The ancient parish of Glossop, once one of the largest in the country, was formerly divided into three parts. The Manor of Glossop comprised the northernmost portion, the Chapelry of Mellor formed a second subdivision, while the remainder of the parish, consisting of ten hamlets known collectively as Bowden Middlecale, constituted the remainder.
In 1713, as part of the arrangements to organise the Poor Law, the ten hamlets of Bowden Middlecale were put into three groups, one of which, in the early nineteenth century, comprising the hamlets of Beard, Ollersett, Thornsett and Whitle, became known as New Mills. The name of the town is derived from the "New Mylne ", a fourteenth century corn mill.
Thus, the earliest wills of "New Mills people" usually refer to the inhabitants of one or other of the four hamlets. The original probate records in manuscript form are to be found in Lichfield Joint Record Office. The earliest wills and inventories, dating from 1540, have been transcribed and appear in three volumes entitled "Wills and Inventories of New Mills People." Book One contains thirteen probate records from 1540 to 1571; Book Two has twelve probate records from 1571 to 1582; Book Three has twenty-five probate records from 1586 to 1607. These may be purchased online (see the list of publications on this website for details).
All the wills and inventories from these three volumes have now been put online, together with those of a projected "Book Four", which in view of the Society's decision to put the probate records on this website is now unlikely to appear in print.
Over the years, the Society has acquired a number of copies of wills and inventories from Lichfield Joint Record Office, usually as part of research projects by individual members. It is hoped that some of these may also be put online in the future.
Two of our publications which rely principally on studies of probate documents are, "The Living Past: New Mills People in Late Tudor and Early Stuart Times" (New Mills History Notes No. 24) and "The Downes Family, Husbandmen of the New Mylne, 1571 -1679" by Rowena Clarke (New Mills History Notes No. 25).
Newtown, another district of New Mills, became part of the town in 1936. Newtown lies on the Cheshire side of the River Goyt and was formerly part of Disley. Early probate records of the Newtown district may be found at Cheshire Record Office. 'The People of Disley Chapelry 1570 -1790", edited by J.H. Smith for Disley Branch WEA in 2002, contains a detailed analysis of wills and inventories, including the Newtown area.
We are grateful to the staff of Lichfield Joint Record Office for access to the records, photo-copying and permission to publish the transcripts.
Many people have contributed to the production of these transcriptions over the years. In particular, Audrey Lee, Rowena Clarke and Shirley McKenna compiled the index of Glossop probate references from which the records of New Mills people were first identified. Dr. J. Smith of Manchester University, a W.E.A. tutor, taught us to read early wills and members of his class prepared the first drafts of the transcriptions. Professor Roger Bryant, initiated the transcription project for publication. Audrey Lee, the late Eileen Miller and Roger Bryant prepared the final versions of the transcriptions for the original publications.