Thomas Davister Tolcher
A tragic accident
Thomas Davister Tolcher was born in Holne in 1829 the son of John Tolcher and Jane Knapman.
He was the eldest of 9 children, and was baptised on 24th January 1830 at Holne.
His father was a gardener at Holm Park in Holne but by the time of the 1841 census young Thomas
is not living at home. In 1851 he is recorded at Church Street, Morchard Bishop , Crediton,
Devon, where he is the groom to the local curate. Eliza Burch is the cook at the same place and in
July of that year they married at Crediton. Within a few months they had their first child Thomas
suggesting that theirs was a marriage of necessity, but they then went on to have three more
Thomas and Eliza moved on from Crediton to work at Holm Chase in Holne where they were in
service, but eventually they moved to Cornwall to work as groom and cook to a Major Coker at
Prideaux, Luxulyan near to St Austell. It is unclear which house on the Prideaux estate was the one
rented to Major Coker.
It was here that Thomas died in a tragic accident. His death is recorded in the local newspapers at
the time and he is commemorated on the tombstone at Luxulyan churchyard.
In the churchyard at Luxulyan. Cornwall. is a monument
by iron rails 12 feet by 10 feet with the following inscriptions on either side.
In the midst, of life we are in death. In a. grave beneath lie, the mortal remains of Lewis
Coker. of Bicester House Oxfordshire Esqr, later Brevet Major in H.M. 29th Reg who,
together with his servant was accidentally drowned in a Pond near Prideaux in this Parish
April 19th 1858) aged 37 years.
Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven. Here also lie EDITH MAUD and GERALD
CADWALLADER two children of Lewis Coker who rests beneath. They died and were
buried in the same, Grave within a, few days of their loving father. E M. C. aged 3 years,
died March 8 and G. E. C aged 1 year died April 19 1858.
Inside the rail and by the side of the monument there is a tombstone to the memory of
Thomas Tolcher. The following is the inscription :
Beneath lies the body of Thomas Tolcher who together with his master was accidentally
drowned April 9th. 1858 aged 27 years. "Ye know not when the time is. Watch ye
Burial Register, of Lostwithiel, CORNWALL. 1858 records the following tragic events for the
March 11Edith Maud Coker, aged 3 years 7 months
April 14 Lewis Coker, aged 37 years, Thomas Tolcher, aged 27 years.
(There is a note opposite the entries of the above two names as follows : " Drowned in the pond at
Prideaux by the accidentally upsetting of a small boat")
April 21 Gerald Cadwallader Coker, aged 13 months.
The following account of the death of Major Coker 's taken from Woolmer's "Exeter and Plymouth
Gazette" of Saturday, 17 April 1858:
"FATAL ACCIDENT in CORNWALL"
On Thursday last Major Coker, Royal Miners Artillery, was, with his coachman, drowned in a
fishpond on the Prideaux Estate near St. Blazey, which he rented of Sir Coleman Rashleigh. It
appeared that the pond was overgrown with weed, to clear which a flat-bottomed punt belonging
to a sailing boat was upset, and both its occupants became entangled in the weed and were
Under Deaths " in the same paper the notice
"Coker, _-April 9th at Prideaux, Cornwall, accidentally drowned, Lewis Coker Esqre. of Bicester
House, Bicester, Oxfordshire late Brevet-Major H M. 29th Regiment in the 38th Year of his age.
Also at the same time., and place. Thomas Tolcher, a faithful and attached servant aged 27 year"
HOLNE MONUMENT TO MAJOR L COKER
In the village of Holne, near Ashburton Devonshire, is a granite obelisk surrounded by an iron
railing made by the local blacksmith which commemorates this and was erected at the family's
Ironically Thomas' brother George Henry Tolcher was also working as a domestic servant at the
same place and died in December of the same year of 'Enysiphelas and surpura Haemorrhgica'. His
mother is recorded as being present at his death aged 20 and he is also buried in the same
Map indicating Prideaux estate 1888
Modern map of the area indicating site
Holne Chase (now a hotel)
Holne Chase (now a hotel)