Court Reports

Pursey v Pursey: a family spat

In 1734, Roger Pursey filed a Bill of Complaint in the Court of Chancery*.

It begins “your orator Roger Pursey of the Parish of St Mary, Newington in the Co of Surrey, Clothier”.

He attests that “Christopher Pursey the elder late of Bishops Hull in the Co of Somerset, Pumpmaker, deceased, your orator’s late father, having property and land in the hundred of Holway and two dwelling houses in Bishops Hull and other land in Bishops Hull” mortgaged the property for a small sum.

Then on September 4, 1722, Christopher made a dormant surrender (ie handed over control of the property) to Christopher Pursey the younger, “his son, your orator’s brother and his heirs and assignees” on condition he carry out the will of his father.

He says that Christopher the elder made his last will and testament on that date, giving part of the premises in Bishops Hull to his daughter Mary Woodhams (who married Nicholas Woodhams in August 1719) – but that bearing in mind the surrender son Christopher should pay any debts owing and leave the property in Taunton St Mary debt-free to him – Roger. He made son Christopher sole executor and residuary legatee. He goes on to say that Christopher the elder died on or about February 6, 1723.

Son Christopher proved the will a week later but in doing so took all the estate, using the surrender to take possession of the premises devised to Roger, keeping them to his death.

Roger maintains that he often asked his brother to hand over to him what was rightfully his, offering to help path the mortgage.

Unfortunately for Roger, his brother Christopher died (on or about December 12, 1730) before the situation could be fully resolved having made his own will dated September 7, 1730 in which he appointed his wife Elizabeth (Galliard), son Christopher and daughter Mellor(y) as executors.

He notes that because of the special customs of the Manor of Taunton Deane whereby “the wife of every tenant that dyes … is heir of her husband”, they inherited the property in Taunton St Mary destined for him.

He alleges that Elizabeth, Christopher and Mellor were “combining and confederating together” with Mary Woodams and her husband in order to defeat and defraud him of his due. He said that Elizabeth took over the premises left to him refusing to surrender them or account for any rent or profits. She also maintained that the property at Bishops Hulll were mortgaged for a very great sum (and thus one supposes, she needed all the money she could get).

She in turn had alleged that he had not paid his share of the mortgage during her husband’s lifetime and because of the laws of the Manor, she claimed title.

And despite Roger’s offer to split the mortgage, she reuses saying Christopher the elder had not left enough to cover the debts.

In appealing to the Lord High Chancellor, Roger says her actions are “contrary to equity and good conscience” and asks him to order Elizabeth, Christopher and Mellor to divulge what was owing originally, what rents they are now getting and that upon him – Roger – paying his share, Christopher should surrender the Taunton St Mary premises.

He finishes by asking that all five of them should appear personally before him and answer the charges.

Unfortunately, the outcome of the case is not recorded!

*People turned to his court of Chancery because it was an equity court, promising a merciful justice not bound by the strict rules of the common law courts. The procedure was quite different, and involved the gathering of written pleadings and evidence.


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