Retired archivist Anna Watson presented her talk based on her long experience of probate records at Lancashire Archives. Her information is drawn from the Diocese of Chester from C17th to C19th. Whilst women made wills as early as C14th, historically, married women were only allowed to make a will if their husband gave permission.
Coverture is the condition of being a married woman. A feme covert (married woman) could not own property in her own name nor enter into a contract. A feme sole (unmarried/divorced woman) did have the right to own property and enter into contracts. Neither could a married woman be sued or sue. She was not permitted to obtain an education or keep any salary for herself without her husband’s permission. Her legal status was on a par with minors, criminals and the insane. An important clause in any will is a declaration of sound mind.
In a study of the Archdeaconry of Richmond (which takes up roughly one half of the Diocese of Chester) only 7.5 % of wills were made by women. The majority (5274) are made by widows, followed by 1190 by spinsters. A spinster could be either an unmarried woman or a widow who remained unmarried.
It was not until the Married Women’s Property Act of 1882 that married women were permitted to hold property in their own names. Some women entered into pre-marriage settlements whereby they might retain some power of ownership over their assets including the power to make bequests in a will.
Wills made by women can be most enlightening for the family historian with information regarding bequests to individuals and charitable donations, details of debtors to whom the women had loaned money and frequently their maiden names. Many women acted as witnesses to wills and some made Renunciations if they were unable to carry out their duties as Executors.
Anna rounded up her talk with the story of seamstress Sarah Hare who died in 1744 and included in her will her wish for a wax effigy to be made following her death, ‘I desire to have my face and hands made in wax with a piece of crimson satin thrown like a garment in a picture hair upon my head and put in a case of Mahogany with a glass before and fix’d up so near the place were my corps lyes as it can be with my name and time of Death put upon the case in any manner most desirable’. This can still be seen today in Holy Trinity Church, Stowe Bardolph.
Recommended reading: Women and Property in Early Modern England by Amy Louise Erickson.
A rare treat featuring a fascinating account of social history delivered by a most entertaining speaker.
The early C19th Industrial Revolution led to a massive removal of people from the countryside into Britain’s towns and cities. Amongst these were a number of farming families who relocated from Yorkshire to Liverpool. This was in response to prevailing economic circumstances as milk producers found their market for fresh milk shifted from rural to urban areas. Mid C19th introduction of the rail network provided some solution to the problems of transporting milk from the countryside to towns and cities. Despite this city cow keepers prospered as milk did not travel well by train and by providing fresh milk locally these businesses were also able to cut out the ‘middle man’.
David entertained a good number of members yesterday evening with his illustrated presentation about Lady Arbella (the name she was known by, rather than Arabella as she was later referred to).
Arbella was the granddaughter of Bess of Hardwick and her story has largely been forgotten until recently. She had a greater claim to the throne of England than James 1 as she was born here but was most likely passed over by the Privy Councillors at Elizabeth I’s death simply because she was a woman. After two Queens, the Privy Council opted for a King rather than a third Queen.
Originally a training camp for Bradford Pals and other Regiments (January 1916). Huts were given names like “Buckingham Palace” and “One Step Nearer”, pathways were given familiar names like “Downing Street” and some were given derogatory names. The camp was built to hold 1200 people. When it later changed to a Prisoner of War Camp, at its height, it held 564 officers and 137 orderlies (686 Prisoners of War); total number of admissions was 989.
Alan gave thanks to Rob Freeman who created and provided animation for the talk. So special was the Skipton camp that some of the prisoners wrote a book of their memoirs ‘Kriegsgefangen in Skipton. 60 different officers contributed, illustrated by Doppelhopf. A copy of the book is available online. It is currently being translation by Leeds University.
A good number of members joined Chairman of Bradford Family History Society Sue Steel for her introduction to the eclectic sources of information available amongst Parish records.
Apart from the expected Parish registers containing births, marriages and deaths, some collections may provide insight into historical community activities and offer valuable information about our ancestors.
Parish records of births, marriages and deaths began in 1538 under the direction of Thomas Cromwell and until 1753 were all recorded in a single book. A separate book was then introduced for marriages followed by three separate books for baptisms, marriages and deaths in 1812. Not all life events were recorded as there was a tax to pay, although paupers were exempt from payment.
The Airedale & Wharfedale Family History Society met 6 February in Burley for a talk by our President Stan Merridew on ‘How to get the best from our Website’.
The Wharfedale & Keighley family history groups which recently merged into our current society both had fairly run-of-mill family history websites which had operated since the 1990s. Like many other family history websites these were mainly used for membership subscriptions and sales of publications. Following the merger our webmaster Steve Miller created a much-improved new website containing a wealth of useful information for family historians. However due to technical difficulties a second website has since been created (thanks to a great deal of hard work by Steve and Stan) which can be accessed at AWFHS.org. Members can log into the website using their membership number and will then be allocated a password.
The Airedale & Wharfedale Family History Society met 7 November and Dr Phil Judkins presented his talk ‘Confusions Masterpiece’.
Numerous deceptions were put in place to ensure the success of the Allies’ D Day landings on 6 June 1944. Whilst the enemy anticipated a second front it was imperative that they did not know where or when this would happen. False information was intended to make Germany believe the attack would take place later and further east than actually planned. Scientist Bill Tutt successfully de-coded top-level Nazi communications so that the Allies could discern whether their false information had been taken seriously.
The Airedale & Wharfedale Family History Society met 3 October and community historian Robert Schofield presented his talk ‘The Early Methodists of Wharfedale’.
Preacher Benjamin Ingham, from Ossett, came to Wharfedale in 1738 and married Lady Mary Hastings, sister in law of the Countess of Huntingdon. His son founded the Inghamite societies of West Yorks and Lancs. John Nelson, a stone mason from Birstall who was not on good terms with Ingham, developed societies around Bradford, Keighley and Otley and introduced John Wesley to the area. William Darney, a wandering pedlar and shoemaker known as Scotch Will, was a powerful Calvinist preacher who set up societies in Calderdale and Rossendale. He fell out with the Wesleys. John Bennett took over Darney’s societies and founded Methodism in the area. He fell out with John Wesley when he married Wesley’s ‘intended’ Grace Murray. William Grimshaw, Haworth curate and close friend of John Wesley, established the large Keighley Circuit which extended from Elland to the Scottish border. He converted Jonathan Maskow from Burley in Wharfedale who became a preacher. Thomas Colbeck, a grocer from Keighley, was a preacher in the area and married Sarah Flesher of Otley. On 30 April 1748 Bennett and Colbeck were entertained in Ilkley by Ellis Cunliffe and his wife Elizabeth Lister.
Mary opened the talk explaining the title of her talk is derived from the central plot of ‘Bleak House’, a book by Charles Dickens. The case is a central plot device in the novel and has become a byword for seemingly interminable legal proceedings.
Jarndyce v Jarndyce concerns the fate of a large inheritance. The case has dragged on for many generations before the action of the novel, so that, late in the narrative, legal costs have devoured the whole estate and the case is abandoned.
Chairman Lynda Balmforth welcomed speaker Eric Jackson who presented an excellent illustrated talk ‘Remembrance – War Memorials & the Unknown Warrior’.
War memorials are a common sight throughout Great Britain with the exception of 54 (5 in Yorkshire) Thankful Villages where all the men returned home from the Great War. Prior to WW1 there was little or no commemoration of war dead; monuments such as Nelson’s Column & Wellington Arch celebrated victory but did not include names of the dead. By the end of C19th commemorative memorials began to appear for those who fought & died in the Boer War (one such plaque can be found in Queen’s Hall, Burley). The hitherto unknown enormous loss of life during WW1 prompted widespread commemoration of the dead.
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