Polperro Family History
The TOMS family of Polperro
The Toms family was present in Polperro in large numbers during the 17th and 18th centuries though by 1900 their numbers had dwindled to just two families.
Even today, however, mention of the family in Polperro invariably revives memories of the infamous incident at the end of the 18th century when the murder of a Customs officer led to the trial and execution of one of the crew of the Lottery, a Polperro boat caught in the act of unloading contraband goods.
The chief prosecution witness in the case was Roger Toms, a swarthy, balding man in his early 40s. He had been captured by a Revenue vessel along with other members of the Lottery crew and was persuaded to testify against a fellow crewman, Tom Potter, in return for his freedom. After Potter's trial at the Old Bailey and subsequent execution in December 1800, Roger Toms remained at Newgate gaol for the rest of his life as an assistant turnkey, fearing for his life should he ever return to his home in Polperro. One contemporary account of the incident records that "even his children learned to detest him, and to this day his name is a term of reproach."
Roger Toms had married Martha Mark at Talland church in 1783 and the couple had nine children before the tragedy of the Lottery resulted in his exile from Polperro.
Subsequent generations were involved in fishing or farming, and today there are still members of the Toms family living in Polperro.
Further information on the family would also be welcomed.
Jeremy Rowett Johns, Polperro Heritage Museum © 2000