Pages ix-xi

Lincoln Wills: Volume 1, 1271-1526. Originally published by British Record Society, London, 1914.

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IT is the intention of the Lincoln Record Society to issue a series of volumes containing abstracts of wills relating to the diocese and county of Lincoln. These ancient testamentary documents are of value because they throw much light upon the language, the religious customs and observances, and the manners and social life of our forefathers. Moreover, they are of very great service for genealogical purposes since, in the period prior to the institution of parish registers, they are often the only available source of information relating to families which did not hold land or use armorial bearings; and even when they relate to the same period as extant parish registers, they are no less important to the genealogist, for experience proves that, while it is generally impossible to compile a pedigree from either wills or parish registers alone, it is generally easy to do so when both these classes of records are available.

In 1888 the late Mr. Alfred Gibbons, edited a volume of Early Lincoln Wills: an abstract of all the wills and administrations recorded in the Episcopal Registers of the old Diocese of Lincoln, 1280–1547. The volume is full of interest, though some names, and also many details which are important as illustrating ancient manners and customs, have been omitted.

The late Canon A. R. Maddison, f.s.a., in 1888 and 1891, edited two volumes of Lincolnshire Wills, a.d. 1500–1600, and a.d. 1600–1617, containing abstracts of wills preserved in the Lincoln District Probate Registry. These volumes give abstracts, generally short, of some 550 wills out of the tens of thousands which are deposited in the Registry. The present work supersedes no more than three or four pages of Canon Maddison's first volume.

The disadvantages attaching to the method of selection are so serious that it has been considered desirable to make this book exhaustive for the period which it covers. Every will, therefore, in the District Probate Registry from 1271, the earliest date, to 1526, has been included, with the exception of the following wills which lie entombed in later volumes in the Registry, and were found too late to be included—

Mauncer Marmyon of Ryngesdon [in the parish of Rippingale], esquire, dated 8 November, 1505 (Book 1532–4, folio 40).

James Washyngbourgh of Wyberton, maryner, dated 3 April, 1525 (Book 1520–31, folio 334).

John Warnar of Buknall, dated 6 July, 1526 (Book 1520–31, folio 396d.).

It is probable that a few more wills of the period may be discovered from time to time, and these, together with those just mentioned, will be printed in the next volume of this series. Further, this volume not only contains every will but also deals exhaustively with each one. Nothing has been omitted except that the substance of a document has sometimes been given in a shorter form in, e.g., devises of real estate with various remainders, and in some other cases where there is much verbiage or needless repetition. Further space has been saved by omitting, in most cases, the usual preamble; the commendation of the soul to Almighty God, blessed Mary, and the whole company of Heaven; the words, 'Item, I bequeath', etc.; and the subject matter of many unimportant bequests, as e.g. a cow, a ewe, a lamb, a pot or a pan, which recur with a monotonous frequency. The wills, before a.d. 1500 however, have been given in full, and in those from that date to 1510, the compression is very slight indeed. In all the wills special care has been taken to include all names of persons and places, obsolete words, curious or unusual expressions, and also the preambles and commendation clauses, etc., when they depart from the common form. The editor has erred rather on the side of inclusion than on that of exclusion, since it is in the statement of minute details that much of the value of these early wills consists. When the wills of the next period come to be edited it will probably be found possible to use greater compression in many of the documents. The spelling of the original has been carefully followed. The grammar is, in many cases, indefensible, but the sentences are given as they appear in the wills. Many of the words might suggest that there has been an obvious mistake in copying or printing, but it may be said that great pains have been taken to ensure accuracy, and that where a word has been open to suspicion the original has been consulted again. Such words occur too often to admit of sic being printed after them.

It would have been possible to have illustrated the text with notes from many sources, but it has been decided to confine the notes to necessary explanations of the text. There are at Lincoln probably no fewer than 40,000 wills prior to the year 1600 and, with this vast mass of material awaiting publication, it has seemed the wiser policy to devote the funds of the Society to the printing of as much as possible of the original documents, and to leave students to make use of the raw material thus provided for them. In two instances of early and exceptional interest the editor must plead guilty to having departed from this decision, and perhaps the length to which the notes have run in those cases may be taken as illustrating the soundness of the general rule.

The books and bundles in the District Probate Registry from which the wills in this volume have been taken are—

Book 1506 etc., the whole of which has been printed.

" 1520–31 which contain some wills prior to a.d. 1527.
" 1543–56
" 1545–6, part ii
" 1558, part iii
1566 etc.
labelled Various
Bundle labelled Lyle in a portfolio labelled Wills, 16th Century.
" " Pyrn
" " Dean and Chapter—Miscellaneous Wills.

A glossary has been provided with a view to explaining some of the more difficult words and subjects. It may contain little that is new to scholars, but it may, perhaps, be found helpful by those members of the Society who, without being experts, feel a general attachment to antiquities.

Some explanation of the long delay in the appearance of this volume is due to members of the Society. The original arrangement was that the Society's fifth volume should be the ancient Cartulary of the Vicars Choral of Lincoln Cathedral, but Canon Maddison's untimely death made this impossible. It was then decided that the vacancy should be filled with a volume of wills, which was, in its turn, delayed by the long illness of the editor.

The thanks of the Society are due to Mr. Gordon L. Simpson, until lately H.M. Registrar of the Lincoln District Probate Registry, and now district Registrar at York, for the facilities which he willingly gave for access to the wills under his charge; and to the clerks of the Registry, Messrs. Panton and Handley, and especially Mr. Smith, for their invariable courtesy and helpfulness.

In the preparation of the volume the editor has availed himself of help and advice which he wishes thankfully to acknowledge. In the first place, he is very deeply indebted to Miss Rotha Mary Clay who, with a generous sacrifice of leisure, compiled the valuable Subject Index. To Mr. A. Hamilton Thompson, f.s.a., whose wide and accurate knowledge of mediæval literature is well-known, the editor has turned in many doubts and difficulties, and has always received prompt and willing help. The Rev. Andrew Clark, ll.d., has most kindly read the proofs, and given valuable help in connection with some of the entries in the Glossary. Dr. Henry Bradley, one of the editors of the New English Dictionary, and the Rev. J. T. Fowler, canon of Durham, have supplied notes about some obscure words. Dr. M. R. James, provost of King's college, Cambridge, and Mr. G. G. Coulton have helped in identifying ancient books. The editor wishes also gratefully to acknowledge the help which he has received throughout the preparation of the work from his clerks, the Misses R. E. and F. E. Thurlby and E. Kettleborough.


17th September, 1914.