Henry Thrale's will

  • Posted on: 26 September 2009
  • By: David Thrale

Henry Thrale died died on 4 April 1781 between 5am - 6am. His executors were…

The will was read by the male executors on 5 April 1781 and Hester Thrale was informed of its provisions by Samuel Johnson.

The will's provisions

Dated 17 March 1781, the will left Streatham to Mrs. Thrale for life only, but the contents of both the houses - Streatham and Brighton - were hers unconditionally, including all Sir Joshua Reynolds's paintings. She was also to receive £2,000 a year from the profits of the brewery, and, for the maintenance of the children, £150 a year for each one under fifteen years, and £200 for each after she had passed her fifteenth birthday, until she came of age. From other assets Hester Thrale was left the interest from £50,000 for life.

If the brewery were sold, Mrs. Thrale was to receive £30,000 outright, and the rest of the proceeds was to be held in trust for the daughters. The daughters' inheritances were £20,000 each, to be held in trust until they came of age, and if any should die without marrying her share was to be divided among the surviving sisters.

Their mother and Mr, Thrale's executors were named as joint guardians, but the will requested in addition that all the daughters be made wards in Chancery.

Crowmarsh, the Oxfordshire estate, was willed to Queeney. This property had, however, by the terms of the Thrales' marriage settlement, been set aside for an annual payment to Mrs. Thrale of £200 during Mr. Thrale's life, and £400 after his death. Because the marriage settlement was not revoked by the will, this income remained legally Mrs. Thrale's, and later became the cause of a unsuccessful lawsuit brought by Queeney.

Another provision of the marriage settlement was an allowance to Mrs. Thrale of a lump sum of £13,400 from Henry Thrale's estate, if his wife survived him. Cator, either through oversight, or, as Hester later believed, deliberately, failed to make over this sum to her, and it became another cause of recrimination when she discovered her right to it in August 1786.

Hester's commentary

Hester wrote of this on 24 August 1786 whilst in Milan…

Mr Cator writes me word at last at Michaelmas we shall not have a Debt in the World—so young Ladies are paid; & I am discharged from an Obligation wch Mr Crutcheley told me was very great, tho' not a Jew in the Alley would have refused me the Money at the same Price—he told me so when they were in the Room too I remember, & they took Care never to forget it while I lived with them at Bath—& try'd to save Money to get rid of the Incumbrance—but Lady Salusbury's cruel & unjust Rapacity, insisting on payment when such was the Situation of Public Affairs Novr 1782 that no Cash could be borrow'd without Land Security, & scarcely with it: Mr Crutcheley's unmerited Roughness towards me, insisting not only on five per Cent to the Misses, but on my paying 800£ of the principal the 1st Year, a Thing scarcely possible; his Censures of me afterwards for not living grand enough, when he himself had cramped my Power of living better; he and Cator all the Time tacitly agreeing to keep me ignorant of my Claim to no less than thirteen Thousand Pounds, settled on me at marriage wch I had forgot—have much sour'd my Temper towards my Daughters Guardians: who could not urge in Defence of their Conduct my future Marriage, because Crutcheley never heard of any such thing till the Janry after, when he came to me open mouthed about it, & said he had heard on't by Miracle; and Cator had not an Idea of the sort, till M r Piozzi arrived at Dover in June184. & I wrote a circular Letter to each of my kind Coadjutors—How glad I am now that all debts are discharged however! & that I paid the Attorney's Bill even before I married Mr Piozzi—it is a comfort to me to think on't to be sure. Now let the Mortgage Deeds be destroyed, and these Mortifications be forgotten for ever.—

Hester also found fault later with the guardians for concealing her sole authority to receive and utilise the girls' maintenance payments. Ten years later on 3 January 1791, Hester wrote…

See Page 41 of this Volume& admire at the Compiler's Folly— I have got an Extract of Mr Thrale's Will at last, & find out that for the 150£ a piece of his Daughters to be annually paid till they attain the Age of 15. and for the 200£ o'Year a piece from that Age till the Day they become 21. nobody has a Right to receive it except myself—nor am I accountable to any Person whatever for what I please to do with it—Yet have I tacitly suffered them & their Other Guardians to manage it how they thought fit, and Mr Cator had the Assurance to advise me a Twelvemonth ago in Hanover Square, to take 50£ o'Year for Cecilia's Maintenance, if I would have her with me was the Phrase; & plague him no more about the Bills, which were enormous he said,—in good Time! because they amounted to 80£. One could not credit such Usage, was it related of another—& such Submission to ill Usage is I believe wholly unexampled. but Charity seeketh not her own.

Brewery sale

The Anchor Brewhouse along with The Anchor inn, were quickly sold. However, Samuel Johnson, when challenged about the value of the business by the wary bankers, famously replied…

We are not here to sell a parcel of boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

  • 1. 17 June 1784.

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