Sussex Probate Records

In the last issue of Longshot, I promised to produce a list of all the Lin(d)field probate records which are kept at the West and East Sussex Record Offices. Well, here it is! I have endeavoured to compile an index of all the known wills, administrations and inventories relating to the county of Sussex, so I have also included the PCC records kept at the Public Record Office in Chancery Lane. Eventually, we will have copies of all these documents in the society archives; those we hold at present are marked with an asterisk, and I am slowly (perhaps I should say very slowly!) making transcripts of each and every one of them. There is a good chance that I may have missed out something completely, although my intention is to provide a comprehensive collection of everything available. Please get in touch if you know of any omissions. I should also mention that I am only dealing here with records up to 1858, before the Court of Probate Act established a Principal Probate Registry in London when all probate matters were removed from the jurisdiction of the Church.

WILLS

Before 1858, the proving of wills in England and Wales was a matter for the ecclesiastical courts. To complicate matters further, several probate courts had jurisdiction in Sussex and it is necessary to consult all of them since executors did not always go to the most obvious court, for a variety of reasons. There were also different grades of probate court:

– The Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC).

– The Bishop’s Court or Consistory Court, which covered a whole diocese.

– The Archdeacon’s Court, which covered one archdeaconry only.

– The Peculiar or local courts, which covered specific parishes or specific areas.

The general rules of probate jurisdiction stated that if a testator had “bona notabilia” (ie goods of value, above 5) in one archdeaconry only, the will was proved at the Archdeacon’s Court; if in two archdeaconries, then in the Consistory Court. However, if he had goods in more than one diocese, then in PCC, but not everybody followed these rules. The status value of going to PCC encouraged some people to go there even though a lower court would have been perfectly sufficient. Nonconformists also preferred PCC. During the Commonwealth (1652-1660) this Court, in the form of a civil authority, had sole jurisdiction in England and Wales; so its records are particularly important during this period.

To begin these lists, I thought it appropriate to start with the will of our very own Archdeacon who was personally involved in these matters in the first half of the 15th Century!

1440 October 28 Johannes Lyndefeld Archus Cicestren.1 (John Lyndefeld, Archdeacon of Chichester) Date of probate: November 5 1440

ARCHDEACONRY OF CHICHESTER2

Year Proved

*Lynfilde Henry Westgrynsted 1549

*Lyndfilde Margerye wydow Westgrynsted 1549

*Lynfelde Marmadewke Westgrynsted 1556

*Lyndfilde John Westgrenestede 1559

*Lynffylde Richard Westgrensted 1560

*Lyndfeilde William, husbandman Nuthurst 1578

*Lynfield John husbandman Thakeham 1594

*Linfeild William husbandman Nuthurst 1601

*Linfield Jane/Joane widow Thakeham 1604

*Linfield John husbandman Itchingfield 1607

*Linfield Henry husbandman Thakeham 1612

*Lynfield Henry Westgrinsted 1615

*Lynfield Richard husbandman Findon 1617

*Linfeild William yeoman Thakeham 1630

*Lynfield Henry husbandman Nuthurst 1643

*Linfeild Richard brickmaker St.Pancras,Chich. 1649

*Linfield George husbandman Wiston 1650

*Linfield Margrett spinster Horsham 1704

*Linfeild William yeoman Horsham 1710

*Linfeild Peter yeoman Nuthurst 1715

*Linfield John blacksmith Ifield 1729

*Linfield Elizabeth widow Nuthurst 1733

*Linfeild William blacksmith Horsham 1738

*Linfield Ann widow Horsham 1741

*Linfield John yeoman Nuthurst 1741

*Lindfield William yeoman Climping 1761

*Linfield John Esq. Coolhurst, Horsham 1782

*Lindfield John Hurstpierpoint 1786

*Linfield Peter butcher Storrington 1792

*Linfield Sarah widow Storrington 1806

*Linfield William butcher Storrington 1836

ARCHDEACONRY OF LEWES3

Year Proved

Lyndfill Edward Bolney 1566

Lynfeld John West Hoathly 1574

Lynfelde Joane widow Bolney 1588

Lynfelde William tailor East Grinstead 1595

Linfeild Edward clerk Ripe 1601

Linfild Joane widow Selmeston 1604

Lindfield Alice widow Henfield 1627

Lindfield William Cuckfield 1640

The typescript index does not provide the individual spelling variations for each surname, so this will be omitted in the list which follows; however, I have added the reference numbers to each will in order to make good use of the available space.

Year Ref:

Michael husbandman West Hoathly 1663 A30-86

*John singleman Cuckfield 1664 A30-137

*Anne widow Hurstpierpoint 1676 A34-154

*George husbandman Cuckfield 1676 A34-183

*John yeoman Albourne 1684 A36-151

Thomas ? Old Shoreham 1690 A39-95

Thomas yeoman Fletching 1697 A43-62

*James mercer East Grinstead 1705 A46-115

*John yeoman Southover 1709 A47-248

*Richard yeoman Slaugham 1710 A47-262

William husbandman Bolney 1735 A55-53

*John yeoman Hurstpierpoint 1748 A57-598

Josiah blacksmith Worth (Ifield) 1755 A59-152

*Nathaniel yeoman Hurstpierpoint 1759 A60-120

*John yeoman Hurstpierpoint 1768 A61-727

*Thomas butcher Ditchling 1808 A70-366

*Ann spinster Hurstpierpoint 1810 A70-956

John farmer Newick 1833 A78-50

*Hannah widow Ditchling 1837 A84-627

PREROGATIVE COURT OF CANTERBURY4

The periods 1701-1749 and 1801-1853 are excluded because there is no available printed index. If these gaps are to be filled, it will be necessary to consult the contemporary manuscript calendars held at the Public Record Office. There is also an official printed index for 1853-1858 which also needs to be checked.

Lingfield Edward Lingfield, Surrey 16425

Lindfield Eleanor widow West Grinstead 16526

Linfeild Edward gent. Lingfield, Surrey 1657 Folio 70

Linfield John yeoman Hurstpierpoint 1660 Folio 135

Linfeild Richard draper Lingfield, Surrey 1683 Folio 95

Linfeild Robert gent. Bernards Inne, Lon. 1685 Folio 22

Linfield John Sussex 1750

Linfeild Robert Surrey 1756 Ref Sep 252

Linfeild Mary Sussex 1762 Ref Apr 163

Linfield Elizabeth Surrey 1767 Ref Dec 452

Linfeild John Surrey 1772 Ref Aug 299

Linfield Susanna Sussex 1776 Ref Aug 365

ADMINISTRATIONS (ADMONS)

When a person died intestate, the next-of-kin was supposed to apply to a probate court for Letters of Administration (usually abbreviated to Admons) in order to administer the estate. In most cases where the estate was small, and there was no dispute as to who should inherit, no application was made. But where letters were sought, the applicant committed himself to a number of obligations, including the funeral expenses, payment of debts and the provision of an inventory. The Court granted the Letters and entered the Administration Act into a register (this was in Latin up to 1733).

ARCHDEACONRY OF CHICHESTER. 7

*Lynfeld George Nuthurst 1589

*Lingfield John Itchingfield 1608

*Lingfield John Ashurst 1625

*Lingfield George Westgrinstead 1625

*Linfeild John Nuthurst 1640

*Linfeild Joseph Nuthurst 1668

Linfeild Thomas Westgrinstead 1682

*Lingfield George Shipley 1711

*Linfeild Mary Rusper 1729

*Linfield James Broadwater 1836

*Linfield George Storrington 1847

ARCHDEACONRY OF LEWES8

Linfeild, John; Hurstpierpoint. B9/133V Ad. 28 Jan. 1682 to relict Susanna Thomas Avery, labourer of same bound. Inventory: 325-12s-4d

Lindfield, Lydia; Clayton B22/10. Ad. 7 July 1824 to husband William Under 300

Lindfield, Henry Butcher of Ditchling B22/223 Ad. 3 May 1836 to relict Mary. John Turner of Keymer, gent. & James Wood of same, gent. bound. Under 200

PREROGATIVE COURT OF CANTERBURY9

Linfeild als Lynthwaite John St. Botolph, Aldersgate London 1650 Folio 30

Linfeild John Westgrinstead, Sussex 1653-4 Vol. II Folio 483

Linfeild als Greenvill Rebecca Westgrinstead, Sussex 1655 Folio 136

Linfeild Thomas Fletching, Sussex 1658 Folio 180

From 1661 on it is necessary to consult the contemporary manuscript calendars at the PRO, except 1853-1858 (see above).

INVENTORIES

An inventory was a list, drawn up by two neighbours of the deceased, of all his personal effects. Their survival rate varies considerably, and they should, in theory, have accompanied every will and administration. However, in practice, this has certainly not been the case. Most of those that do survive come from the period 1529-1750, although for PCC they only exist in any number between 1661-1700. Their value to the genealogist or local historian comes from the amazing wealth of detail they provide: going from room to room, the assessors list all the furniture, cooking and eating utensils, drinking vessels, tools and stock in trade, as well as animals and crops growing, and their estimated worth. Inventories therefore provide a unique insight into how our ancestors’ earned their living; they also help to give a much more accurate indication of their wealth than the rather loose descriptions used in their wills (eg yeoman, husbandman etc.).

ARCHDEACONRY OF CHICHESTER10

11- 9-1617 Linfield Richard husbandman Findon value?

23- 3-1630 Linfield William yeoman Thakeham 16- 8s- 0d

*10- 3-1640 Lynfylde John Nuthurst 31- 6s- 4d

*18- 5-1643 Linfield Henry husbandman Nuthurst 79- 0s- 0d

13- 9-1649 Linfeild Richard brickmaker St. Pancras 8- 3s- 6d

16- 1-1651 Linfield George husbandman Wiston 117-18s- 0d

14- 4-1668 Linfield Joseph stonehealer Nuthurst 23- 9s- 2d

16-12-1681 Linfield Thomas husbandman West Grinst. 72-10s- 5d

*19-10-1710 Linfield William yeoman Horsham 223-19s- 0d

28-3-1729 Linfield John blacksmith Ifield 221-18s- 8d

15-7-1729 Linfield Mary widow Rusper 116-13s-10d

*12-5-1741 Linfield John yeoman Nuthurst 287-12s- 0d *

28-3-1792 Linfield Peter butcher Storrington 1869-7s- 0d

ARCHDEACONRY OF LEWES Sources: 1710-1846 Index: person, place & occupation ESRO (The main bulk of inventories only survive from this period. However, I did manage to locate two inventories from the 17th century which are shown below).

1660 Goods of John Linfield of Hurstpierpoint Add. ms. 2212 (now at WSRO) 1676 Goods of

George Lynfield of Cuckfield Add. ms. 2214 (now at WSRO)

Not a single Lin(d)field inventory appears in the index for 1710-1846

PREROGATIVE COURT OF CANTERBURY As mentioned above, the large majority of PCC inventories only survive for the period 1661-1700. These are indexed at the PRO, where it will be necessary to consult them at some future date.

OTHER SOURCES

Finally, before finishing, it is worth mentioning that there are other sources for probate records, although what I have produced here are the most obvious ones. No doubt my list is incomplete, since I still have to check the records of all the Peculiar or local courts which also had jurisdiction in Sussex. But many records are hidden away in some of the more obscure archives, and these too must be thoroughly searched to reveal their secrets. For example, only the other day I discovered two Lin(d)field wills not previously encountered. They appear in the archives of the Sussex Archaeological Society which are also held at the ESRO, and belong to the following:

Lindfield William Hurstpierpoint, gent. 13 May 1806 HC/425

Lindfield Elizabeth Henfield, spinster 18 Sept. 1812 Probate: 19 Jan. 1813. OR/299

I shall, of course, regularly update this list when more probate records are found. I am also interested in finding records from outside Sussex, and the Suffolk wills listed elsewhere in this journal are a useful start. Please get in touch if you have any information toadd to these lists.

1 Sussex Record Society (SRS) Vol. XLI (41)

2 1479-1800 Index in British Record Society (BRS) Vol. 49; 1801-1858 Card index at WSRO

3 1541-1660 BRS XXIV (24); 1660-1858 Typescript index at ESRO

4 1383-1629 BRS Vols. I-VI; 1630-1655 Year Books of Probates by J & GF Matthews; 1653-1700, BRS Vols. VII-XII; 1750-1800 PCC Will Index Vol. 4 AJ Camp (Soc. of Genealogists)

5 Pr. Dec. 20 1642 by son Edward

6 Admon. with will Sept 10 to John Woolvyn of Littleworth during minority of her daughters Susan and Abigail

7 1555-1800 BRS Vol. 64 Calendar of Administrations in the Consistory Court of the Bishop of Chichester; 1801-1858 Index WSRO

8 1541-1642 BRS 24; 1670-1858 Card index at ESRO

9 1559-1660 Printed indexes in various volumes of the BRS

10 West Sussex Probate Inventories 1521-1834 Compiled by T.J. McCann

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>