posted on Jan, 4 2014 @ 09:10 AM
There is a document in my family’s possession which calls itself an Indenture. It records the sale of two properties in Mousehole, Cornwall, in
I think it’s worth sharing, because it also tells a story with human interest about the background of the sale.
The catch is that the story is not easy to read, without patience and perseverance. It is a solid block of text, with much legal repetition and not
much punctuation. I’m not sure there’s a single full stop in the entire document.
So this is what I’ll do. First I’ll tell the story I’ve gleaned from the document in my own words.
Then I’ll present the Indenture itself (which will take two more posts) so that anyone who wants can move from one to the other.
I’ve added paragraph breaks, for the sake of readability, but I’ve made no other changes.
In the first paragraph, we learn that the Indenture is being made on December the first, 1828, involving Martin Wright of Mousehole(who is a
fisherman), John Dingle of Pelynt (who is a farmer) with his wife Charlotte, and John Reynolds of Penzance (who is a “writer”). We will later
learn that John Reynolds is purchasing the properties from the others.
“Whereas by Indenture…”. The next two paragraphs begin explaining the background. By an earlier Indenture in 1820, Benjamin Houghton assigned
certain properties, securities, and household goods to Martin Wright and Isaac Pearce. These included two “messuages or Dwelling houses”.
“To hold the same…” In fact, as we learn in the fourth paragraph, he was setting up a Trust, with those two gentlemen as the trustees. This
Trust was to last for a period of ninety-nine years after the death of his nephew, another Benjamin Houghton. There was a Lydia Houghton who would
have entered into the calculation, but she was already dead by the time these words were being written. One of the conditions of the Trust was that
Benjamin Houghton senior would continue to enjoy and get the benefit of the properties which he was assigning, as long as he lived.
“And from and after his death…” The other main condition was that after his death the two trustees would take sums of money out of these effects
and pay them to individuals named in the earlier document, and then distribute what was left to the other people named. In other words, this was an
indirect way of making a will, with Martin Wright and Isaac Pearce acting as Benjamin Houghton’s executors. (Inconveniently for us, this document
doesn’t repeat the details of the distributions.)
There followed a series of deaths. Isaac Pearce died, so he drops out of the picture.
Benjamin Houghton died in June 1828. The 1820 Trust was probably intended to include most of his property, and he did not make any other will.
However, his brother Charles Houghton was given rights of “administration” to deal with any of his goods that happened not to be included in the
earlier Trust. The law likes to make sure loose ends are tied up.
Charles Houghton himself then died, a few months later, “in or about the month of September” . That is a very sad phrase, suggesting such an
isolated life that nobody was even sure of the exact month of his death. He did leave a will, leaving everything he had (which must include whatever
he inherited from Benjamin) to Charlotte Dingle. My best guess is that Charlotte Dingle was Charles Houghton’s daughter.
My theory is that Charlotte was also the main intended beneficiary of the 1820 Trust. That seems to be the best way of explaining why her
“concurrence consent and approbation” was needed for the sale of the properties. It would also explain why this document bothers to recount the
Benjamin-Charles-Charlotte line of inheritance. The point would be that Charlotte receives the properties by both routes, so it does not matter which
“And whereas the said Martin Wright…”, carrying out his duties as trustee, “caused a public auction to be holden at the house of Anne
Pentreath, Innkeeper” in order to sell the properties, as a single lot. I love the way this elaborately written paragraph (or paragraph-long
sentence) ends with the glorious anti-climax of “consequently the same were not sold at the said auction”. The bids did not reach the amount he
was looking for.
It would have been good, incidentally, to know a little more about Anne Pentreath. She is probably the same person who signs as a witness under the
name “Anne Parker”, together with Peter Pentreath. It may be that Peter was her aged father or her brother, and she was popularly known by her
maiden name. Or he might have been her common-law husband, so that she took his name in popular usage. Or her son by a previous marriage. Either way,
it is Anne, not Peter, who is identified as the Innkeeper. I bet she was quite a character.
After the failed auction, Martin Wright and the Dingles made a private arrangement to sell the properties to John Reynolds, who was willing and able
to cough up the twenty-five pounds they were looking for. John is called a “writer”, and I think this means that he was a “law writer”,
employed by a legal firm in the preparation of documents. I hazard a guess that John himself drew up, or at least wrote out, the same document that
I’ve been transcribing. Certainly there doesn’t seem to be any other legal representative in the small party which gathered for the signing of the
Indenture, namely Martin, John Dingle, John Reynolds, and the two Pentreaths. Presumably they were meeting at the Inn again.
On the next page, the two main properties being sold are named as “Wingoes Cellar” (but I’m not absolutely sure about that “W”) and the
house “formerly known as Martin Cranchan’s house”. The rest of the document is the legal act of sale, going to great lengths to eliminate every
possible future doubt about the property rights which John Reynolds is acquiring. Although, strictly speaking, they only last for a period of
ninety-nine years after the death of Benjamin Houghton the nephew.
The end-results are;
Martin Wright has discharged his legal duties.
Charlotte Dingle and her husband have converted their inheritance into a useful capital sum.
John Reynolds has gained a nice little property portfolio just round the bay from Penzance.
“Proper job”, as my grandfather would have said.
And to anyone who would like to read the story in the original wording-
Please brace yourselves for the next couple of pages.