The 100+ Wills Project

In January 2021 The Friends of Lydiard Park launched a new project to uncover and explore the wills of one hundred people, from members of the St. John family who owned Lydiard Park to the people living and working in and around their estate at Lydiard Tregoze from 1384 to 1858.

Dr Lynda Pidgeon

Historian and Project leader Lynda Pidgeon has been collating the digitized wills, thanks to the National Archive’s initiative to offer them for free downloading during Covid19. Lynda’s call for volunteers to assist in the project was answered by ten people who have been busy transcribing over 100 wills, far exceeding our initial expectations for the 100 Wills Project!

In July 2023 the wills that have been examined can be broken down as follows:

Lydiard Tregoze – period covering 1555-1856 : 54 wills, all have been transcribed twice and  40 checked and entered into The Lydiard Archives

Lydiard Millicent – period covering 1582-1856: 30 wills, 29 transcribed twice, 9 checked and entered into The Lydiard Archives

St.John family – period covering 1422-1857: 161 wills, 31 transcribed twice, 4 checked and entered into The Lydiard Archives.  A few exceptional examples were transcribed many years ago and can be found in the Reports of the Friends of Lydiard Tregoze but the majority remain a hidden treasure trove of information.

Thomas Braithwaite of Ambleside Making His Will; Lakeland Arts Trust

Lynda is always looking for interested volunteers to transcribe the wills which can be done remotely from the comfort of home.

Lynda writes:

The nineteenth century wills are often just a case of being able to read bad handwriting, and once you learn the abbreviations the earlier ones can often be easier to read. Wills can tell us quite a lot, not just about the testator, but their family and some of the things they owned. You may get a glimpse of how they dressed, how they decorated their homes or even what they thought of their family.

Wills are a great resource for both family and local history and so the project initially concentrated on wills belonging to the people of Lydiard Tregoze which links to our Lydiard Tregoze Grave Survey & Family History Project. In this way we may help bring to life some of the people who lived and worked in and around Lydiard Park.

If you are interested in joining The 100 Wills Project please contact Lynda via [email protected] Detailed information and an application form can be downloaded here: The 100 Wills Project Application Information.

Lynda describes her experience and why wills can be so fascinating:

My experience is mainly with fifteenth century wills, in these you might find female testators leaving their best dress, second best dress and even their third best dress, the recipients might be friends, family or servants. In a Salisbury will a merchant instructed his executors that his wife would only get his property if she had behaved herself as a good wife ought towards her husband. It always intrigues me how the executors decided which was the best or worst dress. Or in the case of the wife, what criteria determined if she had been good to her husband? She was a younger second wife, and the implication is that he was trying to ensure her good behaviour during their marriage

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