Some examples of odd wills

I Give, devise and bequeath:-

A person could dispose of his property in any way he chose as long as it was not contrary to law, in general freehold law required that real property went to the eldest son (subject to Dower rights) with one third of the residue to the widow, one third to the children and the final third according to the deceased’s wishes which tended to be subject to local customs. but there have been many incidences of strange wills which have been the subject of discussion and which may show us some insight into the testator, not least the will of William Shakespeare who left his second best bed to his wife. The Ennever family have been no different and the following extracts show some differing and intriguing examples.

George Ennever alias Morris (1842 ) who was transported to Australia after having been caught passing forged bank notes, in his will he left a painting of himself and his wife Ann, a statement of his final social standing and achievement among his fellow citizens of Sydney.

Mary Ennever of Middlesex (1758) makes it clear in her will as she is a ‘femme sole’ and enabled to act free from control and without the consent of her husband after being divorced by an Act of Parliament. She divides her legacy between three of her children, John, Joseph and Sarah, leaving her other daughter Anne who had backed her husband during the divorce with only a shilling. Whereas John Ennever of South Ockenden, her ex-husband (1762) emphasises bequests to his ‘now loving wife’ which not only included many items of silver but 3 mugs with the head of King of Prussia.

William Jenifer of Deptford (1696) captain of ‘The Suriety’ left all his wages, bounty and prize monies to his mother Frances, I wonder if she ever received anything, given the examples Samuel Pepys gives in his diary of non payment of dues owing to the lack of naval funds, William is probably the son of Captain James Jenifer mentioned by Pepys in naval documents.

John Eniver of Hackney (1737) was eccentric and penniless when he died, he omitted to have either his will or codicil witnessed and the Courts decided upon the oaths of several of his acquaintances that the writing and signature was his. In the codicil he specified that he was to be put in a coffin with yellow nails and covered with black baize, and that a Mr Lewis and his clerk were to lead the cortege while his nephew and executors were to follow dressed in black cloaks together with other supporters. If any of his neighbours followed his corps they were to be given wine in a Mr. Powell’s house. Both of his executors renounced their executorships, together with his sister Esther his only next of kin, finally the execution of his will was granted to a Henry Staines who was one of the principle creditors of John Eniver. I wonder if he ended up with a pauper’s funeral due to lack of money ?

John Eniver, baker of London (1676) bequeaths various cups, one marked E.E another E.M., a beaker and two tankards H.H These ought to be clues to his ancestors but none of the initials relate to any known family.

John Enefer of Haughley (1799) left his niece Elizabeth interest on £50 to be paid yearly, nothing unusual in that but Elizabeth was unmarried and had five illegitimate children probably fathered by someone called Baldrey, this must have been a lifeline for her future giving her independence.

John Enever of Kelvedon Hatch (1833) was concerned about his servant Eliza Dale, for he stated that provided she preserved her good character in the event of her being out of service she should receive a sum of money to keep her out of the workhouse.

Abraham Enever of Essenden (1850) left everything to two of his children Abraham and Jane, instructing them to invest three hundred pounds and to pay the annual interest to his other remaining son William, if they didn’t think this fit to pay him in cash then they were to pay the benefit in the shape of maintenance and clothing. From the Hertford union workhouse records we find that William was in and out of this institution for the whole of his life.

The will of Emmanuel of Navistock (1670) is a good example of the variations in spelling that can occur in a name, the scribe who wrote the will obviously didn’t know the name but managed to spell it 3 different ways, (Enaver, Enever & Eniver) in the same document. The will of John or North Weald Bassett (1634) is another example of the variations in spelling that can occur in a name, the scribe who wrote the will managed to spell it 4 different ways, Enniver, Enniveer, Eniveer & Enniveere in the same document.

Many early ancestors were very concerned for their well being in the next world, and believed leaving money to the church would be looked on favourable in their after life. Agnes Enyver of Great Easton (1600) left 6s.8d for a preacher to preach at her burial. Other early wills give examples of donations to the poor people of the local parish, William Ennever of Great Easton (1587) left 6s.8d for church repairs as well as 20s for the poor. John Enyver of Great Easton (1581) gave 20s to the poor, William Enyver of Dover (1547) left money for bread. Many of these gifts were to be donated at the time of the deceased’s funeral, making a death something that must have been looked forward to especially by the poor of the parish.

Examples of mourning rings in memory of the deceased and their apparel being given are quite common, Andrew Innyver of Great Dunmow (1665) left twenty shillings to buy a ring for his mother. And the wearing apparel of the deceased was also often mentioned specifically as late as the 19th century.

Some married daughters would be omitted in a will having been provided for by a dowry on their marriage, but there was often concern over unmarried daughters Elizabeth Enifer of Haughley (1728) stated if her daughter Elizabeth should marry her servant Tomas Read then her inheritance was to be divided amongst her other children. Nicholas Innefer of Sibertswold (1619) left his daughter Ann £40 if she married with his wife’s consent otherwise she would only receive £20.

Some wills make allowances for future heirs. George Enever of Wickham Bonhunt(1628) specifies that if his wife should have a son within forty weeks of his death then the son should inherit certain land and property.

Some people were reluctant to make a will as they thought it was tempting fate but on their death bed would speak their last requests as did John Enyver of Broxted (1686) whose words were then written down and witnessed by those present. Many of these verbal or nuncupative wills would be kept within the family unless there was some disagreement when probate proceedings would have to be sought. Other examples of verbal wills were made by Jane Inniver of Ongar (1673) and Thomas Innever (1675). On his death bed John Jenyver of St Martins in the Fields (1601) revoked his will and said that Samuel Jenyver should not be his executor but that his wife was better able to perform this duty.

Some wills include the deceased leaving a shilling only to a person, this may indicate that they had previously received their inheritance or be an indication of displeasure between the two persons. The shilling inheritance made it quite clear that they had been remembered and had no claim against the estate. John Eniver (1680) of Chipping Ongar left everything to his wife except one shilling to each of his six children, and Richard Inever (1700) of Great Dunmow left all his estate to his daughter Ann except for one shilling to his son John.

Return to Index
Go to Home Page
Go to Stories & Topics