Eliza Yeo 1840-1917

Eliza has often been described as ‘a real character of Mortehoe’. For those of you who have visited the Mortehoe Heritage Museum you will have seen her wax work figurine at the top of the stairs and perhaps already know a little about her.

At the age of sixteen Eliza married John Yeo, he is believed to have killed a man in a cornfield in what was described as a pitchfork battle, John fled to Mortehoe where he would be given immunity against his crime and would later meet and marry Eliza.

Following their marriage in 1856 in Mortehoe Parish Church, the young couple would live in a cottage at Warcombe Farm. Their home would have had no running water, and would have been extremely basic and sparse. The couple lost three infants at a very young age before going on to have 11 children. John would work as a labourer, helping to construct the Lee Golf Course, and later he would help with the railway track on the Woolacombe Road. He was renowned as a rabbit trapper locally.

Eliza however was considered the boss of the family, and worked very hard to provide food and an income for her family. As the family grew they moved to Mortehoe Village.

Eliza would raise baby ducklings which she fed on limpets brought up in sacks from the beach, once raised, the ducklings would be sold to a local farmer, keeping some for the family to eat. She would send her children to Lee Bay to fetch the flour for her to make bread. The family would live off the shore, with a diet of limpets, winkles, laver, prawns and shell fish.

As tourism started to flourish in the area, Eliza started taking in paying guests into their home. She was known for walking down to Rockham bay and ringing a loud bell to summon her guests to dinner. It would have been hard work looking after the guests, providing meals, washing all the bedding etc

Eliza died aged 77 in 1917, John died a few years later. Eliza and John left over 500 descendants to this day.

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