Rich and Poor
During the course of the seventeeth century, when someone died, their estate was valued by a number, usually four, of their neighbours. The document which listed all that they owned was called a probate inventory. Although a great many of these have been lost, a number survive. They contain a great deal of detail of both the personal effects and trade goods of people in the past.
Almost 70 probate inventories survive for people who lived in Coppull when they died, covering the period from 1557 to 1737, with the vast majority being written in the seventeenth century. They are kept alongside the wills to which they are often attached at Lancashire Record Office in Preston.
Three inventories have been transcribed in full. That of John Standanought shows the property of a poor weaver who died in 1670 a few years after the restoration of the Stuarts. Jane German died in 1673 and was even poorer than John Standanought. Richard Crooke died before the turbulence of the Civil War and was, by the standards of many of his neighbours, was extremely wealthy.
The inventory of John Standanought shows the limited number of possessions he owned, but also provides a little detail about his work tools – the weaver’s loom. It also suggests that he had a very small household, consisting perhaps of himself alone or perhaps including a wife.
That of Jane German shows the not untypical pattern of women having few personal possessions, in this case her clothes and her bed together with a single cow. Often widows were left with bequests that were due to them but unpaid by the time of their own deaths, or sometimes were left with a small number of personal effects and the cash bequests from their husbands was loaned at interest to family and neighbours.
The inventory of Richard Crooke reveals the life of a man who belonged to an emerging new entrepreneurial class. It shows that he owned livestock and also had corn growing so was involved in agriculture. He also owned nine horses, suggesting either that these were beasts of burden or that he used them for transport. Much of the rest of his inventory shows the sheer volume of often mundane items which were available to the wealthy during the period. It is possible to get a feel for the size of his house because there are references to the items in some of the rooms (kitchen chamber, closet, maid’s chamber, little chamber, cloth chamber, chamber below, the other lower chamber, kitchen, brewhouse, milk house, fire house, servants chamber). He was owed money in Lancashire, presumably as the result of trade debts and also was owed money for “Lynen cloath lyeing in the Upp Countries”, this being the result of enterprising trading activity. Richard Crooke was an early entrepreneur and was almost certainly buying woven cloth from local weavers and taking it to the region between the south east of Birmingham and the north of Oxford. These references are shown on a map.
These three inventories give an insight into the lives of three very different people over two generations.