Joseph Turner v Richard Markham, 1722

National Archives, C11/1998/58

This case from the Court of Chancery was brought by the doctor Joseph Turner (d.1741), who first appears in Winslow records in 1700 as the son-in-law of the previous doctor John Greene. Whatever the way in which he won the affections of John Markham of Little Horwood (the man whose will was being disputed), it seems that Richard Markham had no serious evidence against him. Turner must have won the case, as the will was subsequently proved and the manor court accepted the property arrangements in it. The case has been summarised below.

16 Jan 1721/2. Complainant: Joseph Turner of Winslowe Chirurgeon

John Markham of Little Horwood Yeoman deceased “being seized in Fee simple of a freehold Estate of lands and Tenements” in the parish of Little Horwood and seized according to the custom of the manor of Winslow of several copyhold lands and tenements in the said parish, “and Possessed of a Considerable Personall Estate” surrendered on 26 Aug 1719 according to the custom of the manor by Nicholas Merwin Gent. Steward all copyhold holdings “with Common of Pasture for One Yardland and a Quarter of One Yardland” to uses to be declared in his last will and testament.

He “intended by his Will to give and dispose of all his said Reall Estates” to Joseph “for whome he had a great kindnesse and the def(endan)t [Richard Markham] his Heire att Law haveing disobleidged him” and to charge thereon diverse legacies to his relations and friends.

He made his will in the words following [recites will]. Joseph “hath very good grounds and greate Reason to beleive that the said Testator continued in the same Temper and disposicion of minde all his life tyme after for that he to the Intent that the said Premisses should by Enjoyed Persuant to the said Will did some tyme after the makeing of the said Will and but a short tyme before his death” on 25 April 1721 out of court surrender by Thomas Curtis and William Heady all his copyhold estate and commons in Little Horwood to uses to be appointed in his last will and testament.

On 9 June following he died.  Elizabeth his widow possessed his personal estate and is entitled to all his real estate for her life.  Joseph is entitled to the reversion of all freehold and copyhold premises.

Now Richard Markham of Buckingham barber “who is Couzen & heire at law to the said Testator” “has contrived to defeate your Orator of the said Estate & for that Purpose layes a Clayme to the same Pretending that the said Testator had not Power by his said Will to Give & dispose of his said Reall Estate or that he did not duely Execute the said Will or that the same was not duely Attested or that he was not Compos mentis when he made the same or that he did not make any surrender of his Coppyhold Estate to the Use of his Will Though he knowes the falsehood of his Pretences”

John Markham “was very well satisfied with the disposicion of his Reall Estate”, Joseph “being a very Intimate Acquaintance of the said Testators & they used often to Visitt each other & the said Testator used often to stay att Your Orators [=Joseph] a Weeke or Fortnight att a tyme & often used to Expresse what a greate Vallue & Esteeme he had for Your Orator & his Family & the \said/ Testator often declared that he would not give the said Richard Markham anything by reason he had disoblidged him & that the said Richard Markham threatens that when the Witnesses to the said Will are dead that he will come & Contest the same and Evict Your Orator out of the said Estate”.

Richard’s pretences obstruct the execution of the will and payment of the legacies.

[f.2] Latin writ, signed on the back by J(ohn) Sandwell and [another] John Markham

[f.3] Answer of Richard Markham

John Markham at the time of his death was seised of freehold and copyhold estate in the parish of Little Horwood, and died at the beginning of June 1720.

Richard does not admit that John made the will and surrender “neither does he know what declaracions or Acts of Friendship passed” between him and Joseph.

Any will and surrender were not as the law requires, and Richard is heir at law as “Couzen of the whole Blood”.  He “does not know the said John Markham was displeased or Angry at this defendant [=Richard] in such a Manner as to carry his Resentment so far as to disinherit him”

The estate has been many years in their family.  He believes John “might sometimes visit the Complainant and his Family and sometimes make some stay there but doubts not but he made the Complaintant full satisfaction for such visits or Entertainments”.

He does not know John ever declared he would give his estate to Joseph, “neither can this defendant think or conceive the said John Markham was in his sences at the making of his said Will by his giving his Estate to a stranger when he had so near a Relation as this defendant that was living”.  He was “either not in his sences at his making the said Will and under a bad health of Body and Mind insomuch that he knew not what was the substance or contents of the said Will or at least was so imposed upon that he did not mind what was the purport or meaning thereof or at least was illiterate and did not Understand what the said Will meant or purported to be especially so much thereof as disinherited this defendant”

“the addition of such a number of small Legacies was done with the design only to give a Colour to the said Will”. The persons who prepared and executed the will imposed on John.

John “severall times before his death declared his good Intentions and kind promises to this defendant”.  If he ever said he would disinherit him, Richard “believes such Expressions were the Effect or Force of some causeless passion and not the sincere Intentions of his mind”.

The will was made by the contrivance of Joseph and his accomplices “which was brought ready for the said John Markham to Execute when the said John Markham was at the said Complaintants house or under the care or management of the Complaintant or some of his friends or Accomplices”.  The will “was the studied Contrivance of the Complaintant and his friends”.

Richard “behaved himselfe with all duty and submissive Respect” to John.

[signed] Richard Markham

[Latin] Taken & sworn 28 April 8 George [1722]

Copyright 28 May, 2018