An extract from the forthcoming book ‘William Byrd: Some Notes’
William Byrd, composer and resident of Stondon Place, died on 4 July 1623.
His Will, a copy of which may be seen in the Vestry of St Peter and St Paul Church, Stondon Massey (with permission), reads as follows:
In the name of the most glorious and undivided Trinity, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, three distinct persons and one eternal God, Amen.
I, William Byrd of Stondon Place in the parish of Stondon in the County of Essex, gentleman, do now in the 80 year of my age, but through the goodness of God being of good health and perfect memory, make and ordain this for my last Will and Testament.
First: I give and bequeath my soul to God Almighty, my creator and redeemer and preserver: humbly craving His grace and mercy for the forgiveness of all my sins and offences; past, present and to come.
And that I may live and die a true and perfect member of His holy Catholic Church without which I believe there is no salvation for me. My body to be honestly buried in that parish and place where it shall please God to take me out of this life which I humbly desire if so it shall please God may be in the parish of Stondon where my dwelling is: And then to be buried near unto the place where my wife liest buried, or else where as God and the time shall permit and suffer. And where I have been long desirous to settle my poor estate in the farm of Stondon place according to an award lately made between Catheren Byrde my daughter in law and me by a very good friend to us both.
Which award we both gave our Christian promises to perform, but having been let and hindered therein by the undutiful obstinancy of one whom I am unwilling to name: do now ordain and dispose of the same as Followeth. First, the whole Farm to remain to my self and my assignees during my life; and after my decease, I give the same to my daughter in law Mrs Catheren Byrd for her life; upon the conditions following, viz: to pay Twenty eight pounds, fifteen shillings and fourpence yearly to mr. Anthony Lutor or his assignees for the fee farm rent. And to pay to mistress Dawtry of Doddinghurst 15 shillings yearly for the quit rent of Maleperdus freehold: Also to pay unto my son Thomas Byrde Twenty pounds yearly during his life: And to my daughter Rachel Ten pounds a year during her life. And the same payments to begin at the next usual Feasts of payment after the day of my death: And after the decease of my said daughter in law mistress Catheren Byrde and of the aforesaid lives: I give and bequeath the whole Farm of Stondon Place to Thomas Byrde my grandchild, son of Christopher Byrd my eldest son by the said Catheren; and to his heirs lawfully begotten for ever: And for want of such heirs of the said Thomas Byrde son of the said Christopher: I give the same Farm of Stondon Place to Thomas Byrde my son to his heirs lawfully begotten: And for want of such heirs: I give the Inheritance of the said Farm to the four sons of my daughter Mary Hawksworth wife of Henry Hawksworth gentleman as they are in age and seniority viz: First to William Hawksworth and his heirs lawfully begotten and for want of such heirs to Henry Hawksworth his second brother his heirs lawfully begotten, and for want of such heirs to George Hawksworth and his heirs lawfully begotten, and for want of such heirs to John Hawksworth the fourth son of the said Mary Hawksworth my daughter: And to his heirs lawfully begotten. And for want of such heirs of the four sons of Mary Hawksworth my daughter and her husband To William Hooke son unto Rachel Hooke my daughter and to his heirs lawfully begotten and for want of such heirs: To the right heirs of me the said William Byrde for ever: Item I give and bequeath to the four sons of Mary Hawksworth my daughter and her husband To William Hooke son unto Rachel Hooke my daughter and to his heirs lawfully begotten and for want of such heirs: To the right heirs of me the said William Byrde for ever: Item I give and bequeath to my daughter in law mistress Catheren Byrde and her son Thomas Byrde all my goods moveables and unmoveables at Stondon Place. And also all the woods and Timber trees wheresoever they are growing in and upon the said Farm: upon this condition only to see me honestly buried and my debts truly discharged, to which end and purpose; I do make and ordain Catheren Byrde my said daughter in law and Thomas Byrde her son whole executors of this my last will and testament. Item I give and bequeath unto my son Thomas Byrd all my goods in my lodging in the Earl of Worcester’s house in the Strand: And where I purchased a perpetual annuity or rent charge of 20 £ a year of Sir Francis Fortescue knight unto 200 £ be paid in which annuity I have given to Elizabeth Burdet my eldest daughter for her life: I do now declare how it shall be disposed of after my said daughter’s decease, first if my said son Thomas Byrde concur with this my last will and Testament and accept of his annuity according to the same: Then I give the one half of the annuity being Ten pounds a year or one hundred pounds if it be paid in: to the said Thomas Byrd his heirs, executors and assignees. And the other half of that annuity I give and bequeath to Michael Walton with marriage of his wife Catheren Hooke my grandchild for her marriage portion. Always provided that if my son Thomas Byrd do seek by law or other ways to disturb or trouble my executors and not agree to the same: Then I do hereby declare That my will and intention is: That the said Thomas Byrde my son shall have no part of the said annuity: but I do hereby give that part of the annuity That I had given to my son Thomas Byrd: to Thomas Byrd my grandchild to him and his heirs for ever.
And having now by the leave of God Finished this my last will according to the true meaning of the said award and our Christian promises: I do now by this my last will and Testament utterly revoke and annul all former grants, writings and wills as far as in me lieth whatsoever is contrary to this my last will and Testament:
In witness thereof I, the said William Byrd have set my hand and seal the Fifteenth day of November in the years of the reign of our Sovereign lord James, by the grace of God King of England, France and Ireland the Twentieth and of Scotland Fifty six defender of the faith re 1622:
By me Wyllm Byrde
Sealed and delivered in the presence of Henry Hawksworth.
(Proved by Thomas Byrd and Catherine Byrd 30 October 1623)
We cannot know for certain whether Byrd was buried at Stondon, but it is unlikely that he travelled between the date of his Will and his death.