One of the pleasures and privileges of being the church archivist is that you receive unexpected packages from unexpected sources. In January this year I was sent a bundle of documents by a Mr Killick who, it later transpired, was a Bishops Stortford resident in the 1950s. Now in his 90s, Mr Killick is revisiting local documents that he had previously researched and which are now safely deposited at the County Record Office. Amongst his treasures was a 1522 Will of a Thorley farmer, Edward Wyllay which he has kindly translated for me from Tudor English into present day English. This Will gives a fascinating insight into the character of Thorley church in Pre-Reformation times when St. James followed Roman Catholic traditions. It also leads me on in my own parish researches to track down old field and family names and adds to my appreciation of our own church history.
Mr Killicks bundle consisted of a photocopy of the original Will, two A4 sheets of translation and explanatory notes. The full copies are on display in the St. Barnabas Centre. Included below are some of the edited highlights from the original Tudor English.
Amongst the questions or reflections that arise from these extracts are: -
Which was the St Michael's window? - I suspect it was the west window as most people expressed a wish to be buried on the sunnier south or west sides of the churchyard.
The reference to the High Altar suggests another altar elsewhere perhaps under the present Mothers' Union banner where there is a holy water stoop.
Bees wax was an expensive commodity hence specific bequests were of great value to maintain tapers, lights and candles.
Where was Edward Wyllays house and land known as Allgods? No location for that name exists today. Further records, parish registers and maps need to be consulted at the Hertfordshire Record Office.
The relative value of one 1522 'old penny' (d) in 2001 is approximately £4.
1522 was during the reign of Henry VIII. It was 11 years later that he broke with the Catholic Church in Rome and proclaimed himself the head of the Church of England.
I edward Wyllay of
thorlay husbandman holle of my mind & gud memerie
I Edward Wyllay of Thorley, husbandman, whole of my mind and good memory
........ make &
ordyn thys my testement & last Wylle ........
........make and ordain this my testament and last Will ........
........ my body to
beberyd in the cherchyard of thorlay under Santmychaelles wyndow
........ my body to be buried in the churchyard of Thorley under St Michaels window ........
I geffe & bequeth to
the hyghe Auter for all forgotten tythes XX d ........
I give and bequeath to the High Altar for all forgotten tithes 20d ........
I geffe & bequeth V
pond of wax for to mak a taper to Sepulcare lyght ........
I give and bequeath 5lb of wax for to make a taper to Sepulchre light ........
colde allgodes standyng & lyng in thorlay to john my Son
........ and to hys hareys lawfully begottyn ........
........my tenement called Allgods standing and lying in Thorley to John my son ........ and to his heirs lawfully begotten ........
........I Wille that
whosever have the seyde tenement calld allgodes Sall paye or doo
to bepayed for a yerely obbt ........ to the valer of iiij s.
Fyrst to the parson yerely vii d. leghte j d.ob the
Socrastane j d.ob brede & alle xxj d.
fyeffe purer nybures v d. and to mantenynge of a taper at
Sepullcae leyghte a noder afere our lade of pette yerely xii d.
........I will that whosoever have the said tenement called Allgods shall pay or due to be paid for a yearly obit ........ to the value of 4s. First to the parson yearly 7d. light 1½d. the sacristan 1½d. bread and ale 21d. five poor neighbours 5d and to maintaining of a taper at (the) Sepulchre light another before Our Lady of Pity yearly 12d. ........
Bill Hardy June 2001
From the Archives