Toller vs. Stadden
30 March 1759
To the Rt Hon Sir Robert Henley Knight, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of Great Britain
Humbly complaining sheweth to your Lordshipp your Orator Thomas Toller of St Mary White Chapple in the County of Middlesex gentleman that Thomas Stadden, late of Dunster in the County of Somerset deceased, who was your Orator’s grandfather, being seised in fee of a Messuage or Dwelling house and Garden situate in Duke Street in the Town and Parish of Bampton in the County of Devon, and of another Messuage or Dwelling House and Garden situate and lying in another Street there called West Gate Street, and of a close of Meadow or Pasture containing two acres or thereabout in or near the said Street called West Gate Street with their Appurtenances which said premises he was seised of for about the space of 70 years next before his death did being of sound mind and memory and understanding duly make and execute his last Will and Testament in writing bearing dated the second day of April one thousand seven hundred and fifty four in the presence of three Witnesses who regularly set their names as Witnesses thereto in the presence of the said Testator and of each other and thereby gave and devised all his said Estates lying in the Parish of Bampton containing said two Houses, Gardens and Meadow to your Orator in fee, and thereby he gave under remainder of his Estate not before mentioned and given away, to your Orator, his Grandson, whom he made sole Executor thereof as by the said Will now in your Orator’s custody and ready to be produced to this Honourable Court relation being thereunto had will appear and your Orator sheweth the said Testator died on or about the tenth day of August last, being at his death of the age of ninety seven years or thereabouts, without revoking or altering his said Will and upon his death your Orator expected that the possession of the said premises would have been delivered up to him and that he should have been permitted to hold and enjoy the same. Or if it should appear that the said premises had been devised by the said Thomas Stadden to his Tenants for any terms of years which were not then under a yearly reserved Rent that your Orator should have received the Rents, Issues and Profits thereof by and under the said Will. But so it is may it please your Lordship that James Stadden, now or late of Timberscombe in the County of Somerset woolcomber, combining and confederating to, and with, Ann Thomas of Greenwich in the County of Kent widow, Mary Stadden of Clapham in the County of Surry spinster, and John Middleton of Deptford in the County of Kent joiner, and Katherine his wife, and with divers other Persons at present unknown to your Orator whom, when discovered, your Orator prays leave to make Parties hereto how to defeat your Orator of the Benefit of the said devise doth sometimes give out and pretend that the said Thomas Stadden did not make such Will, or if he did that the same, was not duly executed and attested so as to pass Lands or any Real Estate but at other times the said James Stadden doth admit the said Will and that the same was duly executed and attested but then he pretends and gives out and insists that some time after the making of the said Will, to whit about twelve months next before his Death, he the said Testator made and executed some Deed or Deeds or Conveyance whereby he granted and conveyed away all his interest in the said devised premises, or in some part thereof, to the said James Stadden and his Heirs, which he sometimes pretends was made in consideration of an adequate sum of Money really paid by the said Confederate, James Stadden,. and at other times he admits that no Money was paid for the same, but that such Conveyance was made and given in consideration only of some services and kind offices done by the said James Stadden for the said Testator, and of the love and affection which he had for him, and the said Confederate, James Stadden, doth insist on a Tille under the said deed to the said premises and that, by virtue thereof, he will take or obtain possession of the same at law and receive and enjoy the Rents, Issues and Profits thereof whereas your Orator chargeth the Truth to be and the said James Stadden in his Conscience knows it to be so that if any such Deeds or Conveyances was or were executed the same were obtained by Gross Fraud, Imposition and Deceit upon the same Thomas Stadden for that the said Thomas Stadden, for some time before the date and execution of the said Deeds, had been almost totally, or in great measure, deprived of his Sight, Hearing and Memory and Understanding by reason of his Great Age as to be utterly incapable of knowing, or being made to apprehend and understand, the Contents, Meaning or Purport of any Deed or Conveyance, or of giving any Instructions relating thereto, and that at, and for some time before, the execution of the said pretended Deed, the said Thomas Stadden was so impaired in his Reason, Understanding and Faculties as to be as easily imposed on as a Child by any little Presents or Promises as Apples, Gingerbread, Toys or other Childish Amusements, and thereby should be prevailed on to say or do as he should be taught or instructed by persons who had any designs upon him, and your Orator charges that, if any such Deeds or Conveyances over were or was executed by him in favour of the said Confederate, James Stadden, he, the said Thomas Stadden, never imployed or gave any Instructions to any person or persons for the drawing or ingrossing thereof, and that whoever drew and proposed the same received his Instructions from the said James Stadden only. Or, if the drawer thereof received any instructions for such purpose from the said Thomas Stadden, he was imposed on therein by him and the said James Stadden, or one of them, and did not understand or know what he did, and that no draught thereof was left with him for his perusal, nor was any opportunity given him to consult or advise with any person before the execution of the said Conveyance, and that the same was not before and at the time of the execution thereof fully and clearly read and explained to him, and that no person on behalf of the said Thomas Stadden, or who appeared there as his Friend, nor such person but such as attended on the behalf and at the request of the said Confederate, James Stadden, was present at the execution of such conveyance, and that no consideration in money or otherwise was paid or given by the said Confederate James Stadden for such conveyance, save some Trifling Presents of Cakes, Apples, Gingerbread or such other small Matters as are usually given to Children or to persons who have outlived their reason and understanding And your Orator sheweth that if said Confederate James Stadden did prevail on the said Thomas Stadden to give orders for, or to execute such Deed, that it must be done by Force and Untrue Representation to him of your Orator and of the rest of his Relations, and by making him believe that the said Confederate, James Stadden, who was but a very Distant Relation to him, was either his nearest of kin or best friend, or by some suchlike fraud, whereas your Orator chargeth that the said Confederate James Stadden had always greatly misbehaved to the said Thomas Stadden, who had conceived so great a dislike and aversion to him for a long while, which had made such impressions on him even to the end of his Life insomuch that, when it was reported within a few months before his Death that such Conveyance was intended to be set up after his Death, to the injury of your Orator’s title under the Will, he expressed in the best manner he could his Dislike and Dissatisfaction thereat, not only to the Confederate, James Stadden, but to other Persons, and that he had made no such Deed and that your Orator should enjoy the Lands after his Death or to that Purport, and your Orator sheweth that the said Confederate, James Stadden, have such Deed if any such there was now in his Custody, but refuses to deliver the same up to your Orator, or to cancel the same as he ought to do, and the said Confederates, Ann Thomas, Mary Stadden and Katherine, the Wife of John Middleton, are the Heirs-at-law of the said Thomas Stadden (they, the said Ann Thomas, Mary Stadden and Katherine Middleton, being the daughters and Heirs-at-law of James Stadden deceased, who was the only Son of the said Thomas Stadden) and pretend and give out that the said Will was not duly executed and attested, or that the said Testator was not of sane Mind, Memory and Understanding when he executed the same, and that therefore they will dispute the validity of your Orator’s title to the said Premises under the said Will. But they will wait till the Witnesses thereto are dead who can at present prove that the due execution thereof, or which actings and pretences of the said Confederates are contrary to Equity and good Conscience, and lend greatly to the injury of your Orator, who is remediless in the Promise save in a Court of Equity, where your Orator may have a discovery of the aforesaid Frauds, and may have the same pretended Deeds and Conveyances delivered up and cancelled and the Testimony of the Witnesses to the same Will established and perpetuated, and for that to your Orator’s Witnesses who could prove the truth of the said matters and things are either dead or gone into parts remote and beyond the seas and unknown to your Orator, so that your Orator cannot have the Benefit of their Testimonies. To the end, therefore, that the said Confederates may full, true and distinct Answer make to all and singular of the matters aforesaid and that not only as to what they know, but as to what they may have heard and believe thereof, as fully as if the same were here again repeated, and particularly that the said Confederates may answer and set forth whether the said Thomas Stadden did not duly make and execute such a last Will as is hereinbefore mentioned, and when, and about what time, and whether he was not then of Sound Mind, Memory and Understanding, and that he of the said Confederate, James Stadden, may answer and set forth whether the said Thomas Stadden did at any time after, and how long after, the date and execution of his said Will, and how long before his death, make and execute any and what Deed or Deeds or Conveyances of the said Real Estate so devised to your Orator, or of any part thereof, and for what interest therein, and where and when, and in the presence of whom, and of how many Persons he executed such Deeds or Conveyances, and whether the same were executed the very day they bear date or how long before or after, and whether the said Thomas Stadden gave any and what Instructions himself, and whether verbally or in writing, and when and before whom to any person or persons and to whom for the making or preparing such Deeds or Conveyances and whether the Drawer and Preparer of such Deeds or Conveyances did not receive any and what Instructions from the said Confederate, James Stadden, or from whom, also for the making and preparing thereof and who was the Drawer and Preparer of such Deeds or Conveyances, and of what age the said Thomas Stadden was at the execution of the said Deeds, and when he died and whether he, the said Confederate James Stadden, or any other and what Person did not make use of any and what Fraud, Imposition or Deceit or of any and what Misrepresentation of False Promises to induce or prevail on the same Thomas Stadden to give such instructions, or to execute such Deeds, and whether the said Confederate, James Stadden, did not then know had heard or believed, and doth not now know or believe, that the said Thomas Stadden, when he executed the said Deeds or Conveyance, had lost, or in a great measure been impaired in his Sight, Hearing, Memory or Understanding, and that he was not capable of apprehending or understanding the Meaning, Contents or Purport of a Deed, or of execution thereof, or of giving any proper instructions relating thereto, and whether he was not then and had not been for some time and for how long before so impaired in his Reason and Understanding as to be imposed on and cheated as a Child by Childish and Trifling Presents and Promises and whether the said Confederate, James Stadden, or any other and what person, did not make use of such or suchlike and of what Arts and Methods or make him any and what Presents or give him any and what Promises or use any and what Threatenings and Menaces to prevail on the said Thomas Stadden to execute such Deeds or to give or consent to the giving Instructions for the same. And that the said Confederate, James Stadden, may truly set forth and discover all the Arguments, Persuasions, Arts, Presents and Promises which were at any time or times, and when, and where, and how often, made use of by him or by any other and what Person or Persons to prevail on the said Thomas Stadden to execute such Deed or Deeds or to give Instructions or consent to give Instructions for the same and that the said Confederate, James Stadden, may answer whether any Draught of the said Deeds or Conveyance was delivered to or left with him the said Thomas Stadden at any time and how long before the Ingrossment or Execution thereof, and whether the said Deeds or Conveyances were read or perused by the said Thomas Stadden at the time of, and before his execution thereof, or read or explained to him and by whom at, or before the execution thereof, and whether the said Confederate, James Stadden, doth believe in his Conscience that the said Thomas Stadden did know and was thoroughly apprized of the said Deeds or Conveyance when he executed the same and whether he believes he would have executed the same if his Reason and Understanding had not been impaired and if he had known and clearly understood the contents thereof and whether he or the said Confederate, James Stadden, had not before, and how long before, known any and what Instance or Instances, or had any and what proof that the said Thomas Stadden was greatly impaired in his Reason and Understanding and not capable of directing or disposing of his Affairs or of executing a Deed whether he gave the same Thomas Stadden any consideration in Money, or made him any and what Presents, or gave him any and what Gratuity or Gratuities for the execution thereof, and that he may set forth the full Purport and Contents of the said Deed or Conveyance and that the names of the Witnesses thereto and may set forth whether he claims or insists on any Right or Title to the said Premises, or to any and what part thereof, under the said Deeds or Conveyance and that the said Confederate, James Stadden, may leave the same with his Clerk in Court to be perused and copied by your Orator or his Agents, and that he may answer and discover whether he saw, or was in company with, the said Thomas Stadden after the Execution of the said Deed, and how often and how near to the time of his Death, and whether any Conversation passed between them relating to the Execution of the said Deeds or Conveyance, and the manner of obtaining thereof, and that he may set forth the whole of such Conversations and of what past relating to the said Deeds and Conveyance between the said Thomas Stadden and the said Confederate, James Stadden, and that the Confederates, the Heirs-at-law, may answer and set forth whether they do admit the said Will of the same Thomas Stadden to be only executed and attested so as to pass the said Lands to your Orator, or whether they will dispute and litigate the same and for what Reason, and that the evidence of the Witnesses to the said Will may be perpetuated of the said Will established as against the Heirs-at-law, and that the said Deeds or Conveyance so executed by the said Thomas Stadden after the making his said Will in favour of the said Confederate, James Stadden, may be declared to be void and be set aside and delivered up to be cancelled and that in the meantime the said James Stadden may be enjoined and restrained by this Honourable Court from making any use of such Deeds or Conveyance at law, or from getting possessions of the said Premises of any part thereof and from gaining or prosecuting for the rents and Issues thereof by or under the same and that your Orator may have such further and other relief in the Premises as is agreeable to equity and good conscience, and as the nature and circumstance of this said Case shall require. May it please Your Lordship to grant unto your Orator not only His Majesty’s most gracious Writ of Injunction directed to the said James Stadden for the purpose aforesaid, but also His Majesty’s most gracious Writ or Writs of Subpoena be directed to the said Confederate, James Stadden, and to the said Ann Thomas, Mary Stadden, John Middleton, and Katherine his wife, and the rest of the Confederates when and discovered thereby commanding them and every of them at a certain Day and under a certain Pain therein to be limited personally to be and appear before Your Lordship in this Honourable Court and then, and thereto, direct and perfect answer make to all and singular the Premises and further to stand to perform and abide such Order, Direction and Decree therein as Your Lordship shall seem meet and your Orator shall ever pray and say forth.
Signed: Bartholomew Jeffery