‘Exclusive and independent of her husband': the will of Sarah Gibson (1746 – 1790)

Yesterday I posted a transcription of the will of my 6 x great grandmother, Mary Gibson nee Greene, followed by an analysis of what the document tells us about the Gibson family. Mary drew up her last will and testament in April 1788, but she didn’t die until October 1790. One of the main beneficiaries of the will was meant to be Mary’s youngest, and unmarried, daughter Sarah. However, in the event Sarah would predecease her mother by a matter of days, being buried at St Dunstan’s church in Stepney on Saturday 16 October 1790: the cause of her death is given in the parish register as ‘decline’ and her age is recorded as 44 years. Mary Gibson would be buried at the same church ten days later, on Tuesday 26 October.

Sarah appears to have been aware of the likelihood of her impending decease, since she drew up her own will in October 1789 (the year of the French Revolution), a year before her death. Like her mother’s will, the document both provides new information about members of the Gibson family, and includes important confirmation of what we already knew. I’ll review that information in another post.

Cover of Amanda Vickery's 'The Gentlewoman's Daughter'

In my last post, I remarked that Mary Gibson’s will, with its inventory of household items, would be a rich resource for social historians. I was thinking particularly of Amanda Vickery’s book Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England.  Sarah Gibson’s will brought to mind another book by the same author – The Gentleman’s Daughter: Women’s Lives in Georgian England. Sarah is at great pains to ensure that her sisters Frances and Elizabeth (my 5 x great grandmother) should retain control over any money they inherit from her, for their ‘sole and separate use…exclusive and independent of her present or any after taken husband’. The word ‘coverture’ used in the will refers to the legal doctrine by which a married woman’s rights (including her property rights) were subsumed by those of her husband.

Here’s my transcription of the will:

In the name of God Amen. I Sarah Gibson of Mile End in the county of Middlesex spinster being of sound and disposing mind memory and understanding praised be God for the same do make my last will and testament in the manner following that is to say first I resign my soul into the hands of almighty God my Creator and I request that my body may be interred in the vault belonging to the family in Stepney Church yard and whereas I am entitled to the sum of five hundred pounds xxx to be paid to me by the bond of Sir John Henniker Baronet within one month xxx after the death of my mother Mrs Mary Gibson and whereas my said mother is indebted to the said Sir John Henniker in the sum of three hundred pounds xxx to him by a mortgage of a messuage or tenement sugar house and premises with the appurtenances situate in Little Distaff Lane London Now I do hereby direct my executors hereinafter named by and out of the said sum of five hundred pounds or which will become payable to me upon the decease of my mother as aforesaid to pay off and discharge the said sum of three hundred pounds due and owing to the said Sir John Henniker from my said mother as aforesaid upon having an assignment of the said mortgaged premises made to them and I direct that my said executors do and shall pay unto my sister Frances Bonner wife of Michael Bonner the interest of two hundred pounds part of the said three hundred pounds for her own sole and separate use for and during the term of her natural life exclusive and independent of her present or any after taken husband and the same is not to be subject of liable to his debts control or engagements and her receipt alone or the receipt or receipts of such person or persons as she shall appoint to receive the same shall from time to time notwithstanding her coverture be a good and sufficient discharge for the same and I also direct my said executors to pay unto my sister Elizabeth Holdsworth wife of Joseph Holdsworth the xxx of one hundred pounds the residue of the said three hundred pounds for her own sole and separate use for and during the term of her natural life exclusive and independent of her present or any after taken husband and not to be subject or liable to his debts control or engagements and her receipt alone or the receipt or receipts of such person as she shall appoint to receive the same shall from time to time not withstanding her coverture be a good and sufficient discharge for the same. I give unto my brother Bowes John Gibson the sum of fifty pounds to my niece Esther Gibson daughter of my said brother Bowes John Gibson the like sum of fifty pounds and also all my wearing apparel towels rings trinkets and also all my furniture of every description to my godson Edmond Affleck Gibson son of my said brother Bowes John Gibson the sum of twenty pounds and to my niece Elizabeth Gibson one other of the daughters of my said brother the like sum of twenty pounds and as to all the rest residue and remainder of my goods chattels estate and effects whatsoever and wheresoever and of what nature or kind soever the same may be after payment of all my just debts and funeral expenses I give devise and bequeath the same as follows that is to say I give and bequeath unto my said brother Bowes John Gibson the sum of one hundred pounds and to the said Esther Gibson his daughter the like sum of one hundred pounds and I give and bequeath all the rest of the said residue of my estate and effects unto and amongst all the other children of my said brother Bowes John Gibson (except the said Esther Gibson) equally to be divided amongst them share and share alike and I do hereby constitute and appoint my said brother Bowes John Gibson and Thomas Windle Junior Esquire of Mile End in the parish of Stepney executors of this my last will and testament and lastly hereby revoking all former wills by me at any time heretofore made I declare this present writing to be my last will and testament In witness whereof I the said Sarah Gibson the testatrix have hereunto set my hand and seal this thirtieth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine and in the twenty ninth year in the reign of King George the third – Sarah Gibson + her mark (S) – signed sealed published and declared by the said Sarah Gibson the testatrix as and for her last will and testament in the presence of us the testatrix’s Christian name being written upon an erasure throughout and the words ‘Towels rings and trinkets and also all my furniture’ being interlined (?) between the third and fourth lines of this page. Thomas LayThomas Madgwick – George Dowers

This will was proved at London the seventeenth (?) day of November in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety before the worshipful William Battie (?) doctor of laws surrogate of the Right Honourable Sir William Wynne Knight also Doctor of Laws Master Keeper or commissary of the prerogative court of Canterbury lawfully constituted by the oath of Bowes John Gibson the brother of the deceased and one of the executors named in the said will to whom administration was granted of all and singular the good chattels and credits of the said deceased having been first sworn duly to administer power reserved of making the like grant to Thomas Windle Esquire the younger the other executor named in the said will when he shall apply for the same.

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