John Spooner Pagett – The Will of a Gentleman

John Spooner Pagett – The Will of a Gentleman

A few years back, I came across a will for my children’s ancestor, John Spooner Pagett.  I unintentionally stumbled across the will when looking for a different family. Still, I found myself heading down the rabbit hole of wills and probate records in the hope of finding some valuable information.

John Spooner Pagett was born in Rothley on 4th October 1776. 

He was the son of Thomas and Ann Pagett1.  He was baptised on 24th October of the same year at Rothley Parish Church, Leicestershire.  John was the oldest of ten known children, closely followed by Sarah (1780), Ann (1782), Dinah (1784), Mary (1786), Thomas (1789), Elizabeth (1791-1837), Katherine (1793), Thomas (1795), Harriot (1797), and Richard (1798) 2.  I have by no means exhausted research on the family yet.

From my limited research to date, it’s interesting to note that John appears, at first glance, to come from a regular farming family – despite the hint that there was a cleric in the lineage.  However, by the time of his death he had a substantial estate, valued at less than £1500 3.  John’s will is one of the least informative ones I have come across. Naming one relative and referring to his wife and daughters as merely “my wife” or “my children”.  The one relative he did name was Samuel Bown, the son of his sister, Elizabeth.

Typically, his wife, Mary Walton, receives the everyday things of his life. 

However, it’s his nephew, Samuel, and a friend, Henry Staples, that receive the money, property as trustees to dole out sums of money to John’s wife and daughters. 

This document truly is like none that I have seen before (none of my relatives was that wealthy). The following section intrigues me, particularly following my recent interest in the industrial revolution and the resulting changes 3

“And subject thereto I direct my said trustees or trustee for the time being to invest my said residuary personal estate in their or his names or name in the parliamentary stocks or public funds of Great Britain. Or at interest upon government or real securities in England or on the security of debentures of railways or other public companies incorporated by Act of Parliament with a discretionary power to vary the same for into or upon other stocks funds or securities of the like nature.”

The development of the British transport network relied upon many people like John. 

The underlying infrastructure that existed and continued to develop throughout the Victorian era relied upon wealthy benefactors who, in return, acquired a share in them.  And seeing evidence of such investment brings history to life. It gives the development of the railways and the necessity of investments some form of context.

I sense the Pagett’s place some pride in their surname and lineage. Indeed, the will of John presents a picture of a shrewd man, who ensured that his widow and their children would be comfortable following his passing. 

I look forward to delving further into the Pagett’s and pulling out the stories between the lines.

  1. Rothley Parish Council, Pagett, [online] Available at accessed 11th June 2020, last updated 14th July 2016[]
  2. all baptisms can be found at in the Leicester Parish Baptisms Collections[]
  3. The Will of John Spooner Pagett, signed on 23rd October 1864 and proved on 19th December 1864, copy of Will is in my possession[][]