Richard Prowse (1760-1844) lived at Hartley House, Ash Road with his family from 1821 to about 1832. He had been a shipwright at the Woolwich Dockyard. His unmarried daughters ran a school at the Black Lion Cottages, two of them married local lads, Elizabeth Rose married George Best of Middle Farm in 1825 and her sister Rachel married George Oliver. His will is highly unusual as it is written in the form of a letter to his children.
My dear children, having for some time been desirous to make my will and therein state how I wish the little property I may be possessed of at the time Almighty God may call me hence, but finding there would be some expense attending the proving a will made in the usual way, I think it better to inform you I wish after my decease that my household furniture, linen and wearing apparel should be divided equally between my two duaghters Elizabeth Best and Rachel Oliver. And that the house in Paradise Row, Woolwich if not disposed of in my lifetime should be sold as soon as conveniently may be after my decease, and the sum produced by the sale thereof together with any other sum or sums of money which remains, after paying all debts and just demands upon me, together with the expenses attending my funeral, I wish to have equally divided amongst my seven dear children, share and share alike, viz John Williams, Rebecca, Richard (....?) Elizabeth, Rose and Rachel. I also think it right to inform you this only property I am possessed of in addition to the house, household furniture, linen and wearing apparel hereinbefore mentioned consists of the sum of £60 being the amount I received for my late dwelling house in Warwick Street, Woolwich, which I have placed in the hands of your brother John, who is to advance such parts thereof as I may desire, and to pay such demands as may be made upon me and I request him to state to you what parts of it he has expended on my behalf. I give this into the hands of your brother John, who has promised to share it to you all. I have expressed to him my wish, when it shall please God to remove me from this world, that he shall have my body buried in the same grave with your dear departed mother. I also wish that, in the event of any one of you dying sooner than myself, that the sum such one would have been entitled to by the distribution herein as named, shall be equally divided between the children of the party so dying before me. I pray Almighty God to bestow His blessing upon you and subscribe myself your affectionate father.
(S) Richard Prowse
Witnesses: (S) Rebecca How, (S) Mary Prowse, (S) Rebecca Prowse, (S) William Prowse jun, (S) Joseph Prowse jun
Dated: 29 December 1830
14 July 1845 Rebecca Prowse of Woodland Place, Charlton, appeared to swear the letter was signed by her father.
Administration with will granted: 17 July 1845 by Richard Prowse his son.