Edited by A. J. H. Slade
For the last four decades of the seventeenth century and the first four of the eighteenth, wills and inventories are widely acknowledged as an important historical source. The editor of this volume has assembled all the known wills and inventories, with some administrations and accounts, which relate to the parish of Cheltenham and its tithings of Arle and Alstone, and Westal, Naunton and Sanford. The documents are drawn mainly from the records of the Gloucester Consistory Court, which had testamentary jurisdiction in Cheltenham, they are supplemented by a few records up to 1700 from the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, where wills relating to property in more than one diocese were proved.
The edition provides a detailed insight into the economic and social condition of Cheltenham in the period before the town’s transition from a small market town and its growth as a spa. Yeoman form the largest occupational group of those whose personal possessions are mentioned in the documents, and besides widows and spinsters (whose means of livelihood are sometimes apparent from the possessions which they left) there were significant numbers of gentlemen, tradesmen, and craftsmen. The tradesmen included not only innholders, as expected, but numerous maltsters. The data which records contain cover such topics as personal wealth, household goods, houses and buildings, occupations and social status, occupational goods, farming stock, land tenure, and family connections.
In this book the wills are presented in abstract and the inventories in full transcript. The introduction analyses the evidence and compares the results with those published for other parts of the county and for England as a whole in the same period, using statistical tables. The text and introduction are fully indexed and supported by a glossary if archaic words. There are two maps.
Cover illustration. Part of the inventory of Mary Ashmeade.