Family dispute over the will of Richard Symons

Introduction

Amongst the Chancery Court cases in the National Archives is one between various beneficiaries of the will of one Richard Symons. A bill (two copies) and two answers, along with a couple of writts, is found at TNA ref. C6/224/57.

(I have yet to plough through the index to decrees and orders, not searchable online, to find what there might be regarding this case).

Symons family

This case helps to piece together some of the Symons family although it is not clear how Richard was related to the beneficiaries – nor to my line. My latest guess can be seen here (Richard appears at the bottom of the page as the son of William, my ancestors in the middle, descended from an unnamed son of William). The reasons for my guesses can be seen in the notes on the pages for the people concerned. In particular the marriage notes on Richard (the executor)’s page discuss why I think the beneficiaries were probably related something like I show, and not likely to be his own children. I have traced my line through PRs and other documents back to Andrew and Rebecca Symons; before this the links are guesses based on property being passed down the Symons family. (So far I have mostly just seen the catalogue entries concerning this; I hope seeing the documents concerned will confirm my tree or otherwise show how those mentioned in the documents are related to each other).

It is also of interest in suggesting that they may have come from the Ashreigney / Burrington area, some distance from Buckland Monachorum and from Plymouth; with Symons (etc.) quite a common surname no link would otherwise have been suspected. However, a lack of entries in the C16th lay subsidies etc. for those parishes suggests the link with Plymouth is older than the link to the above rural parishes.

Summary

According to the bill Richard Symons of Buckland Monachorum died leaving a will written in 1662. He died quite wealthy leaving a property in Buckland Monachorum called Coombe; after a life interest to his wife Rachell this was to pass to Rebecca Jeffery to pay several bequests and then receive the residue.

I think that probably the ‘tenement at Coombe’ referred to was Coombe Farm.

The bequests were to nephews and nieces of one George Symons, and totalled £100, which George was to invest in the best way for the benefit of his nephews and nieces. The five nephews and nieces, the plaintiffs in the case, suggested that after Rachell died Rebecca, now married to Andrew Sowton, had sold Coombe to William Head and Andrew and Rebecca, George Symons and William Head had kept the bequest to benefit from it themselves.

William Head claims not to know the plaintiffs, nor whether Richard Symons left a will, though he had heard that he died with a lease on Coombe. William had paid Andrew Sowton £220 for the remaining term on Coombe, as they had agreed.

Andrew and Rebecca agree with the bill about how Coombe was to be inherited by Rachell for her lifetime, then to Rebecca and that Rebecca was to pay the five. However, they say that far from dying with estates etc. worth £2000 Richard died with many debts, and what he left was not sufficient to cover these. As a result, Andrew and Rebecca did not acquire Coombe by the terms of the will, but because as executrix Rachell had to sell it to pay Richard’s debts.

A few comments on the transcription

The documents are wide; I have included line breaks, hence some short lines here (one line in the bill is nearly three here). I have endeavoured to keep the spelling as in the documents. [ ] indicate additions by me – either to clarify an abbreviated word, or the present spelling of a place name.

The Bill of Complaint

Decimo Octavo die Junii 1677 [18 June 1677]

To the Right Honoble Heneage lord Finch Baron of Daventry Lord
High Chancellor of England

Complayning shew unto your Lord[shi]pp your Orators Richard Symons and Joane Symons of the Parish of [blank] in the County of Devon the two Children of John Symons of the parish of Borington [Burrington] in the County of Devon
and your Orators John Knapman Emlyn Knapman and Frances Knapman the Three Children of Mary Knapman of the parish of Ashreigney ~ in the County of Devon your Orators Richard Symons Emlyn Knapman and Frances Knapman being
Infants under the Age of One and Twenty yeares by John Rosier of Chulmley in the County of Devon gentleman their next Freind That Richard Symons late of Buckland Monac[h]orum in the County of Devon gentleman Deceased being possessed
Interested ^ {in} or intituled to A great personall Estate Consisting in Leases for yeares debts upon Morgages Judgments Statutes Recongizances Bills Bonds and other Securityes Debts upon simple Contract Ready money plate Household goods
and other goods and Chattells to the vallue of Two Thousand pounds and upwards and perticulerly of A Tenement with its Appurtenances called Combe [Coombe] in the Parish of Buckland Monacorum in the County of Devon which hee held by vertue
of some longlease for yeares or otherwise yet in being hee the said Richard Symons being soe possest and Interessed as aforesaid hee made his last Will and Testamt in Writeing beareing date on or about the Seaventeenth Day of June One
Thousand Six Hundred Sixty Two whereby amongst severall other things therein contayned Hee devised to his Wife Rachell the said Tenement called Combe for the Terme therein to come after his decease if the said Rachell should
soe long live and not otherwise and after the decease of the said Devisor and the said Rachell hee devised to Rebecca Jeffrey all the Residue of the Estate and Terme which should bee then to come of and in the said Tenement called
Combe after the Death of the said Devisor and Rachell his wife she paying then therefore out of Itt for the same One hundred pounds to witt to the said John Symons his Two Children (meaneing your Orators Richard and Joane Symons
who were then the Two and onely Children of the said John Symons) Twenty pounds a peice and to the said Mary Knapman Three Children (meaneing your Orators John Emlyn and Frances Knapman whoe were then the Three and onely
Children of the said Mary Knapman) Twenty pounds a peece ^ {and} if any of them sould happen to dye that then such portons of him her or them soe dyeing should Remayne or bee to the Survivors or Survivor ~~~ and if the said Sume
of One hundred pounds were not payd within Six Moneths after the said Tenemt called Combe should come to the said Rebecca as aforesaid that they for non payment thereof the Right and Estate of the said Tenement should bee sould
and the money made thereof (vizt) One Hundred pounds should bee payd to your said Orators and the Overplus thereof to bee and Remayne to the said Rebecca which said One hundred pounds should bee putt out for the best Advantage
of your said Orators by their uncle George Symons and of the said Will made Rachell his Wife sole Executrix as by the said Will Relacon being thereunto had may more att large appeare soone after which Will made the said John
Symons dyed soe possest and Interessed as aforesaid after whose Death the said Rachell proved the said will and tooke on herselfe the Execucon thereof and entred on the said Tenement called Combe by vertue of the said demise thereof
to her and enjoyed the same dureing her life and dyed in or about the Moneth of May One thousand Six hundred Seaventy Six presently after whose death the said Rebecca Jeoffery entred on the said Tenement called Combe and enjoyed the same
being of the yearely vallue of Twenty Pounds ~ ~ ~ ~ per An[n]um and upwards and ought to have payd your Orator their said Legacyes of Twenty ~~~ pounds a peice and Interest for the same the said George Symons being
Insolvent and not fitt to bee trusted therewith But soe itt is may it please your Lordpp That the said Rebecca haveing intermarryed with one Andrew Sowton of the parish of Milton Abbott in ^ {the County of Devon} They the said Andrew Sowton and Rebecca his Wife have
sould the said Tenemt called Combe to one Willm Head of the parish of Buckland Moncor[am] in the ^ {County of Devon} for much more money then one hundred pounds the said Willm Head knowing att or before the tyme of such his purchase or being informed of the said
Will wich was the onely Title the said Rebecca had to the said Tenement but now the said Andrew Sowton and Rebecca his Wife Willm Head and George Symons Combyneing together to defraude your Orators of their said
Legacyes and to share and divide the saide One hundred pounds amongst themselves the said Andrew Sowton and Rebecca his Wife doe Refuse to pay your Orators their said Legacyes and Interest Justly due for the same the said Willm
Head pretending hee hath payd all the said purchase money to the said Andrew Sowton and his wife And the said Andrew Sowton and Rebecca his Wife pretendeing that the said Willm Head keepes the said purchase money in his
Hands to secure himselfe against the said Legacyes whereas however itt bee your Orators ought to have their said legacyes and Interest the said Tenement being Charged therewith and att other tymes the said Confederates
pretend they have payd the same to the said George Symons whereas they knowe the contrary and if they have the said George Symons ought to pay the same to your Orators with Interest from the tyme the same
was payable and att other tymes they pretend that the said Tenemt is conveyed to some other person or persons in trust or otherwise and Refuse to discover who now hath the legall and Equitable Estate in the premisses
and they alsoe pretend that the said Tenement is Conveyed to some other person or persons in trust or otherwise and Refuse to discover who now hath the legall and Equitable Estate in the premisses & they alsoe pretend that the
said Tenement is not worth 100 how be of they knowe the same is of such yearely ^ {vallue as aforesaid and was sould for above one hundred pounds the said Confederates refuse to discover the yearely vallue of the premisses or for what the same were sould} att and albeit the said Confederates some or one of them have Received the Rents issues and proffitts of the premisses ever since the death of
the said Rachell and have shared the same amongst themselves yett they Refuse to discover the Rente issues and proffitts of the premisses which they or any of them have Received since the death of the said Rachell All
which doeinge of the said Confederates are contrary to All Equity and good Conscience and tend to your Orators great prejudice In tender Consideracon whereof and for that your Orators cann have noe Releise in the
the premisses saveing in A Court of Equity nor cann prove the Truth of the premisses saveing by the Oaths of the said Confederates or the testimony of wittnesses beyond ^ {the Seas} or in places remote and unknowne to your Orators To the
End therefore that the said Confederates may a full and perfect Answer make to all and every the premisses and more perticulerly discover whether there was not such or such like Will as aforesaid and what Estate the said Devisor
had in the said Tenemt and whether the said Rachell did not after her said Husbands Death enter on the premisses as aforesaid when she dyed and whether and after her Death the said Rebecca did not enter on the said Tenemt
and Receive the Rents issues and proffits thereof and what the said Tenement is or hath bine yearely worth since the death of the said Rachell and what Rents issues and proffitts of the premisses have bine received by
the said Confederates or any and which of them since the Death of the said Rachell and whether the said Andrew Sowton and Rebecca Sowton his Wife have not sould the said Tenement for any and what sume of money
to the said Willm Head and how much of the said purchase money is paid and how much Remaynes in the Hands of the said Willm Head and in whome the legall and Equitable Interest in and to the said Tenement now is
and whether the said Willm Head had any knowledge or notice of the said Will att or before the tyme of such his purchase and whether the said George Symons bee responsible for the said Sume of One hundred pounds and whether
all or any part of the said One hundred poundes bee paid to the said George Symons and when the same was paid whether before this Bill exhi[bi]ted and to the end the same may not been paid to the said George Symons and
that your Orators may bee releived in all and every the premisses according to Equity and good Conscience May itt please your Lordpp to grannt to your Orators his Maties most gracious Writte of Subp[en]a to bee directed to
the said Andrew Sowton and Rebecca his wife Willm Head and George Symons thereby comandeing them and every of them att a certaine Day and under a certaine paine therein to bee lymitted personally to bee and
appeare before your Lordpp in his Ma[jes]ties high and honoble Court of Chancery then and there to Answer All and singuler the premisses and further to stand to and abide such further Order and Direcon therein as to your
Lordpp shall seeme meet and your Orators shall every pray &c.

Sam: Collins

The Answer of William Head

The sev[era]ll answeares of William Head one of the Defts to the bill of Complt of Richard Symons John Symons
John Knapman Emlyn Knapman & Francis Knapman, The said Richard Symons Emlyn Knapman & Francis
Knapman as is alleadged beinge Infants by John Rosier Gentl their Guardian Complts.

The said Deft savinge to himselfe now & att all tymes hereafter all & all manner of advantage by way of Excepcon & otherwise
to the manifold untrueths imp[er]feccons & insufficiencyes in the said bill of Complt Contayned for answere thereunto or unto soe much
thereof as concerneth this Deft to make answere unto hee sayeth, That hee doth not knowe any of the Complaynants nor
whether Richard Symons in the bill named did make any will as in the bill is sett forth nor what goods and Chattles the said Richard
Symons dyed possessed of savinge that this Deft. hath heard that the said Richard Symons dyed possessed of a Tenemt called Coombe in the
bill named, but whether hee did devise the same by will in such manner as in the said bill is sett forth this Deft. knoweth not And this Deft.
further sayeth that hee beinge informed & advised that the other Deft. Andrew Sowton had good right to the said Tenemt. during the remainder
of the terme therein to come, did enter into a treaty with him for the said Terme & came to a full agreemt. with him for the same for the
sume of two hundred & twenty pounds which this Deft. hath since paid to the said Andrew Sowton according to the sev[era]ll tymes agreed on for
payment thereof & hopes hee shall enjoy the same estate accordingly, And this Deft. doth absolutely deny all manner of Combinacon
or Confederacy with all or any other of the Defts. to any of the Intents or purposes in the said bill sett forth, And this Deft. doth verily
beleave that the said Tenemt. is worth twenty pounds a yeare or thereabouts & now more as the tymes now are, And this Deft.
sayeth That hee doth not knowe any other of the matters in the said bill of Complt contayned then is herein before sett forth & expressed
without That, that any other thing touchinge the mattrs in the said bill of Complt contayned materiall or effectuall in the law for
this Def = ~ ~ ~ ~ to make answere unto & not herein or hereby sufficiently answeared unto confessed or a voided traversed
or denyed is true to the knowledge of this Deft. All wch this Deft. is reddy to aver & prove as this Honble Court shall order & award
and humbly prayeth to bee dismissed out of the same with his resonable Cost & Charges in that behalfe most wrongfully & without just
cause sustayned.

[Latin statement – 19 Oct 1677 – to be added]

Hugh Croker
Moses Collins

The Answer of Andrew and Rebecca Sowton

The Joynt & sev[era]ll answeares of Andrew Sowton Gentl & Rebecca his wife two of the Defts to the bill of Complaint of Richard Symons John Symons John Knapman Emlyn Knapman &
Francis Knapman The said Richard Symons Emlyn Knapman & Francis Knapman as is alleadged being Infants by John Rosier Gent their Gardian Complt.

The said Defts & either of them savinge to themselves now & att all tymes hereafter all & all manner of advantages by way of excepcon & otherwise to the manifold untrueths Imp[er]feccons & insufficiencies of & in the sd. Complts bill of Complts. Contayned for answere thereunto or unto soe much //
thereof as Concerneth theise Defts or either of them to make answere unto they & either of them say That they nor either of them doe knowe that Richard Symons Genl decd in the bill named was in his life tyme possessed of interessed in or intituled unto any p[er]sonall //
estate consisting in leases for yeares debts uppon mortgages Judgments Statutes Recongizances Bills bonds & other security Debts uppon simple Contract reddy money plate househould goods & other goods and Chattles to the vallue of two thousand pounds as in //
the said bill is prtended savinge that theise Defts confesse and say that the said Richard Symons was in his life tyme possessed of and in a Certayne Tenement called Coombe in the bill menconed for a Certayne number of yeares determinable uppon the death //
of one Rachall Symons and the Deft. Rebecca And theise Defts doe beleive that the said Richard Symons about the tyme in the bill menconed did make his last will & testament in writinge and therein did devise to his wife Rachall the said Tenemt. called for //
terme therein to come after his decease if the said Rachall should soe long live & not otherwise and after the decease of the said Devisor and the said Rachall hee devised all the residue of the estate & terme unto this Deft Rebecca, And theise Defts. doe further //
confesse as in & by the bill is sett forth that by the directon of the said will shee the said Rebecca after the cominge of the said estate unto her was to pay the sume of one hundred pounds to John Symonses two Children & Mary Knapmans three Children who //
are unknowne to theise Defts. & may bee the now plts in this cause for any things theise Defts. knowe to the Contrary and theise Defts. doe beleive that Richard Symons did by his will further order & direct the sale & disposicon of the said estate //
in case the said one hundred pounds were not paid as therein was directed as in the said bill is sett forth And theise Defts. further say & beleave that the said Richard Symons made the said Rachall Executrix, of his said will who since the death of //
the said Richard Symons proved the same and exhibited an Inventory of his goods & Chattles into the Court of the ArchDeacon of Totnes where shee proved the said will amongst which the said estate in the said Tenemt. called Coombe is //
valued and appraised unto wch said Inventory for a further discovery of the estate of the said Richard Symons theise Defts. referr themselves Theise Defts. nor either of them not knowinge of any more or other estate that the said Richard //
Symons dyed possessed of And theise Defts further say That they have heard & verily beleave & hope to prove that the said Richard Symons dyed much indebted more then the estate wch. hee died possessed of will reach to satisfie soe that the said //
Rachall his Executrix was inforced by other meanes to make sale of the said Tenemt. to raise monies to satisfie his debts wch. his other estate would not reach to doe, And theise Defts doe beleave & hope to prove that all the estate which the said Richard //
Symons dyed possessed of was not sufficient to satisfie his debts & theise Defts. further say that the said Rachall Symons after the death of the said Richard Symons sould the remainder of the terme in the said Tenemt. unto the said Deft Andrew Sowton for //
a valluable Consideracon paid whereby this Deft. Andrew Sowton sayeth that hee is advised that hee hath a good right & title to the remaynder of the terme of & in the said Tenemt as purchaser there of as aforesaid And theise Defts doe confesse that //
they nor either of them have paid unto the Complts or any other for them the said sume of one hundred pounds or any part thereof beinge advised that all the goods and estate wch. the Richard Symons dyed possessed of beinge farr short of what would satisfie //
his debts thereis nothinge due by virtue of the said devise unto the said Complts, And for that the said Andrew Sowton claymeth the said Tenemts. as a purchaser as aforesaid & not by the said devise, And theise Defts. doe likewise say That //
they beleive that the said Richard Symons ^ {dyed about the monthe of August 1662} & Rachall his wife dyed about the ~ ~ tyme in the said bill sett forth, And theise Defts. further say that they have for theise sev[era]ll yeares last past beene maried & that about three yeares & //
a quarter since in the life tyme of the said Rachall the said Deft. Andrew Sowton sould unto William Head in the bill named all the remainder of the said terme & estate wch. hee had in the said Tenemt. called Coombe for the sume of two //
hundred & twenty pounds which the said William Head hath fully paid & satisfied unto this Deft. Andrew Sowton, And theise Defts. further say that they did not att the tyme of the sale thereof unto the said William Head prtend that their //
title thereunto was meerely by the will of the said Richard Symons or that the said William Head to the knowledge of theise Defts. or either of them then knew of the Contence of the said will, And theise Defts. & either of them bee absolutely denye //
all maner of Combinacon with the said William Head & Andrew Symons in the bill named who is unknowne unto theise Defts. or either of them to any intent or purpose in the bill sett forth And doe alsoe devise that they ever prtended //
that they had paid any part of the monie unto the said Andrew Symons and that the said William Head should keepe the said purchase monie or any part thereof in his hands to secure himselfe in the said title & theise Defts doe //
absolutely denye that there is any thinge due unto the said Complts or any of them from theise Defts out of or for the said Tenemt. called Coombe as theise defts. are advised for the reasons before in this their answeare sett forth And theise //
Defts doe beleave that the said Tenemts called Coombe is worth yearely about the vallue of twenty pounds & soe hath beene ever since the death of the said Rachall ^ {and was likewise before for sev[er]ll yeares who left the sd Rachall enjoyed the same} of which said Tenemt. theise Defts ahve recd the profitts thereof //
^ {ever since this Deft Andrew purchasd thereof} untill their sale thereof to the other Deft William head who hath since receaved the p[ro]fitts thereof And theise Defts. Doe likewise denye that ever they did prtend that the estate in the said Tenemt. called Coombe was made over //
to any person intrust or that the same is made over to any person or persons in trust as in the said Bill is falsely alleadged, without that that any other matter or thinge in the said bill of Complts. contayned materiall //
or effectuall in the law for theise Defts. or either of them to make answeare unto & not herein or hereby sufficiently answeared unto confessed or avoyded traversed or denyed is true to the knowledge Defts. or either of them //
All which theise Defts. are reddy to aver & prove as this Honble. Court shall order & award & humbly prayeth to bee dismissed out of the same with their reasonable Cost & Charges in that behalfe most wrongfully & without just //
cause sustayned.

[Latin statement – 20 Oct 1677 – to be added]

Hugh Croker
Moses Collins


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