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This week’s featured item is a transcription challenge!

This 17th century document appears to be a mortgage (*update – it is an Abstract of Title – more info below) for a property called Devonshire House for Dr. Nicholas Barbon from Mr. Sayer. Nicholas Barbon is known as one of the pioneers in the formation of the insurance industry in London. This document contains various dates, from as early as 1616, to as late as 1679.

The beautiful but unfamiliar 17th century handwriting is a challenge to read. There is also considerable fading and damage to the fragile paper. We are seeking help in transcribing part or all of the document. Contact us or leave a comment on this post to contribute your knowledge.


Frank Kelsall, Non-Executive Director, Architectural History Practice Ltd, London, has generously contributed a transcription of this document. We are still interested in further information about Nicholas Barbon and early insurance, so please continue to contribute!

(This transcription includes expanded contractions, modernized spelling and added punctuation and paragraphing to ease understanding.)

Devonshire House
Evidence of the Earl of Devonshire’s purchase and before
  1. 22 April 22 Elizabeth: A deed enrolled from Margaret Fisher etc to Edward Earl of Oxford in fee
  2. 10 December 31 Elizabeth: Copy of a sale from the Earl of Oxford to William Cornwallis and Lucie and her heirs, by partition between Archibold Earl of Argyle and Lady Anne his wife, coheirs of Lady Lucie Cornwallis, the capital messuage now in the tenure pf Sir William Cornwallis and a tenement over the back gate, and all conduits, pipes etc, are allotted to the Earl and Countess of Argyle and her heirs with agreement for a fine to Sir Anthony Maine etc
  3. Pasch [Easter] 8 James: A fine thereupon, Sir Anthony Maine plaintiffs etc and said Earl and wife etc defendants
  4. 15 March 7 James: A deed enrolled whereby Sir William Cornwallis being tenant by the ?curtileie? sells for his life to William Lord St John for the life of Sir William (inter alia) the capital messuage and a tenement over the back gate, and the conduits, pipes etc.
[where is No 5?]
  1. 25 June 1615: Copy of a deed enrolled in the Hustings from the Earl of Argyle and his lady to Sir Charles Cornwallis and Sir Edmond Withipole in fee
  2. 3 June 1616 14 James: A deed enrolled from Sir Charles Cornwallis and Sir Edmond Withipole to Anne, Lady Harrington, in fee, of the capital messuage etc, in tenure of Peter Morley and the, waterhourses, cisterns, pipes and conduits etc
  3. Michaelmas Term 14 James: A fine from Sir Charles Cornwallis and Sir Edmond Withipole to her.
  4. 3 June 14 James: A ?….? from the Earl of Argyle and wife to Lady Harrington.
The Lady Harrington makes a settlement in tail upon the Countess of Bedford, not produced but mentioned in the deed in 1619.
The Lady Harrington makes a settlement of the reversion upon Sir jJhn Croke in tail with power of revocation. Not produced but mentioned in deed in 1619.
  1. 6 July 1619: the Lady Harrington revokes a use in a former conveyance limited to Sir John Croke, after an estate tail in the Lady Bedford, and limits to the use of herself in fee.
  2. 7 July 1619. The Lady Harrington covenants to stand seised of the reversion expectant on the estate tail of Lucie Countess of Bedford to the use of said Lady Bedford in fee with power of revocation
  3. 1 October 18 James 1620: Edward Earl of Bedford and his Lady Lucie agree to levy a fine to Woodward and Lucas to the use of [crossed out: countess, inserted: ?…?] in fee
  4. Not produced. A fine upon the same as per note only. Call for it. Michaelmas 28 [?mistake for 18] James.
  5. 20 May 1622, 20 James: James Marquess Hamilton for £3000 purchases to himself and Sir Benjamin Rudiard and his own heirs from the Earl of Bedford and Countess, Woodward, Lucas, Sir Charles Mountague and Lady
  6. Trinity 22 James: A fine thereupon exemplified.
[16.] 11 June 22 James: A deed enrolled in BR [King’s Bench] for a £1000 [?something missing]from Edward Pye to the Marquess, [space] Earl of  ?…..? and Sir Benjamin Rudiard and the heirs of the Marquess of the premises which had been  conveyed by them to Pye 4 August 21 James 1623
  1. Trinity 22 James: A fine from Pye and his wife to the Marquess and Sir Benjamin Rudiard.
  2. 18 June 22 James: A mortgage from the Marquess and Sir Benjamin Rudiard for 99 years to Mr Strode for £2000.
  3. 17 December 1626 2 Charles: The assignment from Mr Strode for £2000 to William Earl of Devon.
  4. 3 January 1626[/7] 2 Charles: A bargain and sale for same £2000 and £2000 more of the inheritance from the young Marquess of Hamilton etcand the Countess of Bedford… [water damaged and not clear] …….. of the Earl of Devon
21 ..?? 1626. Acquittance for the £4000.
  1. Trinity 30 Charles: A fine from said Countess of Bedford now widow to …[not clear]
A Settlement by Act of Parliament: There was an Act of Parliament entitled An Act concerning the inheritance, freeholds and possessions of William Earl of Devonshire, whereof there is an inspeximus dated 4 July 4 Charles reciting, inter alia, that the Earl by his purchase to him and his heirs or to some other in trust for him and his heirs of the mansion house late called Harrington House now Devonshire House and tenements thereto annexed without Bishopsgate, and by building etc was indebted and other reasons for a settlement
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Devonshire House
thereof and other parts of his estate, whereupon it is enacted among other things
1. That the said Earl and Lady Christian his wife shall during their lives and the life of the longer liver of them hold and enjoy, inter alia, the mansion house and all buildings, orchards, gardens, yards and tenements with the appurtenances thereunto belonging in St Botolph Bishopsgate late called Harrington House and now Devonshire House and all other messuages, lands and tenements thereunto annexed or otherwise used.
  1. That after their deceases the same remainder and heir (i) Sir William Cavendish, Lord Cavendish, his son and heir apparent tail male (ii) Charles Cavendish the Earl’s second son in tail male (iii) the third son of said Earl (iv) every son of said Earl successively according to seniority in tail male (v) William Earl of Newcastle for life (vi) Charles Lord Man[s]field his eldest son in tail male (vii) the second son of the Earl of Newcastle in tail male (viii) every son of the Earl of Newcastle successively according to seniority in tail male (ix) Sir Charles Cavendish for life (x) his first and other sons successively according to seniority in tail male (xi) said William Earl of Devonshire in tail male heirs of his body (xii) the same earl in fee.
Shortly after the making of this Act the said Earl of Devonshire died, and in the year 1674 the said Lady Christian his Countess Dowager died, and the remainder of the said Sir William Cavendish, Earl of Devonshire, took place in possession
The purchase of Dr Barbon and securities for £6000 to the Earl of Devonshire..  [water damaged not clear]… and £1000 to Richard Mulys
4 April 1678: The Earl of Devonshire made a lease to Richard Newman  esquire and Roger Jackson gentleman for 500 years at a peppercorn as per recital 10 October 1678. Call for one part or a copy thereof
5 April 1678: Copy of an indenture, William Earl of Devonshire first part, Dr Nicholas Barbon second part, John Coates and John Bland third part and Nicholas Durrant fourth part, the said Earl covenants with Barbon to do and suffer such acts etc to convey and assure to Coates and Bland in fee the capital messuage now or late called Devonshire House, Harrington House or Fisher’s Folly in St Botolph Bishopsgate and the tenement over and near the back gate, formerly in tenure of the Countess Christian deceased, and all yards, gardens, grounds etc
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to said capital messuage belonging, and all the rights etc of the Earl to the waterhouse, cisterns, watercourses, conduits and pipes as Barbon his etc shall devise, to make Coates and Bland tenants for a recovery to be had by Durrant with voucher of the Earl and by him of the common voucher to uses, viz (i) to confirm a lease for 500 years dated yesterday from said Earl to Newman and Jackson and (ii) the corroborating of every grant, lease etc etc to be made by them or the survivor of him etc (iii) as to the freehold and reversion for the use of the said Earl and his heirs till Barbon his etc pay the Earl his etc £7000 with interest till it be paid (iv) and to the use of such and for such estates as Bartbon shall appoint (v) or in default thereof the use of Barbon in fee. Signed by all the parties.
Copy of indenture enrolled in Chancery between the Earl of Devonshire first part, Barbon second part, Coates and Bland third part whereby the Earl for £500 paid by Barbon and performance of covenants in 5 April, and for 5 shillings paid by Coates and Bland grants and sells to Coates and Bland in fee the said capital messuage or tenement courtyards etc waterhouses etc
10 October 30 Charles II 1678: a copy of an indenture, William Earl of Devon first part, Richard Newman and Roger Jackson second part, Dr Nicholas Barbon third part and Richard Mulys fourth part, recites an indenture of 4 April last int [between] said Earl first part, Newman and Jackson second part whereby said Earl bargained, sold and leased to them the capital messuage called Devonshire House or Harrington House or Fisher’s Folly in the parish of St Botolph without Bishopsgate London and a messuage over and near to the back gate of said capital messuage opening upon Hounsditch, formerly in possession of the late Countess Christian, and all courts etc belonging, and all the right of the said Earl to the waterhouses, cisterns etc belonging, with ingress etc to repair the same habendum [to have] from the date for 500 years at a peppercorn rent; and recites that Barbon did purchase of the said Earl the said capital messuage and premises and of the purchase money there is due to the said Earl £6000 and that Richard Mulys did at request of Barbon pay said Earl £1000 other part of said purchase money, whereby Barbon is indebted to Richard Mulys £1000; now it is declared that the 500 years is upon trust to secure the payment by Barbon his etc of the £6000 with interest to said Earl his executors or administrators, and afterwards £1000 with interest to Richard Mulys his etc; and reciting that before the date there accrued arrears due to the Earl for half year’s interest for £6000 .. [water damaged, not clear].. to Mulys £30 [water damaged].. interest for said £1000; now declared by all parties [?that if?] Barbon his etc pay to the Earl £6360, viz £180 10 April and £6180 11 October 1689 and to Mulys his etc £1060, viz £30 [on]10 April and £1030 [on] 11 October 1679 that then Newman and Jackson  their etc shall stand possessed of the premises in trust for Barbon his heirs and assigns, and assign to him or them as he or they shall appoint; and Barbon covenants severally with the Earl and Mulys to pay said sums accordingly free of taxes, and Barbon to receive the rents until default; it is covenanted by the Earl that Newman and Jackson their etc may make such leases of parts as Barbon shall direct so as such the rents of such leases amount to the yearly sum of £550 or more.
Call for counterparts of leases.
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Devonshire House
The recovery is not produced. Call for it or copy [space] of 2 messuages, 2 tofts and 3 acres of land [space]in the parish of St Botolph.
Dr Barbon’s mortgage to Mr Hayes
3 and 4 December 1679. A lease for a year and a release in fee between Nicholas Barbon first part and John Hayes second part, the release recites the indenture of 10 October 1678 and therein the indenture 4 April then last past; and recites that the said £6360 and £1060 were not paid, and that Barbon has pulled down the said capital messuage and has built or is building thereupon several messuages; and recites that Hayes has lent the said Nicholas Barbon £1500 towards carrying on the same and thereupon Barbon for said £1500 grants, sells and releases to Hayes in his possession being all that the site, soil and ground whereupon the said messuage or mansion house etc lately stood, and the house at the back gate, and all houses etc upon the site etc built and building or to be built habend [to have] in fee, the covenants except the leases for 500 years and leases made to Newman and Jackson not exceeding 61 years in pursuance of the covenants in said quadripartite indenture, Newman and Jackson to stand trustees to secure £1545 to Hayes after the payment of the £6360 and £1060 with interest, or proviso to be void by payment of £1545 on 5th May next
11 March 1679[/80] An endorsement recites that Hayes has lent Barbon £300 more and agreed that said £300 with interest shall by the premises be secured to Hayes.
Endorsement: Abstract of the Earl of Devon’s title to Harrington alias Devonshire House, with Dr Barbon’s title derived from the Earl of Devon

The document is an abstract of title, not a mortgage. Abstracts were made when someone wished to sell or mortgage property to show that the person was entitled to sell or mortgage it. This document is almost a textbook example of the complexities of 17th century conveyancing; and the dating is a mixture of calendar (some when the year end was 24 March), regnal year and legal term.

The document adds to what we know about Barbon’s development of what became Devonshire Square, long since demolished, quite apart from what it says about the earlier history of the site. It looks from this that Barbon  was proposing to sell or mortgage again property of which he had not yet paid the purchase money and was already substantially mortgaged. This document takes the story up to 1680; at one time it was proposed to add the development to the endowment of his fire insurance company in the early 1680s but this didn’t happen. John Hayes was probably Barbon’s brother-in-law.  – Frank Kelsall

Side 1

Nicholas Barbon mortgage side 1

Side 2

Nicholas Barbon mortgage side 2