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The Wills of 3 John Merrells
Will of John Merrell 1600
Wherstead and Belstead
John Merrell chart
Will of John Meryell 1551
Will of John Meryell 1528
The Reformation

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    Samuel Merrill, 1928, reprint 1983

The Wills of Three John Merrells - Chapter IV, pp32-47

Will of John Merrell 1600

   The original will of 1600 fills three large sheets of handsome deckle-edged paper, 10 ¾ by 14 ½ inches in size. The sheets are attached together at the top by a narrow strip of parchment, the ends of this parchment ribbon being bound by red sealing wax. The margins are ample, and the lines wide apart, but the writer used a coarsepointed quill, and crowded the writing in such a way that in our time one unaccustomed to ancient manuscripts would find much difficulty in deciphering it.

   The testator affixed his signature in a shaking hand, with an indifferent pen, spelling his name Merell. But he was “sicke in bodie”—his will was admitted to probate nine days later—and we must not criticise hischirography, or his spelling of the family name. A facsimile of his autograph is given herewith. At the end of the third sheet, near the signature, a few drops of sealing wax were placed, and a corner of the paper was folded over the hot wax. Against this a seal was pressed, the seal showing clearly a crude device resembling a spider.

   The ancient copyist contented himself with preserving the phraseology of the instrument, literal precision in matters of spelling, and in the use of capitals, evidently being considered quite unimportant. He spelled “paid” in three different ways, and “Wherstead,” which appears six times, has five different spellings, the name of the place in each case beginning with a small letter.

   The copy of the will of John Merrell (1600) is in the records of the Archdeaconry of Suffolk, book xxxviii, folio 242. For comparison the first line of the original instrument may be quoted:

   In the name of Godd Amen the seconde daye of [illegible] yn the thre & ffourtyth yere of the Ragn of our Sovrayn lady

   In the more legible handwriting of the recording officer these twenty-four words are given more than two lines.

  In the name of god Amen the second day of
December in the three and ffourtith yeere of the Raigne of
our Sovaigne Ladie Elizabeth by the grace of god
of Englaund and Irelaund Queene Defender of the ffaith &c.
5
I John Merrell the elder of whersteade in the Countie of Suff:
Yeoman being sicke in bodie and yet of pfect memorie praised
be almightie god remembring that all mankind is mortall and
the time of death is uncertaine for the satisfaccon of my
mind and the quiet of my wife and children & a remembraunce
10
of some other have and doe hereby make and declare my
last will & testament in manner & fforme as hereafter
ensueth that is to say ffirst and most principallie in most
humble manner I comend my Soule into the hands of
almightie god my maker redeemer and Sanctifier trusting
15
by and through the merrits and obedyence of my lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ that my soul shall possesse and
enioy eternall life & salvacon And as for my bodie I
bequeath to the earth to be buried by the discretion of
my executors. Itm I will and bequeath to the poore people
20
in wherstead aforesaid fourtie shillings to be distributed
among them wthin one quarter of a yeere next after my decease.
Itm I give and bequeath to Prudence my wife in pte of
recompence of hir dower my parlor and larther howse
pcell of my dwelling howses wth. the bedding and furniture
25
in the same and the pasture and stover somer and winter
for a Cowe upon my lands in litle belsted and whested
aforesaid from time to time to have and to hold to hir
the said Prudence for terme of hir natural life keeping
hir sole and unmarried. Itm I give and bequeath to hir
30
the said Prudence in further recompence of hir dower one anuitie 
or yeer lierent of five pounds of lawfull englishe mony to be going out of all
my lands and Tennemts in little Belsted wherested and
Sprowtonne to have and to hold to my said wife for
terme of hir life at two termes in the yeeres usuall that is
35
to say at the ffeast of thaunncacon of the blessed virgin
Saint Marie and Saint michaell tharchaungell by even
porcons the ffirst payment to begin at such of the said
ffeasts as shall happen next after my decease and yf yt shall
happen the said yeerelie Rent to be behind unpayed in pte or
40
in all over or after any of the said ffeast dayes in wch the
same ought to be paid that then and at all times after yt shalbe
lawfull to and for the said prudence into the said lands and
Tennements or any pcell thereof to enter and Distraine and the
Distresse or Distresses there fownd to lead drive carrie away
45
and Detaine untill the said Prudence of the said yeerelie
rent wth. the arrearages thereof shalbe fullie satisfied and
paid. Itm I will geve & bequeath to John my sonne the moytie
of my dwelling howses & the moytie of all my launds Tennemts.
and heriditamts. as well free as bond scituate lying and being
50
in wherstead litle Belsted and Sprowton aforsaid or any
of them to have and to hold to the said John my Sonne his
his heires and Assynes forev Itm I will give and bequeath
to Michaell my Sonne thother moytie of my said dwelling
howses and of all the said lands Tennements and heriditamts.
55
as well free as bond to have and to hold to the said michall
my Sonne his heires and assynes fforev. Itm I will and
bequeath Itm I will and bequeath to Nathaniell merrell
my Sonne ffourtie pounds of lawfull english mony to be
paid to him in fforme ffollowinge vizt. wthin one yeere next after
60
my decease xiijli. vjs viijd. And wthin two yeeres next after
my decease other thirteene pounds six shillings and eight
pence and wthin three yeeres next after my decease other
thirteene pounds six shillings and eight pence in full paymt
of the said ffourtie pounds. Itm I will and bequeath
65
to Thomas my Sonne thirtie pounds of lawfull english
mony to be paid to him in fforme ffollowing vixt. wthin one
yeere next after my decease tenne pounds and wthin two
yeeres next after my decease other tenne pounds and wthin
three yeeres next after my decease other tenne pounds in full
70
payment of the said thirtie pounds Itm I will and bequeath
to the said Thomas my lease and terme of yeres of and in
the messuage called Ampsons in wherstede aforesaid & of &
in the lands thereunto belonging. Itm I will and bequeath
to Marie Merrell daughter to the said Nathaniell tenne
75
pounds to be paid to hir at hir age of eighteene yeeres.
Itm I will and bequeath to Martha merrell one other of
the daughters of the said Nathaniell other tenne pounds
to be paid to hir at hir age of eighteene yeeres. Itm I.
will and bequeath to John Merrell Sonne to the said
80
Nathaniell tenne pounds to be payed to him at his age
of one and twentie yeeres And yff any of the said
children of the said Nathaniell shall Dept this life
before such time as he or she is to receive the said
porcon bequeathed by this my will, then I will that
85
the pte and porcon of him or hir so Deceasing shalbe
Distributed to and among the survivors of them. Itm I
will and bequeath to Thoms merrell Sonne of Thoms
Merrell my Sonne tenne pounds to be paied to him at his
age of one and twentie yeeres. Itm I will and bequeath
90
to Anne Merrell daughter to the said Thoms my Sonne
other tenne pounds to be paied to hir at hir age of eightene
yeeres, And yff eyther of those two children shall depte
this life before he or shee shall receive the said porcons
bequeathed then I will that the pte & porcon of him
95
or hir so Deceasing shall remaine to the Svivour of them.
Itm I will and bequeath to Willm Smyth my Svaunt
twentie shillings & to Thomas Smyth his brother tenne
shillings Itm I will and bequeath to Edward Kettle of
ffreston Clerke xxs, Itm I will and bequeath to eytch
100
of my said sonnes Nathaniell and Thoms all such goods of
mine as they have in thier sevall custodies And I remytte
and forgive and eyther of them all such Debts as they or
eyther of them doth owe unto me All the Residue of my
debts goods and Cattals whatsoev my Debts payed my legacies
105
pformed and my funrall expences discharged I will and
bequeath to my said Sohnes John and Michaell, whome
I ordaine name and costitute my Executors of this my
last will & Testament, And I appoint my loving friend
Cristopher Wright supraviser of the same Testament
110
nevthelesse my will and meaning is that yff anie Default
shalbe made in the payment of any legacie before bequeathed
to any of my Sonnes or anie of thier Children that then
the ptie from whome anie such legacie shalbe wtholden shall
enter into have and hold all my said lands and Tennemets.
115
and the same occupy and enioy untill such legacie shalbe
satisfied and paid. Itm I will & bequeath to the said
Thomas my Sonne my brasse pott sometime sharpes and a
hundreth of bourd, And thus Revoking and renowcing all formr
wills and Testamts by me made I ratifie and Confirme this
120
and in Testimonie thereof have hereunto put my hand &
Seale in the psence of Raulffe Scrivner and Cristopher
wright michaell Raynold and John Raynold. By me John
merrell

This will was proved 11 Dec. 1600.

 Line 2  
et seq. ff as an initial is the equivalent of capital F
3, 
6, 8, etc. Little flourishes were commonly used at that time to mark certain abbreviations. These are described in Wright’s “Court-Hand Restored,” and other books relating to ancient manuscripts, and detailed explanations are not needed in this place.
6, 
Yeoman: a freeholder of land of the value of 40s. a year.
23. 
“Parlor and larther howse pcell:” probably reference is made to the portion of the house which included the parlor and larder, or pantry.
25, 
stover: fodder for cattle.
26, 
litle belsted: now called Belstead, a parish adjoining Wherstead on the west.
29, 
sole: unmarried.
30-31. 
In 1600, when this will was written, the purchasing power of money was about ten times greater than it was three centuries later.
33. 
Sproughton is three miles northwest from Wherstead.
35, 
ffeast of thaunncacon: feast of the Annunciation, (25 March).
60, 
xiijli.: thirteen pounds.
72, 
messuage: dwelling house.
95, 
Svivour: survivor.
99, 
Freston adjoins Wherstead on the southeast.
99, 
Clerke: clergyman.
104, 
Cattals: chattels.

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