Probate in Lancashire


When a person dies, probate is the act of proving a will, or if none has been made, deciding who will adminster the deceased's estate. Since 11 Jan 1858, this has been a civil process, but before that date, it was dealt with by ecclesiastical courts.

In order to determine which ecclesiastical court is likely to have administered probate for an individual, you need to know where they lived or where they held lands. It is not a process of determining the county, but initially the diocese. The diocese of Chester was created in 1541, and this is the diocese for most of Lancashire. The diocese of Chester was split into archdeaconries which held their own ecclesiastical courts.

N.B. The court in which the will is proved may not be the one covering the area in which a person lived. In depends on where they held property, and if that was in more than one area covered by the lower courts, probate will be proved by one of the higher ones. So start looking in the court covering the area where they lived, but also check the higher courts as well.

Archdeaconery of Chester

The Archdeaconery of Chester in Lancashire, comprised the area south of the River Ribble, as well as two chapelries in Yorkshire, Saddleworth and Whitewell. All the surviving records for this area are held at the Lancashire Record Office.

They consist of three series:

  • Supra wills, where the deceased's estate was valued at over £40.
  • Infra wills, where the deceased's estate was valued at less than £40.
  • Diocesan wills, where probate was disputed and legal action take.

Indexes to the wills have been published the Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire. N.B. An index entry does not guarantee that a will has always survived.

1545-1620S21781-1790S & I44
1590-1665I521791-1800S & I45
1621-1650S41801-1810 (A-L)S & I62
1660-1680S & I15 & 631801-1810 (M-Z)S & I63
1681-1700S & I18 & 631811-1820 (A-L)S & I78
1701-1720S & I201811-1820 (M-Z)S & I79
1721-1740S & I221821-1825S & I107
1741-1760S & I251826-1830S & I113
1761-1780 (A-M)S371831-1833S & I118
1761-1780 (N-Z)S381834-1837S & I120

There are no printed indexes for the period 1837-1858, but there are manuscript indexes for this period at the Lancashire record Office.

Archdeaconery of Richmond

The Archdeaconery of Richmond comprised the part of Lancashire north of the River Ribble, and parts of Cumberland, Westmorland and Yorkshire. It was further subdivided into deaneries. Boroughbridge, Catterick and Richmond were known as the eastern deaneries, and their records are deposited in the West Yorkshire Archive Service in Leeds. The western deaneries, which are either wholly or partly in Lancashire, comprise Amounderness, Copeland, Furness, Kendal and Lonsdale. Their records are held at the Lancashire Record Office.

Indexes to the western deaneries have been published by the Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire.


The History Department at the University of Central Lancashire have been working for several years on an index of the wills from the Archdeaconry of Richmond, covering the deaneries of Amounderness, Copeland, Furness, Kendal and Lonsdale. These deaneries cover parts of the ancient counties of Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire and Yorkshire. Some of this has been funded by the Friends of the Lancashire Record Office, some by the Kirby archives trust and some by the Curwen archives trust. The index covers 35,000 wills, 1749-1858.

A searchable index will be available free of charge eventually, but in the meantime, Dr Andrew Gritt would be happy to do searches for individuals if they send him a stamped addressed envelope, or contact him via email.

Dr Andrew Gritt
Department of Historical and Critical Studies
University of Central Lancashire

Archdeaconery of York

The Lancashire township of Aighton, Bailey and Chaigley was in the Yorkshire parish of Mitton, in the Archdeaconery of York. The original wills are held at the Borthwick Institute.


A peculiar is a place exempt from the jurisdiction of the bishop in whose diocese it is situated. There were two of these in Lancashire.

The peculiar of the Manor of Halton

The Halton records are deposited at the Lancashire Record Office, and indexes have been published by the Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire.


The peculiar of the Dean and Chapter of York

The parishes of Broughton, Kirkby Ireleth and Seathwaite were under the peculiar jurisdiction of the Dean and Chapter of York. The records are held at the Borthwick Institute.