|Subject:||Early wills of townsmen|
|Original source:||Item 1. British Library, Ms. Cotton Vespasian E xxv, f.189; item 2. Norfolk Record Office, King's Lynn borough records, Red Register, f.42.|
|Transcription in:||1. B.R. Kemp, ed. Reading Abbey Cartularies, Camden Fourth Series, vol.33 (1987), pp.166-67. 2. Holcombe Ingleby, ed., The Red Register of King's Lynn, vol.1 (1919), 76-80.|
|Location:||Reading, King's Lynn|
|Date:||early 14th century|
[1. Testament of Alan de Bannebury]
In the name of God, Amen. I, Alan de Bannebury, have set out my testament on 4 November 1311. First, I bequeath my soul to Almighty God, the Blessed Mary, and all the saints, and my body to be buried in the cemetery of St. Laurence, Reading. I bequeath 6d. to the fabric of Salisbury [cathedral]. To the hospital of Crowmarsh, 6d. For bread to be distributed to poor people at my burial, 10s. I bequeath 12s. for the performance of funeral services. For the purchase of ale to be given out on the night of the vigil around my corpse, 12d. For the use of the Friars Minor of Reading, 5s. To the two boys of my brother Elias, 2s. To Alice, daughter of Alan's wife, 12d. To Joan,wife of Robert de Hampton, 12d. To Robert de Hampton, 12d. To Richard de Asheburn, 2s. To John le Cave, 2s. To the vicar of St. Laurence, 2s. To each altar in the church of St. Laurence, 3d. To the altar of the Blessed Mary in the church of St. Laurence, 12d.
I bequeath my wife Christine five shillings in annual rent received at two terms in the year from a certain tenement in London Street, which tenement Thomas Hubert formerly held of Alan. To John le Cave of Blewbury, my entire hat-shop located at Tothill, in perpetuity. I bequeath to my wife Christine and my daughter Margery all my goods that are in that hat-shop on the day I die. I bequeath my daughter Margery 3s.4d in annual rent that I am accustomed to receive from Richard de Stratfeld at Michaelmas [for a tenement] in the high street of Reading. I bequeath the same Margery 4 acres of arable land in the field called Northfield; which 4 acres I took by way of dowry when I married her mother. I bequeath the entire tenement in which I reside with appurtenances to my wife Christine for all the days of her life; once Christine is dead, I wish the entire tenement with its appurtenances to revert to my daughter Margery. I bequeath half of my money to my wife Christine and the other half to my daughter Margery. If anything else remains among my goods that is not bequeathed, I wish and grant that it go in its entirety to my wife Christine and my daughter Margery.
I designate and appoint as my executors Richard de Asheburn and John le Cave of Blewbury, to bring about the execution of this testament faithfully and without delays, as seems to them most expedient for [the good of] my soul. I also bequeath 12d to my servant Agnes. It is my wish and provision that after my time is up the aforementioned John of Blewbury have custody of my daughter Margery, along with all her possessions and all rents that come to her by right of heredity and through the legacy of her father Alan, as well as with the other goods belonging to her, until she reaches marriageable age; and afterwards, let her marry by the advice and with the support of that John, [taking] with her all her own belongings, as soon as John sees it to be advantageous for her. In testimony to which, I have validated this my testament with an impression of my seal, on the date indicated above. Also, I bequeath to my wife Christine our servant Robert with his service, while the terms agreed between he and I remain in force.
[2. Testament of John Lambert]
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Amen. I, John Lambert, burgess of Lynn have set out my testament on 30 November 1312 in the following manner. First, I commend my soul to Almighty God and my body to be buried within the Friars Preacher at Lynn. I bequeath 20s. to the high altar of the church of St. Margaret, Lynn, for offences concerning my tithes. Towards the fabric of that church, 40d. Towards its charnel, 40d. To the principal chaplain of the same, 2s. To dom. Gilbert de Hauld, chaplain, 6s.8d. Towards the fabric of the chapel of St. James, Lynn, 12d. To dom. Thomas Pleindamour, chaplain, 12d. To dom. Walter de Dudlington, chaplain, 12d. I bequeath 40s. to the Friars Preacher at Lynn. To the Friars Minor, Lynn, 6s.8d. To the Carmelite Friars of Lynn, 2s. To the Augustinian Friars of Lynn, 2s. I bequeath to the poor [residents] of the hospital of St. John, Lynn, 12d. I bequeath 6d. to the lepers of St. Mary Magdalene on the Causeway. To the lepers of Hardwick, 6d. To each chaplain who comes to my funeral service, 2d. I bequeath £10 to cover the expenses of carrying out my funeral services, on the day of my burial, on the seventh day, and on the thirtieth day.
I bequeath to my son Robert and his legitimate heirs my messuage in Wingate, Lynn with its buildings and appurtenances, which is flanked by the messuage of Peter Lomb on the west side and the messuage of dom. Alexander Sefoul chaplain on the east side, and extends [in length] from the public road on the north as far as the communal channel on the south; together with the large solar at the front of the messuage, extending from the aforementioned land of Peter Lomb to the messuage of dom. Alexander the chaplain. Excluding a certain plot of land which I leased to my sister Isabelle for her lifetime; after her death I wish that plot of land revert to my son Robert. I bequeath to the same Robert, my son, and his legitimate heirs 20s. in annual rent received each year from the messuage of Philip Tubbesye, in St. James Street, Lynn, at the corner of Finnes Lane, with the homage and service pertaining thereto. I bequeath to my son Robert and his legitimate heirs 5s. in annual rent received each year from the entire messuage in the said St. James Street at the corner of Finnes Lane, with homage and service pertaining, which the heirs or assigns of William Wrongnose hold of me. I bequeath to my son Robert, in the form specified above, 8d. in annual rent received each year from the messuage that Robert de Walsingham holds in St. James Street, Lynn; which rent I acquired from Thomas de Ridon. I bequeath to my son Robert, in the form specified above, 2d. in annual rent received each year from a message next to Purfleet that once belonged to William de Massingham, with the homage and service pertaining thereto. I bequeath to my son Robert, in the form specified above, one penny in annual rent received each year from the tenement in Wingate formerly of Humphrey Aurifaber, with the homage and service pertaining thereto. I bequeath to my son Robert, in the form specified above, my three new shops with solars in Briggate, Lynn, which lie between the messuage of dom. Ralph Sefoul on the north and the land of John de Thorndeyn on the south, and extend from the street of Briggate on the west as far as the land of John de Thorndeyn on the east. My son Robert and his legitimate heirs are to have and hold in perpetuity those tenements, rents, and shops, with all appurtenances, homages, services, and escheats, of whatever kind belong to them.
If Robert should die without producing legitimate heirs, I wish that those tenements, rents, and shops, with all their appurtenances, be sold by my executors (if they be alive), and the proceeds be distributed in alms of various kinds in the town of Lynn, as seems to my executors most effective for my soul, the soul of my wife Matilda, the soul of Muriel de Ispania, and the souls of all the faithful deceased. If my executors are not alive at that time, or if only one of them survives, then the tenements, rents, and shops, with all their appurtenances, are to be sold by the mayor and aldermen of Lynn who are in office at that time, by my two closest blood relatives, and by my surviving executor, and the proceeds distributed in the fashion specified above. In that event, in order that the mayor and aldermen and my two nearest blood relatives have clear authority to sell my tenements, rents, and shops, I wish that my executors arrange for a copy of this clause concerning them in this matter to be delivered to them under the seal of the commissary of Lynn, for safekeeping in the common chest of the mayor and community of Lynn.
I bequeath to my son Alexander, for life, after the death of my wife Matilda, 40s. in annual rents received each year from the tenements and shops mentioned above. I bequeath my son Nicholas, a member of the order of Friars Preacher at Lynn, for life, [to pay] for his habit and other necessaries, 20s. in annual rent received each year at Michaelmas, beginning with that following my death, by the agency of my son Robert. Should it happen that Robert fail to pay that rent, in whole or in part, in the fashion specified above, or in any way refuses to pay the same, then I wish that the executor of the Holy Land bring an action seeking the annual rent of 20s., whenever and as often as Robert stops paying Friar Nicholas the 20s. annual rent. However, I wish and require that the said executor not bring any action concerning the 20s. annual rent other than for the period during which Robert ceased to pay Friar Nicholas the rent in the way and at the time mentioned above.
It is my wish that Robert and his legitimate heirs maintain in perpetuity a two-pound wax candle at Christ's sepulchre in St. Margaret's church from Good Friday until High Mass has been celebrated on Easter Day. So that this never be forgotten, I wish my executors arrange for a copy of this clause to be delivered, under the seal of the commissary of Lynn, to the prior or warden of St. Margaret's, Lynn. I wish Robert or his legitimate heirs to pay the prior and convent of Castle Acre £8 within four years following my death and the death of my wife Matilda. If Robert dies without legitimate heirs before paying that money, I wish and charge my executors to make prompt payment of the £8 to the prior and convent.
My three shops with solars in Briggate, Lynn, which lie between the tenement of John de Thorndeyn to the south and the land of Robert de Walton to the north, and extend from the messuage of Robert de Walton on the west as far as the public road on the east, I bequeath to be sold by my executors after the death of my wife Matilda. From the proceeds of the sale of those shops, £10 are to be given and paid to my daughter Matilda and her sons and daughters, and the rest of the money on masses to be celebrated by the Friars Preacher for my soul and the souls of all the faithful. In particular, the Friars are to celebrate an anniversary mass for the souls of chaplains dom. Henry de Dunham and dom. Alan de Oxheburgh.
I bequeath my daughter Matilda and her daughter Margaret a messuage, with its buildings and appurtenances, in Lynn, between the messuage of Walter de Acre to the east and the messuage of Walter de Bredenham to the west, extending from the public road on the north as far as the land of John de Gernemuta to the south. Matilda and her daughter Margaret, and Margaret's legitimate heirs, are to have and hold in perpetuity; if Margaret dies without legitimate heirs, then the messuage with its appurtenances is to revert to her brother John and his heirs.
I wish my wife Matilda to have all these tenements for as long as she lives, in fulfillment of her dower right, as well as [my] goods, moveable and immovable. I bequeath to my son Robert all my vessels and utensils, of whatever kind and wherever they may be, after the death of my wife Matilda; and it is my wish that my wife Matilda, while she is alive, provide my son Robert each year with a linen gown and give ... Robert whenever Robert may give way to the wishes of his mother, showing her honour, reverence, and obedience, as a son is obliged to act towards his mother.
I bequeath my daughter Matilda, for life, my curtilage with dovecote on the near side of Swagges Mill, Lynn. On condition that she maintains the curtilage walls and dovecote in as good a condition as when she receives them. After her death it is to revert to my son Robert, in the manner as mentioned above. I bequeath my daughter Matilda my stone called a diamond.
I bequeath 20s. in support of the Holy Land, to be put in the hands of the monk of the church of St. Margaret the Virgin, Lynn, assigned to custody of Holy Land money. The rest of my goods, as well as debts [due me] and other things, wherever they are found, after my debts are paid, I wish to be distributed in Lynn by my executors as alms of various kinds, for my soul, as seems most expedient to them for my soul. I appoint these as my executors: that is, my wife Matilda, Thomas de Ridon, mag. Gilbert de Geywode, and my son Robert. I bequeath the same Thomas de Ridon 20s. for his labour, and 20s. to master Gilbert. In testimony to which, I have set to my seal to this document. Drawn up at Lynn on the above date.
On 14 December 1312 I, John Lambert of Lynn, being of sound mind, bequeath to my son Alexander £6.13s.4d, as part of my testamentary wishes concerning Alexander, which remain valid. It is also my wish that the tenement bequeathed in my original testament to my daughter Matilda and the heirs of her body remain valid, and that she receive the entire £10 bequeathed her in my testament, provided however that my other testamentary wishes can be fulfilled and my debts paid. On the other hand, if the testament cannot be fulfilled and my debts cannot be paid, so that the bequest to Matilda not have to be abandoned, I wish that then the tenement be sold by my executors and £10 received from the sale of that tenement, together with the sale of my shops in Briggate (bequeathed to be sold in my original testament), be paid to Matilda and her daughter Margaret, and that together they receive the whole £10. I forgive Friar Nicholas, my son, the 20s. he owes me. I bequeath 40d. to John Skirbek. To the son of John de Salle, 40d. I bequeath my son Alexander my overcoat, my tabard, and a russet tunic; to Benedict le Fitheler, my striped tunic; to John Leverich my gown, my striped tabard, and my perse-coloured gown. To my servant John I bequeath 40d. [and] my fur-lined tabard. I appoint as executors of this codicil the same as named in the original testament.
On 16 January 1313 this testament was proven before the official of the Bishop of Norwich, the commissary general, in Lynn, through the agency of trustworthy men under oath, viz. Ralph de Egemere, Thomas Hauteyn, Richard le Taverner, John son of Alan Sefoul, and John Clerk. The codicil annexed to the testament was proven the same day and place by trustworthy men, viz. Ralph de Egemere, William Madame, Richard de Gernemuta, and John Leverich. Administration of all the property of the deceased was handed over, via the taking of an oath, to those named executors in the testament: Thomas de Ridon, mag. Gilbert de Geywode, and Robert the son of the deceased. Matilda, the wife of the deceased, named an executor in the testament, explicitly and in due form declined to take on the responsibility of administration.
[I have divided the documents into paragraphs to make for easier reading.]
Probate of wills and testaments was recognized as within the jurisdiction of the Church. Registers of the archiepiscopal prerogative courts, episcopal consistory courts, and commissary or archdeaconry courts are the principal source of wills from medieval England. But these provide relatively few wills of townspeople prior to the fifteenth century. Before that time, we must rely more on local records.
Early charters of liberties to some towns (e.g. Northampton) imply that borough courts they authorized had jurisdiction over legal matters concerning urban real estate owned by townspeople. Some borough custumals include numerous clauses regulating property transactions (e.g. Norwich, Ipswich). During the second half of the thirteenth century, when our earliest records from these courts survive, property transfers were being documented in those records in a few towns, such as London and Ipswich. Since the purpose of wills was to transfer property at death, extracts or abstracts of their content were copied into the record. The intent was to focus on the clauses relating to urban property. However, as time went on it became more common, or more expedient, to simply copy the whole into the court record.
A second source of early wills of townspeople were the cartularies of religious houses in the towns, or their vicinity. When those houses had, or came to acquire, interests in property transferred by townspeople, their deeds, quitclaims and wills were copied into the records of the institution. Bequests with other implications for religious houses might also warrant copying. Again, sometimes only the relevant parts of wills and testaments were transcribed, but more or less complete copies also can be found.
The two examples given above are among the earliest of the fuller transcriptions that found their way into borough or ecclesiastical records. In the case of Lynn, the borough court and its claim to probate were in the hands of the Bishop of Norwich, but the more indépendantiste townsmen resisted this. What little survives of the hustings rolls of the court of the bishop's steward shows no indication of any enrolments of wills or testaments, whereas from the early fourteenth century the assembly presided over by the mayor was having such documents presented before it, and copied into the Red Register and, later, a more formal, register, now lost.
Not surprisingly, these testaments are much the same in shape and in the type of information they provide as their counterparts that survive to us in greater numbers for the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Which is to say that they make some provision for the funeral, they make pious and charitable bequests, they remember relatives, friends and servants through small bequests of cash or personal items, they make the necessary provisions for widow and children, and they leave instructions for the disposal of real estate, while at the same time leaving us largely in the dark regarding issues of patrimony that property which, because itself inherited, descended automatically to the principal heir and was not bequeathable. If there is a notable difference between testaments of this period and the later, it is perhaps that the concern for having prayers said for the soul, while not absent in the former, is less of a preoccupation; for worries about Purgatory weighed more heavily upon the mind of towndwellers as time went on.
The first document translated above appears, at first glance, slightly conflicted in that it is, typically, drafted as though dictated by the testator, but occasionally lapses into referring to the testator in the third person. However, these shifts appear to be deliberate clarifications by the scribe of what the testator dictated.
The testator was perhaps a hat-maker, judging from his legacy of a "capella" in Tothill. On 14 August 1314, one John son of Thomas le Cave of Blewbury and his wife obtained a life lease from the abbot of Reading on a corner shop (seld) in the Drapery at Reading, opposite Tothill, formerly held by Alan de Bannebury. The abbot's lordship over this property probably explains why Alan's testament was copied into abbey records. The records of a taxation imposed on the borough in 1297 include an assessment on Alan which, however, throws little light on his occupation, for it mentions only grain, hay, firewood, a pig, a cow, and unspecified utensils.
Rather more is known about John Lambert. The surname is in evidence at Lynn for much of the thirteenth century; although we cannot be sure all the holders were related, it is not unlikely. A Richard Lambert and a John Lambert, along with several others of this surname, appear in a bede roll of the merchant gild whose compilation was begun during the term of Lynn's first mayor (ca.1217) and continued throughout the century. Richard Lambert appears to date from the earlier part of this period, and was a member of the merchant gild. Peter Lambert, listed adjacent to John, was perhaps the same who was defendant in a plea of novel disseisin in 1229. Hugh Lambert served as one of the gild merchant scabins in the early 1260s, and at the same period Alan Lambert was a member of the gild, while a (presumably later) Richard Lambert held the influential post of gild alderman ca.1271. The last was a prominent player in the local factionalism of the 1260s, which may have owed something to the civil war and/or to the struggle between pro- and anti-episcopal interests in the town. It was probably his wife, Matilda, who was listed in the obit roll of the hospital of St. Mary Magdalene (pre-1296). He was likely the father of the testator of 1312, for in 1289 John son of Richard Lambert was fined by the merchant gild for some unspecified but minor offence. It would appear that this family (if family it was) was among the more important mercantile families of Lynn.
John Lambert's own importance is evidenced in several ways. Such as his frequent appearance in witness lists to deeds where those deeds are witnessed by the mayor, other officials of Lynn, and men who were probably serving on the town council. And by the valuations of his goods for purposes of assessments of local taxes. His name appears in several assessments between 1292 and 1305 and his valuations are well above the average; in 1298 for example, his goods were assessed at £50, when the average assessment was £11. In 1300 and 1301 his taxes were remitted after he took an oath that he owned nothing by way of merchandize. Perhaps this reflects a bad patch in his business operations; but it is difficult to read it as meaning he was not involved in commerce, for other evidence contradicts that. As noted above, he had become a member of the merchant gild before 1289, and a Richard son of John Lambert took out membership in 1294. John served as a scabin of the merchant gild from 1295 to 1299. In 1293 he was suing Peter de Thurendine (a former mayor) and Richard de Gervestone for his share of profits from the sale of Norwegian herring. Two years later an inquisition into debts owed by Lynn merchants to Frenchmen found that Lambert owed £12.10s. to Peter Reymund of Vindymes. In 1305 he was allowed to deduct from his tax assessment of that year 9s., as the cost of wine bought from him by borough government. Furthermore, he held office as a customs collector at Lynn from 1305 to about September 1312; most local men in these offices also engaged in commerce. He may have engaged in retail from one or more of the shops he owned, although one suspects some of these were intended to give him income from rents.
Although he is not known to have risen to the mayoralty, and our knowledge of membership of the town council at this period is almost non-existent, John Lambert held the post of constable ca.1299-1305. This post, giving responsibility for one of the wards of the town, was later associated with aldermannic status, and other constables of the period included leading townsmen. Lambert also represented the borough at the parliament of 1312. He was associated, in 1309, with the faction in Lynn trying to resist the bishop's jurisdiction. The naming of Muriel de Ispania alongside his wife as someone for whose soul prayers were especially to be said may indicate a relationship with this powerful family John de Hispania served several terms as mayor between 1279 and 1292. Perhaps Matilda Lambert had been born into that family; in this regard, we may note the uncommon name of Alexander given to one of John and Matilda's sons, and that Alexander de Hispania (killed by John de Hispania prior to 1307) was a constable 1295-98.
The relationship with the Ridon family was also a close one, although whether of kinship, marriage, or friendship cannot be said. They have a prominent role in the testament of John Lambert's son Robert, in January 1323. The testament was drawn up at Beverley, and it seems that Robert may have moved there, for he asked to be buried there, had debts there, and bequeathed some personalia to a Beverley apothecary and his wife. On the other hand, he had retained in Lynn the Wingate property inherited from his father (although his name is otherwise absent from borough records); this he wanted sold, with part of the money used for two chaplains to celebrate masses for him, his parents and his wife for one year, and most of the remainder given to his brother Nicholas and the Friars Preacher in Lynn generally. The rents he held in Lynn were likewise to be sold, with half the proceeds distributed among the poor and the other half among his kin. Some of his personal possessions, including precious jewellery, were being kept safe for him, in a strongbox and a cloth sack (? clotsok), by Emma the wife of Thomas de Ridon; most of these, along with a separate cash bequest, he left to Emma and her two daughters. Thomas was named one of Robert's executors. Robert Lambert also had landed interests in Lincolnshire: he was leasing lands at Skendleby from Sir Peter de Maule and Alice de Furnival (the latter another recipient of a personalia legacy). In addition we hear that Robert had debts in Norwich.
Robert's name is absent from borough records, apart from his will being copied there. His interests were evidently wide-ranging, and it is not clear if his pursuits were primarily mercantile. His will gives more the impression of someone aspiring to rise higher in social standing, perhaps partly through military service. He aspired to go on a pilgrimage to St. James of Compostella. The personalia he bequeathed reflect a taste for finery: several gold rings, a gold necklace, a pearl-studded belt, silk purses, a chain bearing his silver seal, silver spoons, maplewood goblets, and a primer with an ivory cover. On the other hand, we also hear of his armour, sword and dagger, all then in the custody of another executor, and two horses: one a black hackney (a riding horse), the second being of such an estimated value that one suspects it may have been a charger. These things are not incompatible with the lifestyle of leading merchants at this time, but somehow Robert appears more than that.
"daughter of Alan's wife"
"St. Mary Magdalene"
"seventh day" "thirtieth day"
"executor of the Holy Land"
|Created: February 29, 2004 Last update: February 28, 2010||© Stephen Alsford, 2004-2010|