DEATH Florilegium Urbanum

Keywords: medieval King's Lynn probate investigations heirs testaments property transactions bequests
Subject: Complications in the matter of probate
Original source: Norfolk Record Office, King's Lynn borough records, Red Register, f.51
Transcription in: Holcombe Ingleby, ed., The Red Register of King's Lynn, vol.1 (1919), 91-93.
Original language: Latin
Location: King's Lynn
Date: 1335


Enquiry and probate conducted before William de Secheford, then mayor of Lynn, on 22 September 1335, concerning the sex and kin of Katherine, daughter and heir of William de Lyndeseye, former burgess of Lynn, deceased, and late wife of Nicholas son of John Page of Norwich; in relation to tenements in the town of Lynn which Nicholas holds for his lifetime, together with other tenements elsewhere regarding which a fine was levied between them in the king's court, and concerning who may be the nearest heir or heirs of that Katherine, so that each and every of these matters may be determined before the law.

Thomas de Lyndeseye, aged eighty, took oath of his own free will and, upon examination, stated under oath that John de Lyndeseye and Robert de Lyndeseye were brothers with the same father and mother, and from them issued the heirs that appear below.

  • John de Lyndeseye, Robert de Lyndeseye } brothers
  • From John de Lyndeseye issued William, his son and heir. From William, Katherine, who was the last owner [of the property], and who died without direct heirs.
  • From Robert, a son and heir Geoffrey. From Geoffrey, co-heirs Alice, Katherine, and Joan.
  • From Alice, Alan the son of John de Colne, who now lays a claim.
  • From Katherine, Joan the wife of John Gillyng of Wisbech, who now lays a claim.
  • From Joan, Katherine, who now (along with Alan and Joan) now lays a claim.
Thomas de Lyndeseye was further interrogated concerning how old Alan, Joan and Katherine were at present; he said that they were of the age of majority. Queried how and by what means he knew that Alan, Joan and Katherine were really the true heirs of Katherine, he said that a certain Cecilia, Thomas' grandmother, was sister to John and Robert de Lyndeseye; they were born in Sutton Mareys in Lindsey, and John made his home in Lynn. From whom, as already noted, William; and from William, Katherine. The other brother, Robert, made his home in Wisbech; from whom issued Alan, Joan, and Katherine, as stated above. Queried if any other heirs had a rightful claim, by reason of heredity, to the tenements of which Katherine was in possession when she died, he said simply "No".

Another witness, John de Colne of Wisbech, father of Alan, took oath of his own free will and, under careful examination, said the same as Thomas in each and every regard, concerning kinships and heredity. Queried how he knew this, he said that he had married a certain Alice, the daughter of Geoffrey son of Robert de Lyndeseye, who told him all the above. He was also queried whether anyone else might be an heir of Katherine, other than Alan, Joan, and Katherine; he said simply "No".


Most records of probate are straightforward statements that probate was made and administration of the will was granted to the executors. Complications did sometimes occur, however, particularly where a testator had no direct heirs. It may be in this case that Katherine Page died intestate; her husband would have been able to lay claim to a lifetime interest in at least some of her property. Possibly more distant relatives subsequently heard of her death and put in a claim to her property, or possibly what we have here is Nicholas Page seeking to obtain more than a life interest in his late wife's property.

For on folios adjacent to the transcript of the probate session five related documents are copied. These are in the form of quitclaims to the Lynn property of Katherine Page. On the day immediately proceeding the probate hearing, after the claimants had arrived in Lynn, Nicholas obtained – probably by purchase – quitclaims from John Gilling of Wisbech and his wife Joan, Alan de Colne of Wisbech, and Katherine the daughter of Simon fitz Theobald of Ashby near Horncastle. These legal transactions were all witnessed by essentially the same group of prominent townsmen, along with Thomas de Lindesey and in at least one case by some men from surrounding villages – for the properties in question, described only in broad terms as encompassing tenements, houses, gardens, quays, rents, arable land, meadows, pastures, fields of rushes, lanes and footpaths, were located not only in the town of Bishop's Lynn, but also in South Lynn, North Lynn, North Clenchwarton, and other villages in the locality. It is evident these transactions were all effected at the same time in the same place.

Although none of the witnesses participated in any official capacity, the transactions seem to have taken place in the gildhall at an assembly meeting. For accompanying these entries in the Red Register is a note stating that Peter, the son of Robert de Walton (died 1316), appeared before mayor and community the same day and put in a claim to one of the properties. Peter's claim was as a grandson of Katherine de Lindesey, by her marriage to William de Walton (dead by 1313), father of Robert. This puts in question the testimony the following day that Katherine died with direct heirs. That Peter's claim was not without foundation is indicated by a quitclaim purchased by Nicholas Page and his wife Katherine in 1331 from Robert's widow Alice, concerning one of the Lindesey properties in Lynn. Nicholas Page thought it best to buy Peter off too, and did so in a quitclaim dated 25 October 1335, which Peter followed up with a public statement before the assembly confirming that he had surrendered his claim. At the same time, Nicholas obtained a quitclaim from Simon fitz Theobald. Much the same group of witnesses was used for this second set of transactions as was used for the first.

The probate proceedings may therefore have served, from Nicholas' point of view, to confirm before the law that he had obtained his quitclaims from the right people. The significance of these events is reinforced by the fact that Nicholas' testament later underwent probate before the borough authorities at Lynn. The testament was drawn up in 1341 but did not receive probate until 1345. The exceptional nature of this situation is reflected in that 8 days was allocated for anyone with claims to any of the property devised to come forward, whereas 3 days was the normal period.

Although Nicholas was in Norwich when the testament was drafted, and requested burial next to his late wife Katherine in the church of St. Julian, Conesford Street, Norwich, much of the document concerns itself with the properties in Lynn. With the exception of a property called "Grymestonestede" in Briggate and a meadow called "Feggishil", the real estate was to be sold by his executors within a year of his death, and the money put towards pious uses and commemorative services for the souls of himself, his wife and their parents. He also made provision for services for a few others, including Robert de Walton, his wife, and son. The two excepted properties he left to a household servant, Elena atte Chirche, who was important enough in Nicholas' life also to be designated one of his executors; she was to hold for life, with the option of purchasing permanently, failing which the properties were after her death to be sold and the proceeds put towards the benefit of the souls of Nicholas and Katherine. The testament gives no indication that Nicholas held any significant property in Norwich; such clauses could have been omitted by the Lynn clerk, but the inclusion of other irrelevant clauses makes it unlikely.

This document may also be taken as an illustration of the "failure of male heirs" phenomenon. The Lindesey male line had died out both in its Lynn and Wisbech branches, with the sole exception of Thomas, who is not known to have had any children; the name does not appear in Lynn records after this time. The Page family had similarly died out; Nicholas left no children, and his siblings were one or possibly two sisters and a brother who was a clergyman.



"William de Lyndeseye"
A merchant important enough in the community to be elected mayor in 1280; a survey of properties in the northern section of the borough (ca.1267/1283) includes several held by him. His father John had come to Lynn before 1263, by which year he had already joined the merchant gild. Several other gildsmen of the period bore this surname; one, an Alan de Lindesey, appears to have been the wealthiest man in Lynn, judging from the valuation of his goods for local taxation purposes in the 1290s. Perhaps he was a brother to William, the two holding adjacent properties in the Tuesday Market.

A final agreement, i.e. concerning the transfer of property, in effect a registration of an agreement reached outside the court.

"Sutton Mareys"
Perhaps Sutton on Sea? now in East Lindsey (although in the Middle Ages, Lindsey as a whole was an administrative region of Lincolnshire). Although Mareys normally refers to marshland, it may also have referred to the marshy coast.

"Robert de Walton"
A wealthy wool merchant, almost on a par with Alan de Lindeseye. His father, of whom little is known, was probably a natural marriage partner for a daughter of the upper crust Lindesey family. Robert held the posts of constable and chamberlain in local government during the 1290s and the subsequent decade. He was very much involved in local political struggles, siding with those seeking independence from the town's lords, and had consequent run-ins with other members of the borough elite who preferred not to antagonize those lords. Stemming from this, a vendetta with the Lomb family led to the murders of William de Walton (ca.1313) and Robert (1316).

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Created: February 29, 2004 Last update: February 28, 2010 © Stephen Alsford, 2004-2010