How would you interpret the year this 16th century Nottinghamshire will was written, and why?

enter image description here

yeare of our lorde god one thousande ..........................

The year is not as I expected based on how it is indexed in the catalogue, which surprises me because the catalogue is generally very accurate. The catalogue gives the year as 1593.

Here is a bit larger excerpt for comparison purposes:

enter image description here

  • 1
    At a quick look I think the next two words are five hundrede although I guess that's a given for "16th century Nottinghamshire" :-)
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 4:31
  • 3
    ... and then "four score and". The last word is very unclear but looks most like "seven" or "eleven" based on the ending.
    – AndyW
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 7:06
  • Does the catalogue give the year the will was written, or the year it was proved? I can just about believe "...eleven" for 1591 but "...thirteen" is rather a stretch given how few letters are there. I assume that the end of that top line in the lower image, which looks like "I Von" is the start of something like "I, Testator, of the county of Nottm...". In which case there's only room for 5-6 characters maximum, and even "eleven" looks like a stretch. Otherwise, might it be (unclearly) written "13" or in some abbreviated form? I'm starting to doubt "foure score" now!
    – AndyW
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 15:06
  • @AndyW The catalogue gives both dates – written 7 Jan 1593 and pr. 22 Jun 1593. It doesn't specify old or new style for the January date but from what I can tell most are converted to new style. After the year it says "I Rowland...".
    – Harry V.
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 15:12
  • Hmm, then. The first letter after "and" actually looks most like a "t", by comparison with "thousande" before it. Is the date written again at the end of the document?
    – AndyW
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 15:36

3 Answers 3


I responded earlier, but now am able to view this on a tablet and can actually enlarge the image on a brighter screen so that I can "see" rather than squint at the text. I revise my earlier thoughts. It does indeed seem to read "five hundred four score and [something], the "score" being spelled "schore." And I wonder if that last word is "tenne" spelled in the older "tynne". So that the date would be 1590.


This is quite unclear text, but I'm going to have a proper go at this. Here's the image again: Original image of text from question

As @PolyGeo commented, after "year of our lorde god one thousande" appears to be "five hundrete". That puts us in the 1500s, which is at least the correct century. Then I think it's "foure", which is likely followed by "score and", although the "score" is hard to read, giving us 1580 plus something. Then there's just one more word that must be a number, followed by "I Rowland…" which starts the text of the will.

That last number word appears to have around five characters in it. My first thought, as in the comments, was "seven" or "eleven", as the ending resembles "-en". Looking again, I'm not so sure. Looking closer at that word:

Expansion around final numberword

The snippet is small, so there aren't many points of comparison for some characters, but there's enough to make a start. Going in reverse order:

  • The last letter of the word actually looks more like an "e", as found at the end of "thousande", "five" etc.
  • The penultimate character is rounded, so could be "a" or "o", but could also be the looped "e" variant found in "give" on line 3 of the larger image.
  • The preceding character appears to have two minims, or upstrokes. So "n", "u", v" etc might match, but so might "r", comparing to "January", "lorde" etc. That's tenuous, though, as the letters are faint.
  • Before that is a gap, with perhaps a partial descender there, as if a letter has faded or was not inked fully. The apparent descender curves back to the left slightly, unlike most instances of "f" (and long "s"), "g", "y" etc. It's more like the "h" in "thousande", but less cursive. Capitals like "I" are possible too, but are not likely in the middle of the word.
  • The first letter resembles "t" as in "thousande".

Based on that, my best guess for the word is actually "three".

That gives a will date of 1583, which is a little problematic. That's a decade earlier than the probate date. Given the assertion that the testator is "weake of bodie" (or similar, that's also hard to read), I'd expect it to be closer to the testator's death date. That's not an insurmountable problem, though, he may have had a long illness or simply had the foresight to write his will early.

More seriously, 1583 does not agree with the catalogue entry of 1593. There seem to be two basic scenarios here:

  1. The text states 1593 - my reading is incorrect and the catalogue compiler read it correctly.
  2. The text does not state 1593 - the catalogue compiler entered the wrong date (e.g. misreading the text, substituting the probate date, a typographical error…).

I don't think there's enough evidence presented to conclude either way. I'm not at all confident in my reading of the text, but I don't see a way to get "thirteen" out of the final word, unless there are abbreviations or contractions in use. I haven't been able to find a reference to such shortenings of "thirteen" in old texts, although I didn't attempt an exhaustive search.

So I don't think the will date is clearly 1593. The simplest interpretation of the text looks like 1583, but there are others (1587, 1591…). Perhaps a comparison of the letter forms across the whole document will enable a more confident conclusion. There may also be other texts in the same hand in that collection of documents, which could have clearer writing of similar dates.


Looking back at this again, I agree with the other answers insofar as the text reads: "one thousande five hundreth foure Schore and ___". That is, 1 thousand, 5 hundred, 4 score (80), and...

As to the last word, I believe it reads "twoe". I have come across another will from the same parish a few years later (1601) which appears to be written in a very similar – if not the same – hand. Here is written "twoe acres": enter image description here

To compare to the original text in question: enter image description here

It appears the first half of the w is smudged or faded here.

This would mean the will was dated 7 Jan 1582 in the old style, which is 7 Jan 1583 in the modern calendar.

If this interpretation is correct, then it means the catalogue, which states the date as 7 Jan 1593, is incorrect. My concern is whether the "twoe" is actually a contracted form of "twelve", making the year 1592. If that were the case then it would be properly indexed as Jan 1593 (new style). It is possible that the descending line after the t, which I have written off as a stray mark, could be an indication of omitted letters.

  • So we all agree the word begins with "t", and ends in "e"... :) Anyway, this is a nice comparison, and looks plausible. I'm still not really sure about that descender. If "stray", it leaves a substantial gap in the word, but otherwise doesn't match particularly well to other descenders in the text, which tend to be bolder, if straight, or more elaborate, if curved. What went in that gap does seem to be the crux of the matter.
    – AndyW
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 10:38
  • Actually, given that 2, 3, 10, 12 and 13 have all been suggested, perhaps a quick look for wills that were actually written in the corresponding years might be worthwhile. Twelve and thirteen, in particular, could be eliminated by seeing how they were written then, and some others might too.
    – AndyW
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 10:39
  • @AndyW That's an idea, I'll have a look. Though I don't think there are that many pre-1600 wills for this parish.
    – Harry V.
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 10:49

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