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Woodborough’s Heritage

Woodborough, a Sherwood Forest Village, recorded in Domesday

Wills and Inventories part 2 - Woodborough Wills

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Wills and Inventories by Peter Saunders

It is fortunate that Woodborough was in the Peculiar of Southwell, for the Peculiar Court dealt with the making of inventories of a deceased person’s goods and also with the proving of wills. Copies of these inventories and wills from about 1567 to 1750 were filed and preserved and are now kept at the Nottingham Record [Archive] Office.

The Peculiar Court’s ruling was that when a person died, the Executor or Administrator had to take the will to the church court to obtain probate. In addition an inventory of all the goods and chattels of the deceased, such as money, clothes, household goods, livestock, crops both growing and harvested, farm tools and equipment and leases of property, but not land or property itself, had to be presented to the court by the executor, usually in Woodborough, this was the widow or next of kin.

There was an obligation, usually in the form of a bond, half in Latin and half in English, binding the executor and his or her sureties to produce an inventory. The sureties were often relatives, parish officers or respected members of the village. A court scribe usually made two copies of an inventory, one to be exhibited and the other to be preserved in the court register. The Executor was also responsible for paying all the debts and legacies of the deceased and paying the court and church fees, funeral costs and presenting to the court a detailed account of all these expenses. Very few of these accounts remain for Woodborough, but those that do show the division of the remaining assets of the deceased according to the custom of the Province of York. It is from these wills and inventories that a picture of life in the village at that time can be constructed.

Format of Woodborough Wills

Woodborough wills in the 17th century, were, with two unusual exceptions, all started in a similar way, with only minor variations. The usual introduction was as follows:

In the name of God, Amen, the second day of December ano domini, one thousand, six hundred and fifteen, I Henry Alvey of Woodborough in the County of Nottingham, yeoman, being weak in body but of perfect mind and memory, praised be God, do make this my last will and testament in manner and form as follows.

‘First I bequeath my soul to Almighty God, and my body to be buried in the churchyard of Woodborough at the discretion of my Executor hereinafter named’.

Then would follow the bequests and legacies to the deceased’s wife, family, relations and friends, and to perhaps the village poor and the church. Occasionally the more wealthy residents would remember the servants in their will. In addition to money the sons in general were heirs to the land and received implements, tools and articles of husbandry. The daughters usually benefited in the way or furniture, household utensils particularly of brass and pewter, and bed linen. Sons and daughters often received livestock, especially cows, a valuable asset in those days, whilst grandchildren, nephews and nieces and godchildren had small sums of money or an ewe and a lamb. Children who had grown up and left home were evidently provided for at the time of their departure, in the case of daughters, on their marriage. They were frequently left one shilling as their child’s portion, either to show that they had not been forgotten or more probably to ensure that they made no further claim on the estate.

Elizabeth Wheeler, a widow, in 1733, whose husband had already provided for the older sons in the family when he died, stated in her will:

‘I give and bequeath to my four sons John, Samuel, Joseph and Jonathon, each one shilling to debar them from any other right or claim which they might otherwise have’. Her younger sons, however, were well provided for financially in her will.

In the majority of wills, where the wife survived the husband, she was made sole executrix, but if the wife had pre-deceased the husband, close relatives, usually the children if they had come of age, were named as executors. Where there were only young children or no children at all, local worthies or parish officers seemed to have been chosen. In several cases in the earlier period between 1567 and 1620 there were not only executors appointed but also supervisors to help the executors or ensure the deceased’s wishes were carried out. Who, we may wonder, saw that the supervisors did their work correctly.

Some wills ended with the phrase such as

‘in witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this second day of December 1615’ or an alternative ending coming after the naming of the executor was ‘these being witnesses’ with the witness’s names or marks.

The following paragraph introduced the inventory of Richard Barnes of Woodborough, a weaver, who was buried, according to the parish register, on 27th October 1612

an inventorie of all the goodes and chattels of Richard Barnes of Woodborough in the County of Nott, webster, late deceased beeinge taken and prized the thirde day of November ano domini 1612 by John Bolde, Gent., Nicholas Lees, John Clerke, the elder and Thomas Alvie’.

            Seventeenth century coffer                                    17th century ark                17th century turkey chair     17th century tester bed

The Inventory

In Woodborough the choice of the appraisers or valuers of a deceased person’s goods and chattels seems to have depended to some extent on the social standing of the dead person. One appraiser obviously had to be literate enough to write the inventory and sign his own name, the other two or three appraisers frequently could only make their marks, but were capable of valuing the deceased’s good and what to them seemed to be their true worth at the time. Sometimes the appraisers were Overseers of the Poor, Churchwardens, Constables, and respected members of the community, neighbours or occasionally next of kin. However, the same names occur as appraisers on many of the inventories and wills in a particular period. The appraisers, always named, usually stated that it was a true and perfect inventory, giving the date when the deceased’s possessions were priced or valued.

In earlier Woodborough inventories the integrity and honesty of the appraisers were emphasised such as:

‘these honest men’, ‘these four indifferent men’ or ‘indifferently elected and chosen’.

These terms were mainly used of the appraisers in the period 1588 to 1612, the word indifferent being used to mean impartial.

It is not possible to tell how thoroughly the appraisers priced the goods and chattels. Some, no doubt, did the work conscientiously but, if they were busy sowing, harvesting or ploughing, they might spend as little time as possible on the pricing, and instead of a detailed list of the contents of each room of the house, we find such generalisations as:

‘beds and their furniture’, ‘horses and their gears’, ‘a coffer [see photo below] and other odd things’, ‘a brass pan and other implements’, ‘all the pewter’, and ‘five tongs with other households’.

Easy perhaps for the appraisers, but infuriating for the students of inventories. Occasionally entire rooms were entered as

things in the kitchen to the value of, five shillings and six pence’ or ‘things in the store chamber to the value of £1 3s 4d’.

However, where the items in inventories were listed carefully we can glean interesting information on:-

1. The house, the number of its rooms, their arrangement and the use or uses of each room.

2. The furniture such as cupboards, arks [see photos below], chests, coffers etc.,

3. The furnishings such as bed linen, towels, napkins etc.,

4. Kitchen utensils – dishes, trenchers, pots and pans, and whether they were of wood, iron, brass or pewter.

5. The fuel used and the amounts stored.

6. The work done in the house for example dairying, brewing, and the utensils used for each activity.

7. Refinements of the more affluent members of the village – brass candlesticks, clocks, books, turnkey [see photo below] work chairs, beds with testers [see photos below] etc.,

8. The food, quantities and storage. Although perishable goods were often omitted from inventories, bacon flitches, salted meat, oatmeal, salt and cheese were sometimes included.

From information in the inventories on the agricultural side we know about:

1. The crops, when they were sown, harvested and their values and acreages.

2. The rotation of crops, how the ground was prepared and the tools used in its preparation.

3. The livestock – the numbers and types of animals kept.

4. The importance of the horse, different types and their uses.

5. Hand tools used in husbandry.

6. The threshing and winnowing processes and the implements involved.

7. The value of manure.

From the wills and inventories of a small sample of tradesmen we can learn about their tools and the passing-on of skills from father to son. It is surprising that not only have the original wills survived from the 16th and 17th centuries, but also the original inventories sometimes occur together with the more literate copies made by a Southwell scribe. The same thing occurred with the wills, although some originals are barely decipherable.

Money in Wills

From 1567, the date of the earliest will examined until about 1635, many inhabitants left money often referred to as dole [would be called Jobseekers Allowance today Ed], to the church and the poor. It seems that the rural communities in the area were going through a particularly difficult period and that food, especially corn, was in very short supply.

William Alvye, husbandman, whose will is dated 1567, not only left

‘to any pore bodye in Woodborowe…..one pecke of corne’ but also ‘to the pore people in any of the Townes of Lambley, Burton, Arnall, Calverton, Oxton and Epston twenty pence’.

Likewise William Lees in 1587 left two shillings each to the villages of Calverton, Lambley, Epston, for their pore and five shillings to the pore of Woodborowe. It would appear that there was a village ‘Poor Box’ probably in the church, as George Clarke, husbandman, in 1578 bequeathed

‘to the pore money boxe of Woodborowe six shillings and eight pence’ and in the same year William Clarke also gave ‘to the poore and munney box three shillings and four pence’.

Consideration for the needs of the poor was not confined to the more affluent members of the village. William Hodkinson in 1592 left the poor of the village

‘half pence a peese’

and Gabriel Bucke, a weaver in 1601, left two shillings to the parish poor.

Nicholas Jebb, in his will dated 1631, bequeathed to the poor of Woodborough all his corn, whether it was harvested in the barn or growing in the field. As he died in January 1633/4 his executors would have a problem if his winter corn was only just sprouting in the Open Fields. He also left five shillings to a certain Matthew

‘to preach at my beriell’.

Amounts of three shillings and four pence and six shillings and eight pence often occur in the earlier Woodborough wills and inventories. Six shillings and eight pence was the value of the medieval gold coin, the noble [see example below left courtesy [Coin Archives Ed], was discontinued as a coin in 1464 but it is still mentioned in 1631 in the will of Nicholas Jebb. It was convenient unit of money, being a third of £1. Some parishioners evidently had a conscience about the tithes they paid, or should have paid to the Church.

Philip Lacock, gentleman, who lived at the Upper Hall and later built Hall Farm, see photo right, made his will in 1710, eleven years before he died. He owned land in the Newark area as well as in many of the villages around Woodborough. Unlike Nathaniel Foster, Philip considered that the church and the overseers could be trusted to distribute his legacies to the poor. He left five pounds to Woodborough, four pounds to East Stoke, three pounds each to Elston and Claypole, three pounds to be shared by Edingley, Halam, Greaves Lane and Osmandthorpe and thirty shillings each to Lambley and Calverton. He specified that the Ministers, Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the parishes concerned were to distribute the monies.

Right: Hall Farm House situated on the Main Street Woodborough

In the 17th century Woodborough’s inhabitants seemed very concerned that their funeral should be commensurate with their status, or perhaps what they considered as their status. William Johnson in 1675 tried to ensure that he was buried in a suitable manner as a yeoman saying:

‘It is my will that six pound be expended at and upon my funeral’. William Kemp, husbandman, in 1687 wished his father-in-law wished to be correctly dressed for the funeral saying ‘I doe give unto my father Sturtivant and his sonne and daughter five shillings to buy them gloves withal’.

Elizabeth Clarke, a spinster, made her will in 1676 but did not die until January 1684/5. Her financial position allowed her to leave legacies, mainly of one pound each, to about thirty of her ‘relations and kinsfolk’, not forgetting her servants. She also left ten shillings to:

‘those who shall help to carry me to my grave’ and a further five pound ten shillings ‘bestowed upon my funeral and for a sermon’.

Stephen Pickard, a framework knitter and his married sister Hanna, wife of framework knitter George Noden, were among those who benefited from her will, as well as the poor of Woodborough.

Money to Landlords, Employers and Servants

It is difficult to illicit how many people left money to their servants as there is often no indication in the wills of the status of individuals to whom the money was left. Both William Oldney, husbandman, in 1615 and his widow Elizabeth in 1616 left goods, or money, to Robert Gargrave whom Elizabeth refers to as ‘my man’. She also left twenty shillings to her maidservant Isobell Elton.

William Kemp, husbandman, in 1687, does not mention his servants by name but says:

‘I doe give unto my two servants two shillings apiece’, whilst Henry Clemson, yeoman, in 1719, writes ‘I give and bequeath unto my two servants George Johnson and Anne Osborne the sume of five shillings apiece if they shall continue as servants to me at the time of my decease’.

George Clark, husbandman in 1578, left ten shillings each, to his landlord Henry Stapleton Esq., his landlord’s wife and their daughter Faith. The Stapleton’s owned the Middle Hall at this time and almost certainly owned many other properties attached to it in the village. William Clark, in 1578 left four pence each to every maidservant in Mr Christopher Strelley’s house. Christopher Strelley owned and lived at the Upper Hall and so was one of the gentry. In William’s inventory and will, as no mention is made of any household effects, he would probably have been an employer of Christopher Strelley’s who ‘lived in’.

James Comyn, husbandman, 1593 says:

‘I give to Master Aston and to James Aston, his son, either of them one sack of maulte’.

Also and he adds:

I give to Christopher Sterlley esquire six shillings eight pence’ ‘I make my master Christopher Stelley supervisor of this my last will’.

He was also a witness of the will. The Astons also appear to have been an important local family at this time and probably lived at, but did not own, the Middle Hall. References to them in the parish register began in August 1553 and continued until June 1607, about the time the Middle Hall was sold to John Wood of Lambley. In his will William Glover, husbandman, 1594, says:

‘I give to Mr Sterley twenty shillings and to Mrs Sterlay twenty shillings. I commit the oversight of Frances to Mrs Sterlay’.

Frances was William Glover’s daughter and would not have come of age when her father’s will was made.

Bonds and Debts

Money appears to have been lent, usually in the form of a bond. There are many reasons why money could have been lent; perhaps it was done to help out a son or other relative on marriage in times of difficulty, to buy livestock, as a mortgage on property when a neighbour was in debt, or perhaps purely as an investment. A yeoman or husbandman, too old to farm his land, could sell his livestock, and if he had no immediate heirs, let the money obtained out at interest. A widow might find herself in a similar situation after the death of her husband. A tradesman who had no farming interest in which to invest his money could well have lent his spare cash in order to receive the interest on it.

At first sight the inventory of Henry Clemson, 1719, is typical of a yeoman of the period with assets of about one hundred and thirty pounds, until one comes across the item ‘upon bond £700’, all the more surprising because on his marriage licence in 1691 his status is given as labourer. Did he inherit his wealth, marry into a monied family or was he an astute businessman? It would appear that he actually had the money, because in his will, he left legacies of two hundred pounds each to his two granddaughters and three hundred pounds in Trust to a friend at Mansfield for the daughter’s children. John Morley, weaver, 1727/8, had about sixty pounds out at interest his inventory and left his goods, chattels, money, bills, bonds…..to my daughter Dorothy Morley in his will.

Robert Scauthorne, butcher, 1702, had about sixty pounds upon bond and also in his inventory is an item for forty pounds for two closings upon mortgage. It seems that both the above tradesmen are in the category previously mentioned. Nicholas Lee, 1632, had a bond of twenty pounds owed to him by Walter Lee, and Simon Carrington was owed thirty pounds in a debt in Nicholas Carrington’s hand. These could well have involved money lent to relations. Mark Hather, 1719, was classed in his inventory of that date as a yeoman, but in the bond relating to his daughter’s marriage in 1711 his occupation was given as a maltster. He did, indeed have a malt house and his inventory valued his malt at £75 17s 4d., The equivalent of ten tons or more at the prevailing price. He was also owed £55 8s 6d., So was obviously in business in a big way.

Many millers took their payment in either grain or flour but John Redgate, miller, 1700, had sixty pounds in cash according to his inventory and only a little corn in the house and mill. Edward Fidgings, 1683, was a labourer, towards the lower end of the social scale. Almost all his household items in his inventory were prefaced by the word “old” e.g. one old brasse pan, one old joyned stool, etc., Surprisingly there were five outstanding bonds due to him varying from four pounds to five shillings. Although his goods were valued at only fourteen shillings and two pence, he was owed £22 5s 2d. If his debtors had paid up earlier, perhaps his life-style would have been better, he might have even have afforded a chair upon which to sit. One is prompted to wonder if elderly widows and widowers lived with their children, who, for the purposes of the inventory ‘borrowed’ the better household goods of their parent and substituted for them some of their own older worn out articles.

Margery Wilkinson, widow, 1618, had the unusually large sum of seven pounds two shillings in the house. As she possessed a considerable amount of hemp, harden and woollen cloth and some linsey woolsey, a type of cloth with the warp of linen and weft of wool, much more than one would suppose was necessary for her own needs. It is possible that she was a village seamstress and was paid in cash for her work. She was also owed money for spinning and stocking knitting.

Robert Wheeler, 1758, who must certainly have been one of the more wealthy inhabitants of Woodborough, had a hundred and eighty two pounds owing in bonds and ‘notes of hand’ and over fifty four pounds in ‘book debts’. Unfortunately his occupation is not given. We sometimes find that a spirit of forgiveness entered the thoughts of those making a will, often on their death bed. Could this be that they felt guilty about having charged too high a rate of interest, or were they just remembering the message of the Lord’s Prayer.

Isabell Sellars [Link to will], 1663, and Elizabeth Cliff,  1705, both widows, had lent money, Isabell had fifteen pounds in bonds owing to her and Elizabeth says:

‘my will is that my son Daniel should have his bond in without paying either stock or interest’.

Strangely there is no mention of Daniel’s bond in his mother’s inventory!

William Alvye, 1567, forgave his brother John all debts and sums of money that he owed. He also put in his will:

‘I wyll that where one John Pecke of Lowdham doth owe me the sum of thirty shillings if he wyll pay the moytie or one halfe thereof to my executors without suryty, that then the other moytie or halfe thereof shalbe forgyven hym’.

He similarly forgave George Trawman half of his debt of thirty shillings. William Johnson, yeoman, 1675, said:

‘I doe give to Miles Knutton six pounds that he doth owe me ’and‘ to Anne Baguley and hir children foure pounds shee oweth me’.

John Wood, 1656, was very generous saying:

‘I release to my brother Edward Wood his debt to me, and desire his bond of two hundred pounds may be delivered to him cancilled’.

A debt of two hundred pounds was a considerable amount to cancel in 1656. John must at some time have had a serious disagreement with his son Mountague, for he said in his will:

‘I release to my sonne Mountague Wood his indutefull Carige (behaviour) towards beseeching God to give him grace to repent of the evell and to forgive him the offence, to whom I bequeath as a token of my love my seale ringg of gould’.

John had also laid down conditions appertaining to his daughter Jane, although he did not specify these in his will. He had obviously consulted certain persons about them, saying that of two named Church of England divines considered them unjust they were to be revoked.

It must at times have been difficult for executors or legatees to recover the bonds. In his will of 1703, Edmund Lee, yeoman, says:

‘I doe give unto my cosin Thomas Lee, that bond which Thomas Barke of Clifton hath given me for money that he oweth, and all the interest of that bond which William Davis doth owe me, and hee doth owe mee all the interest since the bond was made’.

As cousin Thomas was to pay the executors for half of the funeral charges out of the above bonds it is to be hoped the two debtors paid. For money upon bond Edmund was owed a total of fifty two pounds and:

‘for some other small parcells that is very hard to geth one pound’.

The appraisers of Edmund’s inventory evidently considered that the chances of recovering these small amounts were remote.

Property and Land in Wills

The inheritance of land in Woodborough was complicated by the fact that there were, at times, three different types of manors in the village – viz. freehold, copyhold and leasehold. An additional complication was that certain land within the parish boundary was under the jurisdiction of the Oxton Overhall and Oxton Netherhall manors, and also under the Arnold Manor Court.

Where strips of land were in the Open Fields, known as selions, or “lands [typically 660 feet]” in Woodborough, it was necessary to give the exact location of these strips in relation to the adjoining ones.

An extract from the will of Richard Crofts, husbandman, 1601, reads:

I do give him (son Thomas) two lands in the Horlaye Field lying in Lambleye sicke, buttinge on the lands of Thomas Alvey on the east and John Field on the west’.

The Little Sicke and Big Sicke are next to the 1878 school, bordering the present Lingwood Lane (1996), the Old English “Sic” being land near a small stream flowing through a gulley, dip or hollow. The spelling of “Sic” varies and the Woodborough Sicke dyke which drains the Lingwood Lane valley certainly fits in with the above description.

Henry Alvie, yeoman, 1616, says:

My will is that my youngest sonne Thomas Alvie, shall have the benefite of my Freeholde land from the date hereof for the time of twelve yeares next’.

Francis Clarke, weaver, 1617, left his land to his wife providing she did not marry again. If she did, in order to keep the land in the family, it was to go to his eldest son Christopher, who, on taking possession of it, was to pay two of his sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, ten shillings each.

Although Nicholas Jebb, 1631, had, according to his inventory, corn on the ground and in his barn, there is no mention of any land in his will. As he had no children, perhaps on his death his land reverted to the Manor Court.

The oxgang, as a measure of land, was still being used in 1655 when Thomas Croftes, yeoman, held three oxgangs and a house in North Collingham, and land at Lambley as well as at Woodborough.

Walter Lee, husbandman, 1660, did not appear to own his house, but in his will he left all his hovels, moveable infences and manure in the yard to his son Thomas, inferring that they were the tenant’s property.

Christopher Wyld, weaver, 1667, and a widower, had two sons, Joseph was married and a weaver like his father and Nathaniel was single. Christopher left his property and land in Calverton, measured in acres, to the married son with the proviso that he was to keep it in repair and pay Nathaniel one shilling a year. Nathaniel presumably was to occupy his father’s property and land in Woodborough.

William Johnson, yeoman, 1675, had no children and no close relatives. His will reads:

I doe give to Mary Bagula, my kinswoman, during hir natural life my house and all my land in Woodborough, and after her decease I do give that house and land to Joseph Johnson junior, my kinsman, and his heires forever’.

William Kemp, husbandman, 1687, gave his house at Caythorpe and all his freehold land in the Lordship of Woodborrow to his daughter Elizabeth, but only if his wife remarried.

Thomas Lee, yeoman, 1700, left to his son John:

All that Arable land lying and being in the parish of Woodborrow containing eight lands which lyeth in the Morefields, and owing Suit and Service unto the Court of Arnold …… and all that Messuage, Farme or tenement with the Appurtenances lying and being in Woodborow aforesaid together with all and singular my Arable, meadowe and pasture ground to the same belonging’.

He also left Copyhold estate and Blidworth to his wife for her lifetime, and then to pass to his son John. This last will shows that before Enclosure, whilst the village still had it’s Open Fields, certain dwellings had arable, meadow and pasture, either attached to the property or as enclosed blocks in the Open Fields, as is shown at Woodborough on the 1609 Sherwood Forest map [see below]. It is interesting to note that there was recognised pasture ground for livestock at the time of year the common meadow was put down to hay.

Prior to 1601 it is likely that dole to the poor would have been administered by the vicar, together with the churchwardens, but in 1601, toward the end of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, the first regular Poor Law was passed. It enacted that Justices of the Peace should appoint overseers of the poor in each parish, with powers to raise money by taxation for the housing and feeding of the indigent and deserving poor, and the system continued to be the basis of the Poor Law until 1834.

In each village the overseers of the poor, who were responsible for their welfare, and the distribution of monies left to them were chosen, it seems almost at random, sometimes by houserow [two or more cottages/houses joined Ed] and sometimes by occupation. Their duties were both honorary and compulsory, so that villagers who did not want or like the task, and may have been totally unsuited to it, were sometimes appointed. They may have been unable to read, write or compute and be completely incompetent as is suggested in the will of Henry Alvie in 1616. It stated that unless the Woodborough overseers of the poor made a true account of the sums of money given to them by John Sterley [Strelley], James Comyn and his wife Joan, and William Oldney, and presented their account to the successors and the churchwardens, he would not give them the twenty shillings worth of stock and ten shillings in money, but instead would give three of his own nominees just the ten shillings to distribute.

Nathaniel Foster, in 1669, classed as a yeoman in his will but as a gentleman in his inventory and who lived at the Nether Hall was even more forthright. He said:

‘the reason that I doe give nothing to charitable uses, one reason because that I doe see that generally these gifts are verie seldom made anie good use of but abused’. He added ‘the reason why I doe not give any legacies to my relations is because that I shall be forced, if that I should dye now, to leave my wife and children in debt, and therefore we are first commanded to provide for our owne families and he that doeth not so is worse than in Infidell’.

Strong words indeed which would not have endeared him, either to the poor of the village or his relations, especially as the appraisers of his inventory valued his goods at £286 12s 6d, a very considerable sum at that time. He also laid down that his wife should eventually divide his estate between his son Nathaniel and daughter Martha, both named, as was usual after their parents, but only if they took her counsel and advice. To ensure he was suitably remembered at his death and afterwards, he asked for his friend and minister, Mr Lawrence Palmer of Gedling, to preach his funeral sermon, even naming another minister in case Mr Palmer had died. He also asked to be decently buried with some stone of remembrance at the head of his grave and a similar stone for the grave of his parents. These are probably the first references to gravestones in Woodborough churchyard [from recent surveys no headstone exists].

Next page Back to top

1: Format of

Woodborough Wills

2: The Inventory

3: Money

in Wills

4: Money to Landlords, Employers & servants

5: Bonds & Debts

6: Property &

Land in Wills

7: Property

in Wills

William Alvye 1567 left:-

‘to the vicar of Woodborowe in consyderacon of all forgotten tythes twelve pence and William Clarke gave ‘to Peter Jocksone our curatt three shillings and four pence’.

George Clarke also gave to Peter Jockson, clerke, three shilling and four pence. One wonders why the twelve pence Robert Alvie, labourer, 1612/13, gave:-

‘towarde the mendinge and repayring of my seate in the Church’

wasn’t given during his lifetime when he would have received the benefit of it, perhaps he was hoping for forgiveness in the next world.

Elizabeth Cliff, widow, 1705, obviously knew her sons’ characters because she states:

Of the remainder of my lease of N. Harlay close I would James and Daniel to have it betwixt them, and if they cannot agree about it, Daniel shall have it to himself’.

Property in Wills

Although many of the properties in the village were owned by the three manors and leased to tenants, a number of inhabitants owned their dwellings. The leases occurring in wills and inventories during the period 1607-1628 varied from William Oldney, husbandman, of £4 to that of Edward Foster, yeoman, at £120. The latter was probably the lease of the Prebendal manor house and land which stood on the site of the Nether Hall [demolished in the 1960’s. A few villagers owned property in places other than Woodborough, usually inherited from parents or other relatives.

William Alvey, husbandman, 1567, left his messuage or tenement in Calverton with its appurtenances to his daughter Jane for her lifetime.

Henry Foster, 1598, bequeathed to his wife Isabel:

The house shee dwelleth in and half one oxgang of lande and the milke of one cowe’.

Richard Croftes, husbandman, 1601, who had already given certain strips of land to one son Thomas, also gave:

Unto my sonne John Croftes my house wherein I dwell and all the rest of my land thereto belongen’.

Michael Alvie, husbandman, 1617, put in his will:

I do give to John my eldest son my house and yard with pte (part) of the orchard and my land’.

Michael Alvie added:

I do geive and graunte libertie to my wife to continue in the house until the purification of the blessed Virgine Marie’.

What would happen to the unfortunate widow after that date was not mentioned!

John Clarke, 1662, left his daughter:

All the pale fences belonginge to my habitation’.

When the house was leased the fences – such as those used round the house for folding the sheep in winter, belonged to the tenant.

The inventory of another John Clarke, 1623, probably the former’s father, valued the lease of the house at £20.

John Thorpe’s will in 1730 gave:

To my dearly beloved Fortune Thorpe, all that one cottage, house or tenement, held upon lease under Mr Mountagu Wood with the appurtenances belonging or appertaining to it, to have, hold and enjoy it for her natural life’.

John Lee, yeoman, 1742, gave all his lands, messuages, tenements and hereditaments, both freehold and copyhold in Woodborough and Calverton to his wife Alice for her lifetime.

Most of the wealth of the inhabitants of Woodborough in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries was in their livestock and harvested or growing crops. With minimal amounts of ready cash the method of obtaining livestock and food was by bartering or borrowing, as can be seen by the debts owed and owing for such things as wheat, barley, oats, rye, peas, malt and hay. As everybody, even the tradesmen, tried to be self-sufficient, when harvests failed both humans and animals went short of food. With the lack of transport and the poor conditions of the highways and byways at this time, everybody in a neighbourhood or larger area found themselves in similar circumstances. It was in this period that we find provisions such as corn, malt, cheese and occasionally bacon flitches, occurring in will. It was most important too that one’s heirs or dependents were left the livestock and if necessary to share it amongst them. This continued to be of importance until at least the end of the seventeenth century.


Researched and written by the late Peter Saunders