NOT ALL THE MEMBERS OF ROBERT HERRICK'S CONGREGATION were farmers. Among the names that appear in the parish register for baptisms and weddings and burials are those of the Giles family and the Northleigh, the Lowmans and the Yards.
The most distinguished member of the gentry in Dean Prior was Sir Edward Giles, lord of the manor. Sir Edward was a baronet, having been knighted by King James, and when he returned to Devon in all the glory of his new title his father was inclined to tease him a little about it. The family seat was at Bowden, where Sir Edward had been born, but since he was childless he made one of his relatives his heir and moved his own household to Dean Prior. When Herrick knew him he was about fifty years old, a country gentleman who had served faithfully in Parliament during two reigns and was now living peacefully in retirement with his wife Mary. His handsome house, Dean Court, stood in its walled park about half a mile from Herrick's vicarage, with a fireplace that was large enough for the most magnificent of Yule logs.
Sir Edward died at Christmastime, seven years after Herrick became vicar of Dean Prior, and he was buried in the parish church on the twenty-eighth of December, 1637. His wife continued to live in Dean Prior and her death is recorded five years later, but his house went to the relatives that Sir Edward had made his heirs. They had married into the Yard family and it was Edward Yard who moved into Dean Court, with the carved plaster ceiling in the hall and the family coat of arms so prominently displayed. He was evidently already a resident of Dean Prior, for the year before Sir Edward died Herrick had baptized