James Barham (1785 – 1846)

Painter, Plumber and Glazier

The Will

On 23rd September 1846, just over two weeks before he died, James Barham signed his last will and testament. The contents and implications of the will are discussed in this section. For other aspects of James' life see the following links:

James' last will and testament was signed 17 days before he died and was proved at London on 7th November. It is likely that James had been ill for some time, as he was probably suffering from lead poisoning.  

The original will can be viewed here   Original image of the will of James Barham (308 kb)

A transcription is also available          Transcription of the will of James Barham (25 kb)

The will directed that

  • His son Alfred and Daughter Susannah should be appointed Executor and Executrix
  • Alfred should carry on the business of Plumber Painter and Glazier until the youngest reputed child reaches the age of seventeen and he shall be paid 27 shillings per week as remuneration
  • The profit from the business should be applied for the maintenance and support of his reputed children Emma, Louisa, Frederick George and Thomas until they reach the age of seventeen.
  • It should also support Elizabeth Hazelton until the youngest reputed child reaches the age of seventeen.
  • The reputed children should have a home and provision made for them until they reach the age of seventeen "provided they shall behave themselves in a respectable and proper manner".
  • Alfred and Susannah should "regard with kindness and attention and to attend to the wants and comforts of my reputed children and Elizabeth Haselton "
  • If Alfred should die or decline to carry on the trade that all the assets should be sold and the proceeds divided into two equal parts.
  • One part of the proceeds should be shared between his children Mary Ann, William, Alfred and Susannah.
  • The other part should be shared between his reputed children Elizabeth, Charles, Richard, Emma, Louisa, Frederick George and Thomas and Elizabeth Hazelton.
  • All household furniture and effects are bequeathed to Alfred and Susannah upon Trust
  • After the business ceases in pursuance of the will that all furniture and effects, money and stock in trade etc. should be divided between the four children, Mary Ann, William, Alfred and Susannah and that the goodwill of the trade should be bequeathed to Alfred.

The first thing that the will tells us is that James and Elizabeth were not married, despite her being described as Elizabeth Barham in the baptism records of her children and in the 1841 census. Much of the will is concerned with the maintenance of Elizabeth and her young children until they reached the age of seventeen.  Strangely Richard was still 6 months away from his 17th birthday at the time of James death, but he was excluded from support.  Maybe he had already shown himself capable of paying his own way.

Alfred was therefore required to carry on the business for the next eleven years, at a fixed wage of 27/- per week   It is not easy to equate this to modern values, but it is hardly an attractive sum. There is in addition the threat that if he does not comply, half of his inheritance (and that of his brother and sisters) will be given to Elizabeth and his half siblings. There is no record at this point that either Alfred or Susannah had married.

We must assume from this that Alfred was supporting his father and running the business during his final illness and he was clearly close by he was the informant on the death certificate. We do not know anything about the attitudes of Alfred and Susannah towards Elizabeth and her children, but the statement that they should regard them "with kindness and attention and to attend to the[ir] wants and comforts"  hints that they may not have been favourable.  Elizabeth had replaced their mother when they were about 9 and 7 respectively, but her attentions would undoubtedly have turned away from them with the birth of her own children.

In the next section the aftermath of James' death is considered and to what extent his wishes were carried out.

For the next section  see Epilogue