Will of William Swann 1688

"I give unto her two silver spoons, seaven payres of sheetes, six pillow-biers, one dozen of napkins, one long table cloth, two pewter dishes of the middle sort, the best feather bed in the kitchen Chamber." With Inventory.

By David Miller

Photo:The original Will.  Use 'Control +' to enlarge.

The original Will. Use 'Control +' to enlarge.

Commentary.

The handwriting in this will is clear, and there are only a few archaic letters used, so it is a good one on which to practise one's reading skills. William was a yeoman, and probably one of the wealthiest of this class in the village. Professor Margaret Spufford, who has studied Orwell farmers of this period, says that he had sixty one sheep, many more than the average yeoman, and that this shows a certain amount of specialisation and that he had a greater landholding than most in order to do this. He may therefore represent the beginning of farms as we know them rather than the old strip field system.

He certainly was comfortably off as a result. A man with six silver spoons and some 'old gold' to dispose of, able to give his two daughters £100 each, and to charge his freehold estate with an annual payment of £8 to his Wife, plus other land given to his Wife for her lifetime, and of course the house, had done very well for himself. The Inventory of his estate has been added to this page after the transcript of the Will. It might be thought that leaving his 'least' feather bed to his Wife was somewhat niggardly, but it has been suggested in other cases that this would have been the bed they used regularly, whereas the best feather bed would not have the same familiar associations.

An under-age girl with £100 coming to her at 21 would be a very good marriage proposition, but unfortunately we cannot find any obvious marriage entries in the Parish Registers to complete the story. Nor are there any entries which can be said to relate to William or Martha, so it is possible that they were connected with some other village and they are recorded there.

On the Chicheley Map dated circa 1686, there is a property shown as belonging to Widow Swan. Our William's Will is dated 1688, and he may have lived some time after making it (the Probate is dated 1691,) so if the dating of the map is correct, this cannot be his house. However, there are no other properties shown under the name of Swan in the village, so there must be some doubt over where William actually lived.

Transcript of the Will of William Swann 1688

In the name of God Amen.  The One and twentieth day of December One thousand six hundred and eighty eight in the fourth yeare of the reign of our Soverign Lord King James the Second of England Scotland France and Ireland, Defender of the faith etc.  I William Swann of Orwell in the County of Cambridge Yeoman being sick and weake in body but of sound and perfect memory (thanks be to Almighty God for the same) doe make this my last Will and Testament in manner and forme following First I bequeath my soule to Almighty God my Maker, and to Jesus Christ my Redeemer, and to the holy-ghost my sanctifier, And my body to the earth from whence it came, to be buried in such decent and Christian manner, as to my Executor shall be thought meete and convenient And touching such temporal estate of Goods Chattells and debts, as the Lord hath been pleased, far above my deserts, to bestow upon mee, I doe Order, give, bequeath and dispose the same in manner and form following Inprimis I give and bequeath unto my dearly beloved wife Martha Swanne the least feather-bed with all thereunto belonging as it now stands in the Kitchin-chamber. Item I give unto her two silver spoons seaven payrs of sheetes, one table-cloth, six napkins of the courser sort, two pillow-bires, two pewter dishes of the middle sort, and all my old gold.  Item I give unto the said Martha my Wife dureing the terme of her naturall life all that tenement now in the occupation of John Wing with the appurtenances thereunto belonging situate and being in Orwell And one close of land belonging to the said tenement being freehold, and two sellions of free land containing together Three roods and a half lying on Downhill next the land of William Stoakes on the South, the East head thereof abutts on Welderne way, and two half acres more of freehold I give unto my said wife abutting East upon Ridgeway, all which two roods and three acres and a half I give unto the said Martha my wife during the terme of her naturall life.  Item I give unto Martha my wife eight pounds to be yearly and every year to be payd unto her during her naturall life by my Executor hereafter named, and if my said executor shall refuse to pay the said yearly summe of eight pounds as it shall become due, then I give and bequeath all my freehold lands whatsoever to the said Martha my wife and to her heires for ever  Item I give to my daughter Martha Swann one hundred pounds of good and lawfull money to be paid within one year after my decease by my executor hereafter named.  Item I give unto her two silver spoons, seaven payres of sheetes, six pillow-biers, one dozen of napkins, one long table cloth, two pewter dishes of the middle sort, the best feather bed in the kitchen Chamber, one Bolster and two pillows, to be delivered to her the sayd Martha by my executor hereafter named.  Item I give unto my daughter Frances Swanne One hundred pounds of Good and lawfull money  to be paid at her age of one and twenty years by my executor as aforesaid.  Item I give unto her two silver spoons, seaven payer of Sheetes, six pillow-biers, one dozen of napkins, two pewter dishes of the middle sort, one long table cloth, One feather-bedd in the Hall Chamber on which shee lodges with two pillows and a bolster, to be delivered by my executor.  My will  and meaning is that my executor shall take care of, and provide for, my said daughters, Martha and Frances, with all things necessary and convenient for them untill such time as their severall portions shall be due and payd.  Lastly I give and bequeath all the Remainder of my goods and chattells, after the satisfaction of my debts, and payment of my legacies above by me bequeathed to James Swanne my sonne, whom I doo make, constitute, ordaine and appoint the sole executor of this my last Will and Testament, Revoking all other Wills and Testaments heretofore by mee made and declared.  In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal the day and year first above written.

 

Signed and delivered in the presence of                                William LS Swann

Robeart Adams

William Benigt his marke

John Martin

 

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Will of William Swann 1688' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Will of William Swann 1688' page

This page was added by David Miller on 16/03/2013.
Comments about this page

Thank you so much for uploading this will and inventory.  I think this may be one of my ancestors and I note the Fairchild name at bottom of the inventory which if my records are correct would be a cousin.  I have William's mother as a Frances Fairchild.

By Carmel McMullen
On 11/12/2015

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.