Risdon, Tristram (DNB00)

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RISDON, TRISTRAM (1580?–1640), topographer, born at Winscot St. Giles, near Torrington, Devonshire, about 1580, was eldest son of William Risdon (d. 1622), who was third son of Giles Risdon of Bableigh, Parkham, Devonshire. His mother Joan (d. 1610) was daughter of George Pollard, of Langley, High Bickington, Devonshire, and relict of Michael Barry (d. 1570) of Winscot. Wood, in his inaccurate account of him, conjectures that ‘about the end of Elizabeth's reign’ he entered either Exeter College or Broadgates Hall (now Pembroke College), Oxford, but left the university without a degree. He inherited the estate of Winscot from his half-sister on the mother's side, Thomazin Barry, wife of John Tripconey of Gulvall, Cornwall, who died childless. Here he himself died in June 1640, and was buried in St. Giles's church on the 23rd of that month. In 1608 he married Pascha, daughter of Thomas Chaff or Chafe (d. 1605) of Chaffcombe, Somerset, and Exeter, by whom he had issue two sons, Giles (1608–1644) and William, and two daughters, Margaret (d. 1630) and Joan. After the death of Giles, the elder son, without issue, and of Mary Risdon, daughter of the second son William, who, though four times married, left no surviving issue, Winscot came to Robert Lovett, son of Edward Lovett of Tavistock, Devonshire, by the heiress of James Hearle (d. 1660) of Corfe, Tawstock, who had married Joan (d. 1662), Risdon's younger daughter (Drake, Devonshire Notes, p. 211).

Risdon lived on intimate terms with his brother topographers, Sir William Pole (1561–1635) [q. v.] and Thomas Westcote (fl. 1639) [q. v.], and derived much assistance from their collections. His ‘Chorographical Description or Survey of Devon,’ commenced in 1605 and completed in 1630, was circulated in manuscript copies until 1714, when a garbled edition was issued by Edmund Curll [q. v.] in two small octavo volumes (reissued in 1723, and by another publisher, Meres, in 1725 and 1733). In 1772 William Chapple [q. v.] issued proposals for a new edition, with a continuation to his own time, but lived to complete only a small part of it, which was published in 1785, four years after his death. In 1811 an excellent edition was published from a manuscript belonging to John Coles of Stonehouse. It was jointly edited by one of the publishers, Rees of Plymouth; by John Taylor, F.R.S., of Holwell House, near Tavistock, who contributed sixty-eight pages of additional matter containing the history of property in some parishes down to that period; by William Woollcombe, M.D., of Plymouth; and by the Rev. John Swete of Oxton House, Kenton, Devonshire (Western Antiquary, vi. 218). An index to the ‘Survey,’ by Arthur B. Prowse, M.D., was commenced in the ‘Transactions’ of the Devonshire Association for 1894 (xxvi. 419).

Risdon was apparently a puritan, somewhat inclined to preach and moralise, but his observations are nowhere obtrusive. Many quaint touches are met with throughout the book. In Risdon are told for the first time the old Devonshire stories of Elflida and Ethelwold, of Childe the Hunter, Budockside and his daughter, and the Tiverton Fire.

Risdon also left in manuscript a ‘Notebook’ containing further genealogical and heraldic collections on Devonshire. It is preserved in the library of the dean and chapter at Exeter, and has been edited from the original manuscript by James Dallas and Henry G. Porter, 1897.

[Trans. of Devonshire Assoc. vii. 79, xiv. 48, 79 (with list of manuscript copies of the ‘Survey’); Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. ii. 572; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), ii. 609; Prince's Worthies of Devon, 1701, p. 547; Lysons's Magna Britannia, vol. vi. pt. i. p. ccxii, pt. ii. pp. i. 2, 246–7; Risdon's Survey, ed. 1811, introduction and p. 421; Pridham's Devonshire Collections, pp. 204–5; Notes and Gleanings, i. 152, 174; Upcott's English Topography, pp. 146–9; Lowndes's Bibl. Manual (Bohn), p. 2097; Allibone's Dict. of Authors, ii. 1810; Davidson's Bibl. Devon.]

G. G.