Historical background

From 1796 legacy, succession and estate duty were payable on many estates in England and Wales over a certain value. Thus, copies of wills were sent from all around the country to the Inland Revenue Offices in London. However, actual copies of the wills which were subject to this duty survive only from 1812. Before this, between 1796 and 1811, the Death Duty Registers include only very brief abstracts of wills. (See also the introductions to sources DDR1 and DDR2.)

The Source (IRW)

Although most of the copy wills from 1812 to 1857 were intentionally destroyed by The National Archives some years ago, those for Cornwall, Devon and Somerset (from the major local probate courts in those counties) were preserved and sent to the respective county record offices, to fill some of the gaps caused by the loss through enemy action of locally held wills from those counties. The collection in the Devon Heritage Centre is known as the Inland Revenue Wills Series or the Estate Duty Office Wills.

DWP's editing process

Our set of IRW items has been created from the listing at the Devon Heritage Centre (Exeter) of their collection of Inland Revenue copies of Devon wills (dated 1812-1857) which were originally held in London.

Locating the source and acquiring copies

To obtain information about the possibility of viewing the documents listed, photographing them or acquiring photocopies of them by post, you should contact the Devon Heritage Centre, Exeter directly.

[A note from John Gauss: In fact images of the entire set are viewable free on FamilySearch.  If you select Search>Catalog>Keywords and enter ‘wills diocese exeter’, a list will appear and the first entry is Wills for the Diocese of Exeter (County of Devon), 1812-1857.  You will need to log in, which you can do by registering for free.  You’ll see a list of films covering names of testators in approximate alphabetical order.  The actual order of the wills is by the number as in your index, so, if say, you are looking for the will of Betty Avery IRW A 409, click on the camera icon by film number 1278809 and then you’ll find the wills arranged in number order with the number handwritten rather faintly on the first page of each.  On image 1661 you’ll just be able to read ‘A 409’ near the bottom left, and there follows the full-text copy of the will.]