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Stafford Bryet


The story of the doctors of Bow gets off to an inauspicious start.

In April 1762 a warrant was put out for the arrest of one Stafford Bryet, "surgeon of Bow". He was reputed to be the father of William the son of Elizabeth Nicholls, of Bow. The baby William Nicholls was illegitimate and therefore likely to be chargeable to Bow parish ratepayers.

Bow Church records confirm that a "Base Child of Elizabeth Nichols” was indeed baptised “William” there on 16 May 1762, but that is all I can find out about him. This Stafford Bryett, was probably the son of William and Grace, baptised in North Molton, Devon in 1732. Also a Stafford Bryett had a son baptised with the same name at Fort St George, Madras, India in April 1771, but the child died a few days later.

This young man had several brushes with the law: In 1831 he was prosecuted by his uncle Jeremiah for breach of the peace, and Stafford himself prosecuted Henry Tracey of Bow alias Nymet Tracy, innholder, accusing him of stealing from him one but [?butt] of bees. In July 1764 he was accused of assaulting and beating Mary, wife of George Kennacott of Bow, labourer; the following month- assaulting and attempting to rape Mary Gregory of Colebrooke, spinster, and in September of assaulting Samuel Downe. The outcome of these charges is unclear.

The Bryett Dynasty of Surgeons (also spelt Bryet, Briet)

A James Bryett of Hatherleigh had three sons who became surgeons: Thomas (b 1698), who remained in Hatherleigh, William (b 1700 - the father of Stafford) who worked in North Molton and Jeremiah (b 1706), who practised in Crediton.

Just before he died and while "weake in Body", Thomas Bryett wrote his will in 1739. It seems he had no family of his own. He left his brothers and sisters just five shillings each, but left all his land in Hatherleigh and his goods in trust for Stafford Bryett, his nephew, who was about eight at the time, and who was appointed sole executor.

Jeremiah left one shilling each to his nephew and niece Stafford and Mary "should they ever return to England". Perhaps this confirms that Stafford was in India. [This was a way of showing disapproval. Omitting a relative's name from a will could lead to a claim that the name had been accidentally overlooked. This habit led to the expression "cut off with a shilling".]

Jeremiah's son William (1734-1804) was also a surgeon in Crediton.