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From the Archives


Did you know that copies of wills are available for a small fee from the National Archives and Gloucestershire Archives? FHS has now collected and transcribed 26 Fairford wills so far. The wills are very useful in helping to prove family relationships as property and money is usually left to husbands, wives and children. They can reveal other associations as the wills tend to be witnessed and executed by family, friends or neighbours. They can also reveal fascinating detail and give us a glimpse of the way people lived their lives and what they thought. Transcribing the often poor handwriting and making sense of the sometimes archaic language provides an unusual challenge to the researcher!

Some examples of the wills collected so far are:

Frampton Huntington, the Vicar of Fairford, left in his will of 1738 his Turkey bed quilt and his table linen to the wife of Charles Morgan. He also left £10 for “sixpenny loaves of good wheaten household bread” for the poor of Fairford but stipulated that only families who frequently attended St Mary’s Church should receive his charity.

One of the earliest Fairford wills, dated 3 May 1617, was left by Thomas Watkins. He was innkeeper and was unable to sign his will so he made a mark but he seems to have been a man of some wealth and generosity: “I give and bequeath unto my daughter in lawe Maythia Watkins fforty shillings of lawfull English money for to buy her a ring and to wearre ytt for my sake”.

Sometimes the money wasn’t paid out immediately as Charles Clinch wrote in 1765 “I give to my son Charles five pounds to be paid to him at the end of two years next after my decease”.

The wills sometime reveal the physical and mental state of the subject. Valentine Strong, the builder of Fairford Park, wrote in October 1661 that he was “sicke in body but of sound and perfect memory thanks be given to God”. He died in September of the following year leaving his son to finish the building of Andrew Barker’s great mansion house.

Andrew Barker’s own will was written in 1681, almost 20 years before his death. Among various bequests he left the sum of £2,000 to his grand daughter Elizabeth Farmor who would eventually bequeath some of this money to help found Fairford Free School.

Andrew’s daughter Mary, another benefactor of the Free School, wrote a year before her death in 1710 “I bequeath my soul to God Almighty from whom I received it and my body to the earth to be buried with my ancestors in the vault where they lye being in the parish Church of ffairford aforesaid in a plaine coffin and at midnight as privately as may be without Escutcheons or any persons to hold up the Pall to be conveyed thither in a hearse with one Mourning coach only attending”.

The National Archives has available 162 wills of people from Fairford dating from 1584 to 1858. Gloucestershire Archives has a further 392 wills from a similar date range. In addition the Gloucestershire Archives also holds 61 inventories that list the household items of some of Fairford’s citizens of the 18th Century. These documents could form the basis of a very useful research archive that could be housed in the new Archive Room of the Community Centre.