Find your ancestors in Probate Records of the Court of the Archdeacon of Sudbury 1800-1858

Probate Records of the Court of the Archdeacon of Sudbury 1800-1858

British Record Society Volume 118

Published 2002

Introduction to Original Volume

There are some six and a half thousand entries in this index, which includes all register copies and original wills proved in the Court of the Archdeacon of Sudbury between 1st January 1801 and 12th January 1858, as well as the administration act books, administration bonds and inventories. With one exception (see below), all the probate documents listed in the index are held at the Bury St Edmunds branch of the Suffolk Record Office. The spelling of place names and of trades and occupations have been modernized. On 12th January 1858 jurisdiction over probate passed to a civil court, thus ending some five centuries or more of jurisdiction by the ecclesiastical courts.

Amongst the administration bonds is a bundle of limited bonds, which are so called because they limited the powers of the executors. They are all limited to terms of leases, and were used when the last of a number of co-trustees, or their heirs, died intestate and there was no-one left to administer the estate.

The Archdeaconry of Sudbury covered the whole of the old County of West Suffolk together with the thirteen Cambridgeshire parishes which formed the Deanery of Fordham. In 1837 the Deaneries of Hartismere and Stow were transferred to the Archdeaconry of Suffolk, together with the Blackbourn Deanery parishes of Rickinghall Inferior and Hinderclay, while the remainder of the Sudbury Archdeaconry became part of the Diocese of Ely. Despite these administrative changes, all wills from the parishes of the pre-1837 Archdeaconry continued to be proved in the court of the Archdeacon of Sudbury.

There were two Peculiars in this Archdeaconry: Moulton, Monks Eleigh and Hadleigh were a peculiar of the Archbishop of Canterbury, while Freckenham and the Cambridgeshire parish of Isleham formed a peculiar of the Bishop of Rochester. The probate records of the latter are kept at the Bury St Edmunds branch of the Suffolk Record Office and are included in this index. In 1837 both peculiars ceased to exist as such. Part of the Archbishop's peculiar lay in Essex and had the alternative name of the Deanery of Bocking. Unfortunately the 16th and 17th-century probate records for the Suffolk parishes of this peculiar are lost, but those for Hadleigh and Monks Eleigh (1720-1858) and Moulton (1732-1858) are held at the Essex Record Office. They are indexed in Wills at Chelmsford, vol. 3, 1721-1858, British Record Society, 1969.

A map showing all the parishes of the Archdeaconry, together with the peculiars, is to be found on the front endpapers and its key is on the back endpapers.

As this appears to be the first probate index, which deals solely with 19th-century records, to be published by the British Record Society, a comparison between the occupations and trades listed in the indexes for 1354-1700 with those for the first half of the 19th century is of interest. From the latter period there are 99 occupations or trades not found in wills and admons dated before 1701. They reflect considerable changes in the economy of Suffolk, particularly the decline of its cloth-making industry. In some cases an apparently new occupation is merely a change in terminology; one example is builder, another is publican. There are over 50 shopkeepers, but only one was found before 1700. Also noticeable is the number of testators with secondary occupations listed, particularly farmers and innkeepers. Bankers and their clerks were unknown in the earlier period, as were veterinary surgeons, chemists, greengrocers, beerhouse keepers, insurance agents, gamekeepers, nurserymen and tea dealers. Other occupations reflect new industries: a crape manufacturer, an engineer, men concerned with the silk industry, gunflint makers, staymakers and a straw hat manufacturer. A railway station master and a tollgate keeper indicate changes in transport, while the two postmasters are also a sign of change. Shopkeepers are more precise about their trade.

The British Record Society is very grateful to Mary Rix, who compiled the index from lists of testators extracted from the will registers by the Bury St Edmunds Will Indexing Group. The list and the index were checked by Barbara Plumridge, Mary Rix and Sandra Stevens. The supplementary indexes were compiled by Cliff Webb, and Phillip Judge drew the map and prepared its key. We are aware that there is still a gap from 1701 to 1800 in the indexes to Sudbury Archdeaconry probate records, but are pleased to say that Mary Rix hopes in due course to tackle this period.