Sunday 3 January 2010

Goldington people in the early sixteenth century

Before the censuses of the nineteenth century the existence of lists of inhabitants or householders depends on the survival of a variety of documents created for reasons other than recording all people in a place - taxation lists and hearth tax returns, parish registers and jury lists, manorial court documents and pew lists amongst others.

A less obvious source for the inhabitants of a town or village are wills.  Normally they only mention the testator's family and a few friends.  Rarely do they contain as much about the testator's neighbours as that of Alice Gray of Goldington who made her will on 20 October 1505.  It must have been a deathbed will as it was proved six days later.  Deathbed or not, she remembered the local religious houses and forty six people amongst whom she distributed her cows, barley, clothing and household goods.  She also remembered the poor of Goldington, giving 12d to each of ten named people.  She made no mention of husband or children which would account for the distribution of her goods amongst friends, neighbours and servants.

An abstract of Alice Gray's will, including the names of all these beneficiaries, is in BHRS volume 37 (1956) together with nearly 200 other wills of Bedfordshire people for the period 1498 to 1526.  It is probable that she was the widow of John Gray of Goldington who died in 1500, apparently without children, leaving a few  modest bequests and appointing his wife Alice as one of his executors.  His will is also abstracted in a BHRS volume, number 45 for 1966.

This list in Alice Gray's will provides a snapshot of some, at least, of the inhabitants of this village on the outskirts of Bedford and is particularly important because it was made twenty years before the taxation returns of the mid-1520s and fifty years before the earliest extant parish records.

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