South Pennine Probate Archive

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About the South Pennine Probate Project


 The South Pennine History Group (SPHG) whose current members are Hebden Bridge Local History Society, Marsden History Group, and Saddleworth Historical Society, founded the South Pennine Probate Project in 2010. The aim was to make transcripts of historic probate documents from the area available to all. Funding was received from South Pennine LEADER and from other sources to continue the work of transcription and publication which several of these societies had already begun.

Part of the project was to design this website, which will eventually house transcripts of probate documents from Marsden, from the Upper Calder Valley, and, we hope, eventually from other areas of the South Pennines.  The project funding enabled Marsden History Group to complete the transcription of the probate documents from Marsden Manorial Court, which will soon all be available on this website, and also to publish a book based on study of these documents (see Publications).  Funding has also assisted the ongoing transcription of the much larger sample of probate documents from the Upper Calder Valley, which will also be published here.


Marsden Manorial Court Probate Documents

Marsden is seven miles west of Huddersfield, at the head of the Colne Valley. The Manor of Marsden was granted peculiar jurisdiction to prove the wills of those living within the Manor. We do not know when this occurred, but the earliest surviving probate document is from 1654, under the Lordship of Edward Firth. The wills of Marsden residents who owned property in Marsden only were proved at the Manorial Court, but if they owned any property elsewhere, their will had to be proved at a higher, ecclesiastical court. Some wills proved elsewhere may have been brought to Marsden Manorial Court to support admission to a copyhold tenancy; there seem to be some of these in the series.

The surviving probate documents from Marsden Manorial Court are housed at the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York, and are dated between 1655 and 1855. It is unusual for such a series, including the very informative probate inventories, to continue into the 19th century. The documents concern 285 decedents (people who died) of whom 24 were female. There are 209 wills, 182 inventories and 86 probate bonds. See The Background for a short explanation of the process of probate and of probate documents, and The Area for a brief summary of the history of Marsden.


Transcription and conventions used (Marsden)

Initial transcription was carried out by members of Marsden History Group, using paper copies of microfilms of the probate documents at the Borthwick Institute. All transcripts were checked by a professional historian. Unclear passages were checked against the original documents at the Borthwick, and the size, material and condition of all the documents were noted. Text written in Latin was transcribed and translated by a suitably qualified person. It is our hope that the resulting transcripts are complete and accurate, although it is impossible to eliminate all errors, and if these are found we would be grateful to hear of them.

It has been our aim to provide as much as possible of the information available in the original documents. The whole of the wills and inventories have been transcribed, including the formulaic preambles and endorsements, and notes made on the back of the document or elsewhere. However, we have not transcribed probate and administration bonds, since their wording is very standard, but have abstracted the unique information from them and presented this is a table. The typical wording of these bonds can be found below. We have made at attempt to reproduce the original lay-out of the documents, especially in the inventories, and where the original text was laid out in paragraphs; but our transcription of continuous text does not respect the original line-endings, nor have we marked these in the transcripts. We have often tried to reproduce the 'marks' of those people who were unable to sign their name to a documents.

The original spelling, capitalisation and punctuation have been preserved, including spelling errors by the original scribes; though capitalisation is often a matter of judgement in the older documents. Numbers and symbols have been reproduced as in the original. Contractions have been expanded, in italic, within square brackets; we felt this was the best compromise between fidelity to the original, and clarity to the modern eye. For example, Ex[ecut]ors, or &c [etc.]. Similarly, Latin words have been transcribed with the English translation in brackets e.g. vidua [widow]. Contractions of certain Christian names have not been expanded where we could not be certain of the expanded version. These include the very common Jno, which is generally expanded as John, but might on occasion be Jonathan; and Josh, which might be Joseph or Joshua. & has not been expanded.

In general, any material in italic font and/or in square brackets is not original material but is added by the transcribers. This includes notes on the size, material and condition of documents, and on any stamps and seals to be found on them, as well as indications of pages. To those unfamiliar with the terms, a folio is single sheet of paper (or parchment); recto is the front of the sheet (or right-hand page in a book), while verso is the back of the sheet (or left-hand page in a book).

Where we needed to indicate that words had been deleted, or had been added, typically 'above the line', we have enclosed the word or passage in square brackets and added a footnote. Some other footnotes, concerning changes of ink or hand-writing, may seem tedious, but sometimes will indicate whether changes and additions were made before or after the signing of the documents; whether an inventory is the original or a copy, etc.

There are of course many terms now unfamiliar to us, as well as legal and technical terms, and their meanings will be found in the Glossary of Terms, which lists the most common variants in spelling e.g. Bakebreads (back bread, backbread, bake bried).


Wording of a typical Probate Bond from Marsden Peculiar Court of Probate:

Know all Men by these Presents That I John Houldroyd of Clough in Lingardswood in Marsden in the Parish of Almondbury in the County of York Clothier, am held and firmly bound to Joseph Radcliffe Esquire Lord of the Manor of Marsden and John Hamer Gentleman, Steward of the Courts of the said Manor, in the sum of Two hundred Pounds of lawful Money of Great Britain to be Paid to the said Joseph Radcliffe and John Hamer or one of them or to their or one of their certain Attorney Executors Administrators or Assigns, For the true Payment whereof I bind Myself my Heirs Executors and Administrators and every of them firmly by these Presents Sealed with My seal and Dated the Twenty fourth day of May In the Year of our Lord One thousand seven hundred and Ninetyseven

The Condition of the abovewritten Obligation is such, That if the above bounden John Houldroyd, Nephew and sole Executor named in the last Will and Testament of Joseph Sikes late of Clough aforesaid Clothier deceased) shall and do well and truly execute and Perform the said Will of the said Joseph Sikes And Pay and discharge his Debts and Legacies according to Law And Exhibit a true and Perfect Inventory of all the Goods Rights Credits Debts and Chattles of the said Joseph Sikes And a true and lawful Account of the execution thereof when he shall be thereunto required by the Lord of the said Manor or his Steward And also save harmless and keep indemnified the Lord of the said Manor and his Steward and each of them their and each of their Heirs Executors and Administrators and every of them against all manner of Persons by reason of the Premises And shall and will at all times hereafter enter into such further Bond with sufficient Sureties for Performing of the Trusts and every Part thereof contained in the said Will As unto the said Lord or his Steward for the time being shall think meet and proper Then the abovewritten Obligation to be void, or else remain in full force and virtue

Sealed and Delivered, being     }

first duly stamped, in the          }          Signature and seal of  John Houldroyd (bondsman)    

presence of                               }                                                         

                Signature of witness


Wording of a typical Administration Bond from Marsden Peculiar Court of Probate:

Know all Men by these Presents That we Betty Carter of Marsden in the Parish of Almondbury in the County of York Widow Samuel Haigh of Marsden aforesaid Gentleman and Thomas Haigh of Gatehead Marsden aforesaid Cornfactor are held and firmly bound unto William Radcliffe Esquire Lord of the Mannor of Marsden aforesaid and to John Battye Gentleman Steward of the Courts of the said Mannor in the penal Sum of Two Hundred Pounds of Good and lawfull Money of Great Britain to be paid to the said William Radcliffe and John Battye or one of them or to their certain Attorney Executors Administrators or Assigns for which certain payment well and truly to be made We bind ourselves and each and every of us by herself and himself jointly and severally and our and each and every of our Heirs Executors and Administrators and every of them firmly by these presents Sealed with our Seals Dated the Fourth Day of April In the Year of our Lord one Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy Four

The Condition of the abovewritten Obligation is such That if the above bounden Betty Carter do well and truly Administer all and singular the Goods Rights Credits Cattle and Chattells which late were and did belong to James Carter late of Marsden aforesaid Bread baker Deceased within the Mannor of Marsden aforesaid (her the said Betty Carter late Husband) so farr as the Law shall bind here If also she do and shall exhibit a true and perfect Inventory into the Court of the said Mannor of all and singular the Goods Rights Credits Cattles and Chattells of the said Deceased and do and shall make a just and true Account thereof when she shall be thereunto lawfully required If also she do (upon lawfull warning to her given) bring into the said Court the Letters of Administration now to her Granted and do stand to and perform such Decrees as shall be made concerning the distribution of the said Estate and Effects And do enter into such further Bond for the performance thereof as shall be thought proper and requisite by the said Lord or Steward And Lastly do save defend keep Lossless harmless and Indemnified the above named Lord of the Mannor and Steward and their Heirs Executors and Administrators against all persons by reason of the Same Then the abovewritten obligation to be void in Law otherwise to be and remain in full force and Virtue

Sealed and Delivered (being first }    Mark and seal of Betty Carter (bondswoman)

duly Stampt) in the presence of   }    Signature and seal of Samuel Haigh (bondsman)

                                                           Signature and seal of Thomas Haigh (bondsman)  

Signature of witness




In the lists of documents which result from searching or browsing the archive, the spelling of names has been standardised, and place-names standardised to the most modern version known, e.g. Mickael Cartar of Derkar would be listed as Michael Carter of Dirker.


Indexing of Names

In the index of names, to be found under Browse by People, all persons mentioned by name in the documents have been indexed. Variant spellings of the name used for an individual are listed in brackets after the standard version; but place-names (their places of residence) are standardised. We have included the person's occupation. We have included information about the relationships of the person (usually just one relationship is mentioned, but in the case of married women, we may include the spousal and parental relationships). We have also included information about the person's rol(es) in the probate process, and the dates of the documents where they appear.

e.g. Brearley, John (Brearly) (cordwainer): son of James Brearley (Brearly) of Buckley Hill: beneficiary, executor and bondsman (1770, 1773)

This however makes for a lengthy list; those wishing to find all examples of, say, John Brearley in the documents could instead use the Advanced Search, putting in the term Brearley, John.


Indexing of Places

In the index of places, to be found under Browse by Place, all variants of spelling have been included

e.g. Troaves (Trax, Traxs, Trooks, Trouks, Troughs, Trox, Troxs), Marsden


Indexing of Subjects

In the index of subjects, to be found under Browse by Subject, all the variant spellings have been listed e.g.

Apparel (aparall, aparel, aparrel, aparril, aperel, aperell, apparell, appariel, apparil, apparill, apparrel, apparrell, apparril, apperal, apperell, apperrel, apprell, appril)