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Gillingham Probate Inventories, 1715-1729


A study of the probate inventories for Strood, Rochester and Chatham was published in Archaeologia Cantiana, vol. 77, pp. 160-176: A. J. F. Dulley, ‘People and Homes in the Medway Towns: 1687-1783.’ For his analysis Dulley drew upon the Consistory and Archdeaconry Courts of the Diocese of Rochester, housed at the Centre for Kentish Studies. Similar material for Gillingham belongs to the Deanery of Shoreham and is kept at Lambeth Palace, so was not part of Dulley’s project. Transcriptions of these Gillingham inventories will therefore complete a survey of all the Medway Towns. We have used the microfilm copies at the Centre for Kentish Studies, but occasional blemishes prevent some lines and words from being read. The poorest people generally left neither will nor inventory, while the richest usually used the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (whose records are held at The National Archives). Even so, the Gillingham inventories show a remarkable cross-section of possessions from those apparently renting a single room to rich farmers with wealth in land, crops and animals. The dockyard workers naturally feature prominently. Probate inventories list personal possessions shortly after the death of their owner. They contain a lot of information about everyday lives and objects, and often give room by room descriptions of household goods as well as animals, crops and tools. The inventories were made by local men, often friends or acquaintances of the deceased. When these inventories were made the calendar year changed on 25 March. For dates between 1 January and 24 March inclusive, the convention of showing both years is used. Thus 9 March 1665 is expressed as 9 March 1665/6.

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