More Mortimer wills

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the last will and testament of John Mortimer, gentleman of Paddock near Huddersfield, who died in 1823. It was this will that prompted my Holdsworth ancestors to begin researching the family’s history, in order to prove a connection to the ‘first cousins on my late Father’s side’ who were left money in the will.

Using the will and other records, I concluded that John Mortimer of Paddock was married to Susan Hanson, who survived him, and that her unmarried sister Ann was also a beneficiary of the will. I also speculated that John, who was born in about 1746, might have been the son of another John Mortimer, who lived at Woodhouse, Fartown, just north of Huddersfield.

Market Place, Huddersfield: an early photograph

I’ve now obtained copies of the wills of Susan Mortimer, nee Hanson, and of John Mortimer senior of Woodhouse. Susan Mortimer died on 29 December 1825 and was buried at St Peter’s church, Huddersfield, on 5 January 1826; she was 78 years old. She signed her last will and testament on 26 December 1825, describing herself as the ‘widow and Relict’ of John Mortimer of Paddock and bequeathing all of her estate and effects ‘unto my dear and only Sister Ann Hanson’. Susan appointed her sister joint executrix of her will, together with ‘my friends John Booth, of Huddersfield Ironmonger, and William Stocks the younger of the same place Linen draper’. These two men had also been joint executors of her husband John’s will two years earlier.

Susan Mortimer’s will was proven on 4 September 1826. Perhaps the most surprising thing about it, given her late husband’s considerable wealth and property, is that ‘the whole of the goods, chattels and credits of the…deceased…do not amount in value to the sum of two thousand pounds’.

John Mortimer of Woodhouse, Fartown, was buried at St Peter’s, Huddersfield, on 31 May 1747. His will was ‘noncupative’, that is to say, it was a verbal or ‘deathbed’ will, usually composed by someone who did not have time to draw up a written will. John’s will reads as follows:

In the Name of God Amen. The dying Words, or the Substance thereof, of John Mortimer of Woodhouse in the parish of Huddersfield in the County of York Yeoman, Spoke by him to be his Noncupative Will, at his own house the Twenty-ninth day of May in the year of our Lord One thousand Seven hundred and forty-seven, in the presence and hearing of Us, who this first day of June following have severally subscribed our Names hereto, Which were, That his will and Mind was to be that he bequeathed unto Mary my loving wife the sum of two hundred pounds in the hands of Abraham Frith Gentleman. And all the rest and residue of my personal Estate after my funeral Expenses paid thereout, my Will and mind is, that the same be equally divided and distributed amongst my said wide and two children Samuel Mortimer and John Mortimer. And in Case my wife shall be pregnant, then I further Will, that such Child or Children shall have an equal proportion and share with my said wife and two younger Children. And I Constitute and appoint my two brothers Richard Mortimer and William Mortimer Executors of my Will. 

Subscribed this, the day and Month last above mentioned, to perpetuate it, being the Substance of his Words and desires, by the Testator to attest the Same, at his own house in his last Illness 

Benjamin Hobson

The Mark of Sarah Rolstone

J Turner

Various documents are attached to the will, attesting to its validity, including an agreement to act as executors by Richard Mortimer and William Mortimer, brothers of the deceased. The names of John’s brothers would suggest a connection with the Mortimer family of Shelf, even without the additional information about their identities provided by this document. The two brothers describe themselves as ‘Richard Mortimer of Shelf in the parish of Halifax and County of York Clothier’ and ‘William Mortimer of Shelf aforesaid Clothier’.

This is confirmation that they, and their late brother John, were the sons of John Mortimer, clothier and wool stapler of Shelf, who died in 1742. It was their sister, Mary, who married John Holdsworth in 1725. This means that the children of John and Mary Holdsworth (including my 5 x great grandfather Joseph) were indeed first cousins to John Mortimer of Paddock, thus explaining the reference in his will of 1823.

If John Mortimer of Woodhouse was the son of John Mortimer of Shelf, then he would have been only thirty-six years old when he died: he was christened at St John the Baptist, Halifax on 31 May 1711 (ironically, 36 years to the day before his burial). His son Samuel would have been about three years old and his younger son John less than a year. The latter’s will of 1823 mentions his half-sister, Mary, who married Dublin-born Paul le Bas.

It now seems clear that, widowed at a fairly young age, the wife of John Mortimer of Woodhouse (whose name, as we learn from his will, was also Mary) must have married again. The most likely marriage took place on 6 April 1748 at the church of All Saints, Batley, between Mary Mortimer and James Dyson, both of Huddersfield. James Dyson of Dean Head is on record as having a daughter baptised at St Peter’s, Huddersfield, in October 1751, while in July 1756, James Dyson now of Woodhouse had a daughter Mary christened at the same church.

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