Will of Stephen Bigg the elder, postmaster, 1703 (proved 1704)

National Archives PROB 11/476/425

In the Name of God Amen I Stephen Bigg the Elder of Winslowe in the County of Bucks Postmaster being of sound and perfect mind and memory and of good health of body (all possible praise be given to God for the same But calling to mind the certainty of death and the uncertain time thereof Do this Eighth Day of October In the year of our Lord Christ One thousand seaven hundred and three And in the Second year of Queen Anne over England etc make and ordain this my last Will and Testament in manner and forme following (that is to say) First and principally I commend my Soul into the hands of Almighty God my Maker hoping through the merits death and passion of Jesus Christ my Saviour to be made pertaker of everlasting life  And my body I commit to the earth to be decently interred at the discretion of my Executor hereinafter named  And as for such temporal Estate as it hath pleased Almighty God to bestowe upon me I give and dispose thereof as followeth Impr(im)is I give will devise and bequeath unto Mary Bigg my loving wife yearly and every year during the term of her naturall life one Annuity or yearly sum(m)e of eleaven pounds of lawfull money of England (in lieu of her Thirds and in full recompence and satisfaction of her Dower and right in such Messuages Lands and Hereditaments as are or have been the Estate and Inheritance of me the said Stephen Bigg) to be paid unto her by my Executor hereinafter named by halfe yearly payments (that is to say) at Middsum(m)er and St. Thomas The first payment thereof to become due and payable at such of the said dayes of payment which shall next happen after my decease  And my will meaning and desire is that my Executor hereinafter named shall within one moneth next after my decease give Security unto the said Mary Bigg my Wife according to her good liking for the payment of the said Annuity as aforesaid  Item I give will devise and bequeath unto the said Mary Bigg my loving Wife All my household goods and implements of household Bedding Bedsteds Pewter Brass Linnen and Woollen whatsoever and also all my Firewood and Fuell whatsoever for the Fire to be delivered unto her by my Executor at the time of my decease  Item I give will devise and bequeath unto Richard Bigg my Eldest Son the Sum(m)e of twenty pounds of lawfull money of England to be paid unto him by my Executor within six moneths next after my decease  Item I give will devise and bequeath unto all my Grandchildren which shall be living at the time of my decease the Sum(m)e of two hundred pounds of lawfull money of England to be equally divided between them share and share alike to be paid unto them by my Executor hereinafter named six moneths

[p.2] next after the decease of the said Mary Bigg my Wife But if any or either of my Grandchildren which should be living at the time of my decease shall happen to depart this life before the said Legacy shall be due and payable Then I give will devise and bequeath the part and share of him her or them so dying unto such of them which shall be living when the said Legacy is due and payable to be equally divided between them share and share alike  And my will meaning and desire is that my Executor shall within six moneths next after my decease give Security unto Robert Gibbs my brother in Law Richard Bigg my eldest Son and John Spratley my Son in Law according to their good likeing and approbac(i)on for the payment thereof accordingly  Item all the rest of my goods chattels and personall Estate whatsoever and wheresoever I give will devise and bequeath unto Benjamen Bigg my Son paying my debts legacies and Funerall expenses and giving such securityes as aforesaid whom I make full and sole Executor of this my last Will and Testament  In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and Seal the day and year abovesaid.

Stephen Bigg

Signed sealed published and declared in the presence of us who have hereunto subscribed our names as Witnesses in the presence of the Testator.
Robert Gibbs   William Gibbs   Peter Goldsworth

Memorand(um) the within named Stephen Bigg not being minded to revoke this my last Will and Testament but alter only as is hereinafter menc(i)oned I do give and devise unto my very loving wife Mary Bigg and unto Ann Spratley my Granddaughter one Indenture of mortgage for fifty pounds and Interest dated the one and twentieth day of December last past made from Henry Emerton of Grandborough in the County of Bucks Yeom(an) and all the profit and benefit thereof to be equally divided between them And in case the same Sum(m)e shall happen to be repaid unto me during my life Then I give unto the said Mary and Ann the Sum(m)e of Fifty pounds to be divided as aforesaid and paid out of my personall Estate Item having given unto my said Wife one Annuity of eleaven pound my will is that my son Benjamin shall pay the same unto my said Wife and that my Copyhold Estate to him surrendred shall be a Security for the same Witness my hand and seal this seaventh day of March 1703.

Stephen Bigg

Signed sealed published and declared in the presence of us who have hereunto subscribed our names as Witnesses in the presence of the Testator

Nicho: Merwin   Richard Benbow   John Stone

[Probate at London 22 June 1704 to Benjamin Bigg, son and executor]


Notes

Stephen Bigg was buried on 12 April 1704. The will of his wife Mary (1648-1714) gives more information about the family. Stephen was bap. 25 June 1647, son of Christopher (d.1664) and Jane Bigge.

His children were:

give Security: According to Benjamin's will, this security was Benjamin's share of the Bell Inn. At the manor court in 1696, Stephen surrendered to Benjamin a messuage already partly in Benjamin's occupation "scituate in Sheepe Street, the Bell Inn on the west side". In 1698, Stephen acquired a half-share of The Bell.

Stephen Bigg the elder (so called to distinguish him from a brickmaker called Stephen Bigg who lived in the Market Square) was referred to as a blacksmith until 1695, and he produced ironwork for Winslow Hall in 1700, but he was postmaster in 1697 when he acquired a house in Horn Street. He seems previously to have lived in Sheep Street. In the same year he transferred to his son Richard in anticipation of his forthcoming marriage "the messuage scituate in Winslowe called The Swann now in the occupation of Thomas Paxton" and some land.

Stephen and Richard Bigg were farmers (i.e. private contractors who ran the service for a fixed payment and kept any profit) from 1693 of part of the London - Banbury - Chester - Holyhead post route from Edgware to Warwick (see the Amersham Museum website for more information). Winslow was not a post town at this stage, as the route from Aylesbury to Buckingham went via East Claydon (see Turnpike). The question of how a Winslow blacksmith acquired the very substantial capital which would have been needed to set himself up in such an operation is so far unanswered.

In January 1698/9 they were let off some of their payment:

Same to the Postmasters General to discharge Stephen Bigg and Richard Bigg from accompting for or paying the port of letters as follows on their paying their rent from the beginning to the end of their farm: it appearing that they are farmers for 3 years from 1687 [=1697] Lady Day of a Branch of the Post Office which includes several towns and places in Cos. Herts, Bucks and Warwick at a rent of 950l. for the first year and 1000l. for the second and 1000l. for the third year and are obliged by their contract to accompt to the General Post Office for the port of all letters coming from beyond sea or from Scotland to London for towns within their farm and they have represented that they did not apprehend the consequence of this when they took the farm and if obliged thereto shall be unavoidably ruined: upon which the Postmasters General reported the 6th inst. that the said farmers are accomptable for both the Country and Foreign port and that it will be a hardship to oblige them to it because in the computation by which they took that branch the Country and Foreign port were actually included and on examining the accompt it appears they will be considerable losers, and that without same the King receives more from the farm than was ever made of said branch and farther that the said farmers have been careful and industrious in the management thereof to the great satisfaction of the country. Warrants not Relating to Money XVI, p. 154.
Reference: 'Warrants etc.: January 1699, 16-31', in Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 14, 1698-1699, ed. William A Shaw (London, 1934), pp. 240-259 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-treasury-books/vol14/pp240-259 [accessed 28 May 2015].

But they were making enough to expand their activities to Lancashire:

7 June 1700. Treasury reference to the Postmasters General of the petition of Stephen Bigg shewing that he is willing to serve the towns and places near Warrington and Liverpool, Preston, Lancaster, Manchester and other towns in that precinct with their letters by a more exact and regular method than has hitherto been practised and therefore praying such a proportion of the increased advantage or return thereby as shall be thought reasonable. Reference Book VII, p. 386.
'Warrants etc: June 1700, 1-15', in Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 15, 1699-1700, ed. William A Shaw (London, 1933), pp. 364-380 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-treasury-books/vol15/pp364-380 [accessed 26 May 2015

1 July 1700. Treasury warrant to the Postmasters General to contract with Stephen Bigg for extending the post to several places near the stages of Warrington, Liverpool, Ormskirk, Preston, Lancashire and Manchester at a farm rent of 2526l. 14s. 5d. per an. for three years from him, which sum appears to be the neat profit of the postage of letters to and from the said towns for one year; for the first year he to have all the profit realised above the said rent, in view of his charge in settling several new stages; but in the second and third years to be accountable to the King for a third of such excess.
Prefixing: the Postmaster Generals' report on said Bigg's petition. Petitioner has been concerned for some years as farmer and manager of the Buckingham Branch which extends as far as Norwich and has behaved himself with great diligence, satisfaction to the people and encouragement to the revenue. The above extension will be of advantage to the revenue by reason the subject will be served more regularly and at less charge. Warrants not Relating to Money XVI, p. 385.
'Warrants etc: June 1700, 16-30', in Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 15, 1699-1700, ed. William A Shaw (London, 1933), pp. 380-395 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-treasury-books/vol15/pp380-395 [accessed 28 May 2015].

This new venture does not seem to have paid, and it was cancelled in 1701 (perhaps because of competition from the cross-post to Chester, as suggested by Herbert Joyce, The History of the Post Office (1893), 61).

4 June 1701. Treasury warrant to the Postmasters General to discharge and clear Stephen Bigg and Benjamin Bigg from their contract for the port of letters for Co. Lancaster and part of Westmorland upon their rendering an exact account of all moneys received by them for the port of letters from 1700 Sept. 29 to the present time. Warrants not Relating to Money XVII, p. 60.
'Warrants etc: June 1701, 1-15', in Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 16, 1700-1701, ed. William A Shaw (London, 1938), pp. 276-285 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-treasury-books/vol16/pp276-285 [accessed 28 May 2015].
Copyright 22 May, 2016