Of the Green Family from Harpole, Northamptonshire their Ancestors and Relatives

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Monday, 1 June 2020 08:20 PM BST

The Making and Signing of Thomas Major's Will

In this transcript of statements given to the Prerogative Court of Canterbury [ ] indicates that I have not managed to decipher what is written there. Thomas's will was challenged by his eldest son, Thomas, so these statements were made confirming that the will was valid.

In the Prerogative Court of Canterbury
Major and others against Major
In the Goods of Thomas Major deceased
Abbott Barlow

On the Allegation given by Abbott dated the [ ] day after Trinity Term towit Tuesday the third day of October 1843 and the last Will and Testament of the said Thomas Major deceased therein propounded

19th October 1843
Benjamin Alexander of Hungerford in the County of Berks Grocer aged thirty five years a Witness produced and sworn under oath deposed as follows.
1 So the first article. I knew and was intimately acquainted with the late Thomas Major the Deceased in this Cause. I knew him as long back as I can recollect any one - He was a Surgeon residing at hungerford which is my native place and where I have resided the greatest part of my life. I have been in business there on my own account nearly eight years. Mr. Major was a customer of mine, and he attended me and my family in his professional capacity - he was our medical adviser. I further depose. I am one of the subscribed witnesses in the due execution of Mr Majors last will and Testament which is the subject of this Suit and i came so to be in the manner as I will now depose. I do not know any thing as to the instructions given in the said will or the preparation thereof The Execution of the said Will took place very shortly before Mr Majors death vis two days. he died on the first of July last. I attended his funeral on that day week both days were Saturdays. The will was executed on Thursday the 29th of June at about ten o'clock in the forenoon - I had on several previous occasions been sent for by Mr Major to witness him executing Wills or Codicils. On the Monday previous i had been with him for such purposes, when he made a codicil - he was then very ill, but on the Thursday in question he seemed to me to have rallied & become better, and had had a new will prepared. From the Conversation I had had with him on the Monday, I was perfectly satisfied that he was of sound mind memory and understanding, and altho' ill in body and advanced in years vis, about seventy three, yet he was perfectly capable of making his Will or of doing any act of that Nature requiring thought Judgement and reflection When therefore I was requested on the said Thursday morning to attend at his house for the purpose of seeing him execute his Will, I did not hesitate so doing - my recollection is that the Deceased Brother Mr William Major from Andover and who was the at Hungerford, was the person who called on me to ask me to hold myself in readiness about ten o'clock to attend Mr Major for that purpose, and at the hour above mentioned The [ ] Servant Mary Stag came for me I went to Mr Major's house at that time. I was first introduced into the sitting room where I found nearly the whole family assembled, the two Miss Majors Mr Harry & Mr Stephen Major, the Deceaseds two sons & daughters, & Mr & Mrs William Major / the Brother and his wife / and a Mr william Major of London. Miss Major said to me my Father is quite ready and I followed her upstairs to her Father's bedroom. It was a back room on the first floor. I found him in bed. There was with him Mr John Matthews of our Town his attorney but not any other person till we entered. Mr & Mrs William Major came into the room almost as soon as I entered, and Miss major left the room. as soon as Mr Major who was propped up in his bed in the half lying half sitting posture caught sight of me, he gave me a familiar nod, and at the same moment Mr Matthews shook hands with me and said aloud "Mr alexander Mr Major wishes you to witness his last Will and Testament." The Deceased gave a nod of [ ] Mr Matthews at the time had the Will in his hands. We had by this time approached close to the side of his bed & Mr & Mrs William Major had approached the foot of it and stood there. Mr Matthews then said very audibly "Mr Major. this (holding the will before him /"This is your last Will and Testament I have read it over carefully to you, word by word, and hope it is to your satisfaction" to which Mr Major [] "Quite so Matthews! perfectly so!" I well recollect his words. Mr Matthews then said Do you wish us to witness it? Mr Major said "yes". The will was not read in my presence and i did not know the content of it. It seemed rather a large will consisting of several sheets fastened together at the corner with a piece of tape. Mr Matthews then placed the will before before the Testator He laid it on something hard to support it, and the inkstand too. cannot call to mind excactly what that was, whether a large card, or board, or a portfolio or writing case, but it was something of that sort, and I recollect the Ebony inkstand was placed thereon too, with pen and ink. I well recollect that then Mr Major most deliberately took up his spectacles, wiped the glasses and put them on with his own hand, took up the pen, and very carefully and distinctly wrote his Name to the Will. Mr Matthews just pointed his attention to the place where he was to sign, which was the end of the will. Having done this in the presence of us both, he said to Mr Matthews "come! where's the part you called my attention to in reading over" and as Mr Matthews was turning the sheets over [] for it, Mr Major exclaimed "I see it! shall I put my Initials or my name in full?" Mr Matthews said "Your initials will do." but Mr Major said "I'll put it in full" and he did write his Name in the margin opposite to the place alluded to which I [] was a slight Interlineation - I don't recollect that Mr Major did any more. Mr Matthews read aloud some words which appeared written at the end of the will. I do not exactly [] what they were, but they were to the effect that the will was signed by the Testator in our presence. he merely read that, and Mr Matthews having taken the will to a small table alongside the Bed, signed his name as a witness, and then gave the pen to me for me to sign, and which I did. We both signed our names in sight of the Deceased and in the presence of each other. The table was a little at the foot of the bed, he could distincly see us sign. Mr Matthews then again turned to the part where the interlineation was, and we wrote our Names in the margin where the Deceased had written his. I recollect as I signed my Name I took notice of the Will that is seemed to be all in the handwriting of Mr Matthews, and I observed there on to him, saying you must have worked hard - Mr Matthews said he had, on to which Mr Major who heard our comments, added "Yes you did work hard! and I'm very much obliged / or I'm very much indebted / [] - or words to that affect The Will was then sealed up by Mr Matthews He did not place any Seal on the Will as a part of the execution thereof. but merely sealed [] which fastened the sheets together and also enclosed the Will in an envelope, and sealed up that - He then either laid it on the bed or delivered it to Mr William Major I forget which, but he left it in the room. Mr Major then shook hands with Mr Matthews, and said "Good bye Matthews" He then held his hand out to me and said "Good bye Ben!" which was the term or "Mr Ben", by which he used to address me - He added "I am very much obliged to you both indeed and wish you all the hapiness and prosperity in the world that you can wish yourselves - I hope it will please the Almighty soon to release me from this bed of sickness, it is very painful to lie here waiting the awful Change" - These words were spoken with so much solemn feeling that they deeply impressed themselves on y recollection and it was not difficult to remember them - We then left the house and I didn't see mr Major again
I have only to add that Mr & Mrs William Major, altho in the room during the whole transaction, took no part whatever therein. The Testator I am well convinced acted throughout of his own accord without any influence or control, perfectly understood and approved what he did, and was perfectly capable of any act of that nature requiring thought [] and reflection.
I have now carefully []specified the []
Ben Alexander
to me by the Examiner annexed to the affidavit of William Major Harry Hopkins Pearce Major, Sarah Major spinster, and William Alexander as [] marked with the letter A beginning thus "This is the last will and Testament of me Thomas Major of Hungerford in the County of Berks Surgeon" ending thus "In witness whereof I the said Thomas Major the Testator have to this my last will and testament written and contained in seven sheets of paper set my hand this Twenty ninth day of June one thousand eight hundred and forty three." and the subscribed "Thos Major" (the same being the will []/ and I know the same to be the very will which I saw the said Deceased execute on the occasion and in manner by me just deposed. The name "Thos Major" appearing [] thereto and also written in the margin of the sixth sheet thereof, were written by the said Deceased in my presence & in that of my fellow witness Mr John Matthews and the signature "Benj Alexander Grocer Hungerford" at the end of the will, and also the signature "Benj Alexander" in the margin of the sixth sheet are my named and handwriting whereby I know it to be the same, and the said signatures were written by me in the Deceaseds' presence in the [] now deposed
Benj Alexander

In the Prerogative Court of Canterbury
Major and others against Major
In the Goods of Thomas Major deceased
Abbott Barlow

On the Allegation given by Abbott as aforesaid and the last Will and Testament of the said deceased therein propounded

20th October 1843

2 John Matthews of Hungerford in the county of Berks attorney at Law and solicitor aged thirty eight years a witness produced and from on his Oath deposes as follows,
1 To the first article. I have been on professional practice in Hungerford abovementioned seventeen years. I knew the late Mr Thomas major the Deceased in this cause [] well during the whole of the said period, having been acquainted with him prior to that period. He was by profession a Surgeon and apothecary. he was an elderly man being about seventy when he died, which was on the first of July last & I further depose I am the Drawer or writer of the said Deceaseds' last Will and Testament which is in dispute in this Cause I was occasionally employed by the said Deceased in my profession and several years ago had made Wills and codiciles for him as the [] of his family varied as to tender a different distribution of his property necessary. The said Deceaseds' last will and Testament propounded in this Cause was made for him by me very shortly before his death, vis, on the Thursday as he died on the Saturday. I received instructions for it in this manner. From the knowledge I had of the Deceaseds' family circumstances more particularly of a difference a serious difference, between his elder son and himself, and also knowing that Mr Major was a man rather disposed to take matters into his own hands, and to act for himself, I was led to suppose that he might have attempted to alter a Will which I had made for him in 1840, and might occasion some confusion if not perfectly accomplish his instructions. I mentioned my idea to his second son & partner Mr Harry Hopkins Pearce Major and in consequence of this my enquiry, the Deceaseds' brother Mr Major of andover, who was during his Brother's [] illness staying at his house bought to me on the Evening of the Monday the 26th of June, the will which I had made for Mr major in 1840, and a new will which he had, or I conjectured, written himself in December 1842, and on comparing the two I discovered some considerable omissions in the latter. I pointed this out to Mr william Major, who was in now any interested in these ommisions, tho' now as an executor named in both the said wills and I suggested that a Codicil should be made to remedy these defects. Mr William Major / who was connected with the medical profession, being a retired Chemist and Druggist / requested me to at once to prepare a Codicil, at the same time observing that his Brother's disease being an affection of the heart it was necessary to avoid all excitement, which the discovery of these omissions needed [ ] had been made to remedy them, mivght occasion - I immediately prepared a Codicil accordingly and took it to Mr Thomas Major's house where Mr William Major having [] gone up to his Brother to explain the object of my visit / I saw him . The other Clause was one of a mere formal Nature devising all [] [] vested in him to his []. Having completed the Will I went to the Deceased's house with it on Thursday morning between nine and ten o'clock Mr William Major, as I best recollect introduced me into the Testator's bed room. It was a back room looking into the yard, on the first landing. He was alone when we entered but Mr william Major came into the room during my interview. Mrs William Major remained in the room as she was in attendance on him - after a few enquiries as to his health, in answer to which he informed me that he was much the same, tho' I think he added "gradually getting weaker", I told him what I had done. I mentioned that I deemed it advisable that his will and Codicil should be in one Instrument, and that I had [] prepared a new will for him embodying his will & Codicil of 1842 and the new codicil of 1843 in one, and then I had introduced a clause bequeathing his stock in trade as a surgeon and apothecary to his son & Partner, and also a Devise of his [] to his executors, and he answered "Vey well, the sooner it's done the better of course it's the same as I have done before" or words to that precise effect I was sitting down in a chair by his bedside - he was a little raised in his bed by a pillow and I told him I would then read the will to him and he consented by saying some words to the affect. I think he said very well - I did then read the will over very carefully and deliberately aloud to him from beginning to end. It was a long will consisting of seven or eight sheets. He evidently listened with attention for when I came to the clause bequeathing the stock in trade to his son, he said "But I think he should take to the fixtures at a valuation" - I said "Well, sir, if it is your wish I will alter it accordingly." We discussed the point a little, I observed "It was usual in suceeding to a business to take the whole, the fixtures as well as the stock." to which the testator remarked "Well, poor fellow! he has a large family, I will give it him, let it stand so!" I did not therefore make any alteration, but proceeded to read
[] made of [] them after he had signed I recollect he said of his own accord & in his usual sharp manner "come where should I place my initials that you mentioned" and I turned over the sheets to look and when I came to that particular sheet which contained the interlineation he said "I see it" and asked "shall I put my Name or my initials?" I said "Either your name if you please" and he did write his name in the margin opposite thereto He wrote his Name without any assistance. I asked him if it was his wish that Mr alexander and myself should witness it, and he answered , I think by saying Yes. I then read over the attestation clause in his presence, and in that of Mr Alexander, who, as well as myself, was present when he added his Name to the Will, and we each signed our Names to it at a table between the bed and the window, close to the bed, so that he plainly saw us. I signed first & Mr Alexander after me. We signed in the presence of each other. We also in like manner signed in the margin opposite the alteration as well as to the attestation clause - there was no seal at the foot of the will, but to the best of my recollection I sealed the tape at the top of the will where the sheets were fastened together, I also sealed the will up in an envelope and delivered it to the testator. To the best of my recollection he thanked us both for what we had done and he also added some observation of a very feeling nature. he hoped God would keep us, and said "You see me here on my death bed! but I am prepared whenever it may please God to take me. he also called his situation a solemn and awful one or used some words to that [] effect This was all, and we took leave. Mr Alexander and myself came away - I never saw him again. I have only to add that his testamentary capacity from what I observed and of which I have now deposed that he was of perfectly sound mind memory and understanding, perfectly understanding what he said and did and was [] fully capable of doing any act requiring thought judgement and reflection -

I have now carefully inspected the paper writing produced to me by the examiner marked with a letter A annexed to the affidavit of William Major, Harry Hopkins Pearce Major, Sarah Major and William Alexander as scripts beginning thus "This is the last Will and Testament of me Thomas major of Hungerford in the County of Berks Surgeon" ending thus "In witness whereof I the said Thomas Major the Testator have to this my last Will and Testament written and contained in seven sheets of paper set my hand this twenty ninth day of June one thousand eight hundred and forty three" and then subscribed "Thos Major"
Jno Matthews
the same being the will propounded and I depose the said paper writing is the will which I prepared for the said Deceased and which he executed on the day and in the manner by me now deposed. This all my hand writing. the name "Thos Major" appearing at the front or end thereof, and also in the margin of the eighth sheet were written by him in my presence and in that of my fellow witness Benjamin Alexander in manner above [] and our respective signatures which appear thereto, were respectively written by us in his presence - with reference to the other [] which I observe annexed thereto, I may first observe that the same are the various scripts which I had to prepare the Codicil of 26 June 1843 ( which is the script D) on the will propounded, by, the script B is the Will in Testator's handwriting of [] 2 December 1842, the script C the Codicil thereto of the same date, the script F is my draft of the second codicil of June 1843, and the scripts F & G are the will and Codicil which I had prepared for the said Deceased in April 1840 and which he executed on the eighteenth of that month - The various pencil alterations which appear thereon are my handwriting and were written by me to assist my preparation of the last will.
Jno Matthews

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