Will of William Henry French of Winslow and Ashford, 1899

Principal Probate Registry

BE IT KNOWN, that William Henry French formerly of Ashford in the County of Kent died on the 25th day of September 1899, at Ashford aforesaid,

AND BE IT FURTHER KNOWN that at the date hereunder written the last Will and Testament of the said deceased was proved and registered in the Principal Probate Registry of Her Majesty’s High Court of Justice and that Administration of all the estate which by law devolves to and vests in the personal representative of the said deceased was granted by the aforesaid Court to Henry Lewin French of Felixstowe in the County of Suffolk Grocer the Son and Sarah Jane French of Ashford aforesaid Widow the Relict of deceased and William Anders Adams of Ashford aforesaid Solicitor’s Clerk the Executors named in the said Will
Dated the 2nd  day of November December 1899
Gross value of Estate                     £4,652 -14 - 10
Net value of Personal Estate       £351 - 12 - 11

THIS IS MY LAST WILL & TESTAMENT I revoke all former wills I appoint as my EXORS my son Henry Lewin French my wife Sarah Jane French & my friend Willm A Adams of Ashford Kent Law Clerk I bequeath £20 Twenty pounds each to my  exors & to my wife Rose Cottage Twyford nr Buckingham wh [sic] the plot of land adjoining thereto absolutely & also all & sundry the household goods & chattels now in Oak Villa Ashford I direct my exors to apply the residue of my estate at their entire discretion both as to principal & interest to the maintenance of a home in the first instance by my widow for herself during her life or widowhood whichever first may determine for our son Edgar Hubert during his infancy also for my daughter Mary Edith French for her life & after that said end has been in any way sufficiently served then my residuary estate is to be applied in such way and manner as my exors may see to be most fit & suitable for the benefit of my three children Carrie Wigley French Elsie Margaret French & Henry Lewin French all of my first wife should my widow remarry she is to receive in addition to her other bequests £200 Two hundred pounds in full quittance of my estate & I hope that she will bequeath all the means of which she may die possessed to our son Edgar Hubert dated this 19th day of January 1899 – WM HY FRENCH –
Signed by the said Testator Wm Hy French as & for his last will & testament in the presence of us both present together who in his & each others presence have hereunto subscribed our names as witnessess - F HUGHES HALLETT – J TURNER WELLDON

ON the 4th day of December 1899 probate of this will was granted to Henry Lewin French Sarah Jane French and William Anders Adams the Executors.


W.H. French died in Ashford aged 57, but he had been a prominent figure in Winslow for most of his life. He was born in 1842, the eldest son of Joshua Lewin French and his wife Martha, nee Perkins, and grandson of William French of Buckingham. The family business was grocery and ironmongery, and he and his brother (also Joshua Lewin French) must have decided to split it: J.H. French remained at 1 Horn Street as a grocer, and W.H. French in 1869 bought the property which became 3 Market Square and rebuilt it as an ironmonger's shop. He sold it in 1889 to his assistant George Hurlstone. In 1891 he was living in Horn Street at the house he called Ye Olde Tanyard (now Sunnyside).

In 1865 W.H. French married Caroline Wigley, sister of the auctioneer George Wigley. They were prominent members of the Congregational Church. Their children who survived infancy were:

Caroline died on 18 July 1886. W.H. French got married in London in 1895 to Sarah Jane George, born at Twyford in 1871, who was his housemaid in the 1891 census. Their son Edgar Hubert French was born at Ashford in 1897. Sarah was keeping a boarding house at Ashford in 1901.

W.H. French's death was reported in the Buckingham Express:

DEATH OF MR. W. H. FRENCH. – One of Winslow’s former public men, Mr. William Henry French, of the Old Tanyard, passed away on Monday.  Mr. French was at one time known all over North Bucks as the president of the Liberal Brotherhood, and was a very ardent politician, but in later years his views became changed and he took little or no part in politics or local matters either. For a number of years he was in business in the Market-square as an ironmonger and took then a very great interest in the fire brigade of which he was a very energetic captain.  On retiring he went to the Old Tanyard to live and then was more or less away at Ashford and Felixstowe. He had considerable property in Winslow, Adstock, Padbury and Grandborough, some of which he disposed of by auction last June.

W.H. French had extensive property in Winslow but was in financial difficulties when he died. His executors were pursued in Chancery by his creditors and he was trying to arrange the sale of his property with his brother-in-law George Wigley (see CBS, D/WIG/2/7/1899/11), including The Old Tanyard for which he still owed the £600 he had paid for it, 2 Horn Street (The Booteries) and 5 Market Square.

Before he made his actual will, French produced this very strange draft will which was preserved by George Wigley with the papers about the property sale (CBS, D/WIG/2/7/1902/22).

Unsigned draft will of William Henry French

This is my last Will & Testament written on 2 sheets. I revoke all former Wills I appoint as my Executors my Son Henry Lewin French my Cousin \Mr/ George Watson French & Mr M. A. Adams of Ashford Solicitors Clerk. I bequeath to each of these my 3 Executors £10 in some acknowledgement of their trouble. I bequeath to my Wife Sarah Jane my freehold house in Radnor Bridge Road Folkestone also Rose Cottage Twyford Bucks with the land adjoining the latter absolutely  I bequeath to my said Wife absolutely all the household furniture & properties of a personal kind now in Oak Villa 37 Kent Avenue Ashford.  I bequeath to my Sister in law Annie French now of Shelton near Stoke on Trent the stock in trade of the Glass & China Shop in new Rents Ashford known as Staffordshire House. I direct my Ex(ecut)ors to realize at their discretion all my estate in house & land in Buckinghamshire and in Kent & after paying my just & lawful debts & liabilities whether at Felixstowe or elsewhere to invest the residue for the joint benefit of my three Children under named.

The proceeds in rent or interest of my estate are to be equally divided annually for seven (7) years after my decease between my Son Henry Lewin & my Daughters Carrie Wigley & Elsie Margaret. My Son shall pay out of his Share for 7 years after my decease 21/- weekly to the maintenance of his Sister my second Daughter Mary Edith French  Seven years after my decease the unsold remainder of my estate shall be realized & divided equally among my three above named Son & two daughters & my Son shall out of his third share of my estate invest as much money for the benefit of his aforesaid Sister Mary Edith as will produce & yield to her maintenance 21/- weekly for her life

I have already given to my Son Henry Lewin considerable sums of money & I trust in his honor & his love & affection to all his Sisters that he will see them each & all free of want

The Trustees shall mortgage of such Bank doing such business such portions of my Real estate as may be most convenient as well as sufficient to secure the repayment of the loan in instalments of 6% per annum such instalments of 6% per annum to include & discharge both principal & interest in the course of the term provided by the actuarial Tables of the Bank.

All my Title Deeds not included in the above named mortgage are to be lodged with the same Bank for Safe custody only & the freeholds of those deeds the Trustees may sell should necessity arise or they may by arrangement with the Bank lodge these deeds in exchange for some more desirable to sell being held as security

The 3 Trustees named will take over from my Ex(ecut)ors my Estate thus mortgaged to the Bank & they will apply the rents of the said Estate to (1st) The payment of interest at the “Redemptive” rate of 6% per annum & then the balance is to be paid quarterly to my Widow throughout her life or Widowhood conditionally upon her giving residence & maintenance in her home to the application of one of my daughters i.e. to say firstly to Mary Edith French & should she not apply for it to Carrie Wigley French & should they neither apply for it then to Elsie Margaret French should they thus at any time or for any period request the same.  Upon Edgar Hubert reaching 16 (Sixteen) [written separately in left margin] years if not before I direct my Son Henry Lewin to be desired to do so as Managing Director of the Joint Stock business undertaking herein after provided to receive £100 on account of that Family Trust and to take Edgar Hubert as an apprentice to one or more of the trades carried on by the said Trusts hereinafter provided for 7 years or until Edgar Hubert is 21 years of age when he will be free to continue Service with the family trust or not as he may think fit

From the date of my decease until the redemption of Bk. Bk.  Mortgage The Felixstowe business is to be carried on by Henry Lewin \as/ a Joint Stock concern at such a salary as the business can sustain up to & not exceeding 10% on the cash taking & upon the redemption of the Estate by completion of the time payments

Whereas my Son Henry Lewin French of Felixstowe Ironmonger is possessed of No 101 High St Dover and freehold property in Padbury And whereas my daughter C.W. French is possessed of No 4 Farbrace Villas Ashford & whereas my daughter Elsie M French is possessed of Nos 1 & 2 Earlsworth Villas So: Willesbro: with a plot of land adjoining same & whereas the title deeds of the above properties are placed by way of security to London & Co: Bank Ashford & whereas the cash advanced thereupon is at use in the business of my Son aforesaid at Felixstowe to the amounts of £700 to the said H.L. French & £350 each to C.W. French & Elsie M. French & whereas I have bequeathed to \my/ said Son my real & personal Estate with remainders to his Estate in trust to be devoted absolutely to the conversion of the said business at Felixstowe all & singular into a co-operative Joint Stock Lim(ite)d L(iabili)ty Co(mpan)y the same to be constituted upon a basis of perpetual joint ownership & whereas I have bound my exors for ever bar all possibility of division or appropriation to individual use the property of the said Coy & whereas I desire my Son & ex(ecut)ors & trustees to be free to make such necessary modifications of the general plan as they find need for I have not included the hereinafter mentioned directions in my Will they are designed to show the plan which I am now setting in operation to attain the end I have in view

Name [written in left margin] The name to be Lewin French Limited  (Incorporated & registered under the  [extended blank space]  Act
(… on terms of Ch(ie)f Dir(ecto)r [written in left margin] The object to be the capitalization of the profits of the concern for the permanent consolidation & indefinite extension that employment may be assured to all the lineal & legitimate descendants of my Parents Joshua Lewin & Martha French late of Winslow Bucks as far as the said profits & the ensuing extensions of the business may furnish the possibility of
[a]nd so agree they may sell
[wh]hat benefit concern without individual profit or they may
ry trade of which sufficient members have knowledge [written in left margin]

The members of L.F. Ltd are to be of 4 kinds or orders being
1st Contributory members are those who in addition to their fully paid up membership of £200 have lent or advanced Capital to the Compy  Such members being A.H. French H. Lewin French C.W. French & Elsie M. French

  1. Contributory mem(ber)s
  2. Directing              d(itt)o
  3. Co-operative     do
  4. Probationary      do
  5. Cont(ributor)y mems

can bequeath or sell their interest in the concern under provisions of the constitution

Conty members may attend by proxy & vote so                                                [numeric list of membership kinds written in left margin]

These take interest whenever the means of same are acquired at the rate of 1% over the Bank of England rate in addition to the weekly wages they take for Services rendered
(The weekly wages of Conty & Directy members will at the outset have to be pooled as far as possible  to meet housekeeping expenses)
No conty member can withdraw his or her capital unless the members of the Committee concur in the step as being more advantageous to the prospects of the Coy than an extension of its operations & no conty members shall be called upon to receive his or her money out of the concern unwillingly and the contributory member must be paid out if at all upon the basis of the ascertained actuarial value of his share at the date of withdrawal

  1. Directing members. Those who hold £200 fully paid up stock & who conduct the operations of the concern (for wages under the control of the Chief Director) whether they are also conty membs or not

* The Committee will consist of the conty & Directy Members with the addition or representatives (elected by the entire membership at each annual meeting) to a number equalling that of  the  directing members alone [written in left margin adjacent to reference to Committee role on withdrawals]
* See Weekly wages &c [written in left margin adjacent to section 2) Directing members]

The Chief Director is to be the member who at the outset made the greatest advance of cash to the concern & he is to nominate his Successor to each annual meeting that the said successor may assume power immediately upon occasion & the Chf Dir is to have power to change his nomination at any time & his nominee is to have absolute direction of the concern he is to have the obedience of every subordinate he is to be the sole referee touching any question subject to appeal to Committee & he is only subject to deposition upon the vote of 3/4rs in number & in value after such vote has been 3 times recorded in the course of one year

He may depute his successor or another [text breaks off]

Chancery case against the estate

National Archives, J15/2481/3942

In the High Court of Justice
Chancery Division 1900 F No. 1167
Mr Justice Cozens Hardy               At Chambers
Mr Godfrey Regr
Thursday the 8th day of November 1900

In the Matter of the estate of William Henry French deceased
Between Edward Worsfold Mowll and Henry Martyn Mowll on behalf of themselves and all other the unsatisfied Creditors of the above named William Henry French deceased.                 Plaintiffs
Henry Lewin French Sarah Jane French and William Anders Adams            Defendants

Upon the application of the Plaintiffs by Originating Summons dated the 10th of  August 1900 and upon hearing the Solicitors for the Applicants and for the Defendants and upon reading Probate of the Will of William Henry French granted on the 2nd December 1899 to Henry Lewin French Sarah French Jane French and William Anders Adams and an affidavit of Henry Martyn Mowll filed the 2nd of November 1900 and the exhibit HMMd therein referred to.
It is ordered that the following accounts and enquiry be taken and made that is to say

  1. An account of what is due to the Plaintiffs and all other the Creditors of the above named Testator William Henry French.
  2. An account of the Testator’s funeral expenses.
  3. An account of the Testator’s personal estate come to the hands of the Defendants the Executors of his Will or of any of them or to the hands of any other person or persons by the order or for the use of the said Defendants or any of them.
  4. An enquiry what parts (if any) of the Testator’s personal estate are outstanding or undisposed of.

And it is ordered that the Testator’s personal estate be applied in payment of his debts and funeral expenses in a due course of administration.
And in case the Testator’s personal estate shall be insufficient for the payment of his debts and funeral expenses It is ordered that the following further enquiries and account be made and taken.

  1. An enquiry what real estate the Testator was seized of or entitled to at the time of his death.
  2. An enquiry what Incumbrances (if any) affect the Testator’s real estate or any and what parts thereof.
  3. An account of what residue to such of the incumbrances (if any) as shall consent to the sale hereinafter directed in respect of their incumbrances.
  4. An enquiry what are the priorities of such last mention incumbrances.
  5. And it is ordered that a sufficient part of the Testator’s real estate to make good the deficiency of the Testator’s personal estate or if necessary the whole of such real estate be sold with the approbation of the Judge free from the incumbrances (if any) of such of the Incumbrances (if any) as shall consent to the sale and subject to the incumbrances of such of them as shall not consent.

And it is ordered that the money to arise by such sale be paid into Court to the credit of this Action “Re French Mowll v French 1900 F.1167 proceeds of sale of real estate” subject to further order and if such money or any part thereof shall arise from real estate sold with the consent of the Incumbrances the money so arising is to be applied in the first place in payment of what shall appear to be due to such Incumbrances according to their priorities.

The further consideration of this Action is adjourned and any of the parties are to be at liberty to apply as they are advised.

[Illegible signatures of plaintiffs' and defendants' lawyers]

Copyright 10 January, 2020