Willen People

Petition to Bishop of Lincoln, c1680

Dr Richard Busby bought the Manor of Willen in 1672. He was a very keen churchman and wished to make his mark in the village. Therefore he arranged that in 1679, the people of Willen wrote a letter to the Bishop of Lincoln asking permission to demolish the medieval church, which was in a bad state of repair, and to build a new church. Permission was granted, and the work was done. In 1682, the villagers wrote to the Bishop again to inform him of the completion of the work. The illustration below is a copy of many of the signatures that appeared on the letters. Some people signed their own names, others had their names written for them and just made their mark by it. Everyone added his fingermark in a blob of sealing wax, to prove the letter was genuine.
Only six of the people signing the letter could write their own name, the other nine could only manage a single letter or simply made a squiggle or blob. The literate people were all men, and were probably quite rich. There was no school in the village, so they would have been taught by a tutor at home, or had attended a small private school or some kind. Those who could not write included both men and women and some of them, like Thomas Chadd were quite successful small farmers.