Prerogative Court of Canterbury: Files of Exhibits pre 1722
This series consists largely of files of exhibits maintained by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury between 1666 and 1717, and before the establishment of the court's main series of exhibits in 1722. However there are also some other files containing documents exhibited at various dates between 1661 and 1723 or later. The majority of the exhibits are inventories, but there are also executors' and administrators' accounts, declarations in lieu of inventories, affidavits, revoked and renounced letters of administration and probate grants. Many of the documents relate to the estates of London and Middlesex testators and intestates.
The documents in PROB 32 are no longer physically filed together, but they appear to have been foliated so as to preserve the extant evidence of original file order.
The files have been listed largely but not entirely in chronological order. Documents are dated in the PROB 32 list, wherever possible, by both date of original compilation and by date of exhibition in the Court. The date of exhibition, or in some cases the legal term of exhibition, is given in brackets.
The sub numbers in the list are non-sequential, thus giving the erroneous impression that the list is incomplete. This is because the sub numbers relate not to individual documents, but to foliation numbers. Thus all the documents that bear the same number before the / belong to the same file, and the sub numbers after the / have been generated by foliating the individual leaves that make up the different documents within the files.
Disruption of the files can be attributed in part to the attempts that were made in 1951 and 1952 to sort by county some of the inventories and other exhibits among the records of abolished probate courts then in the custody of the Principal Probate Registry at Somerset House.
The letters of administration in were almost all issued by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. They were returned to the registry of the court either because they were in some way defective or because the administrators they appointed renounced the office and consequently surrendered the letters. On return to the registry the documents were annotated with a note and the seal of the court was broken to invalidate them.
If a grant of probate was revoked or if an executor renounced his or her responsibilities the probated copy might be returned to the court. It would be annotated with a note and the seal would be broken. In the case of some exhibits in this series only the copy of the probate act survives.
Many of the affidavits relate to the taking of inventories. Some are by commissioners appointed to inventory estates describing their frustrated attempts to execute their commissions. Others describe the whereabouts of the deceased's personal estate and consequently such affidavits fulfil the same function as some declarations in lieu of inventories. Some affidavits describe matters relating to the administration of deceased persons' estates such as the discovery of wills among the deceased's possessions. Others describe matters relating to the prosecution of causes within the court such as the location of witnesses.
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