What happened to my family’s fortune?
Rosie Butterworth is struggling to solve a puzzle concerning her unusually named ancestor Exuperious Turner
My 4x great grandfather Exuperious Turner (or Turnor) died in Lambeth in 1836. He had at least 11 children, seven of whom were still alive when he died.
There is a rumour that, after his death, the will went to the Chancery Court and the family lost their money. However, the newspapers suggest that this actually happened years before he died and that the family home was sold by auction. I did find an old map showing that Exuperious Turner owned or leased vast amounts of land in East Challow, Berkshire.
I also found a copy of his will on ancestry.co.uk, although it is a bit odd to say the least. It seems to be disposing the property of his two elder sons, Charles Exuperious and Exuperious Robert, both of whom died in India while serving the army in the 1820s. Everything is left to his daughter, Mary, and there is a deposition following the will in which she states that no other will has been found. My 3x great grandmother Harriet also appears, helping to confirm Mary’s identity.
I’ve found another article in a Berkshire newspaper, in which Exuperious Turner’s only surviving son, Henry Charles, insists that he is the rightful heir and aged 18 years old. I am not sure if Henry Charles ever did get satisfaction – all I know is that he married and became an excise officer in Cornwall. Rosie Butterworth, via email
As you say, the will is a strange one. The original (as opposed to the register copy on Ancestry) may have survived in The National Archives (TNA) at Kew in the series PROB 10. It might also be worth looking at the death duty records, as there is an entry for Exuperious Turner in 1837. The index, which is available on findmy past.co.uk, shows that the executor was Mary Turner of 25 Durham Street. The registers, which show the value of the estate, and to whom it was bequeathed, are in TNA in the series IR 26.
Turning now to the question of the family losing their money, there were two cases in the Chancery Court between 1808 and 1824 relating to the mortgage of a mansion and lands in Letcomb Regis. The first is brought in 1808 by Thomas Moore of New Windsor, Berkshire, a gent. The second is brought by William Coster of Bourton in the parish of Shrivenham, Berkshire, in 1815 and 1824. One of the defendants in both cases is Exuperious Turnor of East Challow in the parish of Letcomb Regis, which means that these cases are probably the source of the family tale. The Chancery exhibits (documents left in the court after the case has finished) include the accounts relating to the Coster vs Turner case and include lists of tenants, rents, receipts and disbursement.
In addition to the pleadings, which are listed in the online catalogue, it would be worth looking for peripheral records relating to Chancery cases. These are at TNA and are not indexed online. The easiest to access are the Orders & Decrees, as the indexes are in the search room.
These are likely to show the outcome of the case, and what payments were made. Masters’ reports usually include factual details such as accounts or copies of deeds, and they also often summarise the case. Affidavits can be helpful as they are witness statements made under oath voluntarily by those who feel they have something to add to the case. Petitions can also be helpful and are often referred to in the Orders.
These last records are at TNA, and both the indexes and the original records have to be ordered as documents. Remember that some documents are stored offsite and need to be ordered three days in advance.
It is possible that there was a dispute over the will brought to the Chancery court, but for the period 1800 to 1842 the cases have not yet all been included with full details in the TNA’s online catalogue ( discovery.national archives.gov.uk). Any case would probably be between Henry Charles Turnor and his sisters Mary Johnston and Harriet Cox.
There are two potentially relevant cases: in 1843 there is a Turner vs Cox case, and in 1840 a Johnson vs Turner. These would need to be investigated to see if they do indeed refer to the will of Exuperious Turnor. Susan Moore
Mary Johnston swore a deposition to say that this will was the only one the family had found
The will of Exuperious Turner left everything to his daughter, Mary