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  • Wills

    In connection with my ‘research’ I’ve obtained a few wills over the years - and shelled out a few quid in the process. During lockdown, I discovered that the national archives were allowing free downloads of documents and I took advantage of that to get a couple of wills and several other items.

    Recently, I found that there is a government website where you can obtain wills and grants of probate for just £1.50 (link below for those who aren’t aware of it).

    That’s such a bargain that I’ve drawn up a list of those whose wills I’d like to have a gander at. First on the list was Thomas Ashe, Alice Pitts’s paedo poet. It arrived yesterday but was a bit of a disappointment. I was hoping to discover a small bequest to one or more of the Pitts sisters, but he left his entire estate to his three siblings: one brother and TWO SISTERS ;-).

    The will is dated 13th December, 1889, five days before Ashe’s death, and was witnessed by his landlady, Amelia Goold and her daughter, Harriet. Probate was granted on 5th February, 1890.

    Ashe left a mere £862 17s 8d, which was later resworn, in June, 1891, as £1,121 0s 8d. That’s quite a big jump and I think it probably had to do with the valuation of his library, part of which sold at Sotheby’s for over £400 in August, 1890.

    What happened to Ashe’s papers, I wonder? Did they remain with the family, or were they donated to his college, St John’s, Cambridge? His diaries, if he kept them, might make interesting reading, although I suspect you might have to have a grasp of Latin/Ancient Greek/Hebrew to appreciate them fully.

  • #2
    Hi Gary,

    Thanks for this very useful piece of information, although I have not had occasion to look up an wills for some time I first started doing so about twenty years ago, when I had to look up the National Probate Registry at my local Library and then write a letter to the Probate Registry in York; this used to cost me five pounds (later a little more when they moved to Leeds), and then wait a couple of weeks for them to post the copy of the will out to me

    So now it is easier to do it electronically and what is more it is cheaper, which is a refreshing change!

    I shall certainly keep your advice in mind for the future.



    • #3
      Anyone thinking of using this previously very useful service would be well advised to wait.

      Alterations to the system have been almightily screwed up, so there are about half a dozen ways in which it is not working properly. I revisited it today and the problems are even worse. I really haven't seen anything like this before, and these days that is saying something!


      • #4
        Hi Chris.

        You make a very good point and it seems to me that anything which involves Government agencies is working at a snails pace. I sent off for a renewal of my driving license on 10th. November 2021 and am still waiting to hear from them. The same thing with the EU Health Card (now called GHIC), I sent off for a renewal of that last September and again, still waiting.!



        • #5
          The shambles continues.

          An email arrived just now, saying:

          "Dear Customer,

          We apologise for the problems you have been encountering with our website.

          However, we have fixed most of the issues and you should be able to place orders as normal.

          If you have placed orders with us before from our old website then please re-register by using your previous email address which you registered with us before.

          This way, all you previous orders will be preserved and we will be able to supply you with the orders which you ordered via the old website.

          If you have an old link to our website then please delete this and update with the following new url:

          Once you are presented with the field asking for your email address, then please enter the registered email address you used from our old website.

          If you use a different email address then we won't be able to transfer your old orders across the system.

          Please note, as you won't be able to use your old password from the previous website, please click on the "Forgot Password" link and follow the instructions on the email you will be sent. If you don't receive it then please also check your spam & junk folders for the email.

          If you have any outstanding or missing recent orders then please get back to us, along with as much information as you can, so we can investigate these for you.

          Kind Regards,
          HMCTS Wills Helpdesk"

          So I went to the URL and followed the instructions. But that produced an error message:

          "There is a problem

          The email address [] has an outstanding password reset request"

          In fact the old password still works, but when I log in I see exactly the same mess as before.

          Perhaps because the "new" URL they have sent is the same as the "old" one?


          • #6
            I noticed that the email address given for "feedback" about this service belongs to a company called Iron Mountain, and when you do try to contact them there, the reply saying "This is an automated message. Please do not reply." also comes from Iron Mountain. As it has done throughout this shambles.

            Iron Mountain claim to be "dedicated to storing, protecting and managing, information and assets". Presumably they are the ones responsible for this mess. Perhaps they need to change the first word of their name to something more appropriate.


            • #7
              Here's an article at the Register about the chaos as it was more than three weeks ago:

              Apparently it's a secret who's responsible for the debacle, but I think the fact that "Iron Mountain" is handling - or rather ignoring - "feedback" from customers is a bit of a giveaway.


              • #8
                I'm not sure whether this is a "Roman farce" or a "Greek tragedy", but I had complained direct to the probate service about the shambles, and they sent me the right URL, "for the avoidance of doubt".

                Good, I thought. But when I followed the link, it sent me straight back to the screwed-up old website after all.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Chris Phillips View Post
                  I noticed that the email address given for "feedback" about this service belongs to a company called Iron Mountain, and when you do try to contact them there, the reply saying "This is an automated message. Please do not reply." also comes from Iron Mountain. As it has done throughout this shambles.
                  Don't you just love that? These sort of cockups are everywhere and they seems to be getting worst.

                  I was trapped on an automated phone labyrinth a few weeks ago that finally ended with a suggestion to contact their website to avoid further delays. When I did, I was redirected to their automated phone service!


                  • #10
                    Update: The main problem at the moment is that the system seems to be allowing only the grant of probate to be downloaded, not the will itself. Obviously the will is what is of most interest, and in a lot of cases much of the information in the grant is included in the freely available indexes.

                    Although previous emails have been ignored, this morning I tried again, and they did send me the missing wills quite promptly as email attachments. They commented that "Our technical team are working to improve the download link issues."