Both the will of Elizabeth, Countess of Lincoln, (née Fitzgerald - 1527-1590) and the probate inventory of Sir Edward Nicholas (1593-1669), dating from some eighty years later, who purchased West Horsley from Carew Raleigh in July 1664 and owned it until he died in 1669, provide some interesting details about the rooms, interior furnishings, decoration and household items.  


Elizabeth lived at West Horsley, first as the wife of Sir Anthony Browne and then as the wife of Edward Clinton, 1st Earl of Lincoln.

In her will dated 15th of April 1588/9, she made numerous bequests to family and friends. These included a number of beds and ‘the furniture’ belonging to them, the latter comprising rich, heavy drapes made from luxurious materials. To her nephew, the Earl of Kildare, Elizabeth bequeathed ‘the great sparver [a canopy for the bed] of crimson satin and clothe of gold with the curtain and quilt of crimson satin.’ Similarly, she left to Sir Henry Grey, ‘one ffeildbedd of crymson velvet embroidered all over with lace with chairs and cushions’, to her niece, Elizabeth Hill, ‘a bed furnished with blue and red cloathe of goulde’ and to her niece, Douglas Angier, ‘my canopie of cloathe of silver with Damask curtains, my sparver of greene gould chammlett and black velvet with ffether beds, silke quilts wooll quiltes and fustian.’ Legacies to Richard Joshua, parson of West Horsley and to her servants included featherbeds, sheets ‘such as I do lie in myself’, bolsters and coverlets. 

Other bequests were of ‘hangings’ to be found in various rooms. It is unclear whether these were tapestries or a type of painted canvas, but they told stories from classical mythology and the Old Testament. Lord Montacute was bequeathed six pieces of hangings ‘of the storye of Hercules,’ five were left to Sir William More of the story of Abraham and to Thomas Lyfeilde, five pieces of the story of Nabugodomzer [Nebuchadnezzar], King of Babylon.

A number of rooms within the house are mentioned: to Lord Cobham, six pieces of hangings of the story of Hercules which Elizabeth stated ‘do usually hang in my withdrawing chamber of my house at Horsley’, to her niece, Douglas Angier ‘six pieces of hangings of green leaves’ which ‘usually hang in my bed chamber at Horsley’ and a further bequest to Douglas, of hangings of the story of Solomon, ‘whereof some of them do usually hang in her chamber at Horsley.’ Other living quarters mentioned are the chamber between the ‘chappell chaumber and the middle chamber’ and a room over the ‘bayninge chamber.’

 Household articles mentioned in the Countess’s will include a needlework cushion, a needlework carpet, silver candlesticks, a ‘warming panne of silver’, a bason and ewer, a pair of silver and gilt pots, a chafinge dish. a ‘perfumynge panne of silver’, spoons and plate.


It must be assumed that those to whom Elizabeth left bequests removed their legacies from the house after her death. However, an inventory dated 15th September 1669, of the goods of Sir Edward Nicholas, who owned West Horsley from 1664 to 1669 reveals some of the contents of the house at that date. In the ‘Parlor’, there were a suite of hangings, a carpet, chairs and stools worth £10. In seven lodging chambers there were hangings, bedding and furniture, worth £150, in seven chambers for the servants, there was bedding and furniture worth £40 and in addition, plate and linen worth £150. In the hall, there was one long and one lesser table, with old forms, worth £15.


Probate documents are worth examining as they can provide interesting and useful information, adding to our knowledge of living conditions, decoration and contents of historic houses.

Catherine Lorigan


Will of Elizabeth, Countess of Lincoln - The National Archives (TNA) PROB11/75/193.

Inventory of Sir Edward Nicholas – TNA: PROB4/6680.


Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Agecroft Hall

 Sir Edward Nicholas, William Dobson, circa 1645 © National Portrait Gallery