last update: 19 December 2002
e-mail to: Lesley Blanchard
||This story starts with the death of my 2xgreat-uncle Samuel Whitworth in 1904 but if family legend is true the saga probably began some time before that. Samuel Whitworth was a prosperous Victorian businessman. He lived at Rose Cottage on King Street, Hurst. During his life he had built up a grocery business, had been the licensee of the Pitt and Nelson public house and he owned property and investments including many of the surrounding cottages in Hurst. His only son John and his wife Sarah both predeceased him and his only daughter Elizabeth was married to Joseph Hilton. The story in my branch of the family was that Samuel disliked his son-in-law and his last will and testament was apparently written to prevent Joseph from having access to his fortune.|
The will itself included a few small bequests to the
Methodist Church, his housekeeper and his executor but the remainder of his
estate was to be used to provide an income for his daughter Elizabeth and his
granddaughter Amy until Amy's death at which point the estate would be divided
amongst Amy's children. The will further stipulated that, if Amy were to
die with no children, then the estate was to be divided "as if I had
died intestate and without issue".
In 1962, Amy died childless and that's when the implications of that clause became apparent. Samuel was one of the seven children of William Whitworth and Martha Shaw so in theory it was a simple matter of dividing the estate into six and sharing it out amongst their descendants. It soon became clear that it wasn't that simple at all. The legal niceties seemed to go on indefinitely and my father always joked that my brother and I would be lucky to get half a brick each. My husband, on the other hand, still maintains that I married him under false pretences having claimed to be an heiress to the Whitworth fortune.
10 years later, in 1973, a letter from the solicitors explained the delay - they had researched the family tree and also had to consider a counter claim from another Whitworth family in Hurst. At this point the family tree contained 350 names and potential beneficiaries were asked to provide documentary evidence as follows:
"the dates of Birth (or Baptism), marriages and Death (or Burials) of all these persons stated on the family trees where we do not have this information
their last known addresses and occupations
the possibility of any further children if not shown on the family tree
certificates relating to Births, Marriages, deaths
your own birth and/or marriage certificate, where appropriate"
My aunt Mary pursued the claim on behalf of my branch of the family but gave up some time later when she was asked in addition to provide details of William and Martha's parents. Since then, my interest in family history has put me in touch with two cousins, Ted Whitworth and Cathy Headdock and together we are discovering that this is no easy task even with the Internet and the IGI.
|Until I found Ted and
Cathy, the last I knew of the saga was this newspaper article, written
in 1983 when I had long given up hope of receiving my half brick.
Ted, Cathy and I are each descended from a different one of Samuel's siblings. Click here to see the family trees of each of three of Samuel's siblings and appreciate why the number of "beneficiaries" had risen to 640.
Cathy, I now know that the worst fears of the lady interviewed for this
newspaper article from the early 1980s were not realised. Cathy's
father finally received his share of the inheritance in 1991- the princely sum of
My father was a little bit pessimistic at first sight. He would in fact have been entitled to 1/7 of the 1/10 of the 1/6 of his grandfather William Whitworth's share. However, in order to obtain it he would have needed to provide the necessary proof that he was entitled to 1/7 of his father's share. The letter sent out in 1991 stated that the amount to be shared was £27,500. Consequently he was entitled to £64.28. I have just written to the Public Trust Office to see whether it is still possible to claim my rightful inheritance. Watch this space ...........