The story of Sarah Enchmarch is the perfect story to tell on International Women’s Day 2022.

Sarah Enchmarch was the daughter of Merchant Peter Bere. She married Thomas Enchmarch in Exeter in December 1700, who had served his apprenticeship with her father. Thomas would later become the business partner of her brother Francis, until Francis died in 1722.

Sarah and Thomas had 10 children that we know of. Nine survived childhood; Sarah, Elizabeth, Eleanor, Frances, Mary, Ann, Thomas, Richard and Francis, and one child Peter Bere Enchmarch who died in 1714.

After the death of her husband Thomas, she took over the family business along with her eldest child Thomas Jnr. She was the dominant figure in the business and responsible for not only building it up but also maintaining it, eventually becoming one of the main merchants in Tiverton. She had dealings with traders in the cloth trade in Exeter, had shares in ships from the port of Topsham, Devon, that would export her cloth but would also become a Privateer when the cloth trade was poor.

She owned many properties in Tiverton and rebuilt the family home in Bampton Street, Tiverton, called Bampton House; “a large and elegant brick house, which adjoined at the rear the most convenient mercantile apartments in Tiverton” Martin Dunsford’s description in his book ‘History of Tiverton’ 1795. Unfortunately the house was demolished in the 60’s but the staircase survives as the main staircase here in the museum, so everyday people are literally walking in Sarah’s footsteps.

She would have been a formidable business woman, when she died she left for her surviving children and grandchildren not only the business but a fortune in money and property. Her granddaughter Eleanor Coade inherited her skill for business, setting up the business Coade & Sealy which produced the famous ‘Coade Stone’ that can be found decorating prestigious buildings around the UK.

Written by Museum Volunteer Kim