Sunday, 1 April 2018

Unicorns in Towthorpe?

You never know what you’ll find amongst the documents in an archive. While working on one of our family and estate collections recently I came across an inventory which seemed to have gone unremarked since it was originally catalogued many years ago.

Inventory of the goods and chattels of John Taylor of Towthorpe
U DDLG/52/81, inventory of John Taylor

Inventories were taken after someone died, listing all their goods and property in order to value their estate. Inventories included things like money and personal possessions, but also household goods and animals.

This inventory records the goods and chattels of John Taylor of Towthorpe, a hamlet in the East Riding of Yorkshire a few miles from Driffield. It was taken on 20 March 1688 and records the few valuable possessions John left: money, a chest and a coffer, and some livestock.

Extract from U DDLG/52/81, Inventory of John Taylor

This entry records “54 unicorn, wintered abroad [i.e. fed and sheltered on someone else’s land]”. This small herd of unicorns was worth £10 “over and above about £4 paid for their wintering.” It is not recorded where they spent the winter, or what they ate.

This is the first mythical creature I’ve located amongst our documents, but there may be more. If you’ve found any, please let us know!

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