Wills and Probate


A 'Will' or testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his or her estate, executors, and provides details of how he or she instructs the executors to distribute his property at death.

Wills can give a great amount of detail on the life and family of the testator. Below are links to transcribed wills of people associated with Tharston.

Henry BUNN, (1724 - 1795) farmer - gives details about what types of farming the family were involved in and the marriages of three of the daughters.

James SEAMAN, (1799 - 1873) farmer - gives details about who owned the land farmed and listed all his children living at the time he made his will (also has a copy of the issue of probate)

More wills will be added as they become available and have been transcribed.


'Probate' is a term for applying for the right to deal with a deceased person's affairs. If the person who has died leaves a will one or more 'executors' may be named in the will to deal with the person's affairs after their death. The executor applies for a 'grant of probate' from a section of the court known as the probate registry which is a legal document which confirms that the executor has the authority to deal with the deceased person's assets (property, money and possessions). They can use it to show they have the right to access funds, sort out finances, and collect and share out the deceased person's assets as set out in the will. If the person who has died didn't leave a will a close relative of the deceased can apply to the probate registry to deal with the estate. In this case they apply for a 'grant of letters of administration'. If the grant is given, they are known as 'administrators' of the estate. Like the grant of probate, the grant of letters of administration is a legal document which confirms the administrator's authority to deal with the deceased person's assets.

The National Probate Calendar effectively forms an index to wills and probate records in England and Wales from 1858 onwards.

Below are two probate records for two people who have memorials in St. Mary's churchyard. Like these examples, the information usually contains probate date, full name of the deceased, death date, death place and the registry where issued.

  • 14 Jun 1880 Robert Green ABBS The Will with a Codicil of Robert Green Abbs late of Tharston in the County of Norfolk Farmer who died 25 March 1880 at Tharston was proved at Norwich by Elisha Barnes of Stratton St. Mary in the said County Baker the surviving Executor. Personal Estate under £200.
  • 23 May 1879 Ezra BRIGHT The Will of Ezra Bright late of Tharston in the County of Norfolk Farmer who died 4 November 1878 at Tharston was proved at Norwich by Eliza Bright Widow the Relict and Zachariah Bright of the Hamlet of Thorpe in the County of the City of Norwich Innkeeper the Brother the Executors. Personal Estate under £800.

Some people have been buried in St. Mary's churchyard who at their time of death did not live in Tharston. The probate records for these people can also give valuable insights into Tharston life and one is given below.

  • 18 Jan 1871 James BECKETT The Will of James Beckett late of Wacton in the County of Norfolk Farmer who died 27 December 1870 at Wacton was proved at Norwich by James Stanley of Hoxne in the County of Suffolk Farmer and Abraham Henry Bunn of Woodton in the County of Norfolk Farmer Executors. Effects under £4,000. Resworn at the Stamp Office June 1872 Under £5,000.

All the above information has been transcribed from The National Probate Calendar (NPC). Any other additional information on any of those named above will be gratefully received.

The NPC was created by the Probate Registry, which took control of proving wills and administrations in 1858. Before this, four different types of church courts dealt with these cases. A Principal Probate Registry was established in London in January 1858, and several district probate registries were created around the country, including Norwich. From then on, the registries oversaw all grants of probate and letters of administration.

A list of other probate records found so far are on a separate page.