Thursday, March 04, 2010

The will of Thomas ADAMS

Just after Christmas in 1837, Burcott farmer Thomas ADAMS was murdered. His eldest son William was charged with the murder but found not guilty - you can read newspaper reports of the trial along with other contemporary commentary as to the events that transpired and likelihood of the verdict being correct.

Here's the Adams family in question (click to enlarge):

Thomas had drafted his will in 1835, then added a codicil in early 1837. His wife Martha had died in 1828 however he had twelve surviving children, some adult, some minor, to be considered as well as responsibilities for legacies to his mother and brother. The will itself runs over seven PDF pages, has a lot of what-if scenarios in it, and is altered slightly by the codicil, so the abstract that now appears on the Wing One Place Study wills pages is quite abbreviated.

The first point I found interesting is the explicit instructions he left as to his grave - in a common grave in the church yard of Wing as near as possible to the remains of his late father and grandfather, and that "plain head and foot stones" should be raised for himself and his father. You can see Thomas' stone illustrating my page of the newspaper reports, and it stands tucked up against All Saints Church in the north-west corner. It is pretty plain I guess, however from his wording I would almost expect it to be completely unengraved. I didn't specifically take note of any other Adams gravestones in the immediate vicinity but I understand that there are indeed others in adjoining plots. Has anyone else seen explicit instructions like this in the will of their ancestors from Wing?

Thomas had an obligation under his father's will to make annual payments to his mother and brother, and this continues under Thomas' will (the obligation is passed on to son Henry Charles once Henry turns 21 if his grandmother and uncle are still living). After their decease, an annual sum is to be paid to son William - would William still have been entitled to receive this given the court cases? Perhaps it never became an issue - he died 8 years later so may have predeceased his grandmother and uncle. I guess I should look those deaths up....

William's entitlement to this sum was void if he ended up inheriting "estates lately belonging to Stephen Raymond esquire deceased situate in the said county of Bedford" - what connection did Stephen Raymond have to the Adams family? Why was there a question mark over William's possible inheritance from him - was this dependent on some other event that hadn't yet occurred, especially as it is obviously still in doubt at the time Thomas added the codicil to his will? I must look for Stephen Raymond's will!

The upshot of the rest of the will is that younger son Henry Charles Adams, who was 11 at the time the will was drafted, was the primary heir rather then eldest son William Francis. Was this a reflection of the relationship between Thomas and then-fifteen-year-old William, or was the inheritance from Stephen Raymond sufficient to provide for William?

Freehold property in Wing (including four lots named with reference to the Wing inclosure map of 1797 which I don't have) and Stewkley was to be held in trust for Henry Charles, while copyhold property in Wing was to be sold and the proceeds plus any rents received along the way held in trust and used to pay various legacies to Thomas' other children. The two eldest daughters were married by then and aren't mentioned at all (had they died by then?) while the remaining seven daughters (including one married) and William received a total of £70 plus their share of sums paid by the trustees for "heriots, fines and fees in procuring admission to the copyhold part of the said hereditaments". I hadn't encountered the term heriots before but apparently this is a term dating back to feudal times - probably a bit rare by 1835 from the sound of it? - and means a death-duty payable by the lessee (in this case by Thomas) to the lords owning the property. I think the "fines and fees" also sound like they may be payments out, which would mean those charges would all be deducted from the sums payable to the children. Should those named children die, any surviving lawful issue they left behind would take their parent's share.

All the farm assets (eg cattle, grain, implements) and household goods were to be sold after Thomas died, and together with any actual money would fund the funeral, testamentary and gravestone costs. After those costs were covered, £400 was set aside to build "a substantial farm house" for the benefit of Henry Charles. The balance of this pool of funds was then to be divided against the other named children. The reference to building a farm house is interesting - was the current home in disrepair? Not grand enough? The codicil, added in 1837, mentions the £400 but the wording seems a bit odd and I can't work out if it implies the house had since been built or if Thomas decided that this created an imbalance and that William should get the equivalent amount.

This was a particularly long and interesting will, especially in light of subsequent events in this family. It's also been helpful in providing interesting snippets about Burcott House Farm, the property owned by Henry Charles Adams and previously farmed by his father and grandfather by the sound of it. As you can see there's a few more things coming out of this will for me to research!


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