(John was the husband of Sybilla BECON, a cousin 10 times removed of mine) Many people appear not to have written their wills until they were sick, although it is not usually possible to know if the will written then was replacing an earlier one made in good health. It is even said to have been considered badluck to write a will, causing an earlier death. John wrote his while well; possibly he was prompted to start this task by the death of the last surviving of his 6 children a couple of months earlier. Two had survived the most risky time of babyhood, but the last to die was aged just 9, surely a reminder to John of his own mortality. Of course another reason for writing this will soon after the death of his last child may be that an earlier will with his child or children as the main beneficiaries was not longer appropriate. Sybilla appears to have had no children, despite she and John having been married about 6 years when he started writing the will, and now being aged 43 it must have seemed probable he would leave no heires. John did still think of the possibility of an heir; a little strangely he allows for the possibility of Sybilla being with child when he died, but not that she might have given birth to a child between him writing the will and dying; I guess he would have rewritten the will or added a codicil PDQ if that had happened. As is often the case with a childless testator, John's will is a particularly long one, with very many people receiving bequests. However, all the relations seem to be relations of his, not his wife Sybilla's, as far as I have looked; two relations of Sybilla's are mentioned, her late brother Anthony and her cousin's husband George Yonge, who is asked to help adminster a bequest in Anthony's will, if necessary. Some of John's relations were amongst the early settlers seeking religious freedom in New England and John himself had land there. The puritan connection is obvious not only in the references to New England but also in some of the names: Hopestill, Thankful, Smallhope. [Names highlighted in blue indicates also mentioned in his brother Smallhope’s will so where they are relations they appear to be on John's side, not his wife Sybilla's; line breaks and page numbers to aid referring to / from images of the register copy.]
In the Name of god Amen: The Seaventeenth daie of August in the yeare of our lord Christ a thousand sixed hundred and fortie I John Bigg of Maidstone in the Countie of Kent Jurat beeinge by the mercie of god in good health of bodie and of perfect remembrance in mind for the which I doe give thanks unto God doe make this my last will & testament in manner and forme followinge, that is, First I committ my Soule unto the mercie of God my Creator trustinge assuredlie thorrough the meritts of Jesus Christe my Redeemer & Saviour to bee made partakers of life everlastinge, And my bodie to the earth to bee buried at the discretion of my wife and mine Executor Mr. Andrew Broughton, whom I doe ordain my sole executor of this my last will and testament, trustinge that hee wilbee carefull to performe the trust by mee committed to him herin And now concerninge my temporall estate I dispose of it as followeth Item I do give to the ordinarie poore of the pariishe of Maidston five poundes to bee distributed by the Overseers then beeinge And more I give fifteene poundes towards the clothinge of fifteene poore people whom my wife and executor shall think most fitt to bestow it upon Also I give unto Roger Ball John Bowden William Whetston Samuell Browne and Samuell Skelton five poundes a peece And to widdowe Clarke and Mrss Peirce widdow fiftie shillinges a peece. Also I give unto the poore of the parrishe of Cranbrook five pounds, to bee distrubted to twentie poore godlie people by my brother Peter Masters [husband of his sister Rachel, who had previously been married to Moregift Starr] and James Holden of the same parrishes or their executors: Also I give to the poore of the parrishe of Biddenden five poundes to be distributed to honest godlie poore to twentie poore five shillings a peece, at the discretion of Mr. William Randolph and Mr. Robert Drayner or their executors All which legacies my will is to bee paid within sixe monethes after my decease Item I doe give to Susan the wife of Daniell Clarke my anncient tenant five poundes to bee paid her at twentie shillinges a yeare except it can otherwise at discretion of my executor bee laid out for her good I give also to William Lauraman five poundes to bee paid twentie Shillinges a yeare Item I doe give unto William Ayerst fiftie poundes to bee paid within sixe monethes after my decease And my Mynde and will is that hee takinge my stocke and livinge in my house at my desiris, that all the ware except [p.2] Happs and goods that hee shall take beeinge indifferentlie prized that hee shall paie for one halfe of them, the other halfe so soone as may paie my debtes for them in London, or els so soone as my executor shall want it a hundred pound per Annum. And for all my debtes that shalbee then owinge mee to the end hee may take some paines and bee the more carefull to gett them in that hee shall have One Shillinge per pound allowed him out of them hee doinge his best endeavour for the hastninge them in, and acquaintinge my executor with them that will not paie without trouble, that speedie course. bee taken with them And to all other my servants I shall have livinge with mee at the time of my death I give fortie shillinges a peece and twentie Shillinges a yeare for so manie yeares as they have lived above two yeares with mee, if such bee in my service to bee paid within sixe monethes after my decease. Item I give to Richard Weller senior of Cranbrooke fortie shillinges, To [blank space] Cheesman my Porter and fetcher in of my water fortie shillinges, and to old goodman Greensmith of Loose fortie Shillinges and to widdow Darbey of Staplehurst fortie Shillinges. And old good= man Humphry or his wife of Harresham [Harrietsham?] fortie shillings To Mrs. Warren widdow late of Sandwhich five pounds and Mr. Harber Minster of Raish beside Mallinge [St. Martins Ryarsh] five pounds. And to Mr. Elmeston Schoolemaster of Maidston give pounds desiringe him to preach at my funerall, And to Mr. Good= acker and to Mr. Bramston brother to widdow Charleton loose [of Loose?] two poore godlie Minsters I think of Sussex fiftie shillinges a peece, to bee paid within one yeare after my decease Item I give to the Corporation of Maidstone of which I am a member tenn pounds toward buyinge a new Mace withall Item I give unto Damarys Wilson now livinge with mee, to bee paid her at her date of marriage or at the yeares of One and twentie one hundred pounds, five pound a yeare to bee paid for the hundred pound to her father or mother, if her father dye duringe the said time it shalbee payable to her, beginninge the time from after one whole yeare after my decease. Item I give unto Mary Tatnell they daughter of Thomas Tatnell [‘Thomas Tadnall, late of Dover’ with wife Judith in his bro Smallhope’s will] now livinge with mee to bee paid at the daie of her marriage, or at one and twentie yeares of age Twentie pounds. And if shee dye before the said money bee due, then I give it to her sister Judah Tatnell to bee payable as aforesaid. Item I give to Packnam Johnson now livinge with mee Tenn poundes to put him out apprentice to some convenient trade, when hee shall attaine the age of fowerteene or fifteene yeares And I give to my sister Johnson his mother tenn pounds to bee paid by twentie Shillinges a yeare. Item I give to my Cozen Milles widdow livinge at Raysh [Ryarsh] and to my Cousin Botten widdow livinge at Brenchley [‘kinswoman … Anne Bottinge of Brenchley’ in Smallhope’s will] five pounds a peece And to my Aunt Bredger of Peckham [‘Aunt Mary Bridger of West Peckham’ in Smallhope’s will], to my Cousin Hunts wife of Brenchley and to my Cousin Saxbeys wife of Leeds to each of them fortie shillinges a peece And to my Cousin Gaskyne, and my cousen Betes livinge about Lengly [Langley] fortie Shillinges a peece. These legacies to bee paid within one yeare after my decease. Now concerninge my lands in new England, my will is, that my mother [Rachel Bigg according to web] beeinge paide twentie pound a yeare out of it, due to her by my brothers will out of his house at Cranbrooke that then shall have twentie pound a yeare more out of it duringe her naturall life And that my sister Foster [Patience acc to web] have twentie pound a yeare out of it duringe her naturall life And my brother Stowe [John, husband of John's sister Elizabeth] tenn pownd a yeare out of it, all these livinge in new England. Now if it shall not yeild Seaventy pownds a yeare, then I will my mother to have her twentie pownds a yeare at Cra= brooke to bee paid her as the will goeth And the Rent of that in new England to bee divided betweene my mother theire and sister Foster But if that shall yeild above Seaventie pownds a yeare my will is what= ever it bee that it bee equallie divided between my mother and sister Foster And my mind is, that after their decease that all my landes in new England shall goe equallie the Rent divided to Hopestill Foster, Thomas Stowe John Stowe Nathanaell Stowe and Samuell Stowe, and my brother Stowes two daughters one parte of sixe, And so equallie to bee divided into Sixe partes to goe to them & their heires for ever and so the one halfe of it after my mother or Sisters decease to come presentlie to bee divided, and my brother Stowes tenn pownd a yeare also after his decease. Now, concerninge my landes in old England my mind is that my wife Sibella Bigg besides her Joynter shall have the remayn= der of what my howse yeildeth that lyeth in Maidston which I now live in besides the twentie poundes a yeare which I hope wilbee twentie poundes a yeare more, And also the Rent of my house and land in Lynton [Linton] Besides I give unto her one hundred pownds to bee paid within one yeare after my decease if shee bee then livinge And One hundred pownd of my platt and househould stuffe to take where shee pleaseth after that its prized, And if Michaeltide or our ladie day fall not out within one moneth after my decease, my will is, that within one moneth after my decease my Executor let my wife have fortie [p.3] Pownds shee payinge it againe the first Rents shee comes to receave. And for all my other Rents at Cranbrooke, Wittersham Lyde which is about Fiftie pownds per Annum my legacies and debtes beeinge first paid and that my mother and sister Foster receavinge Sixtie powndes a yeare at least in new England out of my landes there, Then my mind and will is that Hope Foster and my brother Stowes fower sonnes before named shall have the Rents of it equallie divided with li= bertie to sell either of their purces beeinge of age to make good sale of the same. Alwaies provided that if my mother and Sister Foster enjoy not the former Sume of threescore poundes a yeare in new England they shall receave the Rents of this duringe their lives, vizt. thirtie poundes a yeare my Mother Bigg and twentie pownds a yeare my sister Foster, and the longest liver to have the whole fiftie powndes a yeare duringe her life and after to the uses aforesaid And after their decease to goe as aforesaid. And for my other house and land at Horsmonden of Tenn powne a yeare, one whole yeare after my debtes and legacies bee paid I give to Elizabeth Stowe One hundred pownds, and to Thankfull Stowe the remaynder of it, which if my Exe= cutor will not give hundred pownd more at her cominge to age or daie of marriage then to make it upp a hundred out of my estate And concerninge the rest of my landes after my wifes decease which wilbee about threescore powndes a yeare or upwards if my mother Bigg bee then livinge and my sister Foster or either of them, my will is that they, or either of them then livinge shall have twentie powndes a yeare out of the said landes besides what before given them duringe their or either of their naturall lifes. And after my wives decease or either of theirs the Remayn= der of the Rents aforesaid to bee divided, as my will is the whole shalbee after all their deceases : v That is I give to Hopestill Foster fifteene powndes a yeare, To John Stowe fifteene pownd a yeare, And the Remaynder to bee equallie divided betweene Thomas Stowe, Samuell Stow and Nathanaell Stowe with libertie either of them to sell their partes when its come unto them if they bee of age to make good sale of it And I authorise my executor either to sell or keepe the aforenamed tenn pownd a yeare in Horsmonden hee payinge the two legacies given to Eliz= beth and Thankfull Stowe as aforesaid. Item I give unto Elizabeth Pell dwellinge with mee at the time of my decease. Also I give to my Cousin Beatupes wife of Tenterden Fortie Shillinges. And to Marie Terrie  in new England tenn powndes to bee paid in one whole yeare as the other Also to my Cousin Godfery Martyne five poundes and to my Cousin Smithes wife of Ladoim [Ladonn or Ladomi?] late Saltman five powndes Item I give unto my Cousin Will[ia]m Boyffe [? could be Boysse – looks more like Boyffe to me] fortie poundes and tenn powndes in household stuffe of that remayninge unsold in my house at Cranbrooke. And this to bee paid him when hee discharges such bond or bonds as I shall at the time of my decease bee ingaged for him, if anie bee, and if nowe, then to bee paid within one whole yeare after my decease Item I give unto John Crumpe sonne of Thomas Crumpe to bee paid him within one yeare after my decease tenn powndes to buy him bookes with: And as concerninge one hundred pownds I receaved of guift of my brother Beacons  to goe towards mayntenance of a godlie Scholler sent from Canterbury to Cambridge for seaven yeares if hee so longe continued there, which accordinglie hath beene performed, yet notwithstandinge, if it bee conceived it was meant for ever I will my executor with my wife and Cousin Yonge  of Canterburie, that they see the said hundred pownd setled in such way as may bee most agreeable to my brothers will. And that my executor seeinge it soe to bee done pay the hundred pownds which I have receaved, And to paie five pownds a yeare to the use aforesaid till he paie it in or bee setled as aforesaid. Item I give to my brother Peeter Masters of Cranbroke tenn poundes and to his fower children Five powndes a peece to bee paid so soone as my executor shall have money in his handes, after my former legacies and debtes bee paid. Item I give to my Cousin James Bure of new England of Cousin lyne of new England to each of them fortie shillinges, and to Clement Bate and William Bachelor each of them five pownds, And to Edward Whitt, John Compton John Moore Thomas Bridgden, Goodman Beale that went from Cranbrooke and my Cousin Betts there, each of them twentie Shillinges a peece, and twentie pownds more to godlie poore in new England, to bee given by the discretion of my Mother and [p.4] Brother Stowe or their executors. this to bee paid next after my brother Masters: Also I give unto my executor Mr. Andrew Broughton all my parte of the hopp garden on my brother Swi= nockes land And all my parte of that Shipp and Stocke called the London, Mr. John London beeinge Maister of it, besides all his expences hee shall at any time or occasion lay out about this executor shipp by mee committed to him. Also if it shall happen my wife should bee with child when I dye, then my minde and will is that all legacies of my lands given in old England to bee voide and goe to my Childe whether it bee sonne or Daughter, but if it live not to the age of One and twentie yeares or to bee married then my mind and will is, that my legacies & guifts goe as aforementioned And if I should have anie Childe before or after my death, and this my will not altered, And that anie of my Sisters Children in new England shall seeke by anie meanes or device of law to trouble my executor or heire about any of my landes, that where either my brother Biggs or mine, that then or they attemptinge anie law shall make voide all his or their partes of landes given them in new England or other legacies in this my will And also to my brother Robert Swinocke I give a Stone pott with a guilded lidd And also to my mother Mrs. mother [mother-in-law by his first marriage] Mrs. Dorothie Maplisden, my brother Mr. Jervis Maplisden and his wife, my brother Mr. Nymion Butcher and his wife Mr. Robert Swynockes  wife Mr. Thomas Swynocke my brother in law also Mr. Wilson and his wife, and my brother Wildinge to everie of these fortie Shillinges a peece to buy them a Ring or such like for a token or remembrance And to Mrs. Marie Duke twentie Shillinges to buy a Sugar loafe All which legacies I desire to bee paid within a yeare or sooner, if my executor have money in his handes And further my will is that if there been besides my debtes paid and legacies given One hundred or Fiftie pounds spare, that if the Companie doe goe on againe of buyinge in of Imprepriations that my executor shall paie towards the furtherance of that pious worke within sixe monethes after it comes into his handes the said hundred poundes, or if not so much then Fiftie poundes if it been spare, out of my estate as aforesaid, And after this is performed if anie yet bee my will is that it shalbee equallie divided, one halfe to goe to ten godlie Ministers or Ministers wid= dowes, whereof I desire Mr. Elmeston of Cranbrooke whom I have forgotten in my will to have one parte, And the other halfe to bee given to such godlie poore Christians as my wife my Exe= cutor and Overseers herafter mentioned shall thinke fitt. And I intreate and appointe my lovinge freindes James Holden of Cranbrooke, Thomas Lambe of Staplehurst for to bee Over= seers of this my will and Testament and to bee aydinge to my executor by their advice and Counsell for the better performance of this my will and testament. And doe herby give to my said Overseers for their paines and trouble the sum[m]e of Five poundes a peece to bee paid within Sixe monethes after my decease. And it is my minde and will, that if mine Execu= tor shall die before my will bee proved, that then my two Overseers shalbee sole Executors & enjoy to them those two guiftes of my parte of the Hoppground, and my parte of the Shipp called the London as my aforenamed executor Mr. Broughton should have done. It is also my will and mind that if it shall happen at anie time herafter, that anie ambiguitie doubt or question shall growe or arise betweene anie whatsoever about the meaninge of this my will or anie parte therof by reason of the imperfection or defecte or or in anie wordes Clauses or Sentences in this my will, that then and for the further and better explana= tion therof and Construction of the said ambiguitie or doubt I will and ordaine that my lovinge freindes and Overseers aforenamed that they shall expound explaine and Interprett the same accordinge to their wisdomes and discretions and as shall seeme to them most agreeable to my minde and will. And the same so determined by them shall so stand and bee whatsoever may seeme to the contrarie in this my will. And further it is my will, that if anie whomsoever to whom I have in this my will given anie guift of landes legacies money or of goodes or the heires executors of anie of them doe attempte to goe about to doe anie acte or actes thinge or thinges for to aliene alter or discontinue this my will and testament, or anie thinge therin mentioned and shall refuse to bee ordered and not abide the awarde or order of my lovinge friends and Overseers afore= names, or of one of them, if it shall fall out, but one of them livinge when the doubte or [p.5] Question shall arise or the executors of them if that they bee all dead, if anie I saie shall refuse to bee ordered by him or them as aforesaid then it is my will and minde that the persons so attemptinge and refusinge to bee ordered as aforesaid that then and from thenceforth his, hers or theirs guifte or guiftes leagcie or legacies whatsoever by mee formerlie given to anie such shalbee utterlie voide and the same guiftes so formerlie given to anie shall remaine and bee to such person or persons in this my will mentioned, as if the person or persons so attemptinge were dead indeede, anie thinge before in this my will declared to the contrarie. Also I will that my executor and Overseers to see performed anie legacie or guift in my Brother Smalehope Biggs will late of Cranbrooke which shall not bee performed by mee before my death by reason of not beeinge due or forgotten, or also if anie thinge in my brother Beacons will which by reason of my wife ought by mee to bee performed about either the guift of a hundred pounds or the Remayndinge parte of a lease at Cambridge I desire them accordinglie to see it performed in what they shall thinke fitt in their consciences or by law by mee to bee performed. Also it is my will and minde that anie to whom I have given anie guiftes or legacies that if at time of my death they are indebted to mee or their husbands that they shall unsett that they owe mee, or so much as their legacie or guift comes unto. Also its my mind and will that anie charges my executor or Overseers shalbee att, at anie time about this my will, that it shalbee allowed them over and besides their guifte or legacie by mee given In witnes wherof I have to this my last will and testament conteyninge three Sheetes of paper putt to my hand to everie Sheete therof and my Seale to this last Sheete therof beeinge all written with mine owne hand and finished these seaven and twentieth daie of March one thowsand sixe hundred fortie & One. Per me John Bigg.
Unfortunately John Biggs will, together with that of his brother Smallhope, led to family disputes, between their nephews in New England. “Many and uncomfortable differences” arose between Hopestill Foster, son of their sister Patience and Thomas, Nathaniel and Samuel Stowe, sons of their sister Elizabeth. An instrument is recorded in September 1653 which had the aim of ending these differences. A few more particulars can be found in ‘Genealogical Gleanings in England’, p23.
The will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and is held at the National Archives. TNA ref: PROB 11/191/96 (more details about source on John’s page) Because my interest in John and his will is because he married a cousin, and he was not, so far as I am aware, a relation of mine in his own right, I do not plan to add a transcription of the will I refer to, that of his brother Smallhope. An abstract of it is available online here. This can be seen on microfilm or ordered from the Canterbury Cathedral Archives or the Kent History and Library Centre in Maidstone. References (from the East Kent wills index, now in a new section on the Canterbury Cathedral website): Bigg, Smallhope of Cranbrook, will made: 1638, probate: 1638; reigster copy ref: PRC32/51/115, original will ref: PRC31/108 B/1