There is some speculation that William's will, dated 12 December 1751, was forged by Isaac Preston, the barrister brother of his second wife Francis. The wording of William's will and the later will of Isaac Preston are remarkably similar. There is also the strange occurrence of two codicils to William's will dated before the "final" will presented for probate. According to the probate statement these were found by his widow after his death and presented to the probate court - possibly to annoy her brother, with whom she was supposedly at loggerheads?
It is clear that William was very ill at the time of his marriage to Frances Preston on 7 October 1751 at Beeston St Lawrence, Norfolk, and doubtless could be easily coerced to sign the document prepared by his new brother-in-law. After all he only lived for three and a half months after marrying Francis, dying on 21 January 1752 at Craven Buildings, Craven Street, London.
The cash bequests totalled approximately £2 700. Of the various other bequests, only the Synod of Dort Gold Medallion, originally belonging to Bishop Hall, and a piece of silver plate presented to St Michael, Aylsham are still known to exist. The engraved silver plate at Caius College, Cambridge has apparently been lost or stolen.
There are a number of pages dedicated to the Preston family, as well as a comprehensive Preston family tree on this website, but for clarity, the main Preston protaganists in the William Jermy will saga are discussed here.
Jacob Preston (1643 - 1753) and his wife Elizabeth (nee Perry) had six children; three of whom are relevant to this story: The eldest son Isaac (1710 - 1768) was a barrister of Beeston St Lawrence and Steward of Great Yarmouth between 1749 and 1768. The second son Thomas (1712 - 1773) was a merchant living in London, and the youngest child was daughter Frances Preston (1724 - 1791), who married William Jermy on 7 October 1751.
The barrister Isaac Preston married twice. Firstly to Alice Durrant in 1739. They had four children, including the eldest Elizabeth (1738 - 1805), and their only son Jacob (1741 - 1787). Isaac married secondly Hester Pettingale in 1753. They also had four children including Isaac (junior) (1754 - 1796), Thomas (1757 - 1807) and George (1760 - 1837).
The eldest daughter Elizabeth married Henry Hulton in 1766 and Jacob married Mary Edwards in 1772. The half brothers Isaac junior and Thomas did not marry; Isaac junior became a barrister, and Thomas was an engineer in the East India Civil Service, who drowned at sea. The youngest half brother George entered the church and became the rector of Beeston St Lawrence. He married Henrietta Bedingfield in 1788 and they had seven children, including the eldest Isaac Preston (1789 - 1848).
As is discussed elsewhere, the barrister Isaac Preston (senior) was heavily involved in the legal arrangements of William Jermy, and appears to have been the main author of William's unusual will (indeed, William Jermy's will (1751) and that of Isaac Preston (1764) are remarkably similar in wording). Isaac was anxious to keep the Jermy estates (which comprised property in about twenty Norfolk parishes) in his own family, so in 1754 he approached the two Jermys named in William Jermy's will. He first signed a bargain and sale with Francis Jermy, an elderly lawyer of North Walsham, who made over his claim for £20. Armed with Francis Jermy's signed deed, he concluded a similar bargain and sale with John Jermy (a closer relation to William Jermy, from the Gunton line) for the same paltry consideration of £20 - probably much less than a hundredth of the value of the Jermy estate, but a princely sum to the labourer. Isaac Preston senior died on 9 May 1768, leaving his estates (and the Jermy estates, if the original recepients Jacob and Thomas should have no issue) to his children Isaac junior, Thomas and George.
Things then started to go awry for the Preston family. The primary beneficiary of William Jermy's will, Jacob, the eldest son and heir of Isaac Preston senior died on 23 October 1787 without issue, thus making the older Preston line extinct. The secondary beneficiary of William's will, Thomas Preston (Jacob's uncle) had pre-deceased Jacob in 1773. So, according to William's will, the entire Jermy estate should now have passed to the male person of the name Jermy as should be nearest related to the testator in blood.
It appears that there were some disagreements between the children of the two marriages of Isaac Preston senior, because his eldest son and heir (and heir of William Jermy) Jacob Preston left the Beeston Hall estates to his full sister Elizabeth and her husband Thomas Hulton, provided her husband changed his name to Preston. The lease to the Jermy estates were left to his aunt (and widow of William Jermy) Frances for life (she died in 1791). Jacob Preston also left the Jermy collection of books from Bayfield Hall to Frances Jermy (and noting they being left to those who may be entitled to the Estate). There was a great deal of litigation about the will from Jacob's half brothers in a attempt to inherit everything for themselves. These failed and Jacob's will was finally probated four years after his death.
Elizabeth Preston's husband Thomas Hulton did change his surname to Preston, and their eldest son Thomas was created the first Preston Baronet of Beeston Hall on 30 May 1815. The Beeston Hall estate remained in the family until the 1990's.
As mentioned above, Isaac Preston's (senior) will of 1768 effectively usurped the Jermy estates and left them to his son Isaac Preston junior, the Recorder of King's Lynn. Isaac junior died without issue in 1796, leaving his youngest brother Rev. George Preston to inherit what remained of the Jermy estates, including Stanfield Hall. George Preston made extensive additions to Stanfield Hall, and on his death in 1837 it passed to his eldest son Isaac Preston, the Recorder of Norwich.
It should be noted that at no time between 1752 and 1838 did any of the Prestons who had taken control of the Jermy estates actually adopt the Jermy surname and coat of arms, as stipulated in William Jermy's will.
William Jermy's will required at least £2 700 cash to pay for his immediate bequests, and £5 000 for his widow Frances Jermy (nee Preston). In addition to this, the will of his first wife Elizabeth Jermy (nee Richardson) had stipulated that a sum of £8 000 should be paid, out of the rents due to her from her previous estates, to her friend Venesandra England. It is evident that the various estates could not easily support the total sum of £15 700 being taken out of them because Isaac Preston and his descendants made every effort to avoid paying the bequests to Frances Jermy and Venesandra England. Both of their subsequent husbands had to sue in Chancery for the money. John Mallison also claimed against the Jermy (Preston) estates once it became clear that his son George England Mallison was in fact the heir of William Jermy of Bayfield!