A CALENDAR OF WILLS PROVED IN THE PECULIAR COURT OF THE VICARS CHORAL AT EXETER (SOG)
Transcribed by Richard Grylls
Historical background and The Source (PECU1)
Our PECU1 source items provide a listing of wills and administrations proved or granted at the Peculiar Court of the Vicars Choral of Exeter, from the 1630s to 1857.
How and why the singing men in the choir at Exeter Cathedral came to have their own court is not known, but no doubt it provided a welcome extra source of income for them. Woodbury, the only parish which came under their jurisdiction, is a large one, not far south-east of Exeter. An average of about four wills/administrations was dealt with per year, though the court was certainly more active during certain historical periods, and relatively quiet in others. All the original wills were destroyed in the 2nd World War, so our set of PECU1 source items serves only to convey the information that such and such a person did in fact leave a will, now sadly lost. However, about 20 inventories have survived - they are listed in the source CATH.
DWP's editing process
The present PECU-1 listing was compiled predominantly from the list held at the Society of Genealogists, London, which is described here as the "SOG Version". This version is definitely a photocopy - rather faint in places. The original list from which the "SOG Version" was copied, in which testators and intestates are sorted by the first letter of their surnames and then listed chronologically, was presumably made in about the 1860s. It may still survive, but its present whereabouts are not certain. Another list of the wills proved in the Peculiar Court of the Vicars Choral, an original document, is held at the Cathedral Archive in Exeter, the "Cathedral Archive Version". This list is less complete, not covering any wills or administrations after about 1790. Furthermore it does not include a good number of items which were inserted 'late' into the "SOG Version", but by the same clerk. Presumably another small collection of wills and administrations had just been found. Furthermore, the opportunity may well have been taken when compiling the later version to correct errors in the earlier version. However, in some instances the shorter "Cathedral Archive Version" may well be more accurate than the later "SOG Version". The latter appears to have been copied from the former, and there are almost certainly a number of places in the "SOG Version" where the clerk miscopied details from the "Cathedral Archive Version".
Our set of PECU1 source items is an attempt to amalgamate the best elements of the two sources. The more substantial differences between them are recorded in the notes column.
Locating the source and acquiring copies
The original wills do not survive, so there are none to copy. The Society of Genealogists, 14 Charterhouse Buildings, London EC1M 7BA (email: genealogy[at]sog.org[dot]uk) would no doubt (for a fee) provide copies of pages from the index.