Will of Christopher Adams 1685

A seditious conventicler?

By David Miller

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Will of Christopher Adams 1685' page


Christopher Adams and his wife Sarah were well known non-conformists, at a time when Orwell had a greater number of non-conformists than anywhere else in the County.  They were said to be Muggletonians and gave shelter to visiting preachers, but even more telling was that they had their little seven year old daughter Elizabeth buried in the orchard of a friend rather than have her buried in the churchyard. The vicar in Orwell seems to have been hostile towards the 'seditious conventiclers,' as he called them, and this exasperated note in his records says it all: "June 6th 1676: Elizabeth daughter of Christopher and Sarah Adams Buried with an ass in the orchard of Francis Eusden." The vicar, at any rate, considered that such a burial was no better than you would give to an ass. It seems that the vicar had not seen fit to record the birth of Sarah Adams in 1664 in his Church records either, since this entry appears only in the Bishop's Transcripts.  Many non-conformists preferred baptism on attaining adulthood, and this may have been a further point of contention.

This will was made in 1685, which is precisely the time at which the Chicheley Map was thought to have been made.  Several pieces of land are shown to be in the ownership of 'Adams,' but we cannot be certain where Christopher lived. He describes his house as a 'Hall House,' but there is a 'chamber over the Hall,' so the hall did not extend right up into the roof space, as the older type of hall house did. Maybe a first floor was added to an older house, once a chimney stack had been built to take away the smoke from the fire.  This was commonly done at this time.

Photo:Chicheley Map c.1686.

Chicheley Map c.1686.

The only house which survives now is Melrose, which is shown on the Chicheley Map as belonging to 'Widow Adams,' but although the house is of the right period and Christopher died early in 1686 (new calendar) there is no assurance that this is the house which Christopher owned. There are three houses shown on the map, and there is a further one in the High Street. There may have been two other 'Widow Adams' at the time, since Thomas Adams died in 1645, and William Adams in 1676.

The writing of the Will is very clear, as is often the way when John Wootten is one of the witnesses.  John Wootten's signature is very distinctive and it does not look like his handwriting in the body of the will, so perhaps he had his bailiff or lawyer do it. A number of Orwell wills at this time bear his signature as witness. John lived at Malton, and in other papers is described as 'Gent' - a term of respect.



In the Name of God Amen, the twelfth day of November in the yeare of our Lord One thousand six hundred eighty five I Christopher Adams of Orwell in the County of Cambridge yeoman being weake in bodye, but of perfect mind and memory praised be Almighty God for the same, and knowing the uncertaintye of this life on earth, and being desirous to settle that small Estate it hath pleased God to lend me in this world, doo make and ordaine this my last will and Testament, in manner and forme following viz. First I Commend my soule to Almightye God my Creator asasuredly believing that I shall receive full Pardon and remission of all my sinnes, and be saved by the previous death and Merritt of Jesus Christ my blessed saviour and redeemer, and my Bodye to the Earth from where it was taken to be buryed in such decent and Christian Mannor as my Executrix hereafter Named shall think Meete and Convenient, and as touching my worldly Estate my will and meaning is, the same shall be employed and bestowed as hereafter by this my Will is Expressed, and first I doe revoke renounce and make voide all other wills by me formerly made and declared and Appoint this my last will and Testament. 

Inprimis I give and bequeath unto Sarah my wife Ten pounds to be paid to her within on Month after my decease, Item I give unto Sarah my wife Ten pounds a yeare to be paid half yearly, that is to say at Michaelmas, and Lady Daye, the first payment to begin the first of those feast days that shall first happen after my decease, five pounds; and five pounds the next halfe yeare at the aforesaid day, and soe to continue during the terme of hir Natural life,

Item I also give unto Sarah my wife the Hall house and all the goods that are therein, and the Chamber over the Hall with all the goods that are therein during the Terme of hir Naturall life. Item all my houses lands and goods whatsoever both quicke and dead unbequeathed I doe give to Sarah my daughter and to hir heires forever, whom I doe make Executrix of this my last will, upon Condition that she shall pay all my debts and legacies, of due and right to be paid, and soe to be my sole Executrix of this my last will and Testament. In witness whereof I doe hereunto set my hand and Seale

Signed and sealed

in the presence of                                      Christopher   X   Adams

John Wootton                                                his Marke and Seale  L.S.

Henry   H   Scott his marke

Robert Adames

This page was added by David Miller on 03/01/2015.

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