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
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
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
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.|
|" 1545–6, part ii|
|" 1558, part iii|
|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
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.
C. W. FOSTER.
17th September, 1914.