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Woodborough’s Heritage

Woodborough, a Sherwood Forest Village, recorded in Domesday



Wills and Inventories part 1 - Early history



Wills: The Ancient Greek practice concerning wills was not the same in all places; some states permitted men to dispose of their estates, others wholly deprived them of that privilege. According to Plutarch, Solon "is much commended for his law concerning wills; for before his time no man was allowed to make any, but all the wealth of deceased persons belonged to their families; but he permitted them to bestow it on whom they pleased, esteeming friendship a stronger tie than kindred, and affection than necessity, and thus put every man's estate in the disposal of the possessor; yet he allowed not all sorts of wills, but required the following conditions in all persons that made them:

1. That they must be citizens of Athens, not slaves, or foreigners, for then their estates were confiscated for the public use.

2. That they must be men who have arrived to twenty years of age, for women and men under that age were not permitted to dispose by will of more than one medimnos [a Greek unit of volume] of barley.

3. That they must not be adopted; for when adopted persons died without issue, the estates they received by adoption returned to the relations of the men who adopted them.

4. That they should have no male children of their own, for then their estate belonged to these. If they had only daughters, the persons to whom the inheritance was bequeathed were obliged to marry them. Yet men were allowed to appoint heirs to succeed their children, in case these happened to die less than twenty years of age.

5. That they should be in their right minds, because testaments extorted through the frenzy of a disease, or dotage of old age, were not in reality the wills of the persons that made them.

6. That they should not be under imprisonment, or other constraint, their consent being then only forced, nor in justice to be reputed voluntary.

7. That they should not be induced to it by the charms and insinuations of a wife; for (says Plutarch) the wise lawgiver with good reason thought that no difference was to be put between deceit and necessity, flattery and compulsion, since both are equally powerful to persuade a man from reason.

Wills were usually signed before several witnesses, who put seals to them for confirmation, then placed them in the hands of trustees, who were obliged to see them performed. At Athens, some of the magistrates were very often present at the making of wills. Sometimes the archons were also present. Sometimes the testator declared his will before sufficient witnesses, without committing it to writing. Thus Callias, fearing to be cut off by a wicked conspiracy, is said to have made an open declaration of his will before the popular assembly at Athens. There were several copies of wills in Diogenes Laërtius, as those of Aristotle, Lyco of Troas, and Theophrastus; whence it appears they had a common form, beginning with a wish for life and health”.


Source: Wikipedia 2022

Note: All Woodborough wills prior to about 1550 were kept at the Borthwick Institute at York. Southwell took over Probates, the wills and inventories remained at Southwell and from 1567 onwards all were later lodged at Nottingham Archives Offices.

Source: Peter Saunders

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