From the probate calendars at Lichfield Joint Record Office, Audrey Lee, assisted by Rowena Clarke and Shirley McKenna, compiled a list of probate documents relating to the parish of Glossop. Their index was later published by the Derbyshire Family History Society. This index enabled me to identify the 108 sets of documents relating to New Mills for the period 1540-1650 and to obtain photocopies of these from Lichfield JRO on behalf of New Mills Local History Society.
Members of a WEA evening class transcribed these documents and produced summary sheets showing the place-names and personal names occurring on each document. From this information an index to the New Mills documents was compiled by the late Dr Peter Andrew and myself in 1991. Now, nearly 20 years later, present-day technology makes it possible to share the index with all those who might find it useful.
The 108 sets of New Mills probate documents are listed in the List of Documents below, arranged by date with the name of the deceased person as given in the calendars at Lichfield. (Note that a date like 11 Feb 1579/80 means 11 Feb 1580 according to the modern calendar, but this would have been called 11 Feb 1579 in the 16th century because the calendar then ran from March 25th to March 24th.) We have given each set of documents a reference number such as 1580.2 for the second set in the year 1580: this is not a reference number that will be recognised at the Lichfield Joint Record Office. The List of Documents will enable the reader to get the relevant details of the documents from the reference number so that the documents may be consulted at Lichfield if desired.
Photocopies, transcripts and summary sheets of all 108 sets of documents are held by New Mills Local History Society and transcripts of 50 of these have been published by the Society in its New Mills Probate Transcription Series. These are now available on this website, there are links in the varous indices. An introduction to the books is available on the second tab.
After the List of Documents there is an Index of Place Names and then an Index of Personal Names. In the place names index we have excluded the parish churches and chapels of Glossop, Taxal, Disley, Mellor and Hayfield because these are mentioned so frequently. Names have been put into modern spellings wherever possible. In the index of personal names we have listed all people named in the documents but spelling has again been modernised. Where there are different people with the same name mentioned in the same document these people have been numbered 1, 2, etc. (In cases of doubt this has not been done.) The following abbreviations indicate the type of probate document.
W = will
N = inventory
T = other type of document
The accuracy of the index rests on the work of a large number of people. Although a considerable amount of checking has taken place, there will probably be a few errors. I hope that these will not detract too much from the usefulness of the index.
Roger Bryant, February 2010
Introduction to the books
The ancient parish of Glossop, once one of the largest in the country, was formerly divided into three parts. The Manor of Glossop comprised the northernmost portion, the Chapelry of Mellor formed a second subdivision, while the remainder of the parish, consisting of ten hamlets known collectively as Bowden Middlecale,constituted the remainder.
In 1713, as part of the arrangements to organise the Poor Law, the ten hamlets of Bowden Middlecale were put into three groups, one of which, in the early nineteenth century, comprising the hamlets of Beard, Ollersett, Thornsett and Whitle, became known as New Mills. The name of the town is derived from the "New Mylne", a fourteenth century corn mill.
Thus, the earliest wills of "New Mills People" usually refer to the inhabitants of one or other of the four hamlets. The original probate records in manuscript form are to be found in Lichfield Joint Record Office. The earliest wills and inventories, dating from 1540, have been transcribed and appear in three volumes entitled "Wills and Inventories of New Mills People." Book One contains thirteen probate records from 1540 to 1571; Book Two has twelve probate records from 1571 to 1582; Book Three has twenty-five probate records from 1586 to 1607. These may be purchased online (see the list of publications on this website for details).
All the wills and inventories from these three volumes have now been put online, together with those of a projected "Book Four", which in view of the Society's decision to put the probate records on this website is now unlikely to appear in print.
Over the years, the Society has acquired a number of copies of wills and inventories from Lichfield Joint Record Office, usually as part of research projects by individual members. It is hoped that some of these may also be put online in the future.
Two of our publications which rely principally on studies of probate documents are, "The Living Past: New Mills People in Late Tudor and Early Stuart Times" (New Mills History Notes No. 24) and "The Downes Family, Husbandmen of the New Mylne, 1571 -1679" by Rowena Clarke (New Mills History Notes No. 25).
Newtown, another district of New Mills, became part of the town in 1936. Newtown lies on the Cheshire side of the River Goyt and was formerly part of Disley. Early probate records of the Newtown district may be found at Cheshire Record Office. "The People of Disley Chapelry 1570 -1790", edited by J.H. Smith for Disley Branch WEA in 2002, contains a detailed analysis of wills and inventories, including the Newtown area.
We are grateful to the staff of Lichfield Joint Record Office for access to the records, photo-copying and permission to publish the transcripts.
Many people have contributed to the production of these transcriptions over the years. In particular, Audrey Lee, Rowena Clarke and Shirley McKenna compiled the index of Glossop probate references from which the records of New Mills people were first identified. Dr. J. Smith of Manchester University, a W.E.A. tutor, taught us to read early wills and members of his class prepared the first drafts of the transcriptions. Professor Roger Bryant, initiated the transcription project for publication. Audrey Lee, the late Eileen Miller andRoger Bryant prepared the final versions of the transcriptions for the original publications.