Karslake of Nymet St George

In the church of Nymet St George (also known as George Nympton) is buried William Karslake (c1711 – 1769) of South Molton (gent.)  So says the inscription on the tablet erected to his memory by his wife, Sarah Karslake.

Karslake 1


At the top of the tablet, above the urn and weeping cherub, is a coat of arms, or rather two coats of arms joined side by side to represent the husband and the wife.

Karslake 1 imp Karslake apparently +.JPG

The husband’s arms are “always” shown on the left side as you look at it, and the wife’s on the right.

Here, there a few oddities – not necessarily (or even probably) errors, but begging for some explanation.

First, the colours of the coat of arms seen on the left, “Argent, a chevron Or between three owls Proper.”  “Or” (gold or yellow) is rarely placed directly on “Argent” (silver or white,) and vice versa.  Are the arms correct as shown or has the artist or restorer taken liberties with the colouring?

Normally, we would browse around to see what colours are recorded this instance or others of this family’s arms. In this case no similar arms are listed under Karslake, Carslake or Kerslake in the usual sources or elsewhere that we have yet found.  This monument may be the sole occurrence.

On the right, the arms are “argent, a bull’s head erased sable.”  Several sources show that these arms had been used by members of the Karslake family for well over a century before our William and Sarah.  Odd, because the right side, as seen, is for the wife’s coat of arms.  The simplest explanation is that Sarah was born a Karslake, and married a man of the same surname, probably unrelated in any close degree by blood.  Another possibility is that William was not born a Karslake, but changed his name on marriage, keeping his own coat of arms.  A third possibility is that the arms on the left are not a family coat of arms but are the arms belonging to an office or function – in that case, they belong on that side, with William’s arms on the right, as seen.  Yet another possibility is that the arms do not relate to the inscription, but belong to some other daughter of the Karslake tribe and her husband.

We have not yet found any genealogical information for William or Sarah, beyond what is shown on the tablet.  The usual sources offer no family or institutional candidates for the chevron between three owls, in the colours displayed.  Any further information would be received with our usual overwhelming gratitude.



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