Dorset Wills & Administrations (Vol. II), Taunton Administrations (Parts III & IV)

British Record Society volume 53

Published 1921


  • Dorset Wills and Administrations in the Peculiar Courts 1500-1801 (pp1-185)
  • Taunton Archdeaconry Wills & Administrations 1537-1799, part III (pp186-313)
  • Wills in the Royal Peculiar of Ilminster 1690-1857 (pp314-318)

Introduction to Original Volume

The present Volume is an attempt to bring together as far as possible and make available for reference lists of the known existing testamentary records relating to Dorset which were not incorporated in Volume XXII of this series. The Dorset Wills in the Principal Court of Canterbury are, of course, not included here, as they appear in the printed indices of that Court. Dorset Wills are to be found at the Record Office among the Admiralty Records, at the Rochester Probate Court for seamen dying at Chatham, and it is presumed there are similar Wills at Winchester and Exeter in connection with the naval stations at Portsmouth and Devonport. It has not been convenient to obtain lists of these Wills for insertion in this Volume, but in making an exhaustive search for Dorset men these sources should not be overlooked. As an instance of the way in which Wills of Dorset folk are to be found in unexpected places it may be mentioned that Calendar (Vol 52, recently completed in this series) of Administrations at Lincoln contains a reference to an Administration granted at that Court in 1622 to the estate of David Banister, of Corfe Castle, and while the present Calendar has been going through the press some registers, including probate and administration acts, have been discovered at Wimborne Minster of dates earlier than those recorded in Volume XXII. A list of these Acts cannot be procured in time for inclusion in this Volume, but it is hoped they may appear in print at some future time.

It will be observed that the bulk of the Wills calendared herein are to be found in Part I, which relates to the Peculiars of the Sarum Court. The Calendar of these Peculiars was compiled some years ago from the original lists at Somerset House which are now superseded. It has, however, been collated with the existing modern calendar, and many fresh items have been added. Some entries in the old Calendars do not appear in the new ones, presumably because no documents relating to the cases are now in existence. It has, nevertheless, been thought well to include these names in the present Volume, as giving an indication of the date and place of death of the testators. The names so recorded are distinguished by a star (*).

The documents and registers referred to in this Calendar are at Somerset House, those of a later date are at Salisbury.

These Peculiar Courts had jurisdiction over some 39 Dorset parishes and hamlets, an exhaustive list of which is given in the introduction to Volume XXII.

The Peculiars with the greatest number of Dorset Wills are those of the Dean of Sarum and the Royal Peculiar Court of Gillingham. In the Court of the Dean of Sarum the Wills range from 1557, the date of the earliest, to 1800, in a regular series, with the exception of the Commonwealth period (1646-1660).

The registered wills are contained in 18 volumes, and are in two series. The first series, numbered i-xiv, covers the period from 1561-1648. The second series, numbered i-iv, ranges from 1707-1802. From 1649 to 1706 there are no registered wills. There are no Act Books extant.

In the Royal Peculiar of Gillingham the great majority of the documents are in bundles, which are arranged in dates as follows:

  • Bundle A. 1658-1679
  • Bundle B. 1680-1699
  • Bundle C. 1700-1709
  • Bundle D. 1710-1719
  • Bundle E. 1720-1730
  • Bundle F. 1731-1739
  • Bundle G. 1740-1749
  • Bundle H. 1750-1759
  • Bundle I. 1760-1769
  • Bundle K. 1770-1779
  • Bundle L. 1780-1789
  • Bundle M. 1790-1799

There are three registered Wills for the period 1734-1739, after which to 1790 they run almost continuously. The places included among the Wills of the Peculiar are Bourton, Bugley, Dorchester, Enmore Green, Gillingham, Huntingford, Langham, Lawne, Little Marsh, Longland Mill, Madgeston, Motcombe, Peasemarsh, Perston, Porridge, Sheerstocks, Silton, Winlains, and Wifling Lane.

The notes added at each of the other Peculiar Courts fully explain the documents there calendared, and the same remark applies to those included in Parts II and III.

Volume Introduction - Taunton Wills and Administrations (parts III and IV)

This Calendar of Administrations at Taunton and of Wills in the Royal Peculiar of Ilminster should have made Parts III and IV of Vol XLV of the Society's Series (issued in 1912) in which appeared Parts I and II (Wills at Taunton), but they were crowded out of that volume. As Parts III and IV do not suffice to make a volume in themselves of the size customarily issued by the Society, it has been decided to issue them as part of Vol. LIII (the second volume of Dorset Wills), judging that as they deal with neighbouring districts of the West Country it will be a convenience to Genealogists to have them issued together. Nevertheless, a separate pagination has been adopted, so that those who wish to do so may place the Somersetshire portion in a separate cover, in which case it could be appropriately numbered as "Vol XLVa". And it will be advisable to state here that the earliest administrations, from 1537 to 1593, appear in Part I of Taunton Wills. The next group occurs in the list of ten files ranging from 1596 to 1602 and at the ends of the calendars of the regular series of Wills forming Part II, but though the names appear in these files and Calendars, the documents themselves commence only at 1700 (except for the years 1643 and 1644), so that all previous to 1700 are. starred (*), which signifies that they are not now in existence. It is evidence of a negative kind that persons died about the year indicated, and may very likely be useful on this account. For further information on these Courts and their records the student is referred to the Preface of Vol. XLV (Taunton Wills).

E. A. FRY.

Volume Introduction - Wills in the Royal Peculiar of Ilminster 1690-1857

In Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries, vol vii, pp 13-17, is an interesting article by the late John Batten, giving a history of the Royal Peculiar of Ilminster, together with a good many Marriage Licences, which he extracted from one of the books he had access to. To the names of the officials and Registrars Mr Batten gives may be added those of Rev R Abrahams, official, and Mr Langworthy and his son, and lastly Mr J Baker, who was the last Registrar in 1857, when the testamentary jurisdiction was taken away from all Peculiars by the operation of the Probate Court Act of that year.