The will of John Ackelande Esquire of Landkey

Date of Will: 3 September 1538

Transcribed by Debbie Kennett

The ACLANDS are one of the oldest families in Devon. The name first appears in the records in 1155 when Hugh de ACCALEN is recorded as owning land in Landkey. Acland Barton was the family seat for almost five hundred years. The present house was built in the fifteenth century and remodelled in 1591. It is now a Grade I listed building. Anne ACLAND, the author of "A Devon Family: The Story of the Aclands" (Phillimore, 1981) comments that "we know little about the medieval Aclands except the bare facts of marriage, death, and the transfer of property which are contained in attested pedigrees and the scanty legal documents which survive". It is clear, however, from the Subsidy Rolls of 1524-7 that John ACLAND was one of the wealthier landholders in Devon. In 1524 John ACLOND [sic] headed the list of taxpayers in Landkey parish with an assessment of goods to the value of £66 2/3. In 1526-7, again in Landkey, he was assessed as holding land to the value of £60.

Surprisingly there is no pedigree for the ACLAND family in the early Heralds' Visitations of Devonshire in 1531 and 1564. The 1620 Visitation contains an unsigned 13-generation pedigree commencing with Baldwin ECCELIN some time in the twelfth or thirteenth century together with two short pedigrees of the later generations signed by the then representatives John ACLANDE and Baldwin ACLANDE. Sir William POLE, who died in 1635, provided an alternative pedigree in his "Collections towards a Description of the County of Devon" published posthumously in 1791. Anne ACLAND provides a third version of the pedigree on the endpapers of her book which was published in 1981, though the early part of her pedigree seems to be largely based on the 1620 Visitation. It would appear that none of these writers were aware of the existence of the present will and I find it impossible to reconcile the contents of the will with the published pedigrees. From reading the will it is apparent that John ACLAND was the son of Baldwyn and Joan ACLAND. All the pedigrees seem to agree that Joan was the daughter and co-heiress of William PRIDEAUX of Adeston in the parish of Holbeton. We know from the will that John's first wife was called Elizabeth. POLE suggests that she was Elizabeth, the daughter of Thomas HEXT of Kingston. Anne ACLAND and the editor of the 1620 Visitation have inserted an additional generation in their pedigrees. They both claim that John married Elizabeth FORTESCUE, the daughter and heiress of John FORTESCUE of Spriddleston in the parish of Brixton, and that it was their son John who married Elizabeth HEXT. All three sources then show in the next generation the marriage of John ACLAND and Elizabeth CRUWYS. Clearly confusion has arisen with two Johns in succession (ie, son and grandson) marrying Elizabeths. By comparison with the will it is quite clear that there is a superfluous generation in the pedigrees shown by Anne ACLAND and in the 1620 Visitation but, in the absence of any reliable records, it is impossible to establish which John married which Elizabeth.

Curiously the published pedigrees make no mention of John's second marriage to Mary CRUWYS née FRAUNCEYS. Mary FRAUNCEYS or FRANCIS was the daughter of John FRAUNCEYS of Combe Florey, Somerset (who died in 1485) and Florence AYSHFORD of Ayshford in Burlescombe. There is a brass on the floor of the church at Combe Florey depicting Florence FRAUNCEYS with her two daughters, one of whom is believed to be Mary FRAUNCEYS. We know that Mary FRAUNCEYS married John CRUWYS in about 1490 as there is a document at Cruwys Morchard House dated 8th September 1490 in which certain lands are granted to John CRUWYS and Mary his wife "all being jointure and dowry of said Mary Cruwys". Mary had four sons by her marriage to John CRUWYS: William, Thomas, Edward and Anthony. Anthony was the founder of the Cornish branch of the family who have their own coat of arms and use the spelling CREWES. John CRUWYS appears to have died around 1515 but the precise date of Mary's marriage to her second husband John ACLAND is not known.

This transcription of John ACKELANDE's will is taken from Olive MOGER's typewritten manuscript "Transcript of Devonshire wills, 1600-1800". This volume was compiled some time before the Second World War and is now held at the West Country Studies Library in Exeter. The original will has not survived. It was one of the many Devon wills lost during the blitz of 1942 when the Probate Registry in Exeter was bombed by the Germans. I have taken the opportunity to include a translation of the Latin probate section which has kindly been provided by Martyn LOVEYS. The original transcription included two footnotes provided by "W.J." who presumably helped with the transcribing. I have included the two original footnotes together with some further explanatory notes of my own.

Proved 17 April 1539 in the Consistorial Court of the Bishop of Exeter by John Acland

District Registry of Exeter Consistorial Court of the Bishop of Exeter p.55 Landkey

Testamentum Johannis Ackelande armigeri parochie de Landkey pribatum coram magistris Johanne Blaxton in legibus Baccalario Comissario Devonie apud palacium domini episcopi exoniensis xviiimo. Aprilis anno domini 1539 per Johannem Auckelande Junioram cui iurato comissa est administratio & habet ad exhibendum inventorium citra advenienti Magister Anthonius Acklande & exhibivit inventorium non habentem summam totalem expressatam

The will of John Ackelande, esquire, of the parish of Landkey, was proved in the court of Master John Blaxton, bachelor of law, Commissioner for Devon, at the Lord Bishop of Exeter's Palace on 18 April1 in the year of our Lord 1539 by John Auckelande Junior who on oath was appointed administrator and to exhibit the inventory since Master Anthony Acklande came and exhibited it not having expressed the sum total.

(1 August)

In the name of God Amen.

The third day of September in the yere of our Lorde gode 1538 and in the xxxth yere of the raigne of oyr sovereigne Lorde Kynge Henry the eight I John Ackelande Esquyer being in my good and hole mynde & perfitt memorie Lawde be unto Almyghti Gode make & ordeigne this my present testament & last will of the dispercion of all my goo[d]s and catalls and hereafter foloweth.

First I bequeath my sowle unto Almyghti God my maker and redeemer & to the moste blessed Virgyn and lady Saynt Mary his moder & to all the holy company of hevyn & my body to be buryed in holy grave where yt shall please God.

Item I bequeath to saynt powle of Landekey iijs iiijd to be brought in upon the masse booke to be prayed for.

Item I bequeath to the mayntenance of a prieste to pray at Harpford2 xs. to be paid for upon the brotheredge booke.

Item I bequeath to the store of St. Jamys at Swymbridge to be prayed for xs.

Item, I bequeath to the store of Saynt Gregory3 xs. to be prayed for.

Item I will that Mary my wyffe shall have xl marks of lawfull money of England to th'intent that she have no further mellying as well with any parcel of the residue of all my goods and catalles as also with any mellying or clayming any goods or cattales that the said Mary my wyffe hade by the death of John Crewes esquyer late her husbande; and in case my said wyffe at any time hereafter be not contente but doo make or cause to be made any further buseness to put my cosen4 John Ackland to any vexation or trouble then I will that the said xl. marks of money shall remain to my said cosyn John Ackeland and to Anthony Ackeland and his children equallye to be divyded amongst them & c.

Item I give and bequeath to Margarett my daughter ij keene5 & yeaws & xxs. in money.

Item I will that the poor people of Landkey aforesaid & of Goodlegh have xxs. in brede to be deled at the moneth day to pray for me and all Christen sawlys.

Item I bequeath to Anthony Ackeland my sonne a goblet of sylver without a cover ij keen, x yewyss & vi sylver spoones, the whiche I boughte of Alice Symon.

Item I will that my executor shall cause a Trental of massys to be songe at the month ys day in the paryshe church of Landkey aforesaide.

Also I will that my executor shall cause an honest prieste to sing ij years in Landkey aforesaide for me & my fader Baldewyn, Joane my moder, Elizabeth my wiffe and John my sonne and for all Christen sowlys and the said priest to have vil. by the yere to finde hymself breade and wyne and waxe and for his clarke iijs iiijd.

Also I give and bequeath to Sir Richard Skynner parson of Goodlegh aforesaide xls. and a horse in valew of xxs to pray for me.

Also I give to Sir Harry Taper my goostly fader6 vjs viijd to pray for me.

The residue of my goods and catalls not bequeathed I give and bequeath to John Ackelande my cosyn and heire whome I make and ordeyne of this my present testament and last will hole executor to dispose of it for the health of my sowle as he may thinke best and most necessary by the counsel of the overseers unto the tyme that my saide cosyn John Ackeland be at his full aidge of xxi yeris.

And if the said John Ackelande my cosyn and heire dye before the aidge of xxi yeres than then [sic] I will the saide Anthony Ackeland and his children shall be my executors and the wiff of my said cosyn John Ackelande, yf he have any at the owre of his death then I will that she have the third part of all my goodes & catalls.

Also I will that the said Anthony Ackelande & Sir Richard Skynner shall be my overseers of this my present testament & last will to see this my last will fulfilled & performed & thay to have for there labor as ys afore rehersed.

In witness whereof to every part of this my will tripartite Indented I have subscribed my name with myne hande this witnesseth the said Richard Skynner & Sir Harry Tapper John Harwoode William Harwoode Thomas Yellande John Berrys parish clerke of Landkey aforesaide Thomas Somerwill and Thomas Estmonte.

Also I will that every one of these said witnesses of this my present will shall have iijs iiijd.

Furthermore I the said John Ackeland will the one standing coupe with a cover of sylver & gylt one goblet with a cover gilte & a dosen spoons of sylver of one suyte which I bought of one William Goldsmyth of Exeter at the brode yet there a chawleys of sylver with the patent or corporax a payre of vestments & a gret bell hangyn in the chapel at Acklande remain from heire to heire as implements for ever without any fraude or collucion thereof to be made as they or he that shall contrary this my last will thereof shall answere unto almyghti gode at the dredful daye of judgement.

Item I will that Elyn Ackland my cosen shall have one hundred marcs of lawful money of England for the preferment of her marriage provided allway in case the said Elyn dye before she be married then I will the said one hundred marcs shall remayne with my said cosyn John Ackelande.

By me John Ackeland.


1 Note that there is a discrepancy in the probate date shown in the Latin section (18th April) and that shown elsewhere in the transcription (17th April) (D.K.).

2 On 21 May 1379 Bishop Brantyngham granted a licence to the chaplain of Landkey to celebrate divine service in the chapel of St. Mary at Herford in Landkey. (W.J.)

3 Goodleigh church was dedicated to St. Gregory, and Goodleigh is afterwards mentioned. (W.J.)

4 At this time the word cousin was a very loose term meaning any close relation who was not a parent, child or sibling of the writer. It was often used to describe a nephew, niece, grandson or granddaughter. In this will it is clear that "my cosen John Ackland", who is later referred to as " my cosyn and heir", is in fact the testator's grandson. (D.K.)

5 Kine is an old word meaning cattle. (D.K.)

6 A ghostly father would have been the testator's confessor or some other religious adviser. In the 15th and 16th centuries priests were commonly called Sir. (D.K.)