Accounts

Research value (continued)

Close scrutiny of an account can reveal aspects of the daily housekeeping, diet and business affairs of the deceased that will not normally feature in the inventory, and can add important detail to the view of the deceased's wealth and activities as well as of the local culture and economy first discovered in the inventory. In the following example we learn a little more than could be recorded at the time of making the inventory.

Image of an excerpt from the 1649 joint account of Edward and Elizabeth Lawson of Newcastle upon Tyne [Ref: DPRI/1/1649/L1/1-4].
Excerpt from the 1649 joint account of Edward and Elizabeth Lawson of Newcastle upon Tyne
[Ref: DPRI/1/1649/L1/1-4].

It[em] the s[ai]d Accomptant doth moreover charge himselfe with the
summe of eight pounds and thirteene shillings received of
Mr Robert Shaftoe for the use of one hundred pounds
viij li xiij s
It[em] this Accomptant chargeth himselfe with five pounds
nyneteene shillings received of Robert Blythman for
profit of one eight part of his ship the Jane of Newcastle
v li xix s

In this excerpt from the charge, we can see that Lawson, who is described as a Newcastle anchorsmith, was also lending money at 8.65% interest on 100 capital.20 A reading of the entire account records Lawson owned a substantial share worth more than 1,000 of a profitable fleet of sixteen Newcastle ships, and rented out properties in Silver Street and by the quay side in Newcastle. Robert Blythman was the master of the ship Jane of Newcastle, of which Lawson owned an eighth share (of the ship and its 80 stock): thus, we can calculate the total profit on the ship at 47 12s, probably over a period of five years.21 The account also corrects the inventory valuations of certain items.

Image of a further excerpt from the 1649 joint account of Edward and Elizabeth Lawson.
Further excerpt from the 1649 joint account of Edward and Elizabeth Lawson.

It[em] this Accomptant craveth allowance of twenty pounds
three shillings and fower pence with the twelveth part
of the Shipp the Eagle was apprized to the s[ai]d Inventory
more then she could be sold for it being apprized to Fiffty
fower pounds th[re]e shillinges and fower pence and sole for twenty
nyne pounds
xxv li iij s 4 d

The Eagle was clearly valued at almost twice what she sold for, information that an inventory will not usually reveal. As regards a narrative of subsequent events, in addition to the list of profits in the charge of the account, we also find in the discharge a brief tale of a substantial loss that the accountant sought to discharge himself. Such accounts of losses incurred during the period the estate is in administration are not uncommon and can range from a calf worth a few shillings to, as in this case, a extremely valuable ship.

Image of a further excerpt from the 1649 joint account of Edward and Elizabeth Lawson.

It[em] this Accomptant craveth allowance of one hundreth pounds
w[hi]ch the testators part of a shipp (whereof Michaell Peareth
was M[aste]r) is mentioned in the Inventory to be apprized unto
w[hi]ch shipp was shortly after the testators death lost and
nothing received for her
C li

Notes

20 The legal maxima as defined in the 1623/4 Usury Act was in fact 8% interest.
21 Lawson's will was made in January 1641 and was proved the same year, Lawson dying sometime before 30 July when the inventory was taken and in which month Lawson's widow made her will. Another inventory for Edward Lawson was exhibited in 1643, and an item in the 1649 account refers to outgoings over a five year period. The presentation of the account was complicated and perhaps delayed by the death of one of the administrators and the fact that two of the Lawson's daughters were minors and in the care of tutors during this time.

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