An inventory is "a detailed list of articles, such as goods and chattels, or parcels of land, found to have been in the possession of a person at the time of his decease ... sometimes with a statement of the nature and value of each" (Oxford English Dictionary). The preparation and exhibition of probate inventories were confirmed in 1529 under an act of Henry VIII.
An inventory had to be produced at the time of granting a probate of a will, or at the issuing of letters of administration if the person died intestate (ie without making a will). The inventory was made by, or in the presence of, some credible persons who were qualified to assess the value of the deceased's goods.
Before 1858, the probate of wills and granting of letters of administration were matters for the church courts. Probate inventories were prepared in duplicate, one for the court and the other for the executor or administrator. The copies remaining with the Commissary Court of London (London Division), Archdeaconry Court of London and the Peculiar Court of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's are now deposited in Guildhall Library. Brief details about London probate courts and their records are given in the Section's leaflet "Probate records (wills and administrations)".
The jurisdiction of the Peculiar Court of the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's covered a few parishes and precincts in the City of London, Middlesex, Essex and Hertfordshire. The inventories indexed here therefore relate to persons dying in the parishes of St Faith under St Paul, St Giles Cripplegate, St Gregory by St Paul and St Helen Bishopsgate in the City of London; Chiswick, Friern Barnet, St Pancras, Stoke Newington, West Drayton and Willesden in Middlesex; Barling, Belchamp St Paul, Navestock, Tillingham and Wickham St Paul in Essex; and Albury, Brent Pelham and Furneux Pelham in Hertfordshire.
The probate inventories of the Peculiar Court of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's date from 1660 to 1725. They are arranged in yearly (mostly) and half-yearly bundles. Within each bundle they are arranged chronologically by the date they were exhibited in the court. There are 77 bundles now numbered as Guildhall Library Ms 19504/1-77.
Unfortunately, owing to the condition and format of the documents, it is not possible to supply photocopies of the inventories. The inventories have not been microfilmed or copied in any other way. However, the original inventories may be viewed by personal callers only in the Manuscripts Section's reading room, see access information.
The probate inventories have been calendared. For each inventory, where the information exists, the calendar gives the first name and surname of deceased, their occupation or status and whether they are a Citizen of London, their place of residence or where they died (usually the parish name), the date the inventory was made, the date the inventory was exhibited, its value, notes about the content of the inventory, cross references to the appropriate act book, will register and original will, and the Ms reference number. The information in the calendar is extracted not only from the inventory itself, but also from these other sources. If you would like the details of the entry in the calendar for a particular inventory, please contact Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section, see access information.
The personal name index to these inventories found on this website is part of a wider project to provide computer-generated indexes to all probate inventories held by the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library. The Commissary Court and Archdeaconry Court probate inventories have already been indexed by personal name, but the indexes exist on cards only. These manual indexes have not yet been input onto the computer database, but are available in the Manuscripts reading room to personal callers, see access information.
For the Peculiar Court of the Dean and Chapter it is possible to search the database by occupation. If you have an enquiry related to occupation, or wish a search to be made for other information, please contact the Manuscripts Section, see access information.
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