Will of Elizabeth Adams 1680

Includes an Inventory of her belongings. Was she a "Phanatick?"

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Will of Elizabeth Adams 1680' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Will of Elizabeth Adams 1680' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Will of Elizabeth Adams 1680' page


Elizabeth Adams was a widow, her husband William having died in 1676. It is worth studying her Will in conjunction with that of her husband, since the husband deals with his landholdings which were to pass to his sons, while Elizabeth seems more concerned with their upbringing while they were under age.

She is possibly the person mentioned as "Widow Adams" on the Chicheley Map of around 1686.  Although Elizabeth actually died in 1680, it could be that the information as to her death had not reached the map maker when the map was drawn out. The other somewhat stronger possibility is that Widow Adams was Sarah Adams, whose husband Christopher died in 1685. She was a known non-conformist (a "Phanatick", in the words of the Churchwardens of the time) and had her seven year old daughter buried in an orchard, rather than use the Churchyard (see below.) 

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Will of Elizabeth Adams 1680' page
Another property ascribed to Adams on the 1686 Chicheley Map is situate on the corner of Town Green Road and Hurdleditch, where the school playing field now is. Yet another Adams house is shown at the corner of Lotfield Street near the entrance to Meadowcroft Way. Of the three, only Melrose Cottage still exists. Another Adams is shown living on the High Street.

Three of Elizabeth's sons are under the age of majority, and the Testatrix makes provision for her eldest son Robert to have the care of and to provide for them, although she does not give them anything further apart from various items such as sheets and pillows, except for Thomas who gets £10 in addition. One wonders why she made the distinction.

The three youngest are to have 'meate drink lodging and wearing apparell,' and Robert, the eldest, is to 'educate and bring them up.' There was a schoolmaster in Orwell at the time, so possibly there would be school fees to pay for them.  After that, they would be on their own, but remember that they would receive some land under their Father's Will. 

Photo:The cottage as Widow Adams might have known it. Note the bread oven on the side.

The cottage as Widow Adams might have known it. Note the bread oven on the side.

Photo:The bare bones of the cottage, now known as Melrose Cottage, exposed during rebuild in 1983.

The bare bones of the cottage, now known as Melrose Cottage, exposed during rebuild in 1983.

 Testators always had the problem of how to divide their property up  -  whether to give everything to the eldest so that he had a viable holding, or to divide all the assets equally, which would probably give an inadequate amount to each of them.  Elizabeth has favoured the eldest son, so he might have the house and enough land to make a living. He married in 1682, despite having the burden of his siblings still.

The Inventory of Elizabeth's assets set out below gives a clear idea of what the boys would be getting:-

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Will of Elizabeth Adams 1680' page

Fellow Muggletonians?

She refers to her 'trusty and beloved cousin' John Wootton of Malton Gent and Simon Greenford (a name perpetuated in a road name in the present village) and asks them to ensure that Robert should 'fear the Lord and the King' etc. It could be that they were all members of the same religious sect, for Widow Adams was known to be a Muggletonian who gave shelter to visiting preachers of that following. There was much non-conformist activity in the village at around that time, the village Constables' accounts for 1669 recording a number of applications for warrants against "Phanaticks," as they were considered to be.

The Church record of births deaths and marriages gives the death of Elizabeth in 1680, but we do not have any note of her marriage.  Her late husband was William, and John, the youngest, was born in 1676.  The records are very patchy at this time, and it is quite probable that the non-conformists tried to avoid being named in the Church records at all, or alternatively they may have made use of the records of another church where the vicar was more friendly. The vicar in Orwell seems to have been hostile towards the non-conformists, evidenced by the occasional exasperated note in his records, such as when Elizabeth's seven year old niece was buried in unconsecrated ground : "June 6th 1676: Elizabeth daughter of Christopher and Sarah Adams Buried with an ass in the orchard of Francis Ensden." A John Adams (but probably not this one) was buried in Richard Barnard's Orchard (now Chapel Orchard) in 1691, having been excommunicated for his beliefs. Some sects did not accept baptism at birth, but preferred to wait until majority when it would be more meaningful. All this means that the records are incomplete, even though the Parish Records are full of Adams family entries over the years.

John Wootton wrote or witnessed a number of wills for Orwell people at that time, so it is possible that he had some legal training. The word 'cousin' does not necessarily infer any blood relationship, but it was used more in the sense of 'friend' or 'comrade.' The copy we have here is the Probate Court copy, unfortunately, - the handwriting of the Court officials tends to be something of a scrawl. William Adams' will, also on this website, is the original and you will note John Wootton's distinctive signature as witness as well as the clearer handwriting. John Wootton's tombstone can be seen beside the Church porch at Orwell, although he lived at Malton.

Transcript of the Will of Elizabeth Adams 1680

In the name of God Amen, the one and twentieth daye of October in the Two and Thirtieth yeare of the Reigne of our Soverign Lord Charles the Second King of England Scotland France and Ireland Defender of the Faith etc Anno Dom 1680 I Elizabeth Adams of Orwell in the County of Cambridge being sicke in body but of good and perfect memory God be praised doo make and Ordaine this my last Will and Testament in manner and forme following that is to say First I commend my soule into the hands of Almighty God my maker hoping assuredly through the meritts of my Saviour Jesus Christ to be ???? partke of life everlasting and I commend my body to the earth whereof it is made to be decently and Christianly buried according to the discretion of my Executor hereafter named And now for the settling of my temporal Estate and such goodes Chattels and debts as it has pleased God farr above my Desertes to bestowe upon me Igive and dispose of in manner following that is to say Inprimis I give and bequeath unto William Adams my second sonn two  paires of good sheetes and one pair of pillow beeres and one of my largest pewter dishes one ?calse? an joyned table with a turned ???? and two joined stooles thereunto belonging Item I give and bequeath unto Thomas Adams my third sonn two paires of good sheetes and one paire of pillow bieres and one of my largest peuter dishes and also ten pounds in money to be delivered and paid to him the said Thomas at the full age of one and twenty years Item I give and bequeath unto John Adams my youngest sonn two paires of good sheetes and one paier of pillowbeeres at his full age of one and twenty years by my Executor hereafter named but if the said Thomas Adams and John Adams or either of them shall happen to depart this life before he or they shall achieve their said age of one and twenty years then my will and meaning  is that his or their ten pounds before by me given and bequeathed shall be equally divided or paid amongst those of my children who shall be then living Item I give and unto Robert Addams my other sonn all my goodes and chattels whatsoever both within dores and without excepting those only by me before given and bequeathed Provided that if the said Robert or his assigns doo and shall from time to furnish at all times during the non age of the said William Thomas and John carefully and honestly according to the calling and degree keep educate and bring up them the said William Thomas and John his brethren necessary and convenient meates drink lodging wearing and apparel And that he the said Robert shall not at any time hereof during the said non age of the aforesaid brethren do or suffer to be done or committed any Act or Actes thing or things whatsoever whereby their copyhold lands and tenements or any part of them shall or may become forfeited into the hands of the Lord or Lordes on whom the same now are or shall be holden furthermore my will and meaning is that if my son Robert will not have the custody of his brothers namely William Thomas and John as aforesaid or shall refuse or neglect to execute and perform this my last will and Testament or any part of it according to the true and plane litterall forme thereof then I give and bequeath all my goodes and chattels whatsoever before given and bequeathed to him the said Robert Addams unto my Two youngest sons namely Thomas and John to be equally divided and shared betwixt them anything in this will to the contrary notwithstanding and if it shall happen at any time hereinafter that any ambiguity Doubt or question Doo grow or arise by reason of the imperfection or effect of or in any the words and thinges as contained in this my ?present? last will and testament or my true intent and meaning there that the further and better explanation interpretation and confirmation of the said doubt and ambiguity I will that my trusty and beloved cosin John Wootton of Malton gent and Simon Greenford of Orwell whom I make the suptifores of this my last will and Testament shall expressand explaine and  enterpret according to their Wisdom Discretion and nowing the great good hopes and motherly affection that I ?kepe? in my eldest sonn Robert Addams towards his brethren I Doo make and ordaine him the said Robert my sole Excecutor of this my last will and Testament and I say unto him and by him to all the residue of my children as Solomon said to his sonn (My sonn fear thou the Lord and the King and beware that you live not above your living and especially in the beginning for that will bring you to want and necessity both in the midst and in the ending and now Revoking all former wills whatsoever ???????? or then by word of mouth of writing etc I ?hereby?declare this to be my last will and Testament containing two sheetes of paper to the first whereof I have sett my hande and [seale deleted] to the Seconde Sheetes I have sett my hand and seale the day and yeare above written in the first sheete of this my last will and Testament in witness whereof I have hereunto sett my hande and seale Eliz Addams

Signed sealed and published in the presence of John Martin John Wootton James Addams


Probate granted 1680/1


This page was added by David Miller on 23/10/2012.

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