Charles Willis, solicitor (1779-1845)

Charles Willis was baptised at Leighton Buzzard on 7 July 1779, son of David and Anna Willis, and died at Winslow on 15 Nov 1845 aged 66.  His father was a solicitor in Leighton Buzzard, and Charles established a branch of the family firm in Winslow in 1803 (he is mentioned in adverts by 18 June), the first representative of a family which had a huge influence on the town for the next century.  He had acquired his professional accreditation in 1800.

Northampton Mercury, 5 July 1800
Tuesday last Mr. Charles Willis, of Leighton-Bussard, Beds, was admitted an Attorney of his Majesty's Court of King's Bench, and appointed a Commissioner of the same Court and also of his Majesty's Court of Common Please, to take affidavits within the several counties of Bedford, Buckingham, Hertford, Northampton, and Huntingdon.

He lived at 24 Horn Street in 1841 (he may previously have lived at Western Lodge which became his son David Thomas Willis’ home).  The first house he lived in was advertised for sale in 1807 but the address is not given:

Northampton Mercury, 31 Oct 1807
To be SOLD by AUCTION
By JOSEPH DUDLEY,
On Thursday the 5th Day of November, 1807, at the Bell Inn, in Winslow, Bucks, between the Hours of Three and Five in the Afternoon, under such Conditions of Sale as will be then produced.
A Neat and compact Copyhold MESSUAGE or TENEMENT, with Garden, Wash-House, Stable, and other convenient Out-offices thereunto adjoining and belonging, forming a very desirable Residence for a small genteel Family, pleasantly situate in WINSLOW aforesaid, and now in the Occupation of Mr Charles Willis, Solicitor, who will shew the Premises.

The letter below was written by Charles Willis to his father in 1811, and apparently posted to him via St Albans. His father wrote back on the same paper in nearly illegible writing. The letter is about the Stewkley Inclosure Act of 1811. Click on the images to see larger versions and scroll down for a transcription.

Address of Willis letter Willis letter page 1 Willis letter page 2 Willis letter page 3

[Address]
Mr. D: Willis
Solicitor
Leighton Bussard
Turn at Saint Albans

[f.1] Hon(oure)d Father,
Mr. John Tomes of Claydon was with me last Night on his Return from Wing and seemed much hurt by having heard that he had so much displeased you that you would not assist him in ascertaining the quantity of Land &c he has at Stewkley and very justly observed if such be the Case he has no doubt but he shall be much injured no one knowing so much respecting his Property as yourself – he says he is not conscious of having offended you unless by refusing to sign for the Inclosure and his reason for so doing was having no money to defray the expences & well knowing the heavy Expence of borrowing as much hopes if that is the Offence you will pardon him and render him all the Assistance in your Power, he and his Uncle Mr Richard Roads are desirous of seeing you on the Subject and will be obliged by your fixing a Day for their coming to Leighton for that purpose and in the Interim that you will be kind enough to search among his Papers for the

[f.2] Terriar I some time since prepared and (if necessary) to see Mr. Chew and search among his Deeds for description &c of the Premises – Mr. King the Surveyor much wishes to be furnished with Terriar &c as soon as possible and for some one to attend him therewith and assist to in finding out the Property. I informed Mr. Tomes that I believed he had not offended you unless by refusing to sign as before stated and that you would think no more of that but would render him what assistance you could – Mr. Tomes further added that he mentioned the Business to Brother that he replied he knew nothing of the Business and did not offer to make any Inquiry or render him any Assistance which he thought very hard –
I beg your early Reply fixing a Day for these Gents waiting on you and believe me
Hond. Father
Yours most reverently
Char: Willis
We arrived Home safe and mutually join in sincere and hearty Wishes for all your Welfare –

[f.3 – crossings-out not transcribed, insertions indicated by \ / ]
D(ea)r Chas,
I am not offended with Mr Tomes for not signing for the Inclosure he had an undoubted \right/ to refuse if he did not like it but I do conceive no P(er)son more than himself englit[?] to have come forward for \it/ that his property might be ascertained but all advise was useless to \him/  I have put Money \in/ his pocket and wo(ul)d have put more wo(ul)d he have been advised  It is pretty certain of find(in)g me at Home be(ing) almost the same as confined & shall be glad to \see/ Mr Rd \Roads and/ Mr John Tomes  Seeing Mr Chew is useless  I send you Copies from the Deeds & in order to assist \Mr King &/ \Tomes/ have for sometime given \to Mr King/ a Terrier of all the Lands of his Old Paternal Au(n)t[?], that \late/ Ingrams & that late Shalfords & am ready to explain to him all I can but am \not/ able to go over the Fields.  I do not blame your Bro(ther) not offering his Assistance, offered Services are but seldom acceptable & particularly as Mr John Tomes is always grumbling & dissatisfied abo(u)t his Bill which is moderate & fair & if any professional Man says the Contrary & point it out to me I will return him Treble –
Mr John Tomes as [sic] a Terrier he had made by Paul Perkins – The Terrier Mr King has doth not include the Land occupied by John Tomes[?] of Stewkley.
I am Dr Chas Yours verily
DW June 16o 1811


David Willis sr died in 1818, leaving all his property to his wife Anna (National Archives, PROB 11/1609/443).  She died in 1820 by which time her sons David Lee Willis and Jeremy Willis were running the business in Leighton Buzzard.  She left nothing to Charles because he had already been “promoted in life” by his father (National Archives, PROB 11/1634/29).


Will of Charles Willis, gentleman, 1844 (proved 1845)

National Archives, PROB 11/2028/431

This is the last Will and Testament of me Charles Willis of Winslow in the County of Bucks Gentleman First I Give and devise unto my wife Elizabeth Willis all in that and those my copyhold messuage or tenement hereditaments and premises situate near the Church yard in Winslow aforesaid and which I purchased of Grant Harris with the appurtenances thereto belonging and all rent and arrears of rent that may  at the time of my decease be due for the same to hold the same and every part thereof unto my said Wife and her assigns during the term of her natural life and from and after her decease I Give and devise the same messuage or tenement hereditaments and premises with the appurtenances  unto and to the use of my daughter Anna Maria Willis her heirs and assigns for ever and I give devise and bequeath unto David Thomas Willis my oldest son and heir apparent all and every the freehold copyhold and (if any) leasehold messuages cottages closes lands tenements hereditaments estates and premises to which I shall at the time of my decease be intitled in possession reversion remainder or expectancy situate standing lying and being in the severeral Parishes of Winslow aforesaid Grandborough  Adstock and Little Horwood all in the said County of Bucks (except in the copyhold messuage or tenement hereditaments and premises in Winslow aforesaid hereinbefore specifically devised with their respective rights members and appurtanences to hold the same and every part thereof unto and to the use of my said son David Thomas Willis his heirs executors administrators and assigns absolutely according to the several tenures thereof subject and charged as herein after mentioned and I give devise and bequeath unto my son Frederic Willis all and every the freehold \copyhold/ and leasehold messuages cottages closes lands tenements  hereditaments estates and premises to which I shall at the time of my decease be entitled in possession

[p.2] reversion remainder or expectancy situate standing lying and being in the several Parishes of Swanbourne Padbury Oving Whitchurch and Stewkley and at Hollingden in the Parish of Soulbury  all in the County of Bucks and at Standbridge and in the parish of Leighton Bussard in the County of Bedford with their respective rights members and appurtenances and all rent and arrears of rent that may at the time of my decease be due and owing for the same or any part thereof to hold the same and  every part thereof unto and to the use of my son Frederic Willis his heirs executors administrators and assigns absolutely according to the several tenures thereof subject and charged as herein after mentioned and I give to my said Wife for her life a clear yearly sum of one hundred and fifty pounds sterling to issue as a rent charge out of the hereditaments estates and premises in the severeral Parishes of Winslow and Grandborough aforesaid hereby given devised and bequeathed thereto my said son David Thomas Willis and a life clear yearly sum of one hundred and fifty pounds sterling to issue as a rent charge out of the hereditaments estates and premises hereby given devised and bequeathed to my said son Frederic Willis which said two yearly sums shall be payable half yearly on the twenty fifth day of March and  twenty ninth day of September the first payment to be made on each of the same days as shall happen next after my decease with a proportionate part of the said annuities respectively up to the death of my said Wife and to be recoverable by her in like manner with rent reserved on common demises Also I give and bequeath unto my said daughter Anna Maria Willis the Mahogany Chest of drawers generally used by her and the bed bedstead furniture and effects in and about the room in which she usually sleeps for her own absolute use and benefit and unto my said wife all her wearing apparel trinkets and ornaments of her person of every kind and such of my household goods and furniture not hereby specifically bequeathed plate linen china and other household effects as she may make choice of for her own absolute use and benefit and I give and bequeath unto my said wife the legacy or sum of two hundred pounds sterling to be paid to her within three calendar months next after my decease and unto my said son Frederic Willis the legacy or sum of five thousand pounds sterling and I direct that the sum of one thousand part thereof shall be paid to him within twelve calendar months next after my decease, the sum of two thousand pounds or part thereof within two years next after my decease and the sum of two thousand pounds residue thereof within three years next after my decease also I give and bequeath unto my said daughter Anna Maria Willis the legacy or sum of one thousand pounds sterling to be paid to her within twelve calendar months next after my decease and in the meantime from and after my decease until actual payment of the said respective legacies or sums of five thousand pounds and one thousand pounds I direct that interest shall be paid and allowed to the said respective legatees for the same at the rate of four pounds per centum per annum and I give and bequeath unto each and every of my grandchildren who shall be living at the time of my decease whether already born or to be hereafter born the legacy or sum of one thousand pounds sterling to be paid to them respectively if and when they shall severally attain the age of twenty one years but without any interest for the same in the meantime also I give and bequeath unto my said two sons David Thomas Willis and Frederic Willis the legacy or sum of three thousand pounds sterling upon trust with all convenient speed to invest the aforesaid sum

[p.3] in the public funds in or on Government securities of the United Kingdom or on real securities in England and not elsewhere and to change the investment from time to time for any other or others of the kind prescribed and upon trust to permit my said daughter Anna Maria Willis to enjoy the annual income thereof for her life but so that in the event of her marrying my trustees shall during her coverture pay such account as the same shall become due and not by way of anticipation into her proper hands and for her sole use free from marital control for which payments her receipts shall be discharges to my trustees and after her death then as to the principal with the future income In trust for all or any of the issue of my said daughter including Grandchildren and more remote issue born in her lifetime  for such interests in such proportions and such manner in all respects as my said daughter whether covert or sole shall be by deed executed in the presence of and attested by one or more witness or witnesses or by will appoint and in default of such appointment in trust for the child if only one or for all the children if more than one of my said daughter who either before or after the determination of the previous trusts shall attain the age of twenty one years but no child in whose favour an appointment shall be made shall participate in the unappointed fund without bringing the appointed interest into distribution and in case my said daughter shall not have any child or children of if her child if only one or all her children if more than one shall die under the age of twenty one years then in trust for all and every of my children whether born in my lifetime or after my decease who shall be living at the time of the decease of my said daughter and who shall either before or after her decease attain the age of twenty one years in equal shares if more than one and I declare that my trustees shall have power to apply the whole or any part of the annual income of the capital to which each or any of my grandchildren being a minor shall be entitled in possession in or towards the maintenance or education or otherwise for the benefit of such grandchild during minority whether such grandchild being a female shall be married or not and the unapplied income shall be accumulated and the accumulations thereof shall be liable to be applied in like manner and subject to such liability shall be deemed accretions to the capital whence the same income arose and also power to apply any part of the capital to which each or any such grandchild shall be entitled in possession or reversion in or towards his or her establishment or advancement in the world but such application shall not be made during the life of my said daughter without her consent in writing which consent she shall notwithstanding coverture be competent to give and I give and bequeath unto my said son Frederic Willis for his absolute benefit all my shares estate and interests in the Winslow Gas and Coke Company with all dividends which may be due thereon at the time of my death and I give and bequeath unto my said son David Thomas Willis for his absolute benefit all the residue of my household goods and furniture my ready money and securities for money books and papers incident to my profession of an Attorney book debts credits and other personal estate and effects not hereinbefore otherwise disposed of subject to the payment of my just debts my funeral expences the charges of proving and establishing this my Will and the several legacies or sums of money hereby given and bequeathed or which I shall bequeath by any Codicil hereto and I give devise and bequeath to my said son David Thomas Willis and Frederic Willis their heirs

[p.4] executors administrators and assigns all the estates which at the time of my decease shall be vested in me upon any trust or by way of mortgage with their rights members and appurtenances to hold the said estates unto my said sons their heirs executors administrators and assigns according to the nature and quality thereof respectively upon trust to dispose of the said trust Estates in the manner in which they ought to be held or disposed of pursuant to the said trust and upon payment of the money secured on mortgage to convey or assign the Estates in mortgage to the person or persons entitled thereto for the time being but the money secured by or upon any such mortgages shall be considered and taken as part of my personal Estate and I declare that the provision hereby made for my said wife shall be accepted by her in full satisfaction of her claim to dower and freebench out of any real estate of which I have been or now am or shall be seized and I declare that if my said sons David Thomas Willis and Frederic Willis or either of them or any trustee or trustees to be appointed under this provision shall die or become unwilling or unable to act as trustees or trustee of my Will it shall be lawful for the trustees or trustee for the time being whether continuing or declining to act or if none for the executors or administrators or either or any of the executors or administrators of any deceased trustee to appoint any fit person or persons to be a trustee or trustees in the place of any trustee or trustees dying or seriously unwilling or unable to act and I declare that the trustees or trustee for the time being of my Will shall be competent to exercise all the powers and discretions hereby confided to the trustees herein named and I further declare that the trustees for the time being of my Will shall not be answerable for each others acts or receipts nor for losses happening without their own respective default and shall be at liberty to retain and allow to each other out of the trust monies all expences incidental to the execution of the trusts and powers of my Will and I appoint my said sons David Thomas Willis and Frederic Willis Executors of this my Will and revoke all former Wills by me made In witness whereof I the said Charles Willis Testator have to every sheet of this my last Will and Testament contained on four sheets of paper set my hand this second day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty four 

Char Willis

This sheet of paper and the three sheets hereto annexed were severally signed by the said testator Charles Willis in the joint presence of us who in his presence and the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses thereof
John Morecraft
W. H. Lindsay JP[?]

Proved at London 24th December 1845 before the worshipful Joseph Phillimore Doctor of Laws and Surrogate by the Oaths of David Thomas Willis Esquire  Frederic Willis Esquire the sons  the Executors to whom Admon was granted having been first sworn duly to administer.


Anna Maria Willis, Charles' daughter, made her will in 1852 (proved 1857), leaving everything to her brothers David and Frederic.


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