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Volume XXXII, St Albans wills, inventories and probate accounts, 1600-1615

By 1600 St Albans had come of age. Its great Benedictine monastery, which had dominated the town throughout the medieval period, had been dissolved in 1539. The town now owned and used the former abbey church as its parish church. A Borough Charter granted to the town by Edward VI in 1553 established corporate government under an annually elected mayor aided by ten ‘principal burgesses’. This led to a period of stable government and relative prosperity. The town’s income would come in part from a twice weekly market and three annual fairs, but the local economy was almost totally dependent on agriculture and its related trades such as brewing and tanning. The people of St Albans also exploited its position on Watling Street by servicing the needs of travellers and traders on their way to and from London.

This collection of probate documents dating from 1600 to 1615 includes 101 wills, 151 inventories and 20 probate accounts of St Albans residents. All walks of life are represented, from labourers to prominent businessmen, several of whom had served the town as its mayor. An astonishing range of occupations and trades includes not only butcher, baker, fishmonger and grocer, but also the more unusual bottle-maker, coverlet weaver, cutler and musician. Inventory values range from 12s 4d (William Berrye) to £599 1s 4d (Thomas Webster, tanner). The majority of the documents come from the records of the Archdeaconry of St Albans and are some of the best preserved in England.

The Introduction discusses the town in the early seventeenth century and analyses the documents published in the main text. Appendix 1 lists all of the testators etc. in alphabetical order; Appendix 2 lists all of the grants of administration issued for St Albans inhabitants 1600-1615; and Appendix 3 provides some observations on probate accounts and gives the Latin and a translation of a typical acquittance clause. There is also a detailed glossary and full indexes of people, places and subjects.

This is the Hertfordshire Record Society’s volume for 2014/15.

  • Edited and with an Introudction by Pat Howe and Jane Harris
  • xlii + 436 pages
  • 5 illustrations, a plan of the town and the boundaries of St Albans on endpapers, plus illustrated jacket
  • ISBN 9780956511171

Non-Members: £22 • Members: £17.50
(+£4 p&p )

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