Blackmore Area Local History

John Smyth (1498 - 1543)

The Will of John Smyth of Blackmore Priory in Essex. 
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Below is the will of John Smith as it appears in an article authored by H. W. King in 1864, included in the book Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society, Volume III, Essex Archaeological Society, Colchester, Essex., England, printed and published for the Society at the Essex and West Suffolk Gazette Office in 1865.

The words of Henry W. King and [in italics] John Smyth:
“I have selected for my second communication on ancient wills,
chiefly on account of the interesting inventory it presents of the apparel, furniture, and in short, of the whole domestic and military equipment of a country gentleman in the reign of lien. VIII., as contained in several schedules, which being of the nature of codicils, were appended to and proved with the will.

John Smyth, of Blackmore, was the second son of Thomas Smyth, of Rivenhall, of an ancient family, who, according to Morant, derived themselves from Sir Michael Carrington, Standard-bearer to King Rich. I. in the Holy Wars, one of whose descendants, John Carrington, Esq., in the 15th century, changed his surname to Smyth. The family appear to have largely augmented their possessions out of the plunder of abbey lands. The Smyths of Cressing held the estate there of the Knights Hospitallers ; Clement Smyth, brother of the testator, acquired monastic property in Coggeshall. John Smyth was one of the auditors of King Hen. VIII., and to him that monarch 1540. He had given it at the first suppression to Cardinal Wolsey for part of the endowment of his new college at Oxford, but on the Cardinal's attainder it had reverted to the Crown. The priory had been laid waste, and the Canons Regular of S. Augustine had been driven houseless and homeless into the world. Within the brief space of two years after the suppression the great Cardinal was beggared, disgraced and dead, and almost as rapidly the stroke of death fell upon the next grantee, who thus commences his will :

IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. — The tenth day of the moneth of May, the yere of ower lorde god a thousande fyve lumdrethe. fourtye and thre, and in the xxxv yere of the raigne of or Soveraigne lorde Henry theight, by the grace of god, King of England, France and Irelande, Defend' of the fahythe, and in earthe supreme hedd of the Churche of England and Ireland, I John Smyth, of blakemore in the county of Essex, Esquyer, being of hole mynde and in good and perfytt remembrance, laude and prayse be unto god, make and ordeyn this my present testament as touching the disposicyon of all my moveable goods, cattalles and debts, in maner and forme following, that ys to save, ffirst and principally I comende my soule to Allmighty Jhesu my maker and redemer, to whome and by the merits of whose blessed passion is my hole trust of clere remission and forgivenes of my synnes, and my body to be buryed in christen sepulture in suche place as it shall please god to provyde and ordeyne for me.’

I have given the preamble literally chiefly as a specimen of the change of the formulary shortly after the Reformation. Avoiding now the tedious phraseology and repetitions of the law, I shall give but a brief abstract of the contents of the will, which is very long, in modern orthography except in those passages which appear to possess any peculiar interest. The testator proceeds :

‘Give to the Churchwardens and parishioners of Blackmore for the reparation of their church 20s. To Dorothy my wife her apparel and jewels. I will that all my plate, my chain of gold and household stuff be divided into two moieties, one to be given to my wife, Dorothy Smyth, to her own use, the other to my Executors for the performance of my will, and to that intent one moiety of the plate and gold chain to be sold. My corn and cattle in the County of Essex, as in the counties of Berks and Gloucester, to be disposed in like manner. ' I will that all the slanders and implements of household which are now rernayning at my mansion called Smythes hall, in Blakcmore in Essex, as it doth at Lechlade in the County of Glouc',as it doth appear in a scedle hereunto annexed, shall there contynually remayn.' 'I give to my sister Katheryue Smyth her free dwellynge in my house, yt is to say one chamber where Sylvester and his wif now inhabyteth, by the yatehouse [gatehouse?] of the churcheyarde of Blakmore, and allso the lytcll house next the stables for life . . . . and for her fewell to brenn at ye sayd house yerely ten carte lods of wood as long as she will there inhabyte . . . and one annuitye yerely of fourty shillings sterlinge ' .... To Dorothy, my wife, my lease in Cherney in the Co. of Berks, and the lease of the Parsonage of Lachlade, and the Priory there in the County of Gloucester, and the two several leases I hold of the Dean and Chapter of S* Paul's, London, of the messuages or_ tenements in Sermon-lane, London. To William Smyth and Gyles Smyth, my sons, the profits and rents reserved of the farms of Shuldham and Canehyn in Norfolk, now in the occupation of my brother Leonard. Remainder to my daughters Frances and Dorothy Smyth when 21 or married. To my said two sons the leases of my houses in Barbican, London, held of the Dean and Chapter of S. Paul's. To my "Executors the letting of the lands called Estlees and Widneymead for seven years, for the performance of my will ; and at the expiration, the leases shall go to my son William, he paying to his brother Gilts 31' 8’ over and above the King's rent. Remainder to Giles ; if he die, ' then I wyll that one of ray doughteis which shall chance not to be marryed unto the heyre of Henry Mackwyllyam shall have the said lease to her and her assignes.' To Wyllyam Dyx my son in law, and to Luce my daughter, the lease of my farm in Bemflete, and the term that I have in the farm called Rushnashe belonging to the Chantry of _____ in the cathedral church of S. Paul, London,

The preceding abstract will be found to contain quite new matter respecting the property and tenures of the testator, and the extract which follows is a curious illustration of the practice of the period in relation to wardships, I therefore print it literatim :

‘My executours to receve all the rentes and profytts of my maner of Bathon in the Co. of Essex, which I hold of the King's Majestye, duryng the minority of the heyres of Henry Mackwyllyam Esquyer, deceased, and they to yeld account therof as aforesayd, towards fyndinge my sayd two daughters Frances and Dorothie. I give and bequethe to the sayd Fraunces my daughter the maryage of the heyre of the sayd Henry Mackwyllyam, and so from heyre to heyre of the sayd Henry Macwyllyam ; and if it shall fortune the sayd Fraunces to die before marryage be lawfully celebrated betweene her and any of the sayd heyres, or that the sayd heyre do refuse to marry with the sayd Fraunces at suche time as myn executours or any of them or their assignes shall tender the sayd marryage, that then as nowe and now as then, I wyll that my sayd daughter Dorothie be offered in marryage to the sayd heyre, and if he refuse the marryage of both, then I wyll that myn executours or their assignes shall sell the sayd heyre for the most prouffit and advantage that they can, and the money comynge of the sayd sale shalbe payd to my sayd doughter ffrances at the tyme of her maryage, or when she shall com to the age of xxj yeres complete, and thone of my sayd doughters to be thothers heyre thereof, if eyther of them decease before her sayd maryage.’

The testator next directs that a bill indented be executed between his wife and his executors that the stuff and standerts of household shall remain in Smyth's Hall during her life, and after her decease, as by schedule annexed, and continues :- 

‘I wyll and bequeathe unto Thomas my sonne all my harneys, wepens and artyllary as yt is in my arinery or galery a Smythes haul! in blackmor, and that myn exeeutours shall savely deliver yt unto him according as it doth appere in an inventory thereof.’

The following directions are then given respecting the education of his children and the wards " which he had bought for the advancement of his daughters."

I wyll that my thre sonnes Thomas, Wyllyam and Gyles, and also the heyres of Henry Maekwyllyam, whom I have bought for the advancement of my doughters, shalbe brought up honestly and diligently at scole tyll they and every of them shall have convenyent learnyng in the latin tonge, and after that, by the discrecion of myn executours, to lerne the laws of this realme, or wyth some auditores, or in some other office towards the lawe, whereby they may be better hable to live honestly according to the lawes of God ; and also I wyll that my two doughters Frauncs and Dorothe shalbe brought upp vertuously and honestly in lernyng, till they shalbe maryed, and that my executours shall provide honest and convenyent husbands for them, or one of them which shall not be raaryed unto theyre of Henry Mackwyllyam, Esquyer, when she shalbe hable to be maryed, and to departe and pay unto her for her advancement for her maryage according unto this my wyll to all entents and purposes as my very trust ys in them so to doo.' 

The testator then directs that 100 marks be paid to his daughter Dorothy when 21 or married; but if she die in her minority unmarried, he says,

‘Then I wyll that myn executours shall dispose the sayd sum of one hundrethe marks in makynge of highwayes, and other dedes of charyty, by their discrecyon, whiche make most meritorious for my soule and all cristen soules.'

Next to benefactions to the Church and alms to the poor, nothing appears to have been regarded as more meritorious than bequests for amending roads and repairing bridges. Such bequests are of frequent occurrence in mediaeval wills, and the practice continued long after the Reformation.

The testator bequeaths part of the residue of his estate to that purpose as in the ensuing passage:

‘I wyll that all my household servants have honest lyvery of black clothe ayent my buryall. . . Residue ... to and among my childern, amendynge of high wayes noyous and other good dedes of charyty after the discrecyon and ruynds of my executours and overseers."
Appoints Clement Smyth, Leonard Smyth and Wyllyam Stamford Executors, Rauf Worsley, gent. Richard Pykering, merchant and Citizen of London overseers. The witnesses are John Stamford, attorney of the Court of the King's General Surveyors, Sir Richard Johnson, Priest and John Pykeryng.’

By far the most interesting portion of John Smyth's will are the schedules annexed. Each is headed by a formal declaration that it is to be deemed of the same force and effect as if comprised within the body of the will and is signed by the testator.


‘I give unto Dorathee my wif my gowne of tawney damaske furryd with marterns, a gowne of blake damaske faryd with blak saten, and a dublett of tavvny velvet. Item I give to my brother Clement a gowne of black chamlett faryd with marterns. Item, to Thomas Edmay, Gentylman, my gowne of black caffii,- furryd with black cony ; and my best dublett of black saten, quylted. Item, to my syster, my brother Clement's wyf, one newe payre of marterns skynnes. Item, to my broth' Leonard a gowne of black worstede, faryd with jenetts a newe jerkyn of black velvett and a dublett of black saten, quylted. Item, to my sonne Dixe a gowne of black russett faryd with foynes ; and a jerkyn of black damaske faryd with foynes. Item, to Thomas Hayes a gowne of black clothe furyd with budge ; and a jacket of black cafla edged with cony. Item, to Thomas Twysell, Esquyer, my turkes that is new sett. Item, to Mr. Worsley, of the robes, my gelding for myn owne sadell, , called Danyell. Item to Mr. Pykeryng, Brewer, my jackett of russett velvett. Item to my cosin Lentall a jacket of blak velvet. Item to Syr Edmond Pethy'm, Knight, my diamont that I had of my wyff. Item to Thomas Smyth, one of the servers of the King's Chamber, a dublett of tawney saten. Item to Thomas Smyth my wives kynnesman a new jerkyn of tawney snten. Item, to Margaret, my wifes mayd, a gowne of black cloth faryd with dammaske. Item to Mary the mayd of the kytchyn a gowne of black clothe faryd with saten. Item to Margaret Baker a single gowne of black clothe which was faryd with velvet. Item, to James Wylson a cloke of black clothe wyth twoo welts of velvett, a blak capp, and my halt of saten. Item, to old Father Lawrence my marble cloke. Item to Davy my servant a dublett of black saten, a capp of clothe and a payre of upper stocks of hose of black clothe. Item, to Wyllyam, horsekeeper, a velvett capp and my wynter bootes. Item, to Robert Parkyns my olde night gowne of blewe worsted furryd with lambe. Item to my sonne Thomas my gylt woodknyf with a scaberde and gyrdell of velvett. Item to Robert, Scolemaster, a new payre of black hoses made for my self. Item, to Syr Robert, my Chapleyne, an honest sleveles cote to be made newe by my executours. Item, to Wyllyam Cock, my servaunte, my grene cote. Item to Roger Lee, my bayly, my Jerkyn of lether and capp of velvet. Item to Nicholas, my brewer, Wyllyam Crowe, Rychard Hockley and John Ffytchot, to every of them a dublett of black fustyan redy'to be made by my executours. John Smythe ‘ 

‘A scedule of all such stuff and standerts of household ... for to remayne contynually in the mansion house of me, the sayd John Smyth, called Smythes hall in Blackinore, &c., &c.

IN THE HALL, ffyrst a fayre joyned table with two trestelles joyned. Item, a thyck syde table wyth yoyned trestelles, fyxed in the grownde. Item, foure joyned formes.
IN THE PARLOUR. Item a yoyned table wyth yoyned tresthelles. Item, a yoyned table, chayrewyse, a yoyned cupboarde of wainscott. Item, a long forme yoyned. Item, a long settyll yoyned.
IN THE BUTTERY. Item, two long seates to sett beare or ale upon. Item, a fayre almery with foure dores for breade.
IN THE PANTEBT. Item a breadbyn.
IN THE GREAT CHAMBER. Item, a long framed table of deale bourde. Item, a square fflaunders table upon tryndelles. Item a joyned table of weanscott, chayre wyse. Item, two cupboards with one stepp for potts. Item, two yoyned formes.
IN THE CHAPPELL CHAMBER. Item a long setle yoyned.

IN THE CHAPPELL. Item, one aultor of yoyners worke. Item, a table wyth two leaves of the passion, gilt. Item, a long setle of waynscott. Item a bell hanging over the chappell.
IN THE SECOND CHAMBER IN THE GALERY OVER THE KYTCHYN. Item, a long settyll yoyned of waynscott.
IN THE CHAMBER OVER THE NOURSHERY. Item a long settle yoyned.
IN THE HOTT HOUSE. Item, a lytle sestery of leade, wyth a cock of latyn. Item, a lytle eawderyof copper, wyth a cock.
IN THE BAKEHOUSE. Item, twooe fayre moulding bourdes wyth iii trestles. Item, a knedyng troughe in the boultyng house. Item, a buling byn. Item, a barre of yron along the chyimney wyth twoo rakks for potts upon the same. Item,
IN THE KETCHYN. Item, two fayre dressing bourdes of woode. Item, a greate burre of yron along the chymney wyth thre raks and two holes for potts on the same. Item, a cawdery and a pott hanging on a furneys in the boylyng howse. Item, a fayre bourde wyth two trestelles.’
IN THE LARDER HOWSE. Item, a powdering tubbe wyth a cover. Item, a great long capous coope, in the kytchyn yard, covered with boordes.

IN THE DAIRY HOUSE. Item, a ffurneys of copper to well whey in. Item, a chese lathe or presse for chese. Item, thre chese breades. Item, a cherne for butter.
IN THE BREWHOUSE. Item, a chestern to water in malt, lyned wyth leade. Item, a furneys of copper to brewe in. Item, a mashe safe. Item, a fayre worte pan of copper. Item, a great yeldyng fate. Item, a wourte fate. Item, a cooling fate. Item, a clensyng tubbe. Item, two settylles to sette beare on. xxij good kilderkyns. Item, a payre of slynges.
IN THE MYLL. HOUSE. Item, a horse myll for two horses, wyth stonys. Item, and all other things thereunto belonging. Item, Matts layd upon the flowers of ten chambers. Item, all manner of syllyngs and portalles of waynscott with dores, wyndowes and locks Item, all manner of bourded bedsteds in divers chambers amounting in nomber of ix. Item, the clock wyth bell unhanged.

The various items contained in the third schedule are divided chiefly amongst the testator's children, but a few are given to other relations. As there is a constant repetition of the same names after every item, with the proportion which each legatee is to receive, I simply enumerate the articles contained in the inventory.


‘Hangyngs of arras, fiyrst iij lytle peces of hangings to hange over chymnes. Say. Item, v pec's of hanging lying unoccupyed. Item, hangings of saye for iv chambers. Curteyns for beddes and wyndowes. ffyrst of saye xxi pec's. Cupborde clothes of Dornix tapystre and other. (41 pieces). Coverletts, divers sorts, olde and newe, xvi; verdour lyned v ; and mantyll frees iiij. Counterpoynts. Arras, two. Tapestry olde and newe xv. Yet counterpoynts ;of sylke and Bawdekyn, two. Item, of velvet, one. (Juylts, Item, of yellow sylke one. Celours and testers of velvet, payned wyth tynsell, one. [ten others enumerated.] Borders. Of saye one ; verdour one. Item, of bockeram and canvas stayned, iiij. Item, of new stayned canvas, ii pec's. Beddes of ffethers, xx. Yet beddes, of downe, thre. Mattresses of fyne lynyn quylted, v ; and course canvas, viii. Bolsters, fethers, xx, downe one, and fflocks iij. Blanketts of woollen and lynsey wolseye, xxi ; and of ffustyan v.

CHAPPELL STUFF. Copes and vestments: thre. Aulter fronts, foure. Corporace case,|one ; and dyvers peces of sylk necessary for cusshyons, v. Thomas Smyth as moche as wyll serve hys chappell, the resydue to be soldc by myn executours to the performance of my wyll.

HOUSE. Item, a horse myll for two horses, wyth stonys. Item, and all other things thereunto belonging. Item, Matts layd upon the flowers of ten chambers. Item, all manner of syllyngs and portalles of waynscott with dores, wyndowes and locks Item, all manner of bourded bedsteds in divers chambers amounting in nomber of ix. Item, the clock wyth bell unhanged.

Sheets of course canvas, xxv payre ; fyne canvas, ix payre ; lenyn, v payre, and one berrying sheet — xxxix payre and a shete Pyllowberes of fyne, vi payre; and of course, ij payre — viii payre. Table clothes of fyne damaske, two ; fyne playne diaper, one ; course diaper, x ; fyne playne canvas, xxij. Cupbourde clothes of fyne diaper damaske, two ; other diaper, viii. Playne towells of fyne clothe, two ; and canvas, xij. Napkyns, diaper damaske, one dozen ; fyne playne diaper, xiij ; napkyns one dozen ; x napkins. Yet napkyns, of canvas wyth blewe rowes, x ; playne canvas, vi ; old playne, vi. Aulter clothes of canvas, one. Pewter, Basyns, Bolles and Ewers. Basyns and Ewers, silver fashyoned, three. Playne holies, two. Chargers, silver ffashyoned, thre ; playne one. Platters, sylver fashyoned, one dozen two platters ; playne, ij dd.iij platters : iiij dd. v platters. Dysshes of sylver ffashyon, vi ; corneryd, v ; and playne dysshes ijdd. Porringers sylver ffashyon one dozen ; corneryd, vj ; playne, vii — ii dd.j porringers. Sawcers sylver ffashyn one dozen ; and playne ij dd. v. sawcers iij dd. sawcers.' Trenchers, one dozen. Plates for chargers (vi in all) Candelstycks of pewter; sylver ffashyon, iiij. Potts for ale, wyne, herbes, and chamber potts, xxii. Latyn candelstycks of latyn of dyvers sorts, xiiij Candelbeame of latyn, large, one. Chafyngdishes of latyn, twoo. Chaforns of latyn one. Ladylles of latyn, two. Scommers of lattyn one. Andyrons of lattyn, very fayre, one payre. Brasse and copper pannes of dyvers sortes, vi. Ffumynge pannes of lattyn, two. Potts of dyvers sorts, ix. Chafornes of dyvers sortes, iii. Spyce morter wyth pestyll of yron, one. Yron raks, great, v. andyrons great and smale, vi payre. flyer forks of yron, two ; ffyer showells of yron, three. Tongs of yron, two payre. Gredyrons of yron, iii. Spyttes greate and smale, xvii. Trevetts, great and smale, twoo. frying pannes, one. Dressing pannes, thre. Potthokes, thre payre. Backstocke for chymneys, two. A clock wyth bell to be hanged upp and to remayne at Smythes hall for ever. Beddsteddes of joynours wowrk, xiii. Stoles joyned xvi. Chayres of dyvers sortes, vi. Close stoles, two. Chestes, wyth one of yron, and viii gardevyance — xviii. Tabella yoyned, and other formes joyned, three.Hevy cupbordes, one.

Harneys, complete, lackynge legges, one payre. Almery ryvetts wythsplents and backs, viii. Item, one cote of fense covered wyth black saten. Item, jacks covered wyth whyte fustyan, twoo. Item, helmett, one, Item, salletts, vii. Item, sculls covered wyth satyn, one. Item a mayle capp, one. Item, gauntletts and gorgetts, two. Bowes, iiii. Sheves of arrowes, iiii ; pollaxes, one ; halberds two ; glayves, one ; swordes, three. Item, one woodknyf gylt. Item, a quyver of ahoting arrowes, to my sonne Thomas Smythe.’ 

It is manifest from the tenor of the will that some of the testator's household effects are not included in the preceding schedules. The plate is omitted, inasmuch as one moiety was given to the testator's wife absolutely, and the rest was directed to be sold. All the articles comprised in the second inventory were specific bequests, and the 'standerts of household ' in the third schedule were to remain permanently in the mansion. These, however, undoubtedly comprise the great bulk of the household stuff. The armour was a specific bequest to the testator's eldest son and heir.

The length to which the present communication has extended, warns me to close ; but should these notices of early wills and inventories prove acceptable to Essex archaeologists, I shall be happy to continue them in future pages of our journal.” 

H. W. King
Last updated: 9 January 2010