Includes a pdf of my father's 1979 account of the involvement of my presumed grandfather Philip Hoskyns Bryant in the 1892 Murders in Peter Tavy (click on Cecil Leonard's 1979 account, below)

           My father Captain Cecil Leonard (1913-2001) was the eldest son of Chief Engine Room Artificer Emmanuel Leonard (d 1930 in Auckland, New Zealand whilst serving on HMS Laburnum), who was in action at the First World War Battle of Jutland, perhaps on HMS Vivid, and later on HMS Blenheim, HMS Apollo and HMS Warspite, and my beautiful grandmother Ethel Mary Leonard (1891-1967, née Howell), who led a very fraught and at times impoverished life in Plymouth (my home town). Her mother was the convivial and similarly beautiful Prothesa Roberts, a dressmaker from Plympton St. Mary. Prothesa’s mother was Mary (Grandma) Roberts, a Plympton midwife. Mary was married to a gardener; her father was a wealthy builder in Plymouth. She lived in a house built for her by her father, and she is buried with her husband in a corner of the graveyard of St. Mary's Church, Plympton. 

          Mary Roberts came from the Jillard (Guillard) Huguenot family, who escaped to Plymouth from La Rochelle in an open boat in 1681. The family of the Fourth Duke of Condé escaped from France to Plymouth in 1685. Several Huguenot families, including the Lemmons, landed in Plymouth, and others founded New Rochelle near New York. La Rochelle is a beautiful seaport on the Bay of Biscay with a proud Huguenot history.

           My father spent many years trying to identify the errant young man who fathered my grandmother, her older sister Georgina Bryant Roberts (1889 -1951), and her younger brother Cecil George (or George Cecil) Howell, b1893 ( a very handsome man who worked as a Plymouth City Administrator after an initial career in the office of the lawyer and philanthropist Sir Isaac Foot).  According to the last two birth certificates, the father’s name was George Howell. However,  according Cecil Howell, and to Tom Doidge, Prothesa’s second spouse and a station master at North Road Station, Plymouth, the rogue in question was a son of the Reverend Dr. Francis Bryant of St. Peter’s Church, Peter Tavy and his wife Jane Hoskyns Abrahall (who is listed with all of her noble ancestors in Burke’s Peerage). Francis Bryant obtained his undergraduate degree and DD from Wadham College London, and his eminent career (he was previously the Vicar of Brentor) is recorded in the archives of the college. His father, also Francis Bryant, was a gentleman who lived in the St. Andrews Parish of Holborn, London. According to my Uncle John Leonard, Cecil Howell thought that my father and his similarly handsome younger brothers Jim and John closely resembled the male Bryants of Peter Tavy, and John was led to believe that he was very similar in looks to his maternal grandfather.


           The name George Bryant appears on a spoon that my grandmother gave to her oldest daughter who grew up believing that this was the name of her grandfather, but none of Francis Bryant’s sons were called George.  In 1966, my father met a female member of the Bryant family in the graveyard of St. Peter’s Church, Peter Tavy and, during a detailed conversation over dinner, she said that the only possible candidate from Peter Tavy was Francis’s son Philip Hoskyns Bryant, the black sheep of the family, who’d reportedly sired two children with an ‘actress’ in Plymouth around the time in question. My second cousin Sarah Dixon has a document written by my father at the time, which gives more details of this important discovery. Philip could have used the names George Bryant and George Howell as pseudonyms, or there could be some other explanation for the occurrence of these names. My older daughter has been unable to trace any George Howell living anywhere in the West Country at that time.

           After my grandmother was widowed with five children and without a pension in 1930, she contemplated asking her father for help, at which time she told my father that the gentleman in question came from the Bryant family in Peter Tavy.

Philip Hoskyns Bryant with his sister Florence and his mother Jane Hoskyns Abrahall Bryant (wife of the Squire of Peter Tarvy, the Rev. Dr. Francis J. Bryant)
outside the rectory of St Peter's Church, Peter Tavy in 1907.  Ref. 1004/9 Plymouth City archives.  Discovered on the Internet by Tom's older daughter in 2004.


Tom's father Cecil Leonard and his mother Ethel May (Rhona) Leonard in Saltash, Cornwall about 1970.


           A few years ago, my daughter discovered a picture on the Internet of Philip Hoskyns Bryant, taken with his mother and sister in 1907 outside the church rectory in Peter Tavy. Philip bore a close resemblance to my father Cecil Leonard, and when I and a biomedical colleague compared all of their facial features, we, quite remarkably, observed a virtually perfect match.  This is even better than evaluating DNA evidence, which might not be able to distinguish Philip as my great grandfather from a Bryant who was not a member of the Peter Tavy family e.g. a Bryant who was a wealthy coal merchant in Bridgewater, Somerset, who my brother has also considered. Philip died in the London Blitz in 1941 and is buried several yards behind his parents’ elaborate grave in St. Peter’s courtyard, quite fittingly in an obscure tomb under the roots of a tree. He’d been disowned by his father in his 1907 will.

           Another of Philip's girlfriends was reportedly the young choirgirl Emma Doidge, one of the two victims of the nationally reported 1892 murders outside St. Peter's Church, Peter Tavy, and Philip may well have been the intended male victim. The murderer William 'Blucher' Williams thought that he'd killed the 'blaggard' who'd taken Emma away from him. My father told me that when Philip testified at the murder trial, he said that he'd had an affair with Emma shortly before the murders, but I've been unable to discover a written record of his testimony (The court hearing was in Tavistock Guildhall and the trial was at Exeter Assizes. Philip is known to have ridden a horse from Peter Tavy to Tavistock to seek help for the victims). Another supposed 'blaggard' committed suicide after he was harassed and hounded by his neighbours.
           According to Burke’s Peerage, I am therefore descended from the Hoskyns Abrahalls, who include a couple of headmasters of top public schools and some top-ranking clergymen. I am also descended from the first and second Barons Hoskyns, and from the noble Abrahalls who came over from France during the Middle Ages and whose heraldic motif is a hedgehog. My father would have been delighted to know that he really was of noble descent!
27th February 2013:  An e-mail message to Tom Leonard from Scarlett (née) Hoskyns-Abrahall

While googling to find out who the two C H Hoskyns-Abrahalls on the war memorial in Tavistock were, I came across your name.
I'm Scarlett (née) Hoskyns-Abrahall and now live in Malborough, and my sister lives in Aveton Gifford, not too far away from Flete House.

What a small world!  I come from the Chandos Hoskyns-Abrahall part of the family.

So - Hello, Cousin!

Thank you for contacting me, Scarlett. This is probably the first time that a member of the Howell/Leonard family has been in contact with one of our Hoskyns- Abrahall relatives. I'll correspond with you further to see whether we can exchange any further useful information.
           My grandfather Emmanuel Leonard’s grandfather was my namesake Thomas Leonard, who captained a sailing barque out of Devonport to Sierra Leone, where he died of blackwater fever. According to my cousin Janette’s researches, Emmanuel’s mother Lydia Powell was descended from a tanner who lived in Totnes, Devonshire, during the eighteenth century, and also from a lady from Bermuda. My brother has investigated my beautiful mother Ethel Selina May (Rhona) Leonard’s ancestry. This was until recently a mystery to us, since she was adopted. She comes from the Daniels family in Bedford.
While the evidence effectively proves that Philip Hoskyns Bryant was my grandmother's father, it is possible that her sister Georgina and brother Cecil were instead fathered by a Bryant living in Bridgwater, and that the two young Bryants shared Prothesa as their lover. The descendents of Cecil Howell, who include my second cousin Sarah Dixon, should contact my brother for a discussion of Cecil's more likely father. I know of further family evidence, relating to Sir Isaac Foot's efforts to obtain financial support for Uncle Cecil from the Bryant family, to suggest that Cecil's father was not a son of the Reverend Dr. Francis Bryant.
My 67 page document 'A Selected History of the Extended Leonard Family, Their Ancestors and Relatives' (2004, Revised 2005) contains lots of detailed information. It is written for my grandchildren, and I will try to update it later. If any relatives would like a copy then please e-mail me or my older daughter.
22nd November 2012.
According to my brother's inquiry to British which I have just googled, the evidence that Cecil Howell's father was Howell George Bryant of Bridgwater is still inconclusive, since George Howell's supposed signature in Prothesa's sister's birthday book does not match. Please also note that no father is named on Georgina Bryant's birth certificate. However on p42 of my detailed 2004 document, I state:
'In August 2004 Uncle John Leonard sent me a family tree largely prepared by an elderly Ronald Roberts. I immediately noticed a mysterious entry 'George Howell Bryant' describing the name of Prothesa's first partner.'
I see no convincing evidence to suggest that this was not one of Philip Hoskyns Bryant's pseudonyms. My father told me that he was thought to use them. I understand that my brother was inspired by my 2004 document to google his own inquiries. While there is no substantive evidence to suggest that Howell George Bryant of Bridgwater was related to the Bryants of Peter Tavy, this is a reasonable assumption. Philip also became a coal merchant (or coal carrier) after he was disowned by his father (who was born in Somerset).
Furthermore, 'George Howell'''s birthday in Prothesa's sister's book does match Howell George Bryant's birthday, a fascinating piece of evidence that was discovered by my brother. He has also discovered that my grandmother Ethel May Howell was born in Bridgwater, rather than Poole as stated on her birth certificate.
Maybe Howell was unaware that Philip Bryant was her real father. The plot thickens.
Since somebody else seems to have made up the father's name George Howell (commercial traveller) on the two birth certificates, the names in the birthday book may also be forgeries. These may have been performed, at some point in time, for the purpose of providing misleading evidence. Maybe everything, also relating to Philip Bryant's involvement in the murders in Peter Tavy, has been a big cover up, to protect the good names of the Bryant and Hoskyns Abrahall families.
In her letter of 21st. November 2012, my second cousin Sarah Dixon (the daughter of Margaret and Jimmy Wyatt) refers to her grandpa Cecil George Howell. She says that 'I had always understood he (Cecil Howell's father) was a young(er) son of a well-to-do family (maybe the Bryants you refer to in your letter)'.
Click here for a pdf of CECIL LEONARD'S 1979 ACCOUNT  (click on back browser to return to this page)
Historical Note: Contains hitherto unpublished information about the 1892 murders in Peter Tavy, relating to the involvement of Philip Hoskyns Bryant. A historic mystery has been solved. See also the article on the murders by the historian Gerry Woodcock in Tavistock's Yesterdays Vol 8 1992, Westcountry Studies Library, Exeter. Woodcock thought that the identity of the blaggard who had stolen Emma Doidge (the female victim) from the murderer William Blucher Williams was a complete mystery. We now know that the blaggard was Philip Hoskyns Bryant. My thanks to my brother for sending me a copy of my father's article on 26th November 2012.

Tom's great grandmother Prothesa Mary Roberts
in about 1900


Tom's grandmother Ethel Mary Leonard
in about 1920


December 3rd 2012: E-mail from Janette (Barbour) Hatton (Hamilton, Ontario)

My second cousin Janette is my grandfather Emmanuel Leonard’s lovely sister Olive Hunt’s oldest granddaughter. She and the Barbour family lived kitty corner from me in Mannamead, Plymouth when I was child, with their well fed peke Chunky Chu (who got the chicken), and our mothers (Rhona and Audrey) were the greatest of pals.

         Janette says that she is spending more time problem-solving the family genealogy, now that she has finally retired; she will soon send me an account of the family trees, with notes.

         Janette has recently obtained a copy of the indenture of our ancestor Nicholas Powell of Totnes as an apprentice tanner in 1803. He was born in 1785 and married Elizabeth Kelly (born 1788) in 1816 at St. Peter’s in Plymouth. Nicholas Powell lived a good age, dying in 1858.

         Janette sent me a copy of a photo of Leonards and Hunts camping in Newton Ferrers in 1939. The boys in the picture include my Uncle John Leonard (aged 10) and Janette’s Uncle Kenneth Hunt (Auntie Olive’s American son. He served in the US Army during the Second World War and afterwards took a degree in Business at Columbia on the GI Bill) who was the father, with a French wife, of my five long-lost Hunt second cousins.


I am trying to persuade Janette’s oldest brother Terry Barbour to produce a television programme about the family’s discoveries relating to the 1892 murders in Peter Tavy. The murderer William Williams was successfully executed in Exeter in 1893. This was the first hanging in Exeter after the hangman failed, despite three traumatic attempts, to execute the Babbacombe murderer John Lee in 1885. Terry completed the research for the much-celebrated BBC2 programme 'The Man They Couldn't Hang---John Lee', which was televised on 1st February 1975.


My Canadian second cousin Greg Benton is a retired Catholic priest who lives on a farm in Ontario. Greg is one of my grandfather Emmanuel Leonard’s Torquay United and Toronto Devonians footballer brother Ernest’s ten grandchildren. During early November he made his website available on Google, and this includes some inspiring music and videos on PiddWicks. (It is easiest to google Chief Engine Room Artificer Emmanuel Leonard HMS Laburnum)

         Greg honours my grandfather’s seafaring exploits with original film footage from Devonport, the Battle of the Atlantic and HMCS Halifax in stormy seas.

         The film footage is accompanied on PiddWicks by the naval hymn, Eternal Father Strong to Save, sung by the Ely Cathedral Choir, with music by the band of the US Marine Corps, a wonderfully soulful experience. Thank you Greg!

         Greg also commemorates his grandfather Sergeant Ernest Leonard (1890-1958), who was married to the lovely Rosie West Leonard. Uncle Ernest enlisted in the army in Canada and was sent with the 19th Battalion of the Second Canadian Expeditionary Force to fight with the Canadian Corps of the First British Army.

         Uncle Ernest fought in France from 1915 to 1918, and was at the Battle of the Somme and Vimy Ridge. He was twice wounded by shrapnel and enemy fire, a devastatingly horrifying experience.



Ernest, Edward and Emmanuel Leonard photographed around 1918



Olive and Emmanuel Leonard in 1919


  © Thomas Hoskyns Leonard, 2012 - 2013