As a matter of principle, wills are in the public domain and copies of any proved will can be obtained for a fee. But first the will must be identified and a copy located.
Until 1858, when the Principal Probate Registry was established, wills were proved by ecclesiastical courts. Pre-1858 wills can be found in record offices and other archives. For Betley, these are principally Lichfield Record Office (the main repository for early Betley wills falling under the Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry), Staffordshire Register Office at Stafford, Cheshire Record Office at Chester and the National Archives at Kew. The Cheshire Record Office database includes Betley wills up to 1940.
Searching for Wills
A complete set of calendars of civil (post 1858) wills is available for free public inspection at First Avenue House in London:
The Probate Department of the Principal Registry of the Family Division, First Avenue House, 42– 49 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6NP
Obtaining Copies of Wills
Copies of actual wills can be obtained at First Avenue House at a cost of 5.00 per will (as of 2006).
Most District Probate Registries have calendars covering at least the last fifty years. If you wish to inspect the calendars or to have a search carried out for you and to obtain copies of wills, contact a District Registry for information on procedures and costs etc., e.g.
Birmingham District Probate Registry, The Priory Courts, 33 Bull Street, Birmingham, tel: 0121 681 3400/3414
Manchester District Probate Registry, 9th Floor, Astley House, 23 Quay Street, Manchester M3 4AT, tel: 0161 837 6070
Stoke-on-Trent Probate Sub-Registry, Combined Court Centre, Bethesda Street, Hanley, Stoke on Trent, ST1 3BP, tel: 01782 854065
Postal Application for Copies of Wills
If you can give the full name, date of death and last known address of a person who has died, you can apply by letter to:
The York Probate Sub-Registry, 1st Floor, Clifford Street, Castle Chambers, York YO1 9RG
A fee of 5 pounds, for the search and one copy of the will and grant of probate, should be sent with each application. Fees should be paid by crossed cheque or postal order made payable to Her Majesty's Court Service.
NB: The list of wills on this website, and the above notes on finding wills, are offered as an informal finding aid only, making no claim to be complete or totally accurate; for up-to-date authoritative information and access to the wills, researchers should approach the relevant repositories or registries: