September edition of the Staffordshire Archives & Heritage Update

Staffordshire Archives and Heritage
Through the Eyes of a Child - Ancient High House


Welcome to the September edition of the  Staffordshire Archives and Heritage Service e-newsletter. 

The latest touring exhibition from the Museum Service is open at the Ancient High House in Stafford. 'Through the Eyes of a Child' explores childhood past and present through work, education, and play. The exhibition continues until 27 October. Admission free. 


Probate documents

Probate: A Mystery Uncovered

Last month we discovered the treasures that can be found in the probate of those long dead but what about some of the mysteries that can also be uncovered? Have you ever come across someone who appears to have two probates?  In our searches on Find my Past we came across one such example for a lady called Catharine Spurrier, who died in 1808 in Marston upon Dove, Derbyshire.

Catharine left a will that went through probate in 1808 and then there are Letters of Administration that are filed in 1816 – How could this happen? On closer inspection we find that the original will is marked with the words “This Will was Declared void by Sentence in 1814 which Sentence was affirmed on appeal to the Arches 1816” but what does any of this mean and how can we discover what might have happened?

Did you know that we hold a large collection of Cause papers (DocRef B/C/5) relating to cases from the Church Courts. When a will was disputed a court case might be undertaken to prove or disprove the validity of the document. We searched the online catalogue at and discovered that there was indeed a court case as indicated by the will and delved into the vast array of paperwork, including inventories, witness statements and bills, left for us to examine. So what did we find out?

William Smith, the son in law of Catharine Spurrier acting on behalf of his daughter Ann who was next of kin, suggested that Luke Ashby, Catharine’s nephew, had coerced or pressurised Catharine to create the will whilst she was in a confused mental state. Luke Ashby was named as Executor and primary benefactor within the will and this was all being challenged. Although Luke produced a Doctor and the witnesses of the will who said she was of sound mind at the time the will was made, William’s argument appears to have been more compelling and he managed to convince the court, producing a number of witnesses (primarily Catharine’s servants or employees) who stated she was “childish and weak in her intellect” and “disordered in her mental faculties”. Luke made one last attempt to have the sentence overturned by the Court of Arches in London but his appeal was denied and the original sentence upheld – the will was now worthless! William Smith was free to file the Administration papers that would see his daughter Ann benefit from the full estate of Catharine and Luke Ashby was left to cover the extensive costs of court cases that appear to have stretched over at least 6 long years.

If you are interested in finding out more about this or other Testamentary Cases you can view these papers yourself at the Stafford Record Office. Would you agree with the findings of the court or would you have come to a different conclusion?

Perton Library History and Heritage Open Day

Join Perton Library as part of the Staffordshire History Festival celebrations on Saturday 6 October between 11am and 4pm. This family friendly event is the start of commemorations marking 100 years since the end of the First World War which are being coordinated by Perton Parish Council with support from Perton Library, Perton Church and local schools. There will be opportunities to research your family history, have a look at the Kitchen Goes to War exhibition and find out about local history. For more information email Perton Library 

Victoria County History Volunteers
Victoria County History Volunteers at the County Record Office

Updating the Victoria County History 

The Victoria County History of Staffordshire aims to write an authoritative history of the county from earliest times to the present day. The general articles are concerned with topics covering the whole county (for example the Staffordshire entries in the Domesday Book).  The rest deal with individual towns and villages within the area of the ancient county of Staffordshire before modern reorganisation. Fourteen volumes have been completed so far, the next volume will be published within the next year and will be on Tamworth.    

In addition we currently have a research project on the area around Uttoxeter which is run by Dr Andrew Sargent of Keele University with the support of volunteers at the Staffordshire Record Office on Wednesday mornings. Up to ten volunteers each week look through the wide variety of source materials published since the late-nineteenth century in the Staffordshire Record Society volumes. We will shortly be broadening our activities to look at many of the different kinds of  documents held at the record office, such as wills, manorial records, poor law union records, parish records, and anything else that enables us to build a picture of the communities living in and around Uttoxeter from the early medieval period into the twentieth century. For more information contact Dr Andrew Sargent 

The Museum Team moving collection items into the new out store.

Keep on Truckin' 

The Museum Collections are on the move again as we progress with transferring the ephemera and domestic life objects from the Shugborough site to the new out-store in Stafford. It was all hands to the pump as the Museum Team carefully wrapped, carried and loaded collections into the van. At the new store the items were unwrapped and placed in their new homes. They will now wait be fully inventoried so that that there new location can be added to our collections management system. After all the effort the team enjoyed a well deserved cup of tea and a breather before we start the next phase of the move in October!

Buy the Book! 

Con't forget our book sale in the reading room at  Staffordshire Record Office. There are lots of local history books about Staffordshire and some real bargains to be had, so if you are passing do pop in to see what we have on offer!

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