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In 1575 Edward Brouker recorded, in the parish registers, the death (perhaps by hanging, but we do not know for certain) of John Whitte who murdered John Collyns.
It is rather fortunate that an extremely detailed probate inventory was drawn up after this unfortunate incident. It records all of John Collyns' goods and chattels, including his crops and stock, as well as his household goods. What makes this inventory particularly special is that it refers to an unusual occupation - the production of metheglin, a popular alcoholic drink made from honey. It seems that John Collyns was not only a farmer of substance; he was also a brewer as well.
John Collyns lived at what is now 24 High Street, where much further information can be found.
A transcription of the 1575 Inventory is given on the next pages, followed by a commentary:
HEARE ffollowythe A trew and p[er]fytt Invytory of all suche Goods and Chattells late John Collyns of Hungerford dissesyd praysed by William Buttler the elder Thomas Hamlyne Clement Braye and lngrame Robarts the ffirst day of September Anno 1575
FFYRST in the halle A tabell borde and A fframe two joined fformes the Settells and the benche A portalle (large cupboard) A chayre A Cobbarde and the hangyngs p[rai]'sed at (i.e. valued at) 40s
Itm in the howsse behinde the halle A fforme A Settell A powderinge tubbe (for salting or pickling meat) and a Butter Churne p[rai]sed at 5s
Itm in the Shoppe ii empty hoogshedds (cask containing about 54 galls) and serten (certain) shelves an olde wylley (willow basket) A packsaddell tree (stand for saddle) and A Musterd Quern p[rai]sed at 6s
Itm in the entrey a hogges hedde of metheglynne (see text) p[rai]sed at 40s
Itm in the kychen a ffurnes of Brasse p[rai]sed at 12s
Itm ther A honny presse A drawynge kyver (vat) p[rai]sed at 16s
Itm in the kychen a paire of Andyers (large bars to support wood in fire) ii broches (spits) a frying panne A payre of tongs a Cole rake ii pott hangers of yeren (iron) p[rai]sed at 6s 8d
Itm in the bultyng house ii littellfurnis of brasse pfraisjed at 20s
Itm six brasse pannes greate and smale p[rai]sed at 40s
Itm two dripinge pannes a Chafmge (warming) dyshe a skimmer p[rai]sed 2s 8d
Itm a bultinge whiche (large box for sieving flour) a knedinge kyver too lyttell trendells (wheels) a kyver a here barrell an aide tubbe ffyve sieves a bushell a pecke and a bolle (all containers) pfraijsedat 7s
Itm in the mat tinge house a greate ffate (vat) pfraijsed at 20s
Itm more, fower (four) lyttell ffates pfraijsed at 5s
Itmffower hoggeshedds three barrells pfraijsedat 9s
Itm ffower cowles (large tubs) one kyver three olde tubbes pfraijsedat 5s
Itm a brasen ladell, too tryvetts of yeren (iron tripods) pfraijsed 5s
Itm a tune bolle (possibly tin bowl) and a lanteren pfraijsed at 8d
Itm viii honny baggs pfraijsed at 53s 4d
Itm a pulley and a Rope pfraijsed at 8d
Itm thre Barrells of honny pfraijsed at £6
Itm in the buttery vi platters thre pottengers ffyve sawcers A cullander of latten (copper/zinc alloy) thre canelstycks A Basen A suite sellar too wyne quarte potts thre fflower (probably flour not flower!) potts too dosen trenchers too dusen Irene (wooden) dyshes a payer of bellowes ladell pfraijsed at 26s 8d
The Chamber over the Halle
Itm a Joined bedstede wth a trockell bedstead (probably on wheels, to push under the 'joined1 bedstead) a ffether bedde a flocke bedde fower bolsters one offlockes too cover leddes and iiii payers of shetes pillawes and pillow beres (pillow cases) wth the hangings pfraijsed at £5
Itm more one lyttell Cheste and too coffers pfraijsed at 10s
Itm in the mydell Chamber a joyned bedsted a flocke bedde a paire of blankets one bolster a pillow of flocke and a coverled too settells an olde table horde with a fframe and the olde painted clothes and a tester (bed canopy) p[rai]sed at 25s
Itm his apparrel 26s 8d
Itm one hundreth (1 cwt) of wax £3 13s 4d
Itm a payre ofbeames and scales too paire offfetters a bed of flocke a beddstede and an olde covrlette p[rai]sed at 13s 4d
Itm in the Seller ten hoggesheds and three pipes (pipe = large cask, twice capacity of hogsheads, so each pipe about 108 galls) p[rai]sedat 20s
Itm in the backesyde in wood p[rai]sed at 40s
Itm in the well house a well bocket a chaine and a rope a paire of harrows p[rai]sed at 5s
Itm an olde carte a plow viii horsses iiii packe saddels p[rai]sed at £5 10s
Itm two littell mowes (mounds) of wheate p[rai]sed at 20 marks - about £13
Itm two mowes of barley p[rai]sed at £33 6s 8d
Itm in hay 30s
Itm in peason (peas) and ffachis(vetches) £4
Itm thre heyffers and a calffe p[rai]sed at £5 10s
Itm v sowes of a yere olde p[rai]sed at 33s 4d
Itm v shotes (piglets) ofhalffe yere olde p[rai]sed at 12s 6d
Itm two leases for a lyttell tyme yet induringe of Bacons and Coneshangers p[rai]sed at £10
Itm six shepe p[rai]sed at 15s
Itm a Rode Sadell and a Bridell p[rai]sed at 4s
SUM TOTAL £115 18s 10d
- This has been transcribed as it stands with the form of spelling as shown, but where words were abbreviated, a complete spelling has been given e.g. p[rai]sed.
- Note spelling of certain numbers - e.g. too thre fower fyve!
- Amounts are as shown, except text shows Roman numerals. Note that many sums are in multiples of marks (one mark = 13s 4d); half a mark -6s 8d is also a common sum.
- Inventories include goods and chattels, not real property; but leases for years or 'chattel leases' were counted as goods and were often included.
- Modern day translations of words have been kept to a minimum. The use of a good Dictionary will help readers with any other uncertain words. Many words used occur in Shakespeare's plays.
The nature and the format of the inventory of John Collyns' goods and chattels is quite typical of this kind of document. The survey was the responsibility of 'appraisers', local people, often near-neighbours, whose task it was to value all moveable goods and credits of the deceased.
As can be seen, the inventory begins with the goods in the hall (the principal room, not entrance hall in its modern sense). The appraisers worked their way through his home, going into the house (i.e. room) behind the hall, the shop, the entry and the kitchen. They then went into the buttery (the word comes from the French 'boutellerie' - bottle store - but in this case it seems to have been a place where pots and pans etc. were kept).
Then the appraisers went upstairs, to the chamber over the hall. Here were a number of beds of various sorts, and there were also beds in the middle chamber, presumably upstairs also. Here, a hundereth (hundredweight?) of beeswax was stored, valued at £4 13s 6d - a considerable amount in those days.
At this point the appraisers must have come downstairs again, since the cellar is mentioned, then out to the backside and the well house. All the farming stock and crops then follow, and from this it can be seen that John Collyns was a substantial farmer He had peason and ffachis (peas and vetches - mainly fodder crops, but pease pudding was also eaten), cattle, pigs, wheat and barley. The crops would most likely have been grown in the open fields, and since the inventory was taken just after harvest, substantial stocks were noted. He had over £13 worth of wheat and £33 6s 8d of barley. Some of the barley would have been processed into malt, perhaps at home, since a malting house with a great ffate (vat) and four little ffates were recorded.
What is particularly interesting are the stocks of honey and the equipment used to process it - 8 honey baggs pressed (53s 4d), three barrels of honey (£6), and a hogshead of metheglin (40s). In the cellar were tenn hogsheads and three pipes (a pipe being twice the capacity of the 54-gallon hogshead), presumably empty since they were only valued at 20s.
We do not know what happened to the rest of his family or whether a son took over his trade: there are no more references to the family in the parish registers and it is possible that they left the town, in view of the circumstances. Nevertheless, we have come a little closer to John Collyns and his household and we will look at some more families, and their way of life, in the following section.
(From Elizabethan Hungerford, Julie Shuttleworth et al, 1995)
[There is much more about John Collyns under 24 High Street.]
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