Saturday, July 27, 2013

The will of Edward Maister of Rotherhithe, Sailor and Owner 1582

Elizabeth I after the Armada in 1588
It is always difficult to find out information about the general public at different times in history, but I have recently found that a number of wills are available from various sources, mainly libraries and archives.  Most are not available online, but one or two are, so those are the ones that I am looking at first.  

It has really surprised me how much good quality information is available about individuals and their families from personal genealogy websites, which reproduce families' research into their ancestors. Some of the research carried out is to a very high standard. One example is the will of Edward Maister a mariner and ship owner of 16th Century Rotherhithe, who is an ancestor of a family named Douglas, who have done extensive research into their own past.  The way in which Edward Maister links into their family tree is described in part here:

The Douglas Family History Site reproduces the will of Edward Maister (in his will it is spelled Master, but his wife, in her will, spells their name Maister) in full.  It is a fascinating read if you have the patience to stick with the only slightly unfamiliar16th century prose.  I have copied it here in full, in case the site vanishes at some point in the future, but full credit goes to The Douglas Family History website, their reproduction of the text and the extensive research that they have shared:

Edward Master / Maister was a resident of Redriffe (another name for Rotherhithe.  He died in 1582 during the reign of Elizabeth I, a year after she knighted Sir Francis Drake at Deptford for his successful circumnavigation of the globe, and six years before the invasion force of the Spanish Armada arrived.  I have been unable to find out anything about him, beyond the information contained in his will, but he was clearly a man of substance, able to dispose of a number of houses to members of his family, he owned or part-owned a boat or ship called the Mary Katherine and he was able to discharge the cost for his own funeral and service and contribute to repairs for the church.  He requested a burial at the Redriffe church, and was buried in the churchyard of an older church of St Mary's on 13th July 1882.  Burial records show him as a "howseholder."  He was survived by a wife, Magdalene, and two children Olive (his son, who had a son also named Olive and a daughter named Margaret) and Anne, who was unmarried at the time of the writing of the will, but went on to have six children, the first three of whom died young (Roger, another Roger, John, Elizabeth, Susanna and Catalina).  He also mentions family in Walton on the Naze, near Harwich on the Essex coast.

There is very little information available about Rotherhithe at this period. but the reign of Elizabeth I was a period of great maritime activity, which extended up the Thames.  Although previous rulers had eroded her father's navy, Elizabeth revived, profiting from the activities of traders and privateers who challenged Spanish and Portuguese ships in South American waters.  The Thames had been used for storing warships and  a lot of warship-related activities took place, including fitting, maintenance and repair. By 1520 a wet dock for 5 large vessels had been built and the area soon became established as one of the most important ship building centres of the country.  The first royal ship to bear the name of Tiger (HMS Tyger) was built at Deptford docks in 1546. She had a crew of 120, and 4 brass and 39 iron guns, and took part in the fight against the invading Spanish Armada in 1588. Trading ships coming into London created the demand for some form of control, and a system of "legal quays" were established under Elizabeth, which were controlled by the Corporation of London. These were created to handle all dutiable goods. They were located on the north banks of the Thames between London Bridge and the Tower of London but when they quickly became inadequate for the task they were supplemented by Bermondsey “sufferance wharves" creating a role for the southern side of the river in maritime trade.

Edward Master his laste wyll and testement ade the vith daye of Julye in the yere of our lord god, 1582, as followethe
In the name of god, amen. the vith daye of Julye in the yeere of our lord god, 1582. I Edward Master of redriffe 1 within the co[un]tye of surrye, sailer & owner, sicke in bodye - but perfecte of remembranc[e] at the makynge hereof - thanks be to almightye god - make this my laste wylle and testament in maner and forme followinge.

Firste & before all other things I geve and bequethe my soule to almightye god, my creator and saviour, and my bodye to be buried in the churche of redriffe at the discression of my frends wher they shall thinke mete.

And for such goods as god hathe lent me for a tyme in this world (my funeralls and debts discharged I geve as followethe firste I wyll that ther should be a serman at my buriall suche as the p[ar]son shall thinke mete, and to have for his payns vis viiid 
Also I geve to the poore box of the p[ar]yshe of refriffe towarde the reparacions of the churche, xxs

Also I geve to Magdalen my wyfe whomI make my sole executrix of this my laste wyll and testament - my house wherein I dwell durynge her naturall life, and more I geve to her all my houses w[hi]ch I have by leaces in redriffe duringe her life, saving that I wyll that Olive 2 master my sonne shall have the neare housse - yf he doe marye and dwell in yt.

And yf Mawdelen my wyffe chance to decease before Olive my sonne, and Anne master my daughter, then I wyll that olive master my sonne, and have my housse wher I dwell paiyinge to anne master my daughter and to her children after her els a yeere.

Also I wyll that mawdelen master my wyffe a quarter a pece, and I wyll that Olive master my sonne shall geve to his ii children, Olive master ye younger and magarett m[aste]r his daughter vli a pecen and also to my daughter anne master xli out of the porcion of his halffe quarter of the mary katheryn at the yeers of xxi, or ells at the daye of mariage,

Also I wyll that mawdelen my wyffe shall geve to Anne master my daughter in money - or houshold stuffe, xli and to kepe at her owne charges (yf she thinke yt for her profett) tyll the tyme of mariage. 

And I shall desire my wyffe to be good to Olive my sonns children as she hath bene, tyll yt
please god to sed hym to marye, and folowynglye to dwell together as they have done so longe as ye shall plese god to apoynte.

And for my houshold stuffe I wyll that mawdelen my wyffe shall dispose yt amonge the iii children to wytt anne my daughter, and Olivs ii children as she shall thinke good.

And yf yt fortune that anne master my daughter do marye and have nede of a housse - then I wyll that she shall have my newe housse duringe the tyme of the leace, rent free, and for the rent of the other houses by leace I wyll that olive master my sonne and anne master my daughter shall have ye equallye devided betwene them and yf one of them faile, then one to be an others heire, and, yf bothe faile then I wyll that olive master the younger shall have my housse wher I dwell, and margarett his daughter to have the other houses by leace, and yf anne master do marye and have children then I wyll that her children shall ???isye bothe the housse where I dwell, and also the other houses I have by leace indeferentlye devided amonge them.

And yf that they shall geve to vi of the nexte of my kynred dwellynge at walton of the nase by harwiche, vili to be equealye devided amonge them and yf all thes do faile & none to be founde, to make any fuste Hyll to any thinge of myne, then I wyll that yt shall come to the use of the p[ar]yshe of redriffe for ever.

Also I wyll that mawdelen my wyffe shall not forgett to geve to my sonne Olive in some parte of houshold stuffe at the tyme of his mariage - such as she can convenientlye spare, thus comittynge my soule and bodye my harte and mynd unto the lord my god yn the vith daye of Julye in the yere of our lord god, 1582 Sealed and subscribed w[i]th myne owne hand

            by me edward master presens of thomas addye p[ar]son of redriffe

Probatum fuit hu[iusm]o[d]i testamentum ven[erab]ili viro m[agist]ro Johe Hone legum Doctore Surr[o]g[ate] Decimo octave die mensis Julii Annus d[omi]ni 1582 Jura[men]to magdalene maister vidue Rel[i]c[t]e d[i]c[t]i def[uncti] et executricis in hu[iusm]o[d]i testa[men]to no[m]i[n]at Cui Comissa fuit Admnistracio &c de bene &c Jurat &c Salvo Jure n???s??ibus &c

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