Find your ancestors in Worcester Wills Vol. I 1451-1600 & Vol. II 1601-1652

Worcester Wills Vol. I 1451-1600 & Vol. II 1601-1652

British Record Society Volumes 31 & 39

Published 1904 & 1910

Introduction to Original Volume

The ancient diocese of Worcester comprised the counties of Worcester, Gloucester, and the southern half of Warwick. In 1541 the diocese of Gloucester was formed, containing the whole of that county, which reduced the see of Worcester to the county of Worcester and a portion of the southern half of Warwick.

It might be thought that the wills previous to 1541 relating to Gloucestershire would be found in Worcester registry, but unfortunately such is not the case, there being comparatively few now in existence relating to that county prior to 1541.

Whilst this Preface is being written a further change in the boundaries of the diocese of Worcester is taking place. The new Bishopric of Birmingham is an accomplished fact, and as a consequence the old See of Worcester will suffer a further diminution of territory.

The whole of the Archdeaconry of Birmingham, which is situate in the northern portion of the diocese (and which includes the rural deaneries of Northfield, Birmingham, Aston, Solihull, Coleshill, Sutton Coldfield, and Poleshill), together with some parishes from the rural deanery of Dudley, go to form the new diocese of Birmingham.

The Calendar printed in the following pages is a list of Wills and Administrations proved and granted in the Consistory Court of the Bishop of Worcester. The date of the earliest Will is 1439, and there is only one for this year ; the series may be said, therefore, to commence in 1451, which is the date of the next earliest document now in existence.

The Wills, etc., at Worcester consist of transcripts and originals. The Transcripts are contained in nine volumes as follows:

Vol. IContaining Wills, etc1451-1495
Vol. IIContaining Wills, etc1509-1528
Vol. IIIContaining Wills, etc1528-1539
Vol. IVSaid to be missing. 
Vol. VContaining Wills, etc1545-1553
Vol. VIPart 1, Containing Wills, etc1554-1584
 Part 2, Containing Wills, etc 
Vol. VIIContaining Wills, etc1585-1642
Vol. VIIIContaining Wills, etc1543-1553
Vol. IXContaining Wills, etc1652-1739

Volumes [VIII] and [IX] have no numbers to them, but they may be so called for the sake of convenience. Vol. VIII, it will be seen, covers a small portion of the gap between Vols. Ill and V. Vol. IV is said to have been missing for a number of years, but there are doubts if there ever was a Vol. IV.

The bundles of Original Wills, etc., are some 472 in number, and may be grouped as follows:

  • 8 Bundles containing Wills 1493-1546
  • 41 Bundles containing Wills 1550-1581
  • 70 Bundles containing Wills 1582-1652
  • 353 Bundles containing Wills 1660-1858

The Official Indexes to these volumes of Transcripts and bundles of Originals are both intricate and defective. Intricate because they are apparently in duplicate and even triplicate (some of the volumes of Transcripts having Indexes bound up with them) for portions of the periods specified; and defective, not only from being much worn by constant reference, but also because none of the earlier Indexes mention the Administrations at all.

The following is a list of the Indexes as now existing in the Probate Registry:

  • 1 Volume for the years 1493-1616 (0riginal Calendar)
  • 1 Volume for the years 1616-1651 (0riginal Calendar)
  • 1 Volume for the years 1493-1600 (Compiled by Sir Thomas Phillips)
  • 1 Volume for the years 1600-1622 (Compiled by Sir Thomas Phillips)
  • 1 Volume for the years 1600-1651 (A Modern Calendar)
  • 19 Vols, of Act Books for 1661-1858.

The last nineteen volumes are Act Books of Wills and Administrations. Each volume has an index at the commencement. There is the usual gap between 1650 and 1661, when all Wills, etc., were proved in London.

Besides these Indexes there is "A list of Wills and Administrations received by the Deputy Registrar from the Executors of the late Francis Greenbank, and not entered in the Will Books," ranging between the years 1699 and 1752, and presumably not proved.

There are also two volumes of Indexes of the Wills, etc., proved in the Peculiar Courts within the Diocese, namely, one for the Peculiars of Alvechurch, Bredon (including the Chapelries of Cutsdean and Norton), Fladbury (including the Chapelries of Throckmorton, Stock and Bradeley, and Wyre-Piddle), Hampton-Lucy (including the parishes of Alveston, Charlecote, and Wasperton), Hanbury, Hartlebury, Ripple (including the Chapelries of Holdfast and Queenhill), Stratford-on-Avon (including the Chapel of Bishopton), Tredington (including the parishes of Shipston-on-Stour and Tidmington), comprising the years 1712-1788; and one for the Peculiar of the Dean and Chapter which had jurisdiction over the following parishes: Berrow, Kempsey, Norton-juxta-Kempsey, St. Michael-in-Bedwardine, Stoulton, Tibberton, Wolverley, and the College Precincts, Worcester, comprising the years 1668 to 1788.

It will thus be seen that to make a search for the Wills of persons proved at Worcester is a very tedious and difficult matter, from the fact that several Indexes for the same periods have to be examined, which, being written in the old and crabbed writing of the office clerks of former days, is anything but an easy matter; and, further, there is no certainty whatever about these Indexes being correct or complete, no notice whatever being taken of the Administrations.

To remedy this most unsatisfactory state of affairs it has been the object of the Compiler of this Calendar (with the consent and approval of the Right Hon. Sir Francis Henry Jeune, K.C.B., President of the Probate Division, and of H. A. Franklin, Esq., District Registrar) to present as complete a list of all the Wills and Administrations and other official documents now preserved at the Worcester Court of Probate, which will now supersede the existing calendars from 1451 to 1600.

Every one of the Books of the Transcripts has been gone through page by page, and the names of the testators, with their abodes and dates, noted. The bundles of Original Wills, etc., have also been similarly examined and will be continued as time goes on.

The original numbering of the Wills has been preserved as far as possible, thus allowing a comparison, if necessary, with the original calendars. Fresh documents found in going through the bundles have a, b, c, etc., placed against them, or the numbering has been continued from the last in the old calendar.

A large number of marriage licenses have been found on the files, together with many Inventories for which corresponding Wills do not appear to exist.

It was found advisable to put the Wills, etc., between sheets of paper to prevent further destruction by constantly turning them. This will enable any will, etc., to be more easily found.

A good many sequestrations of parishes made upon the death or removal of the incumbent have also been discovered, and in many instances the name of the former incumbent is given. This may be useful to those who wish to complete the names of the Rectors or Vicars of such parishes.

Worcester Wills Vol. II 1601-1652

The Second Volume of Wills and Administrations preserved in the Probate Registry at Worcester embraces the period 1601 to 1652, at which latter year there is the usual gap of about ten years, when all testamentary documents were proved in London.

As in the previous Volume, the Calendar has been compiled by reference to the bundles of documents themselves, each of which has been numbered and placed between sheets of paper as a protection against further decay.