Will of William Griggs 1613

One of the earliest Orwell Wills

By David Miller

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Will of William Griggs 1613' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Will of William Griggs 1613' page



This is a difficult will in several respects. Both the handwriting and the spelling are old in style, making the original will difficult to read. For example, the word 'choice,' which occurs several times, is spelled 'choyse,' and the letters 'ch' and 'se' are in a form not

Photo:"choice" in old handwriting and spelling.

"choice" in old handwriting and spelling.

used today, so that the only recognisable item in the whole word to the modern eye is the letter 'o.' Other words in the will are worse than this!

Nicholas Johnson, who wrote the will, was probably a trained lawyer, because he used a number of phrases familiar in the law, but even he seems to have become bogged down in the complexities of what the Testator wanted to say. The crossings out and the extra lines inserted bear witness to that. And, as is the case with professionals even today, his handwriting was not of the best. Look at his signature as the witness at the end of the Will to get an idea of how different the handwriting was in those days. The Johnsons and the Butlers were closely related, and the other witness to the Will is Thomas Butler, whose barrister son Neville achieved a lasting place in history for first championing the villagers in their fight to retain their common pasturing rights on the village green, and then trying to take over the green for his own benefit once he had secured a successful outcome against the previous claimant. The villagers were having none of it, of course, and used their herds as a weapon, driving cattle onto the Butler land so that the crops were eaten. The historian Margaret Spufford suggests that this showed that there was a shortage of communal pasture land in the village.

As regards the actual contents of the Will, William had three sons, and tried to achieve a fair share between them all, by somewhat circuitous provisions.  His two daughters also benefited - although a gift of two bullocks each might have given them some problems! William's Wife Helen has the crops off one acre of land during her lifetime, and some other provision which cannot be read. It must be remembered that the eldest son William, and the Wife Helen, probably had other possessions of their own which would not have been referred to in this Will.

Several Griggs properties are shown on the 1686 Chicheley Map, but this will pre-dates the Map to such an extent that it is not possible to be sure where this Testator lived.

Photo:High Street, East end, showing three Griggs holdings in 1686.

High Street, East end, showing three Griggs holdings in 1686.


In the name of god amen I Willm Grigg of Orwell in the County of Cambridge and dioces of Ely this thirtieth day of March in the year of our Lorde 1613 And in the eleventh  year of the Reigne of our Soverigne Lorde James by the grace of god Kinge of England France and Ireland defender of the faith etc and of Scotland the seven and fortieth being sick in body but thanks be to almighty god of good sounde understanding and memory doe declare and make that my last will and testament in manner and form following firstly I giyve and yielde up my soule to Allmighty  god as gave it in such good tyme as it shall please him and my body to the earth ???? it to be buryed in ye Churchyarde of Orwell aforesaid at the discretion of my executor undernamed in Christian and decent manner And concerning those lands goods whereof I am owner and have the disposition my Will is First concerning my lands I gyve and bequeath to Edward Griggs my youngest sonne and to his heires one  Coppyhold cottage and that wood  or lande to the same adjoyning or appertaining in Orwell aforesaid in which cottage John ?Carter now dwelleth the rest of my coppyhold lands in Orwell aforesaid being part of the said coppyhold lands called ???? lande and that freehold messuage wherein I now dwell and all other my freehold lands ???? and hereditaments whatsoever in Orwell aforesaid and Barrington in the said County of Cambridge or elsewhere I will and bequeathe to John Grigg my sonne and his executors and assigns for syx  years after my decease and if there shall not fall syx harvest tymes in those syx years then I will it another yeare of the harvest  to him to that ende of harvest next after the expiration of those syx years that he may fully have and enioy  syx whole croppes of corne and grayne sowen or to be sowen upon the arable land before to him devysed  Item and after the interest before devised to my saide sonne determined or ended I will and devyse my said Coppyhold land ???? ????  copye lands and my saide freehold ?messuage land ?thereto and hereditaments aforesaid to Willm my eldest sonne his heires and assigns for ever Provided that if my said sonne Willm doe not well and truly  content and paye to the said John my sonne his executors or administrators at Michaelmas next after the expiration of the said terme of six years after my death in Orwell church porch  the sum of eight pounds of lawfull money of England and also at the feast of Lammas ???? of blessed Mary the Virgyn then next ensuing in the place aforesaid aforesaid other eight pounds of lyke money to the said Edward my sonne his executors or administrators etc I doe wyll gyve and bequeath all my saide lands ?tenements and hereditaments etc in Barrington afoursaid to my said sonnes John and Edward their heires and assigns equally divided Item I gyve and bequeath to Marye my daughter the sum of Twenty pounds of lawfull money of England two bullocks a fether bed fower ewes and fower lambes and  some brasse or syilve  worth twenty shillings an coverlet or twenty shillings one chest or tenn shillings in money one little cofer and seven payre of sheetes thre pillowbeares and thre tablenapkyns Item I gyve and bequeath to Hellen my daughter Twenty pounds of lawfull money of Englannd two Bullocks a fether bed fower ?ewes and fower ?lean ???? bed?at ???? worth 20d. a coverlet or 20d. one chest or ten shillings in money one cofer and seven payer of sheetes ?thre pillowbeares and three tablenapkyns the said somes of twenty pounds apiece to be payed to my saide daughters within six months after my death or severally to them at their severell days of marryage with full ???? ???? Item I will gyve and bequeath to Hellen my wyfe one chamber [inserted line indecipherable but ‘during her lyfe and’] oute of of my saide copyhold and freehold lands during the terme of her naturall lyff one acre of lande to be sowen by my sonne John his executors and assigns at his and their cost during the saide ?lyfe ???? terme ???? and afterwards by my said sunne Willm and his heirs during her naturall lyfe and my Will is that my said sonnes or other the occupier of my said land shall on Saint Francis Day yearly make choyse of one halfe acre sowen with wheat and one other half acre sowen with barly for themselves and then my said wife to make choyse of one other? half acre of wheate and one other halfe acre of barley and if my said sonne or other occupier of my land doe not make choyse and gyve ?knowledge to her yearly on St. Francis Day of the acre by them so chosen then she shall take one halfe acre of wheate and other halfe acre of barley at her owne choyse Item I gyve unto her also one bullock and the one halfe of such goods not before bequeathed at ???? in my house at the tyme of my death to take  the profit and use of the same during her lyfe and after her decease I will and bequeath all the same  to Edward my sonne All the rest of my goods not before bequeathed I gyve to my sonne John whom I make sole executor of this my last Will and testament In Witness whereof I have hereto sett my hande and published that same my last Will and testament the day and year aforesaid this being witnessed     Thos. Butler Nycholas Johnson

                                                                        Signed  XXX Willm Grygge


This page was added by David Miller on 02/02/2015.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.