Sunday, 21 December 2014

A Suffolk Farmer

On a recent visit to the record office in Bury St Edmunds (a lovely town), I was able to look at and even hold Robert Mumford’s will, which was written in 1779.  Being a records manager, as well as a family historian, this was a very exciting moment – it is rare to get access to originals when so many documents have been filmed or scanned.  As a bonus, the will was very informative.

Robert Mumford was born around 1733 and was baptised 22 April 1733, in the parish church of Edwardstone in Suffolk, England.  He was the second son of George Mumford and his wife Catherine (nee Collins).  Robert was one of eight children, two of whom died in infancy; a typical family of the time.

I don’t know any more about Robert Mumford’s childhood, although my guess is that he had a good relationship with his three brothers, George, John and William.  I think Robert’s father George Mumford died in 1759 and was buried 27 January 1759, in Groton, which is a neighbouring parish of Edwardstone.

On 19 October 1759, Robert Mumford married Ann Sparrow by licence at Edwardstone parish church.  The witnesses were his older brother, George Mumford, and Richard Wright.

Robert and Ann had four children, Ann, Susannah (my ancestor, also known as Susan), Robert and Mary.  All four were baptised in Great Waldingfield.  Sadly, wife Ann died in August 1771 some months after their youngest child, Mary, was born.  Robert’s mother, Catherine, also died in 1771, so it must have been a difficult time for the family.

Robert Mumford was a farmer.  He acquire by means currently unknown to me, land in Whelnathan and a property called Sandfords in Great Waldingfield, both in Suffolk.

In January 1776, Robert Mumford married for a second time, to a widow, Elizabeth Lugar, of Acton Hall.  Unfortunately, this marriage didn’t last long as Robert died, aged only 48, in January 1781.

Oddly, Robert Mumford was buried with his first wife, Ann, rather than with his second wife.

Robert’s children were all minors when he died, so his property was left in trust to them.  His will names his brothers, a brother-in-law, Thomas Frost, and one John Brewster, who was a connection of Elizabeth Lugar.  Perhaps in a move that would seem unfair to modern sensibilities, Robert’s property included Acton Hall, his second wife’s house.  It was left to his son Robert, along with £200.  Altogether, Robert Mumford’s property was valued at around £300 – quite an impressive sum in 1781.

Another Robert Mumford of a similar age lived in the same part of Suffolk.  Until I had read Roberts’s will, with its list of relatives, I wasn’t certain which Robert was my ancestor.  I was very pleased to be able to solve this mystery.

Notes on Lineage: Me > Mum > Daphne Madge Smith > Esther Ilma Lees > Fanny Sarah Eliza Briggs > Henry Sparrow Briggs > Susannah Mumford > Robert Mumford


  1. Wow. What a find. That must have been awe inspiring to hold the will of your ancestor from so long ago. Interesting discoveries. I'm not so surprised that he was buried with his first wife - particularly if they had been together longer than he had been with his second wife. Yes it does seem a bit rough that his second wife lost her property. Thank goodness those laws have changed. I found your blog via Jill Ball's GAGs.

  2. The ownership of property strikes me as a possible avenue for further research. Does the will give any indication of the property tenure? Was it freehold or copyhold.

    If it was copyhold, all transfers of the land should be recorded in the rolls of the manor court, the Court Baron.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion, I haven't done much in the way of research of land records. It may be something for my next visit to the Suffolk Record Office.

  3. Thank you for sharing this Susan - I too am a descendant of Henry Sparrow Briggs and it is awesome to read your research.

    1. Glad it is of interest and helpful. I have written a few blogs about Henry and his ancestors, so I hope you have found the others. I have been in touch with quite a few of his descendants over the years.