In my efforts to find out more about the family of my 8 x great grandfather Captain William Greene of Ratcliffe (d. 1686), I’ve often referred to the will of Elizabeth Greene, who died in 1655. Elizabeth was the widow of another Ratcliffe mariner named William Greene, who died in 1634. Although I’ve so far failed to find a link between ‘my’ William and this family, I remain intrigued by them – and especially by Elizabeth Greene’s will, which she composed in 1652, three years before her death.
The will is a remarkable document, not only because of the information it provides about Elizabeth’s immediate family, but because of the sheer number of other relatives, friends and associates that she mentions. In all, I’ve counted 72 separate people named in the will, as well as four witnesses. That compares with five names, plus one witness, in her husband William’s will, and a similar number in the 1685 will of my own ancestor, Captain Greene.
Not only the size, but also the nature of Elizabeth Greene’s extensive social network makes it particularly interesting. As I’ve noted before, the beneficiaries of her will included some of the key figures in the religious and political conflicts of the time (she was writing in the fourth year of the post-Civil War Commonwealth). The will confirms that Elizabeth and her family were prominent members of the Puritan community in Stepney, which was itself an important centre of religious and political radicalism.
I’ve already written about one or two of the famous names that occur in Elizabeth Greene’s will – men such as William Greenhill, who was minister at St Dunstan’s, Stepney until ejected at the Restoration, and then one of the founders of the independent Stepney Meeting. I now want to explore some of the other individuals and families mentioned by Elizabeth. This is partly in the hope that doing so will shed light on my own family history and the context of my ancestors’ lives – but also out of a broader and growing interest in the religious and political history, not only of Stepney but of England more generally, in those turbulent times.
In the next post, I’ll start by investigating the Wood family – the family of Elizabeth’s first husband Gregory – who turn out to have had impressive connections with some of the key figures of the time, including politicians and poets. But before doing so, it will be useful to provide a reminder of Elizabeth Greene’s will. I’ve revised my transcription since first posting about it, correcting some of the names and filling in some of the gaps. In the version that follows, I’ve also highlighted the named individuals in bold, the first time they are mentioned. As always, I’ve retained original spellings and punctuation as far as possible:
In the name of God Amen. The first and twentieth day of March Anno Domini One thousand six hundred fiftie and two I Elizabeth Greene of the Parish of Stebunheath als Stepney in the Countie of Middlesex Widow late Wife and Executrix of the last Will and Testament of William Greene late of the Parish aforesaid Mariner deceased being sick and weake in Bodie but of sound and perfect mind and memorie praised be God therefore) doe make and declare this my last Will and Testament in forme following That is to say) first and principallie I commend my soule into the hands of Almightie God assuredlie labouring to be everlastinglie saved through the onlie merritts and mediation of my blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and my Bodie to the Earth whereof it was made to be buried in decent manner in Stepney Church yard as neare my first husband Gregorie Wood as convenientlie may be if I shall happen to die in the said Parish or within tenn myles thereof. And as touching such Temporall Estate as it hath pleased Almighty God in his mercie to bestowe upon me I dispose thereof as followeth Whereas my said late husband William Greene in and by his said last Will and Testament dated the sixteenth of June one thousand six hundred thirtie fower did amongst other things give and bequeath unto his Seven Grandchildren the sonnes and daughters of his three sonnes to each of them the said Seven Children the Summe of Twentie pounds apiece with benefit of survivourshipp fower of which seven Grandchildren are dead and two of them (viz) John Greene the sonne of John Greene of New Castle Marriner and Elizabeth Greene the daughter of William Greene Marriner have each of them received fortie and six poundes thirteene shillings and fower pence for their Legacies and benefit of survivourshipp and there is also the like summe of fortie and six poundes thirteene shillings and four pence to be paid to Sarah Greene the daughter of Bartholomew Greene att her age of one and Twentie years or day of marriage first happening or in Case of her decease before her said age or day of marriage Then to the survivour or survivours of the said three grandchildren (videlicet) John Greene and Elizabeth Greene or which of them shall be then Living I do now hereby will and ordaine that the said Last mentioned fortie and six pounds thirteene shillings and fower pence be paid according to the Limitation aforesaid expressed in my said deceased husband William Greenes Will Item I give and bequeath to my cousin Master Whittingham wood of Canterburie Gentleman the summe of five pounds Item I give and bequeath unto my two Kinsmen Master Whittingham fogge and Ezekias fogg his brother both Living in East Kent fortie shillings apiece with benefit of Survivourshipp Item I give and bequeath unto Mistris Jane Leigh daughter of Richard Leigh of Margaretts Parish neare Rochester in Kent five pounds Item I give and bequeath to the two younger children of my cousin John Ashenden late of London Scrivener deceased eight poundes with benefit of Survivourshipp Item I give and bequeath to my cousin Jane the daughter of my Uncle Master Robert Clarke late of Richmond deceased fortie shillings Item I give and bequeath to my cousin Master Robert Gravener the Elder and to Robert Gravener the younger his sonne five pounds apiece Item I give and bequeath unto my cousin Mistris Jane Gravener sister of the said Master Robert Gravener the elder three pounds Item I give and bequeath unto my cousin Elizabeth Gravener the daughter of Master Humphry Gravener deceased and to my cousin Elizabeth Somers the daughter of Master Richard Sommers fortie shillings apiece Item I give and bequeath to Elizabeth Katherine and Hannah the three youngest daughters of my cousin John Bond deceased the summe of fortie shillings apiece with benefit of Survivourshipp Item I give and bequeath to my cousin Mathew Bond of Surrey fower poundes and to his daughter Elizabeth fortie shillings with benefit of Survivourshipp Item I give and bequeath to my cousin Thomas Williams of London Ironmonger forty shillings Item I give and bequeath unto Olivia Freeman eight poundes and to Margarett Ford her sister fortie shillings Item I give and bequeath unto my cousin John Gravener the sonne of John Gravener the sonne of John Gravener deceased the summe of fortie shillings Item I give and bequeath unto Master Samuell Slater the Elder and to Master Kentish [?] both Ministers of Saint Katherines and to Master Greenhill Minister of Stepney fortie shillings apiece Item I give and bequeath unto my cousin Tobias Greene the sonne of Tobias Greene Tanner and to Richard Truscott the sonne of Anne Truscott Widdow fortie shillings apiece Item I give and bequeath unto my cousin John Monger three poundes to his wife Mistris Mary Monger five poundes and to Elizabeth Monger their daughter five poundes and to my cousin Marie Monger theire daughter Tenne poundes which last Tenne poundes is to be paid when all my publique fayth [?] monie shall be xxx and not before Item I give and bequeath unto my cousin William Medlicott Grocer three poundes and to my cousin Sarah Medlicott his wife ten poundes Item I give and bequeath unto my cousin Master Thomas Dixon three poundes and to my cousin Elizabeth his Wife five poundes and to their sonne Samuell Dixon five poundes and to the youngest child male or female of my said cousin Thomas Dixon that shall be living at the tyme of my decease tenne poundes and my Great Bible to my cousin Elizabeth Dixon whom I give and bequeath unto old Joane at Queenhith London twentie shillings Item I give and bequeath unto the fourteene Widdowes Living in Steben Almes houses in School house yard being the Coopers Almes houses To each of whom Two shillings and six pence and to the Steben Almes widdowes at Debtford Strand Trinitie Woomen five shillings apiece Item I give and bequeath unto Master Randall Master of the xxx of Ratcliffe tenn shillings to buy him a payre of Gloves Item I give and bequeath my Ryding coate to Mary Atkinson the [wife of?] William Atkinson Marriner Item I give and bequeath my best Mohaire Kirtle and my best wrought mayfrocke [?] unto Ribecca Baley the wife of Goodman Baley of Debtford aforesaid Marriner, Item I give and bequeath my Gold Wedding Ring unto Jane Ball the wife of Francis Ball Ropemaker, and to the Widdowe Truscott my best cloth Kirtle and to her sister Marie Eastly my best red cloth petticoats and her sister Elizabeth Easly my best Grogrome Gowne to my cousin Susan Cloake the wife of Samuell Cloake my other Grogrome Gowne and to the Widdowe Pusey my by [sic] best hatt and Greene Apron and to the Widow Eland Two blew Aprons and two frocks Item I give and bequeath Mistris Chirt my Book called Master Smiths Sermons and to Ellen Larman the daughter of Master Thomas Larman my Gould Ring Item I give and bequeath my silver Cheyne and girdle to Margarett Larne the daughter in Law of Master Luke Wood Item my will and minde That the Legacies given to the former Ministers and and [sic] to the Almeswoomen and my Rings Silver Cheyne and Girdle Books and Apparrell before bequeathed shall be paid and delivered unto the persons unto whome they are severallie and particularlie bequeathed within one month next after my decease All the other Legacie by me before bequeathed I will and ordaine to be paid within two yeares next after my decease except the tenne poundes to be paid out of the publique fayth [?] monie (to me due) when received. The rest and residue of all and singular my goods Chattells readie monie debts Leases houshold stuff plate and other my Estate whatsoever my debts being paid and funerall expenses discharged I give and bequeath unto my said Cousin Master William Medlicott Grocer and I make him sole Executor of this my last Will and Testament and I doe appoynt and desire my said Cousines Master John Monger and Master Thomas Dixon Overseers of this my last Will and Testament hopeing they will all be Carefull and willing to see the same performed according to my intent and desire I doe hereby revoake all former Wills gifts Legacies and bequeaths by me heretofore made willed given or bequeathed and doe ordaine this to stand and be my last Will and Testament in [sic] In Witnesse whereof I the said Elizabeth Greene have here unto sett my hand and seale this day and yeare first before written by me Elizabeth Greene Signed sealed published and declared by the said Testatrix for and to be her last Will and Testament in the presence of The marke of Jane Ball the marke of Anne Truscott the marke of Mary Easly Fran. Bartlett Snr
This will was proved att London the Twelfth day of December in the yeare of our Lord God One thousand six hundred fiftie and five before the Judges for probate of Wills and granting Administrations lawfully authorized by the oath of William Medlicott the sole and only Executor named in the above written Will To whome Administration of all and singular the goods Chattells and debts of the said deceased was committed he being first legally sworne trulie and faythfully to administer the same.