited Fair Park in 1824, and although he probably never lived in Bow, he took the rental income for the rest of his life. As a freeholder in Bow, he was entitled to a vote in General Elections.

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Robert Fewings Arscott was born in Exeter in 1802. He was a pupil for five years in the Devon and Exeter Hospital, when it had a recognised Medical School. After his training in Exeter he continued his studies at Guy's and St Thomas's Hospitals in London, where he worked for a short while before returning to private practice in Exeter in about 1826. He was appointed to care for the poor suffering from Cholera during the epidemic which occured in Exeter in 1832, although he resigned a month after the outbreak started. On the death of Mr Samuel Luscombe Jr in 1841, he applied for the vacant position as surgeon in the Devon and Exeter Hospital, but was not appointed. The same year he married Penelope Shepherd nee Causey, a widow. They had two children, Penelope Margaretta Causey Arscott and Thomas Reynolds Arscott. In 1849 his wife Penelope died. In 1862 Robert Arscott remarried in Streatham to Elizabeth Mary Bulpin. They had a further son, Robert Richard Arscott, born in Exeter in 1866 and who died a batchelor at the age of 37.

 

In 1845 Robert Arscott became a founder member of the Devon and Exeter Association of General Practitioners, affiliated to the National Association of General Practitioners of Medicine, Surgery and Midwifery, which only existed for a couple of years. General Practitioners, the largest group of doctors, had no organisation to represent them until over a hundred years later the Royal College of General Practitioners was established in 1952.

 

In July 1860, he was sued by his next door neighbour Thomas Julius Bremridge, a lawyer, to recover damages for keeping a noisy cock. The case had excited great interest. At the request of the plaintiff a jury of a different class from those generally empanelled the County Court cases was summoned, the plaintiff being of opinion that gentlemen unaccustomed to hear cock-crowing the morning should try the case. The matter, however, was settled out of court, and several who attended the court that morning to hear the details were “grievously disappointed”.

 

In 1863 he was summoned to face a charge of an unprovoked assault on Captain Thomas Elphinstone Stone. Stone at that time was suing his wife for divorce, claiming adultery with Robert Appleton, a Budleigh Salterton Surgeon who, on being cited, had run off to America.

A “large and fashionable audience” turned up for the court hearing but they were again disappointed - Arscott had settled and did not appear, sending his solicitor. The rumour was that Capt. Stone persisted in paying his addresses to a young lady, to whom Mr. Arscott was guardian, and that this persistence it was that brought upon him the summary interference.

 

He died at his home of over 35 years, No 5 Southernhay, Exeter, aged 76 in 1878. Most of his inheritance passed to his wife, except the remaining years' lease on his home, and the property he owned including that in Bow which passed to his son Thomas Reynolds Arscott.

 

His collection of paintings and other items was auctioned after his death.


The chief attractions for persons of wealth and taste were the oil paintings, but besides them there was a quantity of antique silver-plate, old China, surgical instruments and a professional library. The paintings included an exquisite oil painting of horses by Albert Cuyp.

Two works that then adorned the walls of his house were "River boating scenes," the work of J. Maris and  “The Israelites passing through the Wilderness preceded by the Pillar of Light” by William West.

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