The will of William Bartlett Hambling (1787 – 1864)

(William is a 4 x great grandfather of mine)

A surprisingly long will for one which seems to have had a very simple intent – that everything should go to his widow during her life time and then be equally divided between their children. William wrote his will surprisingly early – not just was he still in good health, but aged only about 62. With Elizabeth aged only 55, there was a real possibility that had he died soon after writing it she would have remarried, but unusually he does not specify that his money etc. should only be for her use while she remained a widow.

He also does not actually state that any money for his children should go their offspring if they pre-deceased their mother, but this was clearly his intent as he specified that if they left no lawful offspring then their share should be divided between their siblings. All of William and Elizabeth’s 12 children were living when William wrote his will, and only one died in the 15 years between the will being written and William’s death, although two more died in the 16 years that then elapsed before their mother’s death. All 3 of these left children to inherit their share, though in the case of William, the first of William and Elizabeth’s children to die (in 1862), only 3 of his 9 children survived their father, and only one of those 3 their grandmother.

Appointing his widow as his sole executrix, despite the fact that writing his will when in good health meant it was by no means certain she would outlive him, William also appointed 2 friends as trustees “for carrying this my last Will and Testament into effect”, although the details suggest that most of what was being asked of them was after the death Elizabeth, if, as happened, she should outlive William. However, one trustee, Edward Farr, died before William, and the other, Andrew Lamble, before Elizabeth. (more about both friends after the will)

In the name of God Amen. I William Bartlett Hambling of Blackawton in the parish of Blackawton in the County of Devon Gunsmith being in good health and of sound and disposing mind memory and understanding blessed be God for the same do make publish and declare this my last Will and Testament in manner and form following that is to say

I give and bequeath all my Monies and Securities for Monies Goods Chattles and Personal Property of every nature and kind whatsoever of which I may be possessed at the time of my decease unto my Wife Elizabeth Hambling to and for her own absolute use and benefit for and during the term of her natural life

Also I give and bequeath unto my said Wife Elizabeth Hambling all that my Freehold Houses Smiths Shop Orchard Herb Garden and Appurtenances thereunto belonging situate at Millcombe [1] in the aforesaid parish of Blackawton and in the tenure or occupation of John Cole [2] and others as tenants to me.

Also I give and bequeath unto my said Wife Elizabeth Hambling all that my Freehold House and Shops at Blackawton with all the Appurtenances thereunto belonging or appurtaining situate in the Village and parish of Blackawton aforesaid and now in my own occupation

To hold the aforesaid Houses and Lands and every part thereof to my said Wife Elizabeth Hambling and her assigns for and during the term of her natural life

And from and after the decease of said Wife Elizabeth Hambling then I declare and direct that my Trustees hereinafter mentioned or the survivor of them his executors administrators or assigns do and shall as soon after the decease of my Wife Elizabeth Hambling as they or he shall thing [sic] fit to sell and absolutely dispose of my said Freehold Houses Lands and Property aforesaid either by public auction or private contract and either altogather or in parcels to any person or persons who may be willing to purchase and will give the most money for the same

And I direct that my said Trustees and the survivor of them his executors administrators or assigns shall stand possessed of the money to arise from the sale or sales of my said Real Property In trust in the first place to reimburse themselves all costs and expences attending the execution of the trust hereby created and the overplus (if any) to be equally divided between all my children already born or which shall be born hereafter in equal share and proportions and to be paid and payable to them respectively as soon after as shall be convenient And in case anyone or more of my said children shall die without leaving lawful issue living at the time of his her or their death Then I direct that the share or shares of the Child or Children so dying aforesaid shall belong to and be equally divided between the survivors share and share alike And I hereby direct that all receipts of my said Trustees hereinafter named and the survivor of them his executors administrators or assigns for any money to be paid to them or him under the trust of this my Will shall be good and effectual discharge for the same and that the persons paying the same shall not be bound to see to the application thereof or be answerable for any misapplication or nonapplication of the same Provided always and I hereby further declare and direct that the Trustees hereinafter mentioned their executors administrators and assigns shall be charged and chargeable only for such money as they respectively shall actually receive by virtue of the trusts notwithstanding his or their giving or signing or joining in giving or signing any receipt or receipts for the same of conformity and that any one or more of them shall not be answerable for the neglects or defaults of the other or others of them nor for involuntary losses but each of them only for his own acts receipts and defaults respectively and that they or either of them shall not be answerable for any loss or damage which may happen to the said Trust Property in the execution of the trusts or in relation thereto unless the same shall happen by or through his or their own wilful neglect or default repectively

And I hereby nominate and appoint my kind Friends Edward Farr [3] of Buckland Tout Saints in the said County Yeoman and Andrew Pillage Lamble [4] of Blackawton Yeoman in the aforesaid County to be the Trustees for carrying this my last Will and Testament into effect.

And lastly I hereby nominate constitute and appoint my said Wife Elizabeth Hambling the sole Executrix of this my last Will and Testament

And I hereby revoke and make void all former and other Wills by me at any time heretofore made and I declare this only to be my last Will and Testament

In witness whereof I the said William Bartlett Hambling the Testator have to this my last Will and Testament written on two sheets of  paper set my hand and seal (to wit) my hand to the first sheet thereof and my hand and seal to this second and last sheet this eighteenth day of October in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and forty nine.

William B Hambling (seal)

Signed sealed published and declared by the said William Bartlett Hambling the Testator as and for the last Will and Testament in the presence of us who at his request in his presence and in the presence of each other have subscribed our names as Witnesses thereto – Thos. Cutmore – Ellen Stone

Proved at Exeter the 29th day of October 1864 by the Oath of Elizabeth Hambling Widow, the Relict the sole Executor to whom Administration was granted

The Testator William Bartlett Hambling was late of Blackawton in the County of Devon Gunsmith and died on the 24th day of February 1864 at Blackawton aforesaid.

Under £100

(J. C. Kellock, Solr., Totnes) etc copy of the original Will of William Bartlett Hambling deceased.

Mentioned in the Will:

[1] Millcombe

William inherited Millcombe from his father but does not appear to have lived there himself. The baptism register in Blackawton does show some people as living at Milcombe, but not William when any of his children were baptised.

It appears to have transferred, by gift or sale, to William’s son Charles George, from the way it is referred to in the latter’s will.

It may not have been worth much. In an era before cars, before retiring to a Devon cottage was an attractive idea and before weekend cottages, but at a time when farming was beginning to be intensified, cottages in such locations may have become “surplus to requirements”. I remember walking around Blackawton parish in the late 1980s and seeing the remains of cottages in amongst trees near the road in more than one location. At the time of the 1851 census there were already 2 unoccupied cottages at Millcombe.

[2] John Cole – tenant living in cottage owned by William

At the time of the 1851 census John Cole was a 24 year old ag lab, living in a cottage at Millcombe with his 26 year old wife Mary Ann and their 3 children (aged 3 mths to 5 years). They had 7 children by the time of the 1861 census and were still living at Millcombe in 1868 when Mary Ann died. John left the hamlet before the 1871 census was taken as at that time as well as in 1881 he was living at Newton in Slapton parish, in 1881 with a new wife Jane, although he later moved to Blackawton village where he could be found in 1891 and 1901.

[3] Edward Farr – friend appointed as trustee

It’s about 6 miles from Blackawton to Bearscombe in Buckland-tout-Saints parish, where Edward Farr lived; I don’t know what led to the William and Edward Farr meeting and a friendship developing between them.Presumably William meant Edward Farr junior of Buckland Tout Saints – for in the month he wrote his will, Edward Farr senior enjoyed his 97th birthday*! The latter reached the age of 99, dying in 1852, well before William. Sadly, Edward junior did not inherit his father’s longevity, dying just 4 years later, aged about 48, and so was unable to take on the task of trustee for his friend.

* although census ages are often inaccurate, East Allington baptismal records agree with this being Edward’s age.

[4] Andrew Lamble – friend appointed as trustee

In 1849 Andrew Pillage Lamble would only have been aged about 30, so he was potentially being given quite a responsibility at a young age. Obviously it made sense for William to choose younger people who were likely to outlive him as trustees, but although over 30 years his junior, Andrew only outlived him by 5 years, dying in 1869. Since William’s widow Elizabeth lived until 1880 and most of the tasks for a trustee would have been after her death, Andrew was not able to carry out the tasks William had hoped he would.

The 1841 census shows that Andrew Lamble was living with his mother, Mary, described as a farmer’s widow, at West Hartley in Blackawton parish; his father had died the previous year, so he may have had to take on the responsibility of running a farm at a young age (no occupation is shown for Andrew and it is not clear if they were living on a farm). At Andrew’s baptism in 1819, though, his father, Richard Lamble, was shown as a blacksmith, and he was still described as a smith when Andrew’s sister was baptised in 1827. It may have been their common interest in metal work that led to a friendship between William and Richard, especially with Richard moving to farming and William moving away from a traditional blacksmith’s work to bell founding and being a gunsmith, which would have lessened competition between them! Maybe Richard Lamble had been an apprentice to William’s father and a friendship had developed then, a friendship that then extended to Richard’s son. Born about 1793, Richard was a few years younger than William; he would probably have been apprenticed aged 14 in about 1807; if he was apprenticed to James Hambling he would have been with him for five years before William married i.e. Richard and William could have been under the same roof for 5 years in their youth.

In 1845 Mary Lamble (Andrew’s mother) had remarried, to one Matthew Came, and both an 1850 directory and the 1851 census show Andrew and Matthew were jointly farming the large 253 acre Dreyton Farm where they employed 6 labourers. The directory entry for Blackawton shows 32 other farmers in the parish, no others farming in partnership, and only 5, like Matthew and Andrew, farming land they owned. Matthew had been with his parents in Dreyton at the time of the 1841 census, where his father (in his 80s) was shown as a farmer; as for Andrew no occupation was shown for Matthew (in his 40s) – but he must surely have been working with his father. Matthew was in his early 50s when he married Mary (his only marriage), a marriage which one imagines must have made the deaths of his parents a little less difficult – they died within a fortnight of each other in 1849, and having been living with them as a bachelor this would surely have otherwise hit Matthew very hard. The marriage of Mary and Matthew may have led to 2 farms being farmed together. Still farming together in 1861, this arrangement presumably continued until Matthew died on 3 November 1864. His effects are shown in the probate records as a considerable “under £1500”; his brother was the executor and presumably not everything went to his stepson as the probate for the latter shows the much smaller, though still large for the time, “under £600”. The change Matthew’s death caused to Andrew’s life was probably significant, and it can’t have been easy that his friend William Hambling died in the same year and Andrew had to take on being the sole surviving trustee appointed in William’s will.

Another link between William and Andrew, which possibly shows the stratification of society at the time, is seen by looking at the 1851 and 1861 censuses. Blackawton was split into 3 parts for the census, the enumerators being Henry Hambling – one of William’s sons, Thomas Hingston Stabb – one of William’s son-in-laws, and Andrew Pillage Lamble.

The Came family as well as the Lambles would presumably have been well known to William, as his son Hiram went on to marry Elizabeth Jane Came, niece to Andrew’s step-father, Matthew (daughter of his brother John). The marriage between Hiram and Elizabeth was not until 1860 i.e. 10 years after William wrote his will, so it was not the connection between these families by this marriage that led to the choice of trustee.


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