William Dickinson (1604-1677) of Streetgate
William is considered by the family to be creator of its good fortune, and rightly so.
The primary fact about him was that he was literate. The primary impression of him is that he was bright and wily. As a Cockermouth attorney and Steward to the Lamplughs of Lamplugh Hall, he was influential at the local level. In an age of troubles (Civil War and the Society of Friends), he seems to have steered the local neighbourhood through to calm waters.
It seems appropriate to start with his property. This is a family that has used its intelligence and drive to acquire and distribute property and thus to generate prosperity into the next generation - there have been relatively few disasters.
Property by Inheritance
William inherited Streetgate though his father and two tenements in Mockerkin through his mother. Although the Streetgate farm was the most important (in size and in position next to the Lamplugh's own property), the Mockerkin tenements provided both futher income and an expansion in influence.
Property by Dowry
William acquired Whillimoor Head in Arlecdon though his first wife, Janet Steele. This was retained in the senior line.
Property by Purchase: Havercroft in Lamplugh
Havercroft is next to Streetgate. It, together with Todhole, was owned by the Harrison family. This is quite an intricate relationship, without sufficient paper evidence to unravel it. Two brothers, John and William Harrison, were living at Streetgate in 1611, when William sold his share of Todhole to John. It seems likely that this William was the owner of Havercroft who died in 1621, leaving the property to his son William (1605-pre-1677).
This William, with his wife Elizabeth (Robertson?), had a number of children between 1627 and 1643, but made the decision to sell up (possibly their two sons, John and Henry, had died? They still, though, had daughters). This was a lengthy process. The first agreement with William was signed on the 26th January 1646/7 when they sold a moiety of the property to him for £90 (rent 10s pa), guaranteed by a penalty bond for £160. Then in 1649, they sold a half of their remaining tenement (rent 5s pa) to Thomas Patrickson of Stockhow, gent., for £40, but with conditions. That seems clear enough. But then on 30th May 1654, they sold Havercroft entire (rent 10s pa) to William for £185, with another guarantee bond of £370. Presumably the earlier sales had fallen through. On this occasion, they surrendered the property, with an agreement that they could occupy one quarter for their remaining lifetimes. When William Dickinson wrote his will in early 1677, the 'old widdow' was still alive, but Daniel was admitted to the property on the 16th June 1677.
Why was Thomas Patrickson interested in Havercroft? One possible answer may be that William's second wife Elizabeth (origin unknown) was actually a Patrickson, and that the moiety in Havercroft was meant as a belated dowry; but that's not hugely convincing.
Property by Purchase: Stubscales in Distington
William probably bought this in order to provide for his younger children. In his 1677 will, he handed it over to his youngest son George.
Property dispersal in his will
The will was written on January 27th 1676/7. He wasn't able to sign. The inventory, usually taken on the day of death or very soon afterwards, is dated 8th February.
William made makes various provisions for his wife and children. His wife was to have half of Streetgate during her lifetime (the top end of a widow's customary rights - in this area, it was more often one-third). His eldest son Daniel was to have the whole of Streetgate (gaining the remaining half when his mother died) and Havercroft (after the death of the 'old widdow there').
Elizabeth and her children were also to have the Mockerkin properties for 10 years, at the end of which Nathaniel was to have them for life, with Elizabeth retaining a widow's half. But this only with Daniel's assent. And it would appear, as things turned out, that he didn't.
Elizabeth was also to have Stubscales, with it passing so son George on her death, provided he gave £20 and some land to his sister Rebeccah. Again, this doesn't appear to have happened.