Wills before 1858 were generally proved in church courts, of which there was a hierarchy extending from an individual parish upward. The ministers of some parishes had a right to prove the wills of those of their parishioners who had property solely in their parish - known as a peculiar jurisdiction. This could be 'inhibited' by the Dean or Bishop at certain times.
A larger number of parishes was headed by an archdeacon, and there would be one or more archdeaconries in a diocese, headed by a Bishop. The archdeaconry courts would normally grant probate for persons with property in their area of jurisdiction. The bishop's court (or consistory court) would grant probate for any person having property in more than one archdeaconry within the diocese.
Wills could be written for males beginning at age 14 and females at age 12. In 1837 the age was changed to 21 for both men and women, although in the case of women, these were primarily unmarried or widowed women, since a woman’s property by law was the property of her husband until 1882.
Wills in Ireland
The Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Armagh, latterly established at Henrietta Street, in Dublin, proved the wills of testators dying with assets of value greater than £5 ("bona notabilia") in at least two Irish dioceses. This court was also abolished by the Court of Probate Act 1857.