Isabel Huchinsonne

Yorkshire widow (1568)

Isabel’s garments – in her will

  • Four frocks (one russet - the best, one black - the best, one frieze, one blue)
  • Two gowns (one black – the best, one blue)
  • One old kirtle (worsted)
  • Two petticoats (both red)
  • One old coat (black)
  • Two pairs of sleeves (one russet, one worsted)
  • One cap
  • One hat
  • Linen apparel
  • Two felts (old)

Isabel Huchinsonne was a widow, a mother and a grandmother who lived in Skelton in Marske, Swaledale, Yorkshire. She had six sons - Rowland (the eldest), Christopher, Thomas, William, Cuthbert and Richard - one daughter, Elizabeth. She also had at least three grandchildren, John, James and Katherine, who were Rowland and his wife Agnes’s children. One of her other sons was married to Dorothy, who received Isabel’s best russet frock and best red petticoat. Her own daughter Elizabeth did a little better with the best black frock and a worsted kirtle, and she received a feather bed and a covering for it lined with harden. Isabel also had a sister Margaret to whom she left a blue gown.

There were more Huchinsonnes in Skelton: Isabel left another William Hutchinsonne and his sister Agnes each a felt (probably a hat) and a blanket but without specifying how they were related to her. There was another person in Skelton with whom Isabel did have a relationship although her will makes it plain she was not proud of it. She left £9 to Jane Huchinsonne, ‘a bastarde wenshe’, whom she believed her husband John had ‘begottinge with Agnes Paycocke’.

Isabel’s son William Huchinsonne was styled Sir William as was conventional for a man in holy orders. He must have had a very lean living as Isabel gave his brothers Rowland, Christopher and Thomas sums of money amounting to 20 marks to make sure he had enough to eat and wear ‘for his natural life’. She had some worries that Christopher would not travel to check on his brother’s welfare and, if so, he was to give his share of the money to Thomas to carry out the duty for him.

Her generosity to men of the church did not end with her own family. Isabel left money to the curate of her local church - St Giles’s in Skelton. Sir John Kinge witnessed her will and was left 16d and given an additional 6d for repairs to the church. Maybe it was Isabel’s belief in charity that made her generous to her husband’s daughter on the wrong side of the blanket.

Isabel may have planned to make herself some new garments since the ones in her inventory taken after her death were described as ‘worne lyninge geare’ and the list also included 2½ yards of linen cloth. She left two yards of it to Robert Stevensonne.

Some of the items in Isabel’s inventory are mentioned in her will only as ‘the reste of my goods unbequethed’ including six silver spoons and ‘an old syde saddle’. These were to be sold to pay her debts and funeral expenses. Six named women received 8d apiece and they may have accompanied her body to its burial.

She also had friends to whom she left clothes including Syth Blades who had Isabel’s best gown and one of her red petticoats. Isabel’s best gown was black – maybe Syth wore it to the funeral to remember and mourn her friend. In happier times, Isabel no doubt wore the same gown with the felt hat destined for her kinswoman Agnes as she rode side saddle to church with her family to meet her many friends and neighbours in the churchyard – where she studiously avoided Jane and her mother Agnes!

Woman's fitted coat with skirts

Coat is a good example of a word which causes difficulty because it is often the shortened form of petticoat. However, Isabel’s inventory includes two ‘reade patycottes’ and ‘an olde blacke cote’ which suggests they are distinct garments.

Overwhelmingly, women’s coats were made of wool and most of it was relatively unprocessed (undyed and unfinished). This suggests that sheep colours were typical. Just over a quarter of women’s coats were specified by colour with a third of those in sheep-colour and a quarter in black.

Isabel’s old black coat was valued at 16d making it by far the cheapest item in her wardrobe. Her best black gown was worth 18s – making it more valuable than her six silver spoons at 16s.

The reconstruction of the woman’s coat shown here and the pattern for it in The Typical Tudor are based on descriptions in wills and inventories, and details in artworks by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Joachim Beuckelaer, and Marten van Cleve the Elder, and extant sleeves in the Museum of London and Groningen, Netherlands.

1550 - 1603

my best reade patycote to my daughter in law

my best red petticoat to my daughter in law (valued at 6 shillings in the inventory)

an olde blacke cote to Margaret Wiseman widow

an old black coat to Margaret Wiseman widow (valued at 16 pence in the inventory)

her worn lyninge geare … one paire of russett sleves and one paire of woorsett foresleves

her linen apparel ... one pair of russet sleeves and one pair of worsted foresleeves (valued at 10 shillings in the inventory)

my beste russette frocke

my best russet frock (valued at 4 shillings in the inventory)

The Typical Tudor

Reconstructing Everyday 16th Century Dress

Isabel Huchinsonne is just one of the many individuals whose wills make up the data on which The Typical Tudor is based. It breaks new ground with a thorough survey of evidence for ordinary people's clothing in the 16th century. The book also features sewing patterns and knitting instructions for more than 50 garments and headwear, including a woman's fitted coat with skirts.