The drawing is dated 1870, but is on a wrapper enclosing a will dating from the 1690s. So presumably the doodle was drawn by a slightly bored clerk working for the new York District Probate Registry, following the establishment of the modern High Court of Probate and District Registries system in 1858.
Do you recognise the location? Could this be York or Richmond, or is it simply an imaginery scene? Wherever it is, they must have very large spiders!
The Richmond probate documents at Leeds comprise over 66,000 wills and an estimated 132,000 individual sheets and membranes. The Richmond Archdeaconry, which in the Middle Ages lay within the Diocese of York, was transferred to Chester in 1541 and then straddled the Pennines. It stretched from the west coast of Lancashire, incorporated parts of Cumberland and Westmorland and extended eastwards into Yorkshire as far as the rivers Wiske and Swale and where it was bounded to north and south by the Tees and the Nidd. Administratively the Archdeaconry was divided into the Western
Deaneries of Amounderness, Lonsdale, Furness, Cartmel, Kendal and Copeland, and the Eastern Deaneries of Richmond, Catterick and Boroughbridge. Wills relating to the Western Deaneries are now held at the Lancashire Record Office, Preston. Those at Leeds were transferred from the York District Probate Registry in June 1957 and relate solely to the three Yorkshire deaneries.
Large numbers of probate inventories have survived amongst the Richmond probate documents, particularly from the 16th and 17th centuries. They provide a particularly intimate record of all but the very richest and poorest members of society, their household goods, farm and business stock and debts, and opening-up their family and social relationships. They relate to the whole range of local economic activity. The relatively high proportion of widows among the testators makes the wills
particularly valuable as a source for women’s studies, the inventories cast much light on the history of the surviving
vernacular buildings of the area and the language of the testators as recorded in their wills is invaluable to students of dialect. Other topics for which they are regularly used include family history, social mobility, population studies, trade and industry, agrarian and agricultural history.