Sources: Wills and inventories

Pages 219-221

A Survey of Documentary Sources for Property Holding in London before the Great Fire. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1985.

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529. Wills and testamentary records

Londoners' wills could be enrolled or registered in one or more of several courts, the choice being determined principally by the nature and extent of the testator's estate and by his place of residence. Disposition of freehold estates was normal in wills enrolled in the Husting Court and fairly frequent in PCC wills; other PCC wills, and wills registered in other courts, usually concern personal estate, sometimes including leasehold interests. See A. J. Camp, Wills and their whereabouts (1974) for an introduction to testamentary records and fuller lists of records, calendars, and indexes. Although the jurisdictions of the London courts and peculiars (d-j) usually dictated where the wills of persons living in particular parishes were registered, such wills may also contain references to property in other areas. For wills registered in Scotland, see 515.

In the following descriptions, reference is made to printed indexes etc.; the other indexes noted are MS or TS, available in the record office concerned.

a. City of London Court of Husting (CLRO). Enrolled wills (or parts of wills dealing with real property), principally of citizens, from 1258; calendared and indexed in Calendar of wills proved and enrolled in the Court of Husting, London, 1258–1688, ed. R. R. Sharpe (1889–90); the calendar entries sometimes omit properties when many are mentioned in a will. See 2a.

b. Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PRO). Registers from 1393, original wills from late 15C; indexed by name and places mentioned: Index of wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (British Rec. Soc. Index Library, vols. 10, 11, 18, 25, 43, 44, 54, 61, 67). During vacancies of the see of Canterbury some wills were proved in the court of the prior of Christ Church, Canterbury, and subsequently of the dean and chapter (at Canterbury); indexed 1278–1559 in C. E. Woodruff, Sede vacante wills (Kent Archaeological Society Records Branch 3, 1914).

c. Consistory Court of London (GLRO). Registers from 1492, original wills from 1508; first register ('Palmer', 1492–1520) and some wills printed as London Consistory Court wills 1492–1547, ed. I. Darlington (LRS 3, 1967). Name indexes to later registers and wills.

d. Archdeaconry of London Court (GL). Registers from 1393, original wills from 1524; calendars; printed indexes to 1649: Index to testamentary records in the Archdeaconry Court of London (British Rec. Soc. Index Library, vol. 89).

e. Commissary Court of London, London division (GL). Registers from 1374, original wills from 1523; calendars; printed indexes to 1570: Index to testamentary records in the Commissary Court of London (British Rec. Soc. Index Library, vols. 82, 86). Name and place index to 1629; name index to 1669.

f. Court of Arches (Lambeth). Covers deanery of Arches (5, 9, 51, 53, 73, 83, 100, 103, 104, 125, 126, 145, 159). Original wills from 1620, registers from 1684; place and name index.

g. Peculiar of dean and chapter of St. Paul's (GL). Covers part of 20 and 59, 62, 63, 64. Registers from 1534, original wills from 1660; name index.

h. Royal peculiar of dean and chapter of Westminster (Westminster City Library Archives Department, 160 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1). Covers precinct of St. Martin le Grand and parts of 23, 84. Registers from 1504, original wills from 1591; name index.

j. Peculiar and exempt jurisdiction of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London (147): Bodl, MS Rawl. C 121 is MS register of probates, 1586– 1614, 1660–5.

k. A few wills, including some London wills, were registered in episcopal and archiepiscopal registers: see Camp, Wills, 86, 90–1; J. H. Bloom, 'List of wills and administrations registered in episcopal registers of the bishop of London, 1313–1548' (TS, 1927), available in GL; Index to wills recorded in the archiepiscopal registers at Lambeth Palace (1919), reprinted from The Genealogist, n.s. 34–5.

530. Inventories

Inventories of personal estate are found principally in the records of courts granting probate, and are usually associated with surviving or registered wills proved in that court (see 529); indexing is usually by name of testator only. CLRO, Mayor's Court original bills contain numerous schedules of goods, 16C to 18C (4); Court of Orphans records also include household and stock inventories, 17C and later (7). There are also stray inventories in PRO and GL (see f, g, below) and in other record offices (treated under individual headings).

a. PRO, Prerogative Court of Canterbury. PROB 2/1–824: inventories, from 1417; name index, parish not usually given. PROB 5: original paper inventories, from 1660, mostly related to wills in PROB 11 (registers); name index.

b. GLRO, Consistory Court of London. Few if any probate inventories for 16C/17C; name index.

c. GL, Archdeaconry Court of London. MS 9898: inventories, 1662–1705 (boxes 1–2 cover to 1666), arranged alphabetically by year; name index.

d. GL, Commissary Court of London. MS 9174: inventories and declarations, 1660–1741 (boxes 1–17 cover to 1666; a few earlier inventories exhibited 1660 and later), arranged alphabetically by year and month; name index, including parish ref. if given in original. MS 9174A/1: another box of inventories, 1664–6, arranged alphabetically, not indexed.

e. GL, Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's. MS 19504: inventories, 1660– 1725, in annual bundles; not indexed at present.

f. PRO, other inventories. E154: odd inventories, incl. some probate, 13C to 18C, incl. several for Londoners; listed by name, usually without location: see search room list. Places named are: 34 (E154/3/13); 152 (6/ 35); Cripplegate (1/12); Fetter Lane (7/12); St. Nicholas Lane (3/40); Soper Lane (1/18a); Wood Street (3/37).

g. GL, other inventories. Loose inventories (probably some probate) and inventories in archives (livery company records, parish records, etc.) kept in GL all indexed in class card catalogue L57.5.