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The will of Margery Wren

Here are some extracts from the will of a Tudor lady from Durham. (We've put this into simple modern English.)

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In the name of God, amen.

The 19th day of February in the year of our Lord God [1540]

I Margery Wren of Sherburn House, widow, whole of mind and memory, make my will

I give to my daughter Katherine a dozen silver spoons, a silver salt container which lies in pledge of four marks [which is at the pawnbrokers in return for the loan of some money], or else if the money is lost, a set of plates and cups made of pewter [a silvery–grey metal], a basin with a jug of pewter, a dozen small bowls, and cloths from overseas, and my best tablecloth

Also I give to my daughter [Eleanor] a dozen silver spoons which I made last, a set of plates and cups made of pewter, a piece of cloth from overseas, a thick embroidered cloth for covering a cupboard, and four marks in money to buy a silver salt container

I give to my daughter Jane a dozen silver spoons, six of which they already have, two silver salt containers with a cover, a set of plates and cups made of pewter, a piece of cloth from overseas, a tablecloth

Also I give to my son Geoffrey a dozen of my best cushions, a linen tablecloth, a red and green canopy to go over a bed, which he has already, a tablecloth, an iron chimney in the room of the steward [person who managed the household and the servants], a silver salt container with a cover, one silver and gold drinking cup, 13 silver spoons

Also I give to my sister Wylfett my best skirt for a reminder to pray for me

Also I give to my son William Wren 5, 6 silver spoons, a mattress, a featherbed, a pillow, two pairs of linen sheets

And to my daughter Kendall one mattress, a featherbed, a pillow, a pair of blankets, a pair of sheets, and a piece of cloth from overseas, to pray for me

Questions

  • What is a will?
  • What is the date of this will?
  • Why does the writer of the will start off by saying she is "whole of mind and memory"?
  • Name Margery's six children and her sister.
  • Margery chose two churchmen to witness (sign their names) on her will. Why do you think she chose them?
  • An iron chimney is a portable stove. Why do you think this was a useful thing to leave someone in a will?
  • Margery leaves some salt containers in her will. Why were salt containers valuable to give to people in a will?
  • Why do you think she wants her sister and daughter to pray for her?
  • From reading the will, can you tell if Margery is rich or poor? Give your reasons.

What can you find out about Tudor life?

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Bedroom inventory

Margery Wren's will

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