John Old the elder
Gentleman and Mercer
John Old the Elder was born in Yeovil in the seventeenth century. He was a mercer or dealer in textiles and was recorded as such in a deed of 1674. He was also recorded as a churchwarden at St John's church in 1676. We do not know the name of his wife as she is not named in his will, dated 1709, but simply referred to as "my dear and loving Wife". His son, John Old the Younger, was also a Yeovil mercer, and he became Custos, and later Warden, of Woborn Almshouse. He also had a daughter called Orchard who married William Dampier, a clothier of Yeovil (not the famous buccaneer of East Coker).
The building known as "John Old's House" in Princes Street is a 17th century residence John Old the Elder left to his son John the Younger who 'modernised' it in the year 1714 - his initials "IO" and the date 1714 are on a lead rainwater head on the side of the house, illustrated below left and in the gallery below. Above left is a blocked 17th century window with a hood moulding in the gable end and predating acquisition by John the Younger. His 'modernising' of the house included replacing the thatched roof with tiles and casement windows with sash windows.
Sadly little is known of John Old's life - he was clearly an influential townsman since he was a Warden and Custos of Woborn's Almshouse but he was also clearly an affluent member of Yeovil society as may be judged from his will, transcribed below. He left eight hundred pounds to his daughter Orchard, four hundred to his wife and two thousand one hundred pounds to his four grandchildren. In all he bequeathed over £3,300 (which at 2017's value would be over £8,500,000) before leaving the bulk of his estate to his son John the Younger.
In the Poor Rate of 1684, John Old was recorded as having paid 5d - not a very large sum. John Old the Elder died either in late 1709 or in early 1710 and his will, dated 10 October 1709, was proved in London on 29 June 1710.
The Last Will and Testament of John Old the Elder
This is the last Will and Testament of me John Old the Elder or Yeuvell in the County of Somersett Mercer made published and declared the Tenth day of October Anno Dni 1709 in manner and form following That is to Say Imprimis I hereby declare it to be my Will That in case my Daughter Orchard Shall Survive her Husband That my Executor hereof Shall pay or deliver to her or to my Overseers hereof for her use of annually by Two half yearely payments to be Accompted [ = archaic 'accounted'] from her Husbands death the use of Eight Hundred pounds which my Executor is hereby Enjoyned to pay for Soe long as She lives And after her Death if She hath Issue that my Said overseers Shall divide the Said Eight Hundred pounds to and amongst her Children (if any) according to their Discretions But if no Issue my Executors to Retayn Part thereof to his own proper use benefitt and [behoof ?] Item I doe Will and Direct my only Son and Executor to pay and deliver unto his Mother my dear and loving Wife as my Legacy and Gift Four Hundred pounds hereby desiring her at her decease to leave and dispose of the Same to amongst her and my Grandchildren according to her Discretion Item I doe hereby Devise and Bequeath unto my Grandson John Dampyer Four Hundred pounds and to my Grandson William Dampyer [Jun = Junior] Three Hundred pounds and to my Grandson Samuell Dampyer Seven Hundred Pounds and to my Grandaughter Mary Dampyer Seven Hundred pounds And to Mr Robert Bartlett Five pounds And to poor of Queen Camell four pounds to be Distributed by my Executor hereof And to the poor of Yeuvell aforesaid the like Sume of Four pounds in like manner and to my Dear and Dutyfull Daughter Dampier five pounds to be by her bestowed in a Suite of mourning All the Rest Residue and Remainder of all my Personall and Executory Estate whatsoever I hereby Give Devise and Bequeath unto my only and Wellbeloved and Dutyfull Son John Old the Younger whom I hereby make ordaine constitute appoint and Declare Sole and whole Executor of this my last Will and Testament hereby Revokeing Disannulling and making void all former and other Wills by me made And I hereby ordaine my Said Son John Old [Jun = Junior] and Mr William Damyer my Son in Law Overseers of this my last Will and testament hereby Desiring them to see that the same be Duely performed according to its purport True Intent and meaning for which and for a Remembrance of me [infill) I hereby Give unto Each of my Said Overseers a mourning Ring of Gold of the price of Twenty Shillings In Witness whereof I have hereunto Set my hand and seale the day and Yeare First above written [Latin phrase ? inserted] John Old perused [Read ?] over Signed Sealed published and declared In the presence of us Jeremiah Hayne Thomas Grebham Robert Hayne
Transcribed by Bob Osborn
Note: Jeremiah Hayne, witness to John Old's will, was the father of Elizabeth Hayne who was married to John Old the Younger.
John Old's house, at centre, set in the Princes Street streetscape. John Old the Younger also purchased the adjoining property, but which side is not known - unlikely to be either of the present buildings. Photographed in 2013.
Seen from the other direction, the blocked 17th century gable window is seen at high level and the rainwater hopper, dated 1714, is seen left of centre. Photographed in 2013.