Will of John Croft, clerk, 1714 (proved 1717)

Herts RO 154AW8

In the Name of God Amen I John Croft of Winslowe in the County of Bucks Clerke being Somewhat Indisposed in body and of sound and perfect mind and memory praised be Almighty God therefore and considering the Certainty of Death and the uncertaine tyme thereof doe this Thirtyeth [blank] day of July Anno D(omin)ni 1714 make and Ordeyne this my last Will and Testament in manner and forme followeing (that is to say) First and principally I Com(m)end my Soule into the hands of Almighty God my maker hopeing through the merritts Death and Passion of Jesus Christ my Saviour to be made pertaker of Everlasting life And my body I Com(m)itt to the Earth to be decently buryed at the discretion of my Executrix herein after named And as for such Temporall Estate as itt hath pleased Almighty God to bestowe upon me I Give and Dispose thereof as followeth  Impr(im)is I Give Will Devise & bequeath unto Hannah Snow my Daughter the Sum(m)e of One Shilling of lawfull money of Greate Brittaine to be paid unto her by my Executrix herein after named within One moneth next after my Decease  Item I  Give Will Devise and Bequeath unto Mary Sandham my Daughter the Sum(m)e of One Shilling of like lawfull money of Greate Brittaine to be paid unto her by my Executrix herein after named within One moneth next after my Decease  Item I  Give Will Devise and Bequeath unto Richard Croft my Sonn  the sum(m)e of  One Shilling of like lawfull money of Greate Brittaine to be paid unto him by my Executrix herein after named within One moneth next after my Decease  Item I  Give Will Devise and Bequeath unto John Croft my Sonn the sum(m)e of One Shilling of like lawfull money of Greate Brittaine to be paid unto him by my Executrix herein after named within One moneth next after my Decease   Item I  Give Will Devise and Bequeath unto the Right Reverend Father in God the Lord Bishopp of London for the tyme being the Reverend Archdeacon of St Albans for the tyme being and the Viccar and Church Wardens of the parish of Winslowe aforesaid in the said County of Bucks for the tyme being Nicolaus de Lyras Com(m)entarys on the whole Bible the Old Testament and the new in Six volumes in folio together with the Repertorium or Index which makes a Seaventh  And alsoe Pooles Synopsis Criticorum &c in novum Testamentum** in Two large Volumes in folio my poor Tribute towards a parochiall Library to be Contained in the vestry belonging to the Parish Church of Winslowe aforesaid forever for the use of Such Persons who shall resort thither to Consult the meaneing of the holy Scriptures  Item all the rest of my Goods Chattells and Personall Estate whatsoever and wheresoever not herein before Beqeathed I Give Will Devise and Bequeath unto Deborah my loveing Wife She payeing my Debts Legacyes and Funerall Expences And I doe hereby make and Ordeyne the said Deborah my loveing Wife full and Sole Executrix of this my last Will and Testament And lastly I doe hereby revoake and make voide all former Wills by me heretofore made and doe declare this to be my last Will and Testament In Wittnesse whereof I have hereunto sett my hand and seale the day and yeare first above written.

John Croft [signature]

Signed Sealed Published and Declared in the
presence of us who have hereunto subscribed
our names as witnesses in the p(re)sence of
the Testator
                                Mary Morris [signature]
                                Peter Goldsworth [signature]
                                Tho(mas) Ligo [signature]

[Probate at Winslow to Deborah Croft widow 7 June 1717 before Philip Stubbs archdeacon]


John Croft became Vicar of Winslow in 1684, and was also Vicar of Granborough. He is probably the John Croft, son of Edward of Tredington, Worcs, who matriculated at St Mary Hall, Oxford, in 1668, aged 16, and graduated MA from New College in 1675 (Oxford University Alumni). He was buried on 29 March 1716, so there was some delay in proving his will. His widow and daughter Hannah remained in Winslow after his death.

The children baptised at Winslow were:

Alfred Clear (Buckingham Advertiser, 8 March 1930), recorded a white marble slab in the Church with these inscriptions which he translated from Latin:

Nicolaus de Lyra, 1270-1340, Head of the Franciscan Order in France and author of the highly regarded Postillae perpetuae in universam S. Scripturam, the first printed commentary on the Bible.

Matthew Poole, 1624-1697, English non-conformist theologian. His best known work Synopsis Criticorum Biblicorum extended to five volumes in which he summarised the views of one hundred and fifty biblical critics.

Thomas Ligo was registered as an apprentice to Peter Goldsworth on 29 November 1711. Mary Morris (nee Hunt) was Peter Goldsworth’s sister-in-law. He married her sister Rebecca Hunt. Both were daughters of glazier William Hunt.

Verney Papers (CBS, M11/52 image 223)

Sir John Verney of Claydon House must have become involved in this dispute as a local JP. It apparently did not reach the Quarter Sessions. “Burrall” is William Burrell of Winslow, butcher (1629-1706), who received a pension as a Royalist soldier in the Civil Wars.  He appears several times in Quarter Session records.  The unnamed daughter was probably Elizabeth (1667-1724).  The Harrisons were probably John and Elizabeth, who had previously been involved in a church court case concerning William’s son Hugh.

[endorsed] 2 Jan(ua)ry 1702/3 Winsloe
Mr John Croft the Ministers letter a(bou)t Harrison & Burrell quarrelling

[address] To Sir John Verney Baronet
Sr John
Were you to see throw the eyes of our neibourhood, you’d see in Harrison and his Wife two continuall Brawlers Litigious & litle better then Incorrigible Rogues, notable fighters not for Honor but Money. For this reason they invaded Burrall unprovoakt, and warrant her for defending hir self or not compounding the mattor for a sum. Burrall has the repute of a civill maid, the Staff of her fathers age who but for a small pension of an Emerit Cavallier and his daughters industry, must either have starvd beggd or burthened the Parish. This dredfull batle was fought long ere Mr Lowndes came down, and might have bin adjusted then, but the Aggressor durd not venture his cause to be heard where his Character was known to well but you have trouble enough, I cease giving you farther, for I am
Y(ou)r Most Humb(le) Serv(an)t
J Croft

British Library, Add. MS 5840 f.199v

This undated letter from John Croft to Browne Willis of Whaddon Hall was copied by Rev. William Cole. Occasional conformity was the practice where non-Anglicans occasionally took part in Church of England services in order to avoid the legal disadvantages of being outside the Church.

Why ask you my Opinion of Occasional Conformity. Shold I speak out, I run the Risq' of Lapidation, yet were I silent you may tax me with Ungratitude. Don't hange me! Give me Leave to evade the Force of your Dilemma by telling a Story or two, ridiculous, deplorable, true & apposit.

When I was a Youngster in the University, the Buttery of N(ew) Coll: was robb'd of a great Quantity of Plate. A bouncing Reward detected the Thief, who was brought to Oxon, tryed & condemn'd there. Betwixt Sentence & Execution, the Wretch acknowledged to his Confessor, that in his long wicked Pilgrimage, he had watcht the Avenues of Chichester Cathedral with a pious Intent (no Doubt) to rob it. Nothing but occasional Conformity co'd qualify him for it. Thus prepar'd, he partook of the H. Sacrament, where lingering behind the Rest of the Communicants, he watcht how the Sextons bestow'd the Plate, & then perpetrated a consummate Sacriledg.

Methinks I heare som Papists say - Who now will trust the Secrets of his Soule to those Conducts which betray the Confessions of their Penitents? Let me play a Rowland against a Popish Oliver.

From the University I went beyond Seas. In my Ramble, we landed at Salmes, near Larnacha, 2 small Places on Cyprus. There was a small Latin Convent. I went to it: demanded Audience of the Prior; had it; good Food, better Wine, Discourse beyond all; & a propos, betwixt Mirth & Good-Manners, I askt the Holy Father (accosting him as one of the Congregacion de propaganda Fide) What Progress do's Chritianity make by their service among the Turks? He answered, That severall Greeks daily reconcile themselves to the Church Catholique Apostoliq Roman. I reply'd, The Greek Church is in the Maine a true Member of the Holy Catholiq' Church already; that bringing them over to the Roman Faith, is but an Alteration from one Sort of Christianity to another & rather begets a Schism amongst Christians, than adds to their Numbers. I sho'd be glad, q(uoth) I, to see any of them, who are bred Strangers or Enemys to the Cross of Christ stoop down to take it up. To which the pamper'd Monk [observe, this was his hospitable Host. W.C.] return'd, That severall Turks of the first Rank, doe give their Confessions daily to the Latin Fryars, frequently receive the Host of them, & in their Extremes the Holy unction, who yet reteine their Places & Profession of Turcism by Dispensation from the Holy See. These, or equivalent, I doe avouch to be the Words of the Monk, after Plenty of that which makes Men speak Truth. I offer'd to urge the Necessity of confessing the Faith; the Woes against Hypocrisy; Injunctions of Simplicity &c. He wo'd not heare me, but went on in a long Harang of his excellent Wine. And ther's no Hopes hardly of convinceing those mercenary Souls, who can convert Prevarication into such luscious Advantadges. They believe, & love to believe their Practise lawfull.

This extract is from another letter to Willis dated 10 Nov 1710 (f.202v).

Walking from Addington to Winslow, within the space of a Furlong from your first setting out, the path is cut well nigh at Right Angles by an ancient Roman Way. At the Point of Intersection stands an Elm, known by the Name of Drunken Tree : from whence to a Red House, newly erected in the Field, lyes Wallenford Way, so now called, (I had this Information from the late Sir John Busby) antiently called Via Gallena; as being the Road thence to Tripontium.  But the Field is now enclosed, the Way interrupted, & for the most Part swallowed up by the Grownds.

From Drunken Tree, the Foot Path, within a Land’s Length, crosseth a Ditch, continuously fed with running water goeing up the Stream, within less than a Furlong, towards Gallows Gapp, you come to the Source; which is now called Bed-Well Head. I am apt to think (give me Leave to be whimsicall) the Spring denominated from Prayer & other Acts of Devotion performed there.  The antient Heathens, (as your owne Reading, especially in the Poets, may suggest) did esteem their Fountains sacred to som Nymph, or that som Numen presided the Waters. This might be one Expedient facilitating their Conversion.  Acts 16.13 our Ancestors in the faith prayd & preacht to the People at such Places where Water was at Hand to initiat their Converts. The Heathen seeing the Rite perform’d, & hearing what glorious Advantages accrued to Baptism, no Doubt  wo’d be apt to ascribe it to the power of his Naiades. He being a stranger to the Power of God accompanying his Ordinances, might think the better of the Christian, as supposing him to agree with the Ethniq in this, that there was a Sanctity  in the Waters from this supposed Continuity of Principles (I conceive) the Christian might better be ordered, who wo’d not labour wholly to undeceive the Infidel, for his own Impunity sake: nay (give me Leave to conjecture) he wo’d Indulge the Ethniq in his opinion, That the Regeneration was wholly owing to the externall Use of Watters provided he wo’d let som Christian Martyr, Confessor, or Virgin &c. preside the Fountaine. Hence have we St. Winifred’s Well & so many Holy Wells at this Day. Hence Bed-Well- Head. This & several other Things I co’d name, began at first by Connivance, continued by Tradition at length confirm’d by the Popes, Councils &c became such a Hodge Podge of superstitions, balderdashing Heathenism with Christianity, that the Christian World called aloud for a Reformation. You see at this very Day, the Chinese Missionarys, to gaine the Natives to the Romish Faith, allow them to worship Confucius jointly along with the Holy Jesus. [continued under Biggin]

He also included this table of demographic events in Winslow and Granborough:

  1702 1703 1704 1704 1706 1707 1708
Winslow 7 12 1 4 4 2 2
Grenburrow 2 3 2 4 3 6 4
  Births. Christenings        
Winslow 28 45 39 36 26 38 29
Grenburrow 6 4 5 5 3 3 4
Winslow 30 31 30 34 17 19 19
Grenburrow 4 1 3 3 1 2 4

And this rather racy passage is from the same letter (f.203r).

More Kings of England than one have ben renowned for the C-Peice.  Som People, I grant, merely to be in the Court Fashion, & in Complaisance to the Prince wo’d call their Sons by his Name: but others sought Wealth & Honour by majestiq’ Deboachery, & wo’d bring their Wives & Daughters to the Royall Serallio, as freely as Ingots to the Mint, there to receive the Royall Impression.  So did the King nobilitat his Nation by (as our modern Virgil says) Scattering his Royal Image throw the Land: & as the Boy was the Stamp of the Prince, so he bore the Prince’s Name.  Hence have we so many Wills, Harrys, Edwards, Richards.  Philip was translated out of Spanish: Charles & James out of Scotch into English.  Some Stephens we have left still.  Robbin, a very frequent Name, I cannot account for: but John! scarce Gramercy, to the King of that name, is most in Vogue.  I must trace, for my own Honour, this Name from as high as the first BP. of Jerusalem: the Tutelar Saint, & Patron of the Knights Templars: who, as I have read somewhere, at their Dissolution, stood possest in England & Ireland, of above a Thousand Mannors.  These, at their first Institution, might live up to a strict Discipline, severe Chastity, & all the Christian & martiall Virtues of their Vow.  The first of them might lye cross-legg’d in his Bed, as well as in the Grave.  The Ladyes in those Days of Yore, seeing such lusty men, so well appointed for their Service, & yet disabled by their Vow, were vext with them, despised them, lookt on them as castrated (Sir, I speak what I know: I remember it as well as tho’ t’were but yesterday I was by:) but they durst not expresse their Resentments openly, against Men of such Power, Wealth & Honor; but implicitly, from a Community of Postures in the Person of the Taylor, the Ladys intelligibly banter’d the Templars, by the odious Title of the nineth Part of a Man.  Prick-Lows reteines it still: but to wipe off the filthy Scandall from that most noble Order, the Knights gave our Foremothers verry pregnant & frequent Evidences of their complete Manhood: & of what Sex soever the Child prov’d, still the True Father, in the Name of the Tutelar Saint, stood Godfather.  Every Boy was John, & every Wench Joane.

The Dominicans were pretty honest: I never knew above one Dominic in England: but the Franciscans certainly follow’d the Example of the Templars.  Franc is a frequent, common, doubtfull, Epicæn Name, or what else you please.  I cannot find that the Benedictine Monks of Biggin Farm ever unman’d their Patron Saint so far, as to make him stand Gossip for, & denominat a Girle.  Tho’ the ghostly Fathers might beget all the children in Greenburrow, only the Boys are Benedicts.  And as the Church of Rome is tenacious of her Traditions, so are Granburrow Volks of those Names; bastardly Names, derived from deboacht Monks, whorish Mothers, cuckoldly Fathers, & of those execrable Principles put in Practice, & infused into them by Cornelius Holland.

But how come I to leave out the Augustines?  since there are so many of that Name to put me in mind of them.

Copyright 27 October, 2023