We have just uploaded digital images of a further 22,500 wills to our Essex Ancestors online subscription service (more on this here), and to mark the occasion here we take a look at one of our earliest wills…
Most medieval Essex wills relate to the nobility and major landowners. These were proved at the courts of the Bishop of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury and are not deposited in the Essex Record Office.
However, during the 15th century, making a will became more common and a small number of 15th century wills survive among the records of the archdeaconry of Essex (D/AEW).
Among these is the will of Richard Leget of Hornchurch, dated 10 September 1484 (D/AEW 1/212). The will itself is in Latin and Leget begins by leaving his soul to God, the Blessed [Virgin] Mary and all the saints and his body to buried in the parish church of St. Andrew. He made a bequest of 8d. to the ‘Lord Abbot’ there [at Hornchurch] (there had been a priory in the parish until it was dissolved and granted to New College, Oxford in 1391). He left to John Hubbart a mattress, two blankets, two linen sheets and a coverlet, requested that all his debts be paid and left everything else to his wife Alice.
On the reverse of the will is a list of his debts, giving names and amounts. There are two further lists in English stitched to the will. The first of these is a list of money spent on the burial by Thomas Herde, one of the executors. A total of 12s. 9d. was spent and amounts included 16d. for a ‘wyndyng cloth’, 14d. to the priest and clerk for the ‘deyrge’ [dirge] and mass, 4d. for ‘lyth’ [light], 8d. for the knell and priest, 8d. for bread and 12d. for ale, 21d. for ‘month mynde’ paid to the priest and clerk and 12d. to the sexton for the grave.
There is also an inventory of his goods, beginning with his clothes – a gown of murray worth 5s. 4d., a blue gown worth 3s., a doublet worth 8d., a pair of hose worth 12d., an ‘olde cloke of blak’ valued at 8d.. It continues with household goods including a kettle valued at 2s. 4d., a brass pot, 2s., a ‘fryyng panne’ 8d., and also includes a brass posset (8d.), 31lbs. of pewter (5s. 2d.), three candlesticks (6d.), a ‘lanterne’ (3d.), a mattock (8d.) and a cart (2s. 8d.).
The recent upload of 22,500 wills to Essex Ancestors means that images of all our wills before c.1720 are now available online. You can access Essex Ancestors from home as a subscriber, or for free in the Searchroom at the ERO in Chelmsford or at our Archive Access Points in Saffron Walden and Harlow. It will shortly be provided at Waltham Forest Archives. Opening hours vary, so please check before you visit.
Before you subscribe please check that the documents you need exist and have been digitised at http://seax.essexcc.gov.uk/
You can view a handy video guide to using Essex Ancestors here.