Nat Gould

His life and books

Provisions of the Will of Nathaniel Gould 1824-1874

The Will of Nathaniel Gould 1824-1874, father of Nat Gould, is dated 1 November 1864.

The provisions are quite clear, as he left everything (once his partnership in Nathaniel Gould & Company had been wound up) in the hands of his executors and trustees, for the benefit of his wife and then any surviving children (namely Nat Gould).

The executors and trustees first appointed were his brother-in-law William Wright (the Bradbourne farmer whom Nat graphically pictures as Uncle Will in his autobiography The Magic of Sport) together with a commercial traveller named John Woolliscroft. Then in the Codicil dated 31 January 1867 Nathaniel Gould replaced John Woolliscroft with his business partner Francis Wright. Clearly he had great respect for Francis Wright, which is more than his son Nat did - he relates in the autobiography how he clashed with him, and does not even bring himself to mention his name (1).

But if the content of the copy of the Will filed in the Probate Registry in London is straightforward and easily understood, its form is rather strange. It is surprising to find a will proved as late as 1874 still being copied in the medieval script of the clerks of the old Prerogative Court of Canterbury, from which probate jurisdiction had been taken away in 1857.

When probate was granted to Nathaniel Gould's executors in 1874, plans were being contentiously debated in Parliament to revolutionise the whole English legal system. The resulting turmoil perhaps explains why there is a glaring error in the wording of the Codicil that the Court of Probate either did not notice or passed over:

"- and I declare that my said Will shall be read and construed and take effect throughout as if the name of the said John Woolliscroft had been inserted therein as a trustee and executor with the said William Wright in the place and stead of the said Francis Wright -"

Clearly it was Nathaniel Gould's intention to replace John Woolliscroft with Francis Wright, and yet the probate copy has the names the wrong way round!

(1) Nat Gould: The Biography by Tom Askey (2017) pages 4 to 5.