Will and Inventory of William Cater 1690

On 19 July 1690, William Cater “of Great Munden” was buried in the churchyard at Little Munden. He had made his Will on 15 July and on 23 July, as was then required, two of his neighbours compiled a valuation and inventory of his property. The Will does not specify where he was living when he died but it was almost certainly High Trees.
The inventory shows that it was a substantial property with at least 10 rooms and several outbuildings and and William’s son John was undoubtedly in occupation of High Trees early in the 18th Century.
The Caters came to dominate Great Munden. By the late 19th Century, after a change of surname to Cooper, following inheritance by a son-in-law, the family were occupying High Trees, Mundenbury, Brockholds and Parsonage Farm. The vestry (ie the parish council) by then consisted just of the Rector and three members of the Cooper family.
William’s Will was a last minute affair: He signed by mark, indicating physical frailty, even though it can be assumed that, as a wealthy yeoman farmer, he could read and write (if not to spell and punctuate to modern standards). The Will is internally incomplete and inconsistent. It looks to me as if some lines were accidentally left out when the final version for signature was written. Nevertheless, it shows that he had a son, William, probably by a first marriage, who was by 1690 independent of his father. He also had four sons (John, Thomas, George and Robert) and two daughters (Anne and Jane) by his widow.
John, evidently the senior son, and his mother were named as his executors and duly swore probate at the Huntingdon Archdeaconry Court. Apart from his household goods, which went to his widow, he divided his moveable property equally among the six children. Interestingly. the Will specified that Thomas’s share was to be paid by his executors one year after William’s death, George’s share one year later and so on until Jane’s share five years later This undoubtedly reflected anticipated problems of cash flow.

The Inventory, set out in full below with a glossary, has a number of interesting features. No books, not even a Bible, are inventoried. If this was typical of yeomen farmers at that time it may explain the eccentric spelling. There were no dictionaries then and William and his neighbours, probably having learnt their letters from hornbooks or suchlike, would not have been subject to the discipline of the printed word.
There is a curious absence of cooking and eating utensils. I doubt whether William and his household ate off pewter, except on special occasions. And the kitchen would be the last place where I would have expected to find a chamber pot, or indeed a fowling piece. It may be that cooking and eating utensils were included in the “lumber” found in several rooms. Table cloths and napkins were, however, plentiful.
William had less than £10 in his purse when he died and no financial investments. This may not be surprising. Most rents and other major purchases and payments were at the quarter days.
At the time of his death the June quarter day had passed and by the Michaelmas quarter day the harvest would be in. Whilst some of the farmstuffs appearing in the Inventory may have been for his household’s consumption, most presumably would have been sold.
The Will does not specify or point to burial at Little Munden. My research suggests that the Caters were a Little Munden family who moved (in quite a big way) to Great Munden in the latter part of the 17th century. If so, William was taken “home” to be buried. That quite often happened at that time when people had moved from parish to parish.


Inventory of William Cater