Walking towards the church of St. Bartholomew, the splendid memorials to the right of the path grab the attention of the visitor to this peaceful corner of the village.  They contain the remains of thirty one members covering five generations of a once prominent Coaley family, the Joyners, whose influence in this community, and several adjacent parishes, was considerable during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

The earliest traceable members of this family, James and Sarah Joyner (nee Hornedge), were buried in Coaley churchyard in 1710 and 1686 respectively, but no memorial survives.  The large chest tomb in yellowish stone is badly eroded and while the inscription (1a on the plan) is now mostly illegible, it was recorded by Ralph Bigland during the latter half of the 18th century and by John Joyner in 1986.  It contains the remains of James and Ann Joyner (nee Down), who died in 1729 and 1743 respectively, and William and Sarah Joyner (nee Cobb), who died 1754 and 1766.  They were the sons and daughters-in-law of James and Sarah.  James’ occupation is not known, but his brother William’s Will states that he was a ‘yeoman’ farmer and, judging by his bequests, very prosperous.  James almost certainly had the same status but as no Will or other document has survived we cannot be sure.  William and Sarah were childless, so William made bequests to nephews and nieces. In her Will, Sarah Joyner (nee Cobb) made a number of bequests including giving ‘to All the Servants that Lives with [me] at the Time of my Death one Guinea each’ and she ordered her executors ‘to have a Good Handsome Tomb to be Erected over My Husband and my Grave’.  She certainly got one, even though it was not built exclusively for her.  Also buried with them are James and Ann’s son William Joyner and his wife Welthin (nee Surman).  William was the oldest of seven children and while no memorials survive above ground for any of his siblings, Ralph Bigland recorded inscriptions ‘on flat and headstones’ for three of them; Sarah, who died in 1737, and James and Samuel who both died in 1742 ((B) on the family tree).  On 12th March 1742 Reuben Webb, son of Sarah Webb was baptised and the ‘reputed father’ was James Joyner.  No Will survives for William, who died in 1767, but Welthin, who died 20 years after her husband, left her estate to their two unmarried offspring, Samuel and Ann, the only two beneficiaries of their seven children.  The family appear to be well established in the community and (we suspect) living comfortably in a Tudor farmhouse (The Leigh) built in the middle of the 16th century, and which they may have owned.  Although there is little documentary evidence to support it, the family were probably yeoman farmers.

Except for his baptism record in 1742, there is no further trace of William and Welthin’s oldest son James, who probably died in infancy.  Their second son, William, born in 1745, married Mary Sansum in 1780.  His memorial inscription is on the first tomb in the group (2a) and records that he was ‘of the town of Dursley’ and died on 18th August 1812 although the parish record states he was buried on 15th August!  Someone mixed the dates!  In 1783 Land Tax Assessments show that William rented land in Dursley and was one of the Examiners of the accounts.  Also buried with him are his younger brother John, born 1750, and his wife Sarah (nee Hill) whom he married in Frocester in 1780 (2 b).   John held the post of Parish Constable in Frocester in 1784 and churchwarden for most of the time from 1790 – 1811 and his occupation, farmer, was recorded in the Banns of Marriage.

William and Welthin’s third son, Samuel Joyner, born 4th March 1746, proved an interesting character with considerable influence in Coaley.  He married first in 1789 Mary Greening (3a), the daughter of Thomas and Sarah Greening of Cam.  She died in 1792 and in 1794, again in Cam, he married Ann Goodrich, the daughter of Edmund and Hester Goodrich who share the tomb (3c).  Samuel and Ann had two children, Mary, born in 1795, and Samuel, born 1796.  We believe the family still occupied the Tudor farmhouse. Samuel senior appears in Land Tax Assessments during the latter half of the 18th and early 19th centuries, owning and renting land in Coaley and in 1784 signing the record as one of the Assessors.  In 1789 he was Overseer of the Poor in Coaley.  However, evidence suggests that Samuel was influenced by the beliefs and practices of the Dissenters, who included the founders of Methodism, John and Charles Wesley, for in 1795 he signed, with three others, a petition to the Bishop of Gloucester requesting permission to hold meetings in Mr. Thomas White’s kitchen.  A further petition in 1807 requested that ‘the dwelling house of Samuel to be used as a place of religious worship by protestant dissenters as from 8th July instant.’   Shortly after this a chapel was built in Far Green.  Samuel died in 1815 and his memorial (3b) records that he was a ‘yeoman’.  His Will, a rambling document of seven pages covering all permutations of inheritance following his demise, shows that he was comfortably off, leaving land, investments and much property.  His wife Ann inherited ‘the Bed and Bedstead and ffurniture belonging thereto with the Chairs Tables and all other ffurniture standing and being in and belonging to my best Bedroom’, plus all the china and glass.  She died in 1838 (3b). 

Samuel and Ann’s daughter, Mary, married Philip Robinson and moved to Littledean.  Their son, Samuel, remained in Coaley, married Sarah Gazard in 1838 in North Nibley and they continued to live in the Tudor farmhouse.  A Terrier for Coaley taken in 1821 and the Tithe Map, circa 1840, show Samuel owning and renting land in Coaley, inheriting some from his father and acquiring more of his own.  Churchwardens’ Accounts reveal that he was, at various times, churchwarden and Overseer of the Poor.  During 1845 and 1846 the church bells underwent repair.  The first payment for the work was made but ‘the second payment of £103 in July 1846 was made possible by the advance of £35 1s. from a Mr. Joyner, this being the sum necessary to make the second and last payment for the repair of the bells’ (Gloucester Journal 17th April 1858).  Whether Samuel was repaid is not yet known but his generosity made it possible for the bells to be re-hung without delay.  Samuel died in 1864 (4a) and in his Will he describes himself as a ‘Gentleman’, one step higher than ‘yeoman’ on the social ladder. Sarah died in 1891 (4b).  Samuel and Sarah had two sons, Henry Augustus, born in 1840, and Charles Alfred, born in 1841.  In the 1851 census the boys were scholars at the school in Prospect Place, Dursley, run by Mr. Richard Goodrich, who was probably their mother’s nephew.  Sadly, Charles died of whooping cough aged 11 in 1855 (4a) but Henry followed in the footsteps of his father and forebears and continued to farm the family’s land in Coaley.   In 1901 Henry still lived in the family’s Tudor farmhouse but by 1911 had retired, sold the house and lands, the last of the family’s assets in Coaley, and moved to Gloucester, where he lodged with the Beach family in a modest terraced house.  He died in 1917, intestate, ‘a bachelor without parent, brother or sister uncle or aunt nephew or niece and not possessed of real estate’.  Probate was granted to Emma Gazard, a distant cousin, and his net estate proved to be just £1. 0. 9d.  It would be very interesting to know what he did with his money, but we guess it funded a comfortable lifestyle in retirement and he wanted for nothing.  Henry was the last member of the family to be buried in Coaley churchyard (4c).

We return now to William and Welthin’s youngest child, Robert, born in 1754, and who had an eye for the girls, judging by the evidence!  In 1780 he was summoned to the Consistory Court of Gloucester for having fathered an illegitimate child, whose mother, Sarah Browning, he did not marry.  The affair seems have been forgotten and/or forgiven for in 1784 he married Mary Dangerfield who gave birth in 1788 to their only child, William.  Mary died the following year (5a).  In 1791 and 1792 Robert was Churchwarden of Coaley, a position requiring a person to be of good standing in his community.  This was just eleven years after the Sarah Browning affair, so his misdemeanour seems to have been forgotten, or swept under the carpet!  However, in Coaley in July 1795 Martha Daw gave birth to a daughter, baptised, very significantly, Hannah Joyner but with no named father; a month later she married Robert!  They had two more children, Betty, born in 1796 and George in 1797.  Sadly, Martha died in December 1799 (5a) but by June the following year Robert had married his third wife, Hannah Champion, a widow from Old Sodbury.  Land Tax Assessments show that Robert owned and rented considerable tracts of land in the parish of Cam and eventually lived there.  He was a prosperous yeoman farmer and making a good living.  Robert died in 1804 aged 49 (5b), unexpectedly, we believe, as he left no Will but letters of Administration show that his estate was worth not less than £2,000 – a considerable sum in those days.  His third wife Hannah is the ‘lonely mournful widow’ referred to on his monumental inscription.  His daughter Betty married John Neems (6b) of Frog Lane Farm in 1825, henceforth calling herself Elizabeth (6a).  Their seven children included Elizabeth who married Philip Joyner Robinson, son of Mary and Philip Robinson and grandson of Samuel and Ann Joyner, thus uniting two branches of the family and founding the Joyner-Robinson family, who eventually emigrated to Australia.  As for George, the youngest, a Bastardy Bond dated 12th October 1821 recorded that on 11th June Maria Tiley gave birth to a male child, baptised George, and George Joyner of Stinchcombe was the father.  They did not marry and George remained a bachelor, eventually farming at Downton Farm in Frocester (5c).

William, the only son of Robert and Mary [nee Dangerfield], married Sarah Seaborn in 1820 in Stinchcombe, the marriage licence stating that both lived in that parish, so it is probable that this was where William was farming.  Baptism records for their nine children show that by the time their first child, William, was born in 1821 the family were living in Dursley. Their second son, Samuel, was also born there in 1823 but when their third son, John, arrived in 1825, they had moved to Stinchcombe, where, sadly, John died later that year.  Two more boys followed while the family lived and farmed in Stinchcombe – John in 1827 and Robert in 1830.  By the time the first of their four daughters was born the family had moved again, this time to Frocester, where they farmed at Downton until William’s death in 1861 (7a) when it was taken over by William’s son Robert.  William was a prosperous farmer, a ‘yeoman’, and in the Poor Law Assessment of 1826 his house and lands were the most highly rated in the parish of Stinchcombe.  In 1839 he was one of three leading farmers in Frocester, farming over 300 acres rented, as the Tithe Map shows, from John A. Graham-Clarke.  He was Overseer of the Poor for several years between 1839 and 1859.  With the introduction of general registration in 1837, causes of death were recorded and the Joyner family suffered various forms of tuberculosis, especially of abdominal organs, causing several untimely deaths.  Sarah, William’s wife, succumbed in 1844 (7a), followed by Mary Ann and Elizabeth in 1850 (7a), Ann in 1851 (7b) and Sarah in 1859 (7b).  The family’s herd of dairy cows would have provided unpasteurised milk for the family as well as customers and a doctor friend is almost certain that it was milk infected with bovine TB that caused their deaths.  In other words their cows were killing them but they would not have known it as identification of the TB bacillus and pasteurisation of milk were decades away.  Chronic hepatitis claimed Samuel in 1858.  After William’s death in 1861 the farm’s livestock was auctioned and his unmarried youngest son Robert took over the tenancy of Downton Farm with a reduced acreage but by 1891 he was living and farming with his older brother John in Slimbridge.  John married Hester Hayward and continued farming in Winstone, North Cerney and Slimbridge.  Of their three children, one moved to Cainscross and had a family who distinguished themselves academically.  William’s oldest son, also William, spread his wings and moved from Coaley to Botley, near Southampton, around 1850, becoming first a railway porter and then a dairyman, marrying twice and producing a family of 11 children.  Henry Joyner’s death in 1917 marked the end of the family’s connections with Coaley, and while the line may not continue in name, genetically it is alive and well with descendants not only in the United Kingdom but also Australia and the USA.

The memorial stone, set flat into the ground (8), bears no inscription but it has been suggested that this may be the tomb of a trusted servant, granted the honour of being buried among the family he or she served.

Sources for the above account include – Parish Records; Tithe Maps; Churchwardens’ Accounts; Census Returns; Land Tax Assessments, GRO Records; Gloucester Diocesan Records; ‘Historical Monumental Genealogical Collections Relative to the County of Gloucester’ by Ralph Bigland.

I am indebted to my cousin John Joyner, last of our line to bear the name, for sharing with me his knowledge of the Joyner family.

Angela J. Newbury (descendant of the Joyner family)