Much has tended to be made of the differences between the preambles on Catholic and Protestant wills. In reality this has been overplayed. Wills were important documents and nearly everyone had someone else draw them up according to set formulae. Only in a very limited number can we sense a particularly increased ‘acceptationism’ as in the case of Thomas Walton of Foulridge Hey. There is at least one (probably) Catholic will amongst the images but the manners in which it differs from other wills shown are more likely down to the older date than any specific religious angle. [The clue, by the way, should be in the image above this post.]

Some of the images also show inventories. Contrary to popular belief today, these were not down to those who had been named as executors in the testament. It was a complicated practice requiring a very specific set of knowledge. The supervisors and overseers had the responsibility for giving expert counsel on the market values likely to be fetched at any sale. They had nothing to do with the executors. For further information see A. Camp – ‘Wills and their whereabouts’ (1974). Statute 21 / Henry VII c.5 requests ‘four honest persons’. Actually, it became far more usual for three people to be used; sometimes four, sometimes two. Those who did a really good job would name separate rooms etc. The Province of York had slightly different rules from the rest of England as to which of the wife’s possessions should be listed.

 

 

Go to wills and inventories images…

Brierley’s father’s will – Thomas Brierley (1617) – currently only a transcription

Brierley’s mother’s will – Alice née Maden (1633) – an image which can be enlarged

The Maden family – also sometimes known as the Madins or Maydens and perhaps pronounced as ‘Maiden’ – are evident in the records of Middleton parish where Alice was born. Her brother, Robert was also born there in November 1562. Robert Maden, was obviously a trusted member of the family and Marland community.

The inventories associated with the two wills demonstrate something interesting. Inflation was rampant between 1617 and 1633. When Alice died in 1633, she had ‘seaven kyne’ valued at £21. Thomas’ own inventory shows two oxen valued at £10 13s 4d and eight kine valued at £25. This suggests that in spite of inflation in many sectors of the economy over the first third of the seventeenth century – see Hill – ‘The Century of Revolution, 1603-1714’ (1961), the price of a cow in Lancashire remained broadly static at around £3 between 1617 and 1633.