From the early 16th century to the late 18th century it was the custom of the ecclesiastical courts that proved wills to insist that the executors should appoint two or three local men to make “a true and perfect inventory” of the personal estate of the deceased, so that any dispute over the will could be more easily settled. The inventory was then filed with the will. The appraisers proceeded to list every item of furniture and utensils in the house often room by room. Then they noted livestock, crops, equipment, tools, clothes, ready money and whatever else was moveable. Often leases, rents, and debts were also included. The real estate was not valued.
The 65 inventories for Pirton date from 1610 to 1799 and are available on microfilm at Hertfordshire Archive and Local Studies (HALS). All HALS inventories for Pirton have been transcribed and are included in the database.
Use of inventories
Inventories can be used to reconstruct houses and their contents, as shown below. This is Crabbes which the Manor Court Rolls records was owned by Robert Collison. It became derelict and was rebuilt as a two storey house in 1629.
Unusually, it has been possible to identify the house to which the inventory refers and its location in the village today.
The inventory of Robert Collison dated 1631 HALS reference: 22HW32
The Inventorie of the goode and chattells of Robert Collison the elder late of Pirton in the Countye of Hertf[ord] yoman deceased made prised and vallewed by Michaell Ansell of Pirton [also said] yeoman & Luke Gaddessen gent the xjth day of Ffebruarye in the Seaventh yeare of the raigne of our Sovraigne Lord Charles by the yeare of God of England Scotland Ffrance & Ireland Kyng Defender of the faithe &c as followeth 1631
|First the Hall|
Imprimis one cuppboard one round table two chaires fower joined stooles & other implements of householde there
|xiij sh iiij d|
|In the roome over the hall|
Item one boarded beddstead two cofers and two chestes
|Item one coverlett three blanketts one feather bedd one bowlster & one pillowe||iij li|
|Item his waring Apparrell||v li|
|Item one sword & dagger & other ymplements & lumber||iij sh iij d|
|In the Chamber over the hall|
Item one boarded bedsteade one matrisse &other lumber there