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Appleby History > Alan Roberts > 18th Century Inventories

Transcripts of Early 18th Century Appleby Farming Inventories

by Alan Roberts


The following transcripts of twenty four Appleby probate inventories from the Leicestershire Record Office archdeaconry court archives from 1700-1750, provide an intimate view of domestic life and work in the parish in the early eighteenth century.

The first ten inventories, from 1700 – 1725, set out below mainly represent the farming inhabitants, particularly the established and prosperous middling farmers - men styled yeomen or husbandmen by their neighbours - although some were obviously retired yeomen and one of the inventories belonged to a woman. John Wathew may have been a retired blacksmith as the Wathews were prominent horse breeders and blacksmiths in the parish in the late 1600s. Mary Veale had a few possessions, including cooking utensils, some coals for the fire and a lantern. Most of her wealth was in clothing and ready money, so we might imagine her as an elderly widow or spinster.

It is apparent from the lists of goods in storage and in the yards that the parish produced a great diversity of farming produce, particularly peas, oats, dairy produce and livestock. Some of the farmers had apple orchards, grew flax, or kept bees for honey. There is growing evidence of improved farming technology in the appearance of wagons and carts, and the facilities for brewing ale, cheesemaking and cloth production. General stores or “shops” were also beginning to appear in the village, alongside the traditional workshops for blacksmiths and wheelwrights. One of the farmers, James How, described by his appraisers as a husbandman, left two shops in Appleby (one a “working shop with a chamber over it”) with a great stock of general provisions, imported luxury items like tea and tobacco, sacks of sugar and hops, starch, soap, ironmongery and other provisions including “two casks of strong waters”. The inventory further reveals that he had another shop, stocked with similar goods, in Norton.

Some of the inventories provide particularly interesting details about the layout of houses in the village, listing the contents of the rooms, kitchens, parlors, storage cellars, and upstairs chambers. The inventory of George Wayte, described as a Gentleman, the resident Latin Master and Headmaster at the Grammar School, lists the contents of rooms which can be easily identified even today. George, who left books and paper in his study worth £20, probably occupied one of the upstairs rooms, sleeping either on the feather bed recorded in the Top Chamber or in the Chamber over the Parlor. We learn incidentally that there were four spinning wheels “in the chamber against the bays” and a plentiful supply of beer and ale in the cellars.

© Alan Roberts, 2002

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