Early English handwriting


A small selection of mid sixteenth to early seventeenth century English handwriting examples that we have collected and transcribed.  Words within the quotation marks are those shown.  Ten out of ten to anyone who can read number four without looking at the transcription - scroll down carefully!

Early English handwriting

Seven examples below from: 1547 / 1550 / 1563 / 1578 / 1604 / 1606 / 1612




I bequethe to evry one "of my god chylldryn apeyste" xiiij
[Will of William Tyllcott, Nailstone, Leicestershire, 1547]



My bodye to be buryed in "the Chirchyard of Saynt Botolfe" aforesaid
[Will of Henry Teylecott, Colchester, Essex, 1550]



Janr Item "Homfridus Taylcote filius Leonarde" bap
[Bishops's Transcript, January 1563/4, Nailstone, Leicestershire]



One greate Skommer, one "chaffingdysshe, one ffryingpan", one greate platter
[Will of William Taylecote, Colchester, Essex, 1578]



Itm I do gyve unto "Grace Taylecote my dawghter" one Bedstedle
[Will of John Taylecott, Braintree, Essex, 1604]



mony to be "distributed the day before" my buriall unto the poore
[Will of John Talcoat, Colchester, Essex, 1606]



my bodye to be buryed in the sepulcher "in the pishe church of Nelston afforesayde"
[Will of Thomas Taylecote, Nailstone, Leicestershire, 1612]


These are just a few  examples showing different styles. If you want to know more there are plenty of books on this subject. One inexpensive booklet we have found very useful is 'A Secretary Hand ABC Book' by Alf Ison, Berkshire Books, ISBN 1 871941-08-3. It is very easy to use and gives many variations of the same letters, included also are some worked examples of documents from the same period as above. Two other booklets you may find useful are: 1)  'A Glossary of Household, Farming and Trade Terms from Probate Inventories', Rosemary Milward, Derbyshire Record Society, ISBN 0 9505940 1 6  2)  'A Latin Glossary for Family and Local Historians', Janet Morris, FFHS, ISBN 0 907099 89 0. See also the Glossary here on this web site.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, the books above are now available to buy from Amazon online:

** There are more books on our 'Home' page (link below) **


signatureCopy and full transcription of the will of Jonathan Tayllcoate
of Saddington, Leicestershire, Tallow Chandler (candle maker), 1731.


Clicking on one of the following numbers will take you to a full transcription of the document containing the corresponding numbered extract above. These will show you some of the terms used during the period and may help with transcription of your own wills etc.

    2           6     7


Who were these people?

1. William (c1500 - c1547). Very likely to be 11x G Grandfather of David John Tylcoat. Evidently a farmer living in Nailstone, Leicestershire. The family appears to have come from 'across the border' in nearby Warwickshire. This line includes the present day TYLCOAT spelling.  ID#401

2. Henry (c1500 - c1551). Living in Colchester in later years and possibly a pewterer. Wife Ellen. Probably of the same family as William (1.) but a section of the family that moved to Essex. We have found links between the type of cloth made around Colchester and the breed of sheep farmed in Leicestershire.  ID#402

3. Humphrey (c1563/4 - Oct 1626). Appears to have moved from Nailstone to Manchester, where he was a preacher. Wife Alice. Buried in Manchester Cathedral. His Probate Inventory, written 1st March 1626[/7], is held at Lancashire Record Office ref: WCW 1627 TAYLECOATE, Humphrey.  ID#672

4. William (c1530 - c1578). Son of Henry (2.), two daughters, Anne and Helen. Of St. Mary's, Colchester. Sole executor to his will was John (6.).  ID#700

5. John (1562 - 1604). Pewterer & Brazier living in Colchester, son of John (6.) and father of John who emigrated to America. Wife Anne Skinner. This line includes the present day TALCOTT spelling.  ID#408

6. John (c1535 - 1606). Out-lived his son (5.). Pewterer in Colchester, probably the one to receive the original Grant of Arms [ see picture of the Talcott Arms, 1632, (.jpg 118KB) and accompanying notes ]. This line includes the present day TYLECOTE spelling. It is unclear whether he was born in Essex or Warwickshire.  Married 1. Alice Wells  2. Marie (or Mary) Pullen.  ID#404

7. Thomas (c1570 - c1612). Probably a farmer, in Nailstone. Wife Sarah. His will makes interesting reading and from the handwriting of his signature and that of the will it appears it was all his own work. From it we see that he wished his sons to be as well educated as himself -  "I will that William And John my sonnes bee kept to scoolles [?that they (....) of my (....)] can write & reede in befitting manner".  ID#918


   Tips for getting started:   First photocopy the photocopy you got from the Record Office - this will become your 'working copy'. Put the other one away. Rule under all the lines in pencil and number them in the margin. On a pad of lined paper number every other line (giving you effectively 'double spacing' and room to write corrections etc.). Go through the copied document line by line picking out words you can easily positively identify and write them on the corresponding lines on your lined paper - in the same place they appear in the copied document. By now you have probably got a whole alphabet and may even be lucky enough to have some complete sentences. The rest isn't always easy - but at least you have a starting point! Most wills of that period start with something like: "In the name of God Amen the 10th day of June in the year of our Lord 1604 [then often the King's name - king of England Scotland France Ireland etc.]  I Joe Bloggs of Loose Chippings in the County of Essex, bricklayer, etc. etc."  Now you have more letters and words. Visit Hay-on-Wye and buy yourself the full version of the Oxford English Dictionary (the Compact Edition goes for about 20 second hand). Read it.
   Note: The same word (or person's name) may be spelt various ways within the same document!  For an indication of spelling variations take a  look at the 93 we have so far found for Tylcoat / Tylecote / Talcott.

Good luck!

[ Then you can get as annoyed as we do when you see people copying your work
- without so much as a citation, let alone a thank you! ]

Handling the originals of one or two of the documents above, written on parchment or vellum, and up to 450 years old, was a real privilege. If you have anything like them at home they really ought to be given (or permanently loaned) to a County Record Office - where they will be kept in a humidity & temperature controlled environment so that others may benefit from seeing them in the future. A special thank you to the staff for their assistance at the C.R.O.s of  Essex, Leicestershire, Warwickshire and Lancashire.

Home Page
Dave & Sue Tylcoat
Burrington village

See also the University of Cambridge Faculty of English "English Handwriting 1500-1700"


Copyright Dave & Sue Tylcoat 1999-2010
This page last modified 03 June 2012

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