Nathaniel Mason’s Will: Grasier of Withybrook, Warwickshire

1 Jan

Nathaniel's will

 

It begins….”I Nathaniel Mason of Withybrook in the County of Warwick Grasior being of sound and perfect mind memory and understanding God be praised to make and ordain this to be my last will and testament in manner and form following and first and principally command my soul in the hands of God Almighty and my body I commit to the earth to be reverently buryed  at the discretion of my executor herein after named and as for and concerning such worldly estate as it hath pleased God to bestow upon me I give and dispose as followeth”

WOW…didn’t know that there was no punctuation in those days and that it would go on for three pages in a script and wording  with which I was not all that familiar. It soon became clear that Nathaniel had died childless and that his brother JOHN MASON and his brother-in-law JOHN BLOCKLEY, husband to his sister ELIZABETH,  would be his executors and that JOHN MASON would get the largest part of the estate. Guess this is why the John’s in my direct line farmed the land in Withybrook. John Mason born in 1748 is my 3X Great Grandfather and it is his daughter Ann Mason that marries into the Perkins Family.

John Perkins…Grandson of John Mason, Son of Ann Mason

 

Why would I want to spend so much time on the will of someone who died almost 300 years ago? The answer is “I’m  crazy..well yes… but I am also curious and a Family Historian” and this Will gives me a great deal of information about my Mason family. They appear to have lived in Warwickshire for a very long time…..Sarah,  daughter of Thomas Mason was born March 4, 1653 in Withybrook and a Thomas Mason was buried there in the church cemetery age 91 in 1691… meaning he was born around 1600. Good possibility that he was the father of Thomas Jr. who was born in 1633…..so there we are, almost 400 years on the farm, so to speak. This information is found in the online scanned Parish Church Records….no more transcriptions with their many errors. I can turn the pages and see the names for myself!

 

 

Farm at Withybrook, Warwickashire

Farm at Withybrook, Warwickshire some 8 miles from Coventry

Right at the start, I had to access a dictionary. What is a Grasior or Grasier?….my guess would be farmer of some sort. Oxford says ” someone who feeds cattle for market or a large scale sheep or cattle farmer”.  After the preliminaries of the will, Nathaniel begins his bequests. He takes care of his wife Elizabeth for the remainder of her life by a trust  of 240 pounds managed by the TWO JOHN’s. He gives her “my BED in the parlor with all the bedding thereunto belonging in my chest standing at the said bed foot all my linen except for what is used with my other beds all my pewter which was my wife’s at the time of our marriage.” Nice of him to return it to her.

He then goes on to make specific monetary bequests to his siblings, kinsmen, kinswomen and nieces and nephews.  “How I give and bequeath unto my nephew JOHN MASON, son of my said brother John  Mason the sum of 100£ . To my nieces ELIZABETH DALTON and SARAH MASON daughters of my said brother John Mason and to each of them 40£ apiece. To MARY MASON another daughter of my said brother John Mason” …..and so on and so on as the money is doled out. Hard to equate the value of this money in today’s terms, but I would guess that he was a reasonably wealthy gentleman. (In 1720 an ounce of gold in London cost about £4.31  and today it costs £768 and a midling type of family could live on 40 to 60 pounds a year.)

He takes care of John’s younger children.. “How I give to my nephew DANIEL MASON another of the sons of my said brother John Mason the sum of 10£ to be paid at age 13 in order to put him into an apprenticeship.”  Apprenticeships were commonly arranged for the younger children in large families so they would be able to earn a living.

Next he disposes of  his possessions many of which go to his nieces “. How I give and bequeath to my niece ELIZABETH DALTON my bed in the chamber over the hall with all the bedding thereunto belonging and my best brass pot. How I give unto my niece SARAH MASON my bed standing at the stair head with all the bedding thereunto belonging. How I give to my niece MARY MASON my great table with the joynt stools thereto belonging. And the other chest in my said parlor and also my best cupboard in the said hall.

The next part of his will is very useful as it names men that his kinswomen married, where they lived and what they did…..a big help in family history research. “How I give to my nephew JOHN BLOCKLEY son of  SISTER BLOCKLEY the sum of 100£ and to my niece ELIZABETH daughter of SISTER BLOCKLEY 40£ and to MARY BLOCKLEY daughter of  SISTER BLOCKLEY 20£. How I give to my kinswomen ELIZABETH AND MARY ROBINSON daughters of LUKE ROBINSON of ANSTEY in the CITY OF COVENTRY GRASIER and to each the sum of 20£ at the ages of 21 years. So this clues me in to the fact that the  Robinson’s and the Blockley’s are extended family and I know where they are living in Warwickshire relative to where Nathaniel was living in Withybrook. Since land is passed only to the eldest son, it is important to determine what happened to the rest of the sons and daughters. These women are likely his cousins/aunts which mean I have more help to trace backwards to the common ancestors…Thomas Jr (1633) and/or Thomas Sr. (1600).

This item I found interesting “How I give unto Mr. almighty SMITH of Leire in the county of Leicester and Mr. THOMAS SMITH his brother each of them 5£.” I wonder what his relationship was with the 2 brothers? Perhaps they had done him wrong in some business transaction….I don’t believe almighty is a christian name…but rather in the vain of “so who does he think he is”.

In a codicil to the will he makes some changes….How I make and appoint my Kinsman JOHN MASON of Rynton aforesaid YEOMAN Sole Executor of this my last will and testament and do give unto him all the rest of my GOODS CHATTELS and PERSONAL ESTATE…..a very lucky man I would say as he always would be reasonably well off.  The  Concise Oxford Dictionary  states that a yeoman was “a person qualified by possessing free land of 40/- (shillings) annual [feudal] value, and who can serve on juries and vote for a Knight of the Shire. He is sometimes described as a small landowner, a farmer of the middle classes.”  Owning land was the main form of wealth in the 18th century. Political power and influence was in the hands of rich landowners. At the top were the nobility. Below them were a class of nearly rich landowners called the gentry. In the early 18th century there was another class of landowners called yeomen between the rich and the poor.

So..there you have it…the information that can be gleaned from a Will. The class system was alive and well in England but it would appear that this part of my family was doing OK!

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