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     Index of Wills Proved in the Rochester Consistory Court Wills 1440 - 1561   Introduction

   I have been asked to say a few words about my friend Leland Duncan in introduction to this Index of Rochester Wills, which he compiled.

   Leland Lewis Duncan was born in 1862, the son of Leland Crosthwait Duncan, of the Inland Revenue Office and of his wife, Caroline Ellen Lewis, also of Government Official ancestry, her father being in the Paymaster General's Office.

   Educated at Colfe's School, Lewisham, under the Rev.  Thomas Bramley, D.D., from 1874 to 1880, he entered in 1882, the War Office, from which he retired in 1922, having occupied a most responsible and laborious position with such distinction that he was given the M.V.O. in 1901 and the O.B.E. during the War.  He was elected  Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1890.  He died suddenly on Boxing Day, 1923, after a year of obscure invalidism, which nevertheless, was characterized by a wonderful total of solid antiquarian work.  Whatever Duncan put his hand to, he did it with all his might.  Laborious, conscientious and most minutely accurate, he was a pattern antiquary with a power of synthesis which made all he wrote easy to understand and withal, nothing was left out in the statement of facts.  A man of a charming personality, with a quiet musical voice, a cheerful friendly smile, he was a most entertaining companion, informative and with the great gift of correcting the erroneous statement of another so that that other took no offence and was almost persuaded that he had been right all along.

   In the last year of his life, when emancipated from the responsible work of the War Office, he seemed to be filled with renewed energy, although troubled with what was undoubtedly the beginning of the terminal disease.  He made a good many researches at the Public Record Office, tabulated and extracted a large number of Kent Wills, principally at Lambeth, copied out the inscriptions of no less than fifteen churchyards, took rubbings of Masons' marks in many of the Weald Churches and read an interesting and exhaustive paper on the Church at Warehorne, when the Kent Archaeological Society met there in the summer of 1923.  Of his work for his old school at Lewisham, both in writing its history and furthering its interests in every way others have written. I cannot omit here how good he was to all under him, always thinking of his " boys " in the office.  When during the War, he and I were walking homewards in the darkened streets, from the meetings of the Society of Antiquaries, there was but little talk of raids and suchlike, but much eager questioning as to how he might be of use to these " boys " whether on furlough, at the Front, or invalided in Hospital.  Ante them perill, but he will always remain an inspiration.

   Whatever Duncan took in hand he carried through to completion and death alone wrote " Unfinished " on what he had commenced in the last few months of his life.  This Calendar, or Index as it is being called, in conformity with modern usage, has had a long history.  It took Duncan close on seven years to compile, as he only had an half-hour available most mornings.  He made a good many notes, some of which were printed in " Testamenta Cantiana " and some in the St. Paul's Ecclesiological Society's Publications, Vol.  III.  Then his father wrote out for him from his note-books the greater part of it, on foolscap paper, still in the order in which the wills occurred in the registers.  The whole work was then checked through most carefully by Duncan himself, so that he spared no pains to make the Index as perfect and as correct as it could be made.  In 1917, the late Hon.  Treasurer of the Records Branch, Mr. Churchill, offered to transfer the entries to slips so that they could be sorted and arranged alphabetically.  He had completed the task a short time before his death in December, 1922, and Duncan finally pasted these slips on to foolscap paper in their proper order, grouping the names and generally preparing the index for the printer.  He seemed to have a premonition of his own approaching end and hurried on the work so that it might be finished, although it was, as he described it in one of his last letters to me, " a dull, somewhat laborious and distinctly messy job." Those who have had much to do with paste will appreciate the last adjective.

   Unfortunately, though all the pasting and most of the editing was done, the MS. was completed for the press only to the end of the letter P, and no introduction had been written.  It was felt that in issuing the work now, as little as possible should be altered or added to the MS. as left by him.  Perforce the final editing from Q to Z has had to be done by the general Editor, but no material alteration of the grouping of the names in the part completed by Duncan has been made : all that has been added are some further cross references.  The queries of which he left a list, have been verified and others that arose in the course of seeing the work through the press have been checked.  The Index, therefore, is issued substantially as he left it. 

   When Mr. Churchill undertook to write the slips it was decided to put the modern spelling of the place names and to include in the Introduction a list of the most out of the way varieties, since these often give the local pronunciation and sometimes a clue to the earlier forms.  But it was not without regrets that this decision was carried out, for in March, 1918, Duncan wrote: " I have a great pang at the modernisation of the names." It was to lessen this pang if possible, that Mr. Churchill compiled the list of Place Names and their variants with dates now given as an appendix at the end of this Index.  He likewise made out a list of Clergy, whose wills are given in the Registers (Appendix B).

   The following notes on the registers have been sent me by the Editor:

   The Registers used in the compilation of this Index comprise the first twelve volumes in the series of Rochester Wills preserved at Somerset House.  They are stout volumes measuring roughly 12 ins. by 9 ins., containing any number from 153 to 413 leaves in each, and yielding nearly 8,000 references.  In many instances, besides the original pagination in roman numerals, there is also a modern arabic numbering, sometimes at variance with the roman ; in most cases the reference in this Index is to the old paging, but there are exceptions, as in volume III., when after cclxxixb the modern numeration is followed.  The references in this Index to V* and VI* require explanation.  There are no volumes so labelled at Somerset House, but Vol.  V. as now bound contains two parts.  Part I. is a section of 70 leaves covering from 1482-1501 and containing probate acts and administrations, while Part II. is the Register of Wills.  In this Index V* is used to designate Vol.  V. Part I. Similarly in Vol.  VI. there is a section of 29 leaves (inserted between pages xxiii and xxiv of the Wills) containing probate acts, which is referred to here as VI*.

The Wills registered in these volumes are those of persons dying in the diocese of Rochester, exhibited and proved in the Consistory Court of Rochester before the Bishop, his Official, his Commissary, his Vicar-General or their deputies.  It is worth noting that between 1554 and 1558 the Vicar-General is John Kenall, Archdeacon of Rochester.  The Wills are proved variously I coram nobis johanne Kenall legum doctore etc.  Reverendi in Christo patris ac domini Domini Mauiicii, permissions divina Roffensis Episcopi vicario in spiritualibus generali' or, ' coram venerabili viro Magistro Johanne Kenall etc. vicario in spiritualibus generali' or, in the case of his deputy, ' coram...... deputato magistri Johannis Kenall, etc.  Archidiaconi Roffensis (etc.)

   In one instance the scribe wrote ' vicarii' after the name then crossed it out and wrote ' Archini,' the abbreviation for ' archidiaconi.'

   The note affixed to the first volume of the series by William Petyr, Registrar, is of considerable interest, for he states that it is a register of testaments and codicils of the last wishes of those dying in the Rochester diocese and proved in the Consistory and before the Official of Rochester, hitherto registered in various books among Corrections and Causes, from 1440 and continuing in another book during the episcopate of John Low, 1444 to 1467.  On the back of this page as a heading is the following: Registrum Renerendi patris johannis Lowe Roffensis Episcopi de testamentis continentibusal vltimas voluntates decedencium in diocesi Roffensi.  A similar beading marks some, but not all, of the beginnings of registers kept under successive bishops.

The volumes do not follow in strict chronological order, but the arrangement so far as can be judged is contemporary, and it does not seem to be possible to identify from the bindings any earlier system of arrangement.  Thus volume III. contains the register of the time of Thomas Rotheram (1468-71) and John Russell (1476-80), with a contemporary note at the end of Rotheram's stating that the Register.of Dominus John Alcok (1472-76) is missing here, but will be found in another register.  This is the present volume IV., described as the register of Dns.  John Alcok, bishop of Rochester consecrated by the Lord Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury (Bourgchier).  The wills registered in the time of Edmund Audley (1480-92) and Thomas Savage (1493-96), when Master Martin Bere notary public is ' Registrarius Episcopatus Roffensis' are contained in volume V. But volume VI. goes back in date being labelled 1478-1513.  It begins with a section of 24 leaves for 1478-84, containing part of the registers of Russell and Audley not able to be included in their proper order in volumes III. and V. because they had been carried off and afterwards restored, as may be learnt from a note roughly contemporary at the beginning of the volume.  Between the last two leaves of this section have been inserted the Probate Acts to which reference has already been made.

   The earliest will in English is that of John Spreuer, 'Barbor and Leche' of Cobham dated 9 December, 1448 (i. 61ab), the testament is in Latin; and the first filed Will is that of Dominus William Quyntyn, parish priest of Bromley dated 16 February, 1498[-91 (v. 332a).
                                                                                                                                           F. W. COCK

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