WILLS AND INVENTORIES
529. Wills and testamentary records
Londoners' wills could be enrolled or registered in one or more of several
courts, the choice being determined principally by the nature and extent
of the testator's estate and by his place of residence. Disposition of
freehold estates was normal in wills enrolled in the Husting Court and
fairly frequent in PCC wills; other PCC wills, and wills registered in other
courts, usually concern personal estate, sometimes including leasehold
interests. See A. J. Camp, Wills and their whereabouts (1974) for an
introduction to testamentary records and fuller lists of records, calendars,
and indexes. Although the jurisdictions of the London courts and
peculiars (d-j) usually dictated where the wills of persons living in
particular parishes were registered, such wills may also contain
references to property in other areas. For wills registered in Scotland, see
In the following descriptions, reference is made to printed indexes etc.;
the other indexes noted are MS or TS, available in the record office
a. City of London Court of Husting (CLRO). Enrolled wills (or parts of
wills dealing with real property), principally of citizens, from 1258;
calendared and indexed in Calendar of wills proved and enrolled in the
Court of Husting, London, 1258–1688, ed. R. R. Sharpe (1889–90); the
calendar entries sometimes omit properties when many are mentioned in
a will. See 2a.
b. Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PRO). Registers from 1393, original
wills from late 15C; indexed by name and places mentioned: Index of wills
proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (British Rec. Soc. Index
Library, vols. 10, 11, 18, 25, 43, 44, 54, 61, 67). During vacancies of the
see of Canterbury some wills were proved in the court of the prior of
Christ Church, Canterbury, and subsequently of the dean and chapter (at
Canterbury); indexed 1278–1559 in C. E. Woodruff, Sede vacante wills
(Kent Archaeological Society Records Branch 3, 1914).
c. Consistory Court of London (GLRO). Registers from 1492, original
wills from 1508; first register ('Palmer', 1492–1520) and some wills
printed as London Consistory Court wills 1492–1547, ed. I. Darlington
(LRS 3, 1967). Name indexes to later registers and wills.
d. Archdeaconry of London Court (GL). Registers from 1393, original
wills from 1524; calendars; printed indexes to 1649: Index to testamentary
records in the Archdeaconry Court of London (British Rec. Soc. Index
Library, vol. 89).
e. Commissary Court of London, London division (GL). Registers from
1374, original wills from 1523; calendars; printed indexes to 1570: Index
to testamentary records in the Commissary Court of London (British Rec.
Soc. Index Library, vols. 82, 86). Name and place index to 1629; name
index to 1669.
f. Court of Arches (Lambeth). Covers deanery of Arches (5, 9, 51, 53, 73,
83, 100, 103, 104, 125, 126, 145, 159). Original wills from 1620, registers
from 1684; place and name index.
g. Peculiar of dean and chapter of St. Paul's (GL). Covers part of 20 and
59, 62, 63, 64. Registers from 1534, original wills from 1660; name index.
h. Royal peculiar of dean and chapter of Westminster (Westminster City
Library Archives Department, 160 Buckingham Palace Road, London
SW1). Covers precinct of St. Martin le Grand and parts of 23, 84.
Registers from 1504, original wills from 1591; name index.
j. Peculiar and exempt jurisdiction of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of
London (147): Bodl, MS Rawl. C 121 is MS register of probates, 1586–
k. A few wills, including some London wills, were registered in episcopal
and archiepiscopal registers: see Camp, Wills, 86, 90–1; J. H. Bloom,
'List of wills and administrations registered in episcopal registers of the
bishop of London, 1313–1548' (TS, 1927), available in GL; Index to wills
recorded in the archiepiscopal registers at Lambeth Palace (1919),
reprinted from The Genealogist, n.s. 34–5.
Inventories of personal estate are found principally in the records of
courts granting probate, and are usually associated with surviving or
registered wills proved in that court (see 529); indexing is usually by name
of testator only. CLRO, Mayor's Court original bills contain numerous
schedules of goods, 16C to 18C (4); Court of Orphans records also
include household and stock inventories, 17C and later (7). There are
also stray inventories in PRO and GL (see f, g, below) and in other record
offices (treated under individual headings).
a. PRO, Prerogative Court of Canterbury. PROB 2/1–824: inventories,
from 1417; name index, parish not usually given. PROB 5: original paper
inventories, from 1660, mostly related to wills in PROB 11 (registers);
b. GLRO, Consistory Court of London. Few if any probate inventories
for 16C/17C; name index.
c. GL, Archdeaconry Court of London. MS 9898: inventories, 1662–1705
(boxes 1–2 cover to 1666), arranged alphabetically by year; name index.
d. GL, Commissary Court of London. MS 9174: inventories and declarations, 1660–1741 (boxes 1–17 cover to 1666; a few earlier inventories
exhibited 1660 and later), arranged alphabetically by year and month;
name index, including parish ref. if given in original. MS 9174A/1:
another box of inventories, 1664–6, arranged alphabetically, not
e. GL, Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's. MS 19504: inventories, 1660–
1725, in annual bundles; not indexed at present.
f. PRO, other inventories. E154: odd inventories, incl. some probate,
13C to 18C, incl. several for Londoners; listed by name, usually without
location: see search room list. Places named are: 34 (E154/3/13); 152 (6/
35); Cripplegate (1/12); Fetter Lane (7/12); St. Nicholas Lane (3/40);
Soper Lane (1/18a); Wood Street (3/37).
g. GL, other inventories. Loose inventories (probably some probate) and
inventories in archives (livery company records, parish records, etc.)
kept in GL all indexed in class card catalogue L57.5.