A will and inventory from 1670

Here is the will made for a shepherd named Thomas Clements who lived in Thriplow in 1670:

Will of Thomas Clements

Will of Thomas Clements

As you can see the handwriting looks unfamiliar. Dr Shirley Wittering wrote about this will in her article published in the Thriplow Journal in 1995 volume 4.2. If you follow the link you will be able to magnify the image of the will.

The following is taken from this article:

Thomas Clements must have seen many changes in his lifetime. The name Clements occurs in the registers from 1604 to 1804, a period of 200 years. We do not have his date of birth but he married his first wife, Frances in 1635, and assuming that he was about twenty then he was probably born in 1615 during the reign of James I. He saw the reign of Charles I end in civil war and the King’s beheading. Frances gave him three children, George, Elizabeth and Thomas (who died at the age of 13 years). She herself died in 1658. He probably married his second wife, Mary, shortly after the restoration of King Charles II in 1660 as her first child Hannah was born in 1662. She lived for just one day and then in 1663 his son William was born. Although he calls himself a shepherd he was obviously a man of some standing. He could write and he was on the court roll of Bacon’s Manor; his name is on three different tax returns and he paid the Hearth Tax. He died on April 11th 1670, seven days after making his will. It was the custom for wills to be written at the death-bed and judging by the shaky signature this is what happened here.

The study of old handwriting is called Palaeography, the handwriting used in Thomas Clement’s will is called Secretary Hand and is not so very different from modern writing though at first sight it seems very difficult. The ‘s’ is sometimes short and sometimes long; the ‘h’ has lost its long tail and looks as it does now. The double ‘f’ is a Capital ‘F’. The capital ‘C’ lies on its back and ‘R’ and ‘K’ are tricky. The spelling can be puzzling but if you say the word aloud it usually helps.

Here is a transcription of the will in which the original spelling is retained:

IN THE NAME OF GOD AMEN the forth day of Aprill in the yeare of our Lord God one thousand six hundred and seventy I Thomas Clements of Thriploe in the County of Cambridge Sheaphard doe make and ordaine this my last will and Testament in man nor and forme following FIRST I bequeath my Soule to God my maker trusting by the merrits of Jesus Crist to be Saved and my body to the earth from whence it came

ITEM I will and give unto Elizabeth Clements my daughter my joyned tabel! & forme my Cobard my bigest kettell one tub and six pound of good & lawful! money of england to be paid by my executor here after named when She shall attaine To the eage of one & twenty yeares and my Read Cow

ITEM I will and give unto George my son the som of forty Shillings to be paid by my executor with in one wholl yeare next after my decese

ITEM I will and give unto William my son the som of six pound to be paid by my Executor when he shall attaine to the eage of one & twenty yeares my will and mind is that Mary my wife shall have the increace of my son Williams portion tell he doth attaine to the cage of one & twenty yeares to helpe Bring him up

ITEM I give unto Mary my wife The som of six pound of lawful! money of england and All the Rest of my goodes un bequeathed my debtes and legates and funeral! Charges paid and discharged I give unto Mary my wife whom I make my wholl executor of this my last will and Testament.

Thomas died on 11th April. Nine days later his inventory was taken:

Inventory for Thomas Clements

Inventory for Thomas Clements

Here are some comments taken from Dr Wittering’s article:

Some of the words in the inventory are no longer used and some have changed their meaning over the years; for instance a ‘huch or hutch’ was then a small cupboard and a cupboard was just that, a board for standing cups on. A ‘joyned’ table is craftsman made with joints not just a plank on a trestle. Chairs were status symbols, most people sat on forms.

The best beds or mattresses were feather the next best made of flock (wool refuse); the best sheets made of flax, the next best tower – short bits of linen and very rough, remember there was no cotton yet. A pillow beere is a pillow case. Most dishes were made of pewter and trash is a word that has crossed the Atlantic and means small items of little value. A Dub is probably a large wooden dish and a Cimnell is a wooden dish for holding milk. A cupell is an ewe with its lamb. Note the value of ‘the dung in the yard’, the only means of improving the land.

The most significant entry is the possession of a Bible and six other books. Books were rare especially in Thomas Clement’s class for he lived in a house with but four rooms and according to the hearth tax only one hearth. The entry at the bottom of the inventory is interesting. Elizabeth must have been in a hurry to get her hands on her legacy as the items bequeathed to her by her father were already in her possession only nine days after his death, including the red cow.

You can read more about Thomas’ books and books of the time in an article written by Neville Potter called “A Small Thriplow Library of 1670” published in the Thriplow Journal in 2012 volume 21.2.