Tuesday, 22 December 2015

The Last Will And Testament Of George Tutton

The last few weeks have not all been all about unpacking boxes and the trips to the tip, there’s been family stuff including my grandmother’s 118th birthday party, a tradition that began in the year of her death, 25 years ago.  Not for the first time, this year’s gathering brought rediscovered treasure, this time in the form of my great-great-great-great-great grandfather’s will, which, like the pages torn from a bible plundered during the Bristol Riots of 1831, were found by my cousin, Pam, amongst the papers of my late uncle, Meric.

Here’s a transcript of its content:

I, George Tutton of Othery in the County of Somerset do make this my last Will. First I give & demise unto my Son Edward Tutton for his natural life all that my Orchat in Puddle lane and after his Death to my Grandson George Tutton the Son of Edward Tutton to him his heirs and asigns for ever. Allso I give unto Ann Sautell one half part of any Houshold furniture and ten Pounds to be paid by my Exetators hear in after meneted and all my Tools _ Allso I give to my Daughter Hannah Whellar the Sum of thirty Pounds to be paid by my Exeitors. Allso I give to my Daughter Bride Gent the Sum of thirty Pounds _ Allso I give to my Daughter Tammey Barrington the Sum of thirty Pounds all of Good and lawfull Money of Great Britton to be paid by my Exeitors hear in after mentioned with in twelve Month after my Decess _ Allso I give to my four Grandsons that is George Tutton Whellar George Gent George Tutton and George Tutton Son of Edward Tutton the Sum of one Ginuea to barre me to ye Grave _ Allso I give to my Grandsons George Gent and Charles Gent all my Waring appariel equally between them _ Allso I give to all my Grandchildren the Sum of one Shillinge each to be paid __________ immeadetly after my Decess_ Allso I give to my to Sons George Tutton and Thomas Tutton all those my five Acors called the Common in Sedgsmore equal between them subject to all my Legiets to sell or keep whitch they think fit _ and I do hearby appoint my to Sons Thomas and George Tutton to be my hole and sole Executrix_ In Witness hear of I set my hand and seal this third day of Aprial 1821 _ George Tutton ___________ Signed sealed published and declared by the Testator as and for his last Will and Testament in the presents of us who at his request in his presents and in the presents of each other have subscribed our names as Witness there to ___ Wm Tucker ______ Elizabeth Tucker ______ Thomas Tucker

This agrees with the Original      Willm Parfitt Depi Reg

Underneath my cousin has added our line of descent:

George Tutton b 1740 – Last Will and Testament               died 1821
Edward Tutton b 1779 – died 1856
George Tutton b 1803 – died 1867  bap St Michael, Othery
Charles Tutton b 1835 – died 1921
Fanny Tutton b 1870 – died 1948
William (Jack) John Hill b 1896 – died 1953

What delights me, though, is not so much the content, though his bequests – and the way they’ve been recorded – are beguiling.  It is the revelation that he and his family lived in Othery, one of my favourite places on the Levels.

I visited Othery in 2008, while researching places associated with the Pitchfork Rebellion of 1658.  Mostly, it's the name I love. The suffix Y means island and is found in other place names round here, like Muchelney and Athelney. This harks back to when the Levels were the Summerlands and flooded every winter.  The 'Other' bit is presumably a stop-gap appellation that stuck:  ‘oh, you know, that other bloody island'. There might even be a hint of 'they eat their babies there, they do' about it.  

During my visit, I went into St Michael’s Church – again, the dedication points to the rise in the height of the land – and noticed the fine Green Man with his tongue sticking out, and the sculpture of the Archangel Michael himself, saving a bird’s nest from the dragon’s clutches. What I didn’t know is that George Tutton’s grandson, another George and my great-great-great grandfather, had been baptised there in 1803 – and that when George the Elder had been born there, 60-odd years earlier – the carnage of Pitchfork Rebellion would still have been within living memory.

I'm going to have to go back now, with fresh eyes, knowing that this landscape that's enthralled me so long is part of me. 

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