Robert Purse of Ash 1599

Husbandman of Ash Parish, Surrey – In debt and concerned for his Family

Note that there were two men called Robert Purse in the Ash area in the 1500’s. One was this man, a Husbandman of a leaseholder of a property called Kings Inhams and the other Robert Purse was a freeholder of a property called Purses who died in 1593.

What We Know about Robert Purse

Kings Inhams: this was a 20 acre farm within Cleygate Manor which was partly in Ash and partly in Worplesdon parishes: “1593 David Woodroffe (Lord of Cleygate Manor) leased a close called Kings Inhams, 20 acres, to Robert Purse, husbandman of Ash, for 21 years”. A close meant an enclosed property; in other words, a farm.

  • Robert was a ‘Husbandman’ meaning a farmer with a modest amount of land which was usually leased from the Lord of the Manor, and used to support his family;
  • His wife may have been Joan Simmons of Worplesdon whom Robert Purse married 16 November 1572 in Worplesdon;
  • The following children of Robert Purse were baptized in Ash Parish Church from 1573 to 1586: Dorothy, Joan (died as an infant), Elizabeth, Lawrence (pre-deceased Robert), Robert, and Thomas;
  • Here is the record of Thomas Purse’s baptism in 1586 written over 400 years ago with a quill pen on vellum made from animal hide!

Robert Purse became ill and on 5 December 1599 he called in a scribe and witnesses and he made his will

In the name of God Amen, the fifth day of December 1599 and in the 42 year of the Reign of our most gracious Sovereign Lady Elizabeth by the grace of God of England, France and Ireland, Queen, Defender of the faith. I, Robert Purse, the Elder, of the Parish of Ash in the County of Surrey, Husbandman, do make and ordain this my Last Will and Testament in manner and form following.

The Debt: First, my will and mind is that all my goods and chattels shall be sold by my overseers within 21 days after my decease for the payment of my debts which are these:

  • I owe unto George Clifton of Worplesdon £3
  • I also owe unto John Butt of Worplesdon 11 shillings
  • I owe unto Thomas Smyther of Worplesdon £5
  • I owe unto Robert Russell of Pirbright 60 shillings
  • To Harry Jewer of Ash aforesaid 6 shillings 14 pence
  • To Master Heydon 50 shillings

The Family: I give and bequeath unto Thomas Purse my youngest son £5 of lawful money of England and also I give and bequeath unto my two daughters my Lease of King’s Inhams. All the rest of my goods moveable and unmoveable, my debts paid and my Legacies performed, I give unto Joan my wife

The Technical Details: My wife Joan to be my whole executrix. I do desire Robert Manory and my brother Thomas Purse to be my overseers and they to have 5 shillings a piece. Witnessed hereunto John Butt aforesaid and Richard Slater.

Robert Purse dictated this will to a person (perhaps Richard Slater) in Ash who was literate and the scribe wrote 3 characters at the end ~ probably to represent the marks of Robert and the 2 witnesses.

Administration was granted in Guildford by a magistrate to Joan Purse, Relict, 8 May 1600. This was an unusually long time for probate in that era. This may have been due to the need to authenticate the Will as it would have been considered unsigned as the 3 marks are not identified as belonging to which person.

Note: Transcript is rendered with modern spelling and punctuation for ease of reading.

Robert Purse’s burial: The entry in the Ash Register of Robert Purse’s burial in Ash Churchyard is carelessly written. The date looks like 3 but was probably 7 as Robert dictated his Will on the 5th and ‘December’ is missing ‘m’:

Ash and nearby Parishes
  • George Clifton 1570 to 1653: Gentleman farmer of Whipley Farm (a freehold property in the manor of Cleygate). The Cliftons were a prominent family in the area and George was buried as Master George Clifton:
Master George Clifton was buried in Ash Churchyard 21 May 1653
  • John Butt, Yeoman of Worplesdon, was buried in Worplesdon 4 December 1613.
  • The will of William Smithe, Queen’s Porter, in 1592 shows what a small community Ash and nearby Worplesdon was: “my land in Worplesdon to my son Thomas with remainder to my daughters Ann, Elizabeth and Jane; to George Clifton, if he marries my eldest daughter Ann, my crops, paying to my daughters Elizabeth and Jane 40 each; to my son George, my furniture including (the) bed John Butt lies on”. George Clifton married Ann Smithe in 1592.
  • Thomas Smyther of Worplesdon, Yeoman, was buried in Worplesdon on 30 May 1623. His will was witnessed by George Clifton.
  • Robert Russell of Pirbright: 1576 Petition to Justices of the Peace “by the inhabitants of Pirbright against Robert Russell of Pirbright for being abusive to his neighbours, licensing inclosures on the common and attacking Robert Collier for rounding up Russell’s strayed cattle”. Robert Russell died in Pirbright in July 1608.
  • Harry Jewer of Ash: 1613 Cleygate Manor Record “The lane which led from Harry Jewer’s house”.
  • Master Heydon: possibly Michael Heydon who bought a freehold farm in Cleygate Manor called ‘Prestrede’ (Priest Ride) in 1613.
  • Thomas Purse: Thomas Purse was a ‘Sworn man and paid homage to Lord of the Manor’ in 1605 in Cleygate Manor records.
  • Two unnamed daughters were jointly left the lease of their father’s farm, probably as dowries; it was English custom that a lease could be passed down in the family but the transaction required the approval of the Lord of the Manor and the payment of a ‘fine’ (a fee) and a traditional act of homage to the manor owner;
  • Thomas Purse, Yeoman, brother of Robert, buried at Worplesdon 19 January 1618.
  • Robert Manory 1613 sold a freehold meadow called West Meade of four acres in Ash to George Clifton (gentleman) discussed above.

Select Sources:  

  • London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section, Clerkenwell, London, England; Reference Number: DW/PA/5/1600; Will Number: 42
  • Surrey History Centre; Woking, Surrey, England; Surrey Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: AS/1/1
  • Normandy Historians: information on Cleygate Manor at Normandy in Surrey (