which consists of the villages of Crich, Fritchley and Whatstandwell.

Will of Thomas Readforth died 1571

Transcribed by Terry Radford and reproduced with his permission

Son of John Radford (d1571) ; Brother to Elizabeth, and George.
He had three children, James, Alice and Isobel

In the name of God, Amen. The 29th day of December AD 1606. I Thomas Readforth of Brakenfeeld in the County of Derby, yeoman, whole in body and mind, God be thanked, not willing to die intestate, do make and ordain this my last will and testament in manner and form following.

First I commend my soul into the hands of almighty God my maker and redeemer, hoping assuredly through the only merits of Jesus Christ my saviour to be make partaker of life everlasting. And I commend my body to the earth to be buried within the Church of Morton.

As concerning my goods, first I bequeath unto Joan my wife all such implements of goods as she brought with her to me and the money that is in John Gilbert’s hands and two cows [kye] of the best at my house and the half of my corn in town and field.

Next, one stone of wool and my medley cloak. Next to Thomas Readforth and James his brother two oxen or bullocks such as I shall have at my departure, a mare, a wain, a plough, a harrow and a yoke.

Next I bequeath to Alice Readforth and Izabell her sister either of them a cow or a heifer in calf, and either of them one pewter platter.

Next I bequeath to Katherine Lees one bed of such stuff as is in my house, one pot, one pan, and one pewter platter and two lesser pewter dishes.

Next I bequeath to Mary the daughter of my son John Readforth if she be living 40 shillings.

Next I bequeath to Rosamund Poole, Mary the daughter of George Readforth, John Ive, and Thomas Nuttall, each of them 3s 4d.

Next I bequeath to Izabell my daughter my best cloak.

Item I give to every one of my children’s children one sheep.

Next I bequeath to Agnes and Katherine Soersbie [Sowersby?] either of them one pewter platter.

Next I give to every one of my servants one sheep.

Next I give and bequeath all the rest of my goods and cattles whatsoever unbequeathed, moveable and unmoveable only to my son in law James Soersbie.

Next I make the said James Soersbie and Joan my wife my lawful executors of this my last will and testament to order and dispose all things to the honour of God and the health of my soul.

Michael Shirbrooke, Parson of Morton
Leonard Hunt
James Gregory
Thomas Calow
With others


Let probate of the above written testament and administration of the goods of the said deceased be committed to the executors nominated in the testament by the Minister of Morton.

Signed “Babington”

A very clearly written will, but one that is still full of puzzles. Thomas does not tell us how he is related to any of the legatees except his wife Joan, daughter Izabell, Mary his granddaughter by his son John, and his “son in law” James Soersbie. The latter is ambiguous because son in law could mean stepson as well as daughter’s husband.

Thomas has grown up children and grandchildren. He makes no bequest to his son John, and only a cloak to his daughter Izabell; his other children are unnamed. Thomas and James and Alice and Izabell are given bequests that are more appropriate for young people setting out in life than for adults with children themselves, so it is doubtful that they are Thomas’s children even though their bequests come first. Alice and Izabell are unmarried because they retain the name Radford.I would usually argue that all close living relatives and certainly all members of the nuclear family are usually named if only with nominal bequests in a will of this date, but in this will we have clear evidence of children and grandchildren, but only one son named in the context of a favourite or life-limited granddaughter singled out for a pecuniary gift, and one daughter receiving a nominal bequest. One possible explanation would be that Thomas had two families: the first with now grown up children & grandchildren, perhaps at a distance (in Crich perhaps), and the second by a second wife Joan whose son James has been adopted, and a daughter Izabell to Thomas and Joan. If Agnes and Katherine Soersbie are James’s children, they cannot be called Thomas’s grandchildren, but nevertheless receive the same sort of symbolic bequest as grandchildren.

George Radford of Crich is implied to be a kinsman (Brother), with bequests to his family as named in his own will.

The will is not signed or sealed by Thomas Readforth, but its authenticity is vouched for by the vicar of Morton, Michael Shirbrooke, and witnesses.

Shirbrooke is probably the composer and scribe of the will, and this also contains some oddities. The bequest of Thomas’s soul is typically Protestant, but the final wish “for the honour of god and the health of my soul” is an echo of pre-Reformation Catholic sentiment.

Burial in the Church (not the churchyard) at Morton suggests high standing in the community there, despite kinship links with Crich several miles away. What property gave Thomas such standing? Is it documented in IPMs or manorial court rolls or deeds?

To “triangulate” my hypotheses, wills of the Soersbie family, John Gilbert, John Ive and Thomas Nuttall, ought to be found and read.

PSF April 2012

Thomas Readforth will 1571
Reproduced by kind permission of the Lichfield Record Office.

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