William Blechynden of Mersham, d 1510

Those of us who are researching the Blechynden family, often seem to start with William Blechynden. There are records which can reliably date him and his family and which refer to his ownership of Simnells, in Aldington in Kent, by virtue of his marriage to Agnes Godfrey and, before that, the family property of Quarrington, a small moated manor, in Mersham also in Kent:

[Quarrington] came into the possession of Nicholas Blechenden, who resided here at the latter end of that reign, whose grandson William Blechenden being the earliest possessor of this manor that is mentioned in the deeds of it, was owner of it in the reign of king Richard II. He married Agnes, daughter and coheir of Godfrey, of Simnells, in Aldington, of which becoming possessed in her right, he left this place and removed thither, though his descendants seem to have continued proprietors of it till the latter end of the reign of queen Elizabeth…

Edward Hasted, ‘Parishes: Mersham’, in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 7 (Canterbury, 1798), pp. 592-602. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-kent/vol7/pp592-602 [accessed 25 March 2023].

William and Agnes Godfrey

We can roughly date William’s birth year by looking at the date of his father-in-law’s death and will which is dated 8 October 1490. By the time of Thomas Godfrey’s death in c1490 William and Agnes had had at least five children named in Thomas’ will, according to Henry Vernon Hall, [John C Hall Ancestry, published 1970, Salt Lake City Utah, see www.familysearch.org]. Assuming a birth every two years and that all the children survived (which would have been unusual) William and Agnes would have been married for at least 10 years (no later than c1480) so we can assume William was born some time between 1450-1460. William is allegedly the grandson of a Nicholas Blechenden who was the owner of Quarrington in the reign of Richard II (who reigned between June 1377 – September 1399) and this is quite possible with William’s father perhaps being born between 1410-1430.

William’s wife, Agnes Godfrey, had two brothers, Thomas and Humphrey who both died without issue, leaving Agnes and her sister Rabege, joint heirs to their father’s estate. Thomas and Humphrey are both alive in 1490 and are the executers to their father’s will with William Blechynden and Thomas Godfrey’s other son-in-law, John Clerke, acting as supervisors. The extract below from the 1619 Visitation of Kent shows that William and Agnes inherited the manor of Ruffins Hill whilst John and Rabege inherited Hurst (i.e. Cophurst). Cophurst eventually passes to Dr Thomas White, as recorded by Edward Hasted and mentioned in Thomas White’s will: The Last Will of Dr Thomas White, Bishop of Peterborough, proved 1698.

It seems to be generally accepted that Agnes and William had at least 10 children together, both sons and daughters, and the earlier Visitation of Kent from 1574 (see below) names two of them, John and James, presumably the eldest two sons, although curiously the tree follows only the line of James and not John even though he married into the prominent Crispe family – I have written about John Blechynden and Margaret Crispe here: Tudor Crispes, Crayfords and Blechendens as well as William’s grandson and namesake here: William Blechenden, Captain of Walmer Castle (Updated).

The visitations of Kent, taken in the years 1530-1 by Thomas Benolte, and 1574 by Robert Cooke; v. 74 – Part 1

However, I have recently been reviewing a transcribed copy of William’s will (now on my pages at Last Wills and Testaments), and that, together with another version of the family tree, has thrown some new and unexpected information my way. I haven’t seen other family trees record this information so I will set it out below.

A new family tree?

Within the book about the Crisp family (Collections relating to the family of Crispe : further and final extracts relating to the name from the records of the College of arms, new series, vol. 1 available at http://www.familysearch.org) there is a family tree of the Blechynden family which is also allegedly from the 1619 Visitation of Kent. I cannot verify this and have not been able to find this tree in any of the Visitations of Kent that I have reviewed. However, from my research into this family I can confirm that the tree looks accurate. Some children/grandchildren are omitted which is not unusual and, as per the 1574 tree above, it sets out only two sons of William, that is John and James, and none of the other children. However, this time, it sets out that James is the son and heir of William and Agnes and that John is the second son (“Sedus” which I assume to be an abbreviation of secundus) but not of William and Agnes but of William and his second wife! She is the daughter of “Fox” and William’s “uxor Secunda” (second wife).

It certainly wasn’t unusual for men to take a second wife given the high mortality rates of women at that time especially in childbirth (and indeed for women to take a second husband) but if this is true here who is the mother of the other children? Did Agnes die early and are the majority of William’s children from his second marriage? The will of Thomas Godfrey would seem to suggest otherwise given that at least five of their children were mentioned in it and that Agnes and Raberge became joint heirs of Thomas Godfrey’s properties after the death of their brothers (both of whom were still living in 1490).

William Blechynden’s will

The second piece of information I have reviewed recently is a transcribed copy of William’s will which suggests probate was in 1514. The Canterbury Probate Records Database has a record of a William Blechynden of Mersham making his will in 1510 and with probate in the same year. I have assumed for now that the date on the database is the correct one but added the transcribed copy to my pages here Last Wills and Testaments. This will does indeed indicate that William married again as he refers to his wife as “Margaret”. There is no mention of her being the daughter of “Fox” as suggested in the above 1619 Visitation of Kent and there is no mention of a former wife, i.e. Agnes.

William mentions his children in his will and makes provision for the education of his sons. Education was the luxury of the wealthy at this time so the fact that he is looking to educate all his sons demonstrates his position in society and also that his children, at least those from his second marriage, were still quite young when he died. Provision for James’ education is not mentioned and this is presumably because, as the eldest son from William’s first marriage, he had finished his schooling:

 and the money yerely comyng therof for that time to be reaysed by Margarett his wyf as long as she kepe her sole unmaried to use and pyng Scule of his sonnes, Humphrey, John, Edward and Christover;

William also makes provision for the marriage of his daughters. There is no reference to his daughter Alice, who is mentioned in Thomas Godfrey’s will, perhaps this is because she was married at this point and had had her portion:

 Anne Johanne Sibell and Myldred his daughters to their maryages to ev’y of them XX pounds of good and lawfull money;

The first part of William’s will relates to his wife Margaret to whom he leaves his land, tenaments and premises, but on the basis that she keeps herself unmarried for 12 years and pays towards his sons’ education (i.e. Humphrey, John, Edward and Christover) and towards the marriage of his daughters (i.e. Anne, Johanne, Sibell and Myldred). Perhaps the 12 years clause was to ensure the security of his children until they were all of age.

In his will, William makes reference to various lands and properties that he leaves to his five sons. They speak to his influence, to his wealth and business acumen. But given the length of this post I will set them out in a separate post to follow.

Sir William Scott and his son John Scott play an important role in the will. Margaret is expected to follow their advice and council and moreover, if she marries in the 12 year period stated, all the rents and other income coming from William’s lands go instead to Sir William and John Scott to fund his sons’ education, his daughters’ marriages and the governing of them. If that wasn’t enough, the will states that Margaret, if she marries, would have to “delyv’r and pay…all thyssue and esetts …duryng the hole time of the foresayd XII Yeres...”. I think this means she would have to back pay any income from the land, properties etc to Sir William and John Scott should she decide to marry at any point in the 12 year period after William’s death:

 the sayd Margaret his wiff shall delyv’r and pay to the fore sayd Sir William Scott knight and John Scott squier for the mariage of his forsayd daughters and that then the sayd Sir William Scott knight and John Scott squier shall resayve all thyssue and esetts of all the beforesayd lands and ten’ts duryng the hole time of the foresayd XII Yeres kepyng all repacions his sonnes to soole and role and governing of all his foresaid children sonnes and daughters durynge the time aforesayd.

Not only does Margaret have to follow the rule, advice and council of Sir William and John Scott for 12 years but she also cannot follow the rule of Robert Harlakenden without everything going to the Scott family:

and if that it happe his wyf refuse the rule and adwyse and councill of the foresaid Sir William Scott knyght and John Scott squyer and folow the rule of Robert Harlaseynden that then the foresaid William will that the foresaid Sir William Scott knyght and John Scott squyer shalhave and take the rents of hys lands and of his children duryng the foresaid terme of XII yeres.

This raises the interesting question of who was Robert Harlakynden, what was his relationship to Margaret and why did William feel the need to include this in his will?

Who is Margaret, William’s uxor secunda?

Henry Vernon Hall posits that Margaret is the sister of Sir William Scott which would explain why he makes it a condition of the will that Margaret follow their advice and counsel. Sir William did indeed have a sister Margaret but she married Sir Edmund Bedingfield and, given that her will is dated 1513, she cannot be the wife of William Blechynden.

The 1612 Visitation mentioned above suggests that William married the daughter of “Fox” and so perhaps Margaret is Margaret Fox? I initially explored the possibility that “Fox” is a phonetic spelling of “Fogge”. This would make sense given the very close family ties between the Scotts and the Fogges, both of whom had benefitted from supporting the Yorkist cause during the Wars of the Roses. The Scotts and the Fogges are related by marriage: Sir William Scott’s son Edward marries Alice Fogge and John Scott’s son William marries Anne Fogge. Alice and Anne Fogge are sisters and the co-heirs of Thomas Fogge Esq, Serjeant Porter of Calais to both Henry VII and Henry VIII, obit 1512.

Although we see no direct marriages between the Blechyndens and either the Scotts or the Fogges we can summise that they knew each other from other related marriages. In particular William Blechynden’s two sons, John and James, both marry into families that are connected to them: John marries Margaret Crisp sister to Sir Henry Crisp who marries Catherine Scott; and James marries Ursula Whetenhall the aunt of Mary Whetenhall who marries Richard Scott. John Blechynden was also a witness to the last will of Reignold Scott (brother to Catherine and Richard Scott) and perhaps it is for him that John names one of his sons Reignold. Interestingly Reignold Scott, in his will dated 4 September 1554, gives “Isabell Blachenden, my servante, to her mariage tenne pounds“. I haven’t identified Isabell but she must be a member of the family and £10 was a very generous sum (and worth about £4,000 today).

Despite all of the above I haven’t managed to find a Margaret Fogge who might fit the bill and be our Margaret Fox. However, William’s will does mention a William Fox when he leaves various lands etc to his son John “being in the pish of Mersham and Brabourn the wyche were somtyme William Fox“. I have found a number of references to William Fox of Mersham across different records and am setting these out below.

Firstly, Manchester University Library holds a number of records relating to the parish of Willesborough in Kent and one of these mentions the “Power of attorney given by William Fox of Mersham, to Thomas Carter of Willesborough, to give seisine of lands.”

Also, in Memorials of the family of Scott, of Scot’s-hall, in the county of Kent, there are a handful of references to a William Fox some of which make him a witness to land transfers which include as parties “William Harlokynden, John Scott, John Fogg, John Dygges and William Fynche...”. Given the names, dates and locations mentioned in the documents it seems very probable to me that this William Fox is the same person mentioned in William Blechynden’s will (and would also therefore counter any suggestion that Fogge and Fox are the same person/family). One entry is particularly persuasive as it refers to the grant of land to, amongst others, William Fox and Thomas Godfrey (i.e. William Blechynden’s father-in-law), to 24 acres of land in the parish of Smeeth. This shows that William Fox was a landowner and with land in the parish of Smeeth it’s not surprising that he would also have held land in the contiguous parishes of Mersham and Brabourne.

Grant in perpetuity from Stephen Bettenham, of the parish of Cranebroke, Gentleman, and John Badmynton, of Appildare, to Thomas Godfrey, George Knoldane, Thomas Elvene, William Fox, and William Knetchebole, of fifteen pieces of land, meadow, and pasture called Wythonys, containing twenty-four acres of land lying together in the parish of Smethe and in the holding of the courts at Aldyngton and Thefgate, towards the lane called le Melbroklane, leading from Thefgate unto Stonestede towards the west, towards the said lane and the land of Thomas Laurens towards the north, towards the lands of John Passhele, Esq., called Thefgate Park and Thefgate Mead, towards the east and south, heretofore granted to them by Margery Raynold, alias Chaloner, with other lands and tenements. To hold the same of the chief Lords of the Fee by the services therefore due and of right accustomed. 7 Edward IV., August 4, 1468.

Memorials of the family of Scott, of Scot’s-hall, in the county of Kent by James Renat Scott, pub 1876

The final reference to William Fox in the Scott Memorials is in 1474 when Thomas Kempe, the Bishop of London, grants in perpetuity Coombe manor, and other lands, to his kinsman Sir John Scott. William Fox, amongst others, is appointed as attorney “to deliver up possession and seisin thereof“. So it would seem that William Fox of Mersham was of the legal profession as well as holding lands in Brabourne, Smeeth and Mersham. He was probably of a similar social standing to William Blechynden who is also mentioned in the Scott Memorials in 1503/4 when he a witness to a land transfer, although, unlike his counterparts, he is given the title, Gentleman:

Memorials of the family of Scott, of Scot’s-hall, in the county of Kent by James Renat Scott, pub 1876

Finally, Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library have a record from 1484 in which we have both William Fox and William Blechyden acting as witnesses to a robbery in Bockhanger Wood, which lay to the south of Quarrington Manor. The manor was moated and this is still visible in the 1816 Ordnance Survey map shown below.

The Canterbury Probate Records Database provides two possible candidates for this William Fox – one William Fox of Mersham whose will is dated 1488 and one William Foxe of Mersham whose will is proved in 1509 and perhaps the first is Margaret Fox’s father and the second her brother? Although I have found nothing which ties William Fox, mention in William Blechynden’s will, directly to Margaret this seems likely to me given that the two Williams knew each other (as evidenced by the witness statement above) as well as knowing the Godfrey family and the Scotts. I will have to try and confirm this family relationship in time when I can access the wills at Canterbury.

Who is Robert Harlakynden?

But why did William impose the requirement that Margaret could not folow the rule of Robert Harlaseynden? The Harlakyndens were a prominent family and we see a couple of female Blechynden marriages into the family in later generations but it is difficult to see probable candidates for Robert given the surviving information. We know that there was a Robert Harlakynden of Bridge, son of Roger, who died in 1557 but he was born in 1510. There was also a Robert Harlakynden, son of Thomas Harlakynden of Woodchurch but information on him is sketchy at best.

I have seen some suggestions that Roger Harlakynden, the “warm asserter of Edward IV” is also known as Robert. Roger Harlakynden is a colourful character. In July 1493 he was charged with corresponding with Perkin Warbeck, pretender to the crown, and had allegedly agreed to support the invasion with a force of eight hundred men. Although he was acquitted the justices refused to release him and his case was sent to King’s Bench on 1 June 1495. “Roger Harlakynden of Wodechurch, Kent, London, and Erthyngleygh, Suss., g.” also appears in Henry VIII’s pardon roll of 1509-1510 although it is unclear what he is being pardoned for – the list of names is extensive and is a general pardon – but perhaps questions about his loyalty still lingered. To note, I think Erthyngleygh is the place we would know today as Ardingly in West Sussex. Roger’s second wife is Alice Colepeper, daughter of Richard Colepeper of Wakehurst, the estate of which is less than a mile from the centre of the village of Ardingly and best known today for the botanical gardens, run by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

There is also a reference to Roger Harlakyden in Archbishop Warham’s register, following his Visitation of the county in 1511, which refers to him as “…a common oppressor of his neighbours, whom none loveth….that he is meddling of many matters, and will check the parsons and the priests that they cannot be [at] rest for him.“(see The Topographer and Genealogist, Vol. 1, edited by John Gough Nichols, 1846.)

So, it is tempting to reach the conclusion that Roger Harlakynden is the Robert in William’s will as, given the less than glowing references above, we can understand why William might not want his wife or children to be under the influence of someone who is a “common oppressor…whom none loveth“. Even if Roger isn’t Robert perhaps William was acting with an abundance of caution given that, in all likelihood, Robert would be a close relative of Roger Harlakynden. Overall, I get the impression that, despite how harsh it seems to me with my modern sensibilities to deny Margaret of the opportunity for another marriage for 12 years, I also understand that William was protecting his children’s inheritance and his daughters’ potential for marriage, by placing them, by proxy, within the protection of Sir William Scott and Squire John Scott.

Conclusion and Disclaimer

Given the additional information provided by the new family tree, the information in the (transcribed) last will and testament and the various other documents, some of which are mentioned above, I think I am satisfied that William Blechynden was married twice with son James being the son of Agnes Godfrey and perhaps most of the daughters as well being those of Agnes. But his second wife was likely Margaret Fox, daughter of William Fox, their eldest son being John but with younger brothers Humphrey, Edward and Christopher. I think the family tree therefore looks something like this:

But on to my disclaimer. Records are patchy for the 1400’s and early 1500’s. Therefore, whilst I have been able to glean infomation from some records that survive it is still possible that I have drawn incorrect assumptions. I can’t be 100% positive that the William who married Agnes is also the William that married Margaret. There are no references in William’s will to Quarrington Manor, or to Symnels or Ruffyns Hill – the latter two properties came to the Blechynden family through William’s marriage to Agnes. Perhaps ownership of them was transferred to oldest son James on the death of Agnes?

I have also made assumptions, based on the available evidence, about the birth dates of William’s younger sons but these could be wrong, as could that of Agnes’ death. When looking this far back in time it is hard to be definitive and I’m sure I’ll need to revisit these dates and “assumptions” at some point soon.

Richard Blissenden, c1747 – 1831, 4th Great Grandfather, Deal, Kent

When I started writing this blog one of the main purposes was to try and get behind a brick wall that I had hit with my direct ancestor Richard Blissenden who dies in the poor house in Deal, Kent, in 1831, at about 84 years old. Richard is my 4th great grandfather and he married Sarah Moat in Deal, Kent, on 11 May 1777.

In digging into the Blechynden family in Kent – who are certainly on my family tree, albeit distantly via a marriage to Elizabeth Boys, I have discovered a fascinating family that I will continue to write about but I have not yet been able to discover a close family connection to the Blissendens of Kent.

Sanderstead or Deal?

Although I say above that Richard is my brick wall I did have parents from him on my family tree: Richard Bisenden and Susannah Matthew from Sanderstead near Croydon in Surrey with their son Richard being born in Sanderstead in 1747 (with a baptism on 13 September 1747). I’d probably taken this information from other online family trees when I first became interested in genealogy and started looking into my Blissenden ancestors. The date of Richard’s baptism in 1747 in Sanderstead matches the death record insofar as the Richard who dies in the poor house in Deal was 84 years old giving a birth date of c.1747. So far so good. But something about the Sanderstead and Deal connection has never quite stacked up for me.

Firstly, we have no clear evidence that Richard from Deal is the Richard born in Sanderstead other than the year of birth looks to be the same. What we do know for certain is that when Richard marries Sarah Moat he does so in Deal in Kent, the marriage record says he and Sarah are “of this parish”, and that his name is Richard Blesslend.

Secondly, why would someone from a small village in rural Surrey move to Deal which was then a major naval port? Sanderstead Richard’s father was a husbandman which meant he was either a tenant farmer or owned a small plot of land. Perhaps changes in agricultural practice meant making a living from the land was no longer viable and Richard moved to Deal in search of work? This is possible, of course, but Deal was 80 miles away and if looking for work why not the pull of London which is only about 14 miles from Sanderstead?

Thirdly, the fact that Richard is illiterate has always bothered me. We know he is illiterate because he is only able to sign his marriage certificate with his mark. Of course, many people were illiterate in the mid-1700s and for men the estimate is that about 40% were unable to read or write although the number would have been much higher amongst the poorer working classes. However, if Richard is the Richard from Sanderstead, we know that his father was literate because he signed his marriage bond with a nice hand (see image below) and it seems unlikely to me that, if the father was literate, his son would not be.

The spelling of the name is also an issue for me. I am used to the many different spellings of Blissenden, Bletchynden etc but Richard Bisenden snr from Sanderstead writes his own name as “Bisenden” and I have long suspected, but been unable to prove, a family connection to the Croydon family of the same name. Richard Bisenden of Sanderstead, husbandman, would have lived just four miles away from Thomas Bisenden (both senior and junior) of Croydon. In contrast, Richard from Deal is married with the surname Blesslend, his children are baptised under the names Blesenden or Blissenden and both Richard and Sarah die in the poor house as Blissendens.

The marriage record of Richard Blessland and Sarah Moat, 1777, Deal, Kent

The Richard born in Sanderstead had three siblings: elder sister Susannah was born in 1744 and died in 1760; brother Thomas was born in 1750 and sister Elizabeth in 1753. I have not been able to track down Elizabeth but Thomas may be the Thomas who marries Susannah Hopper at St John the Baptist Church in Croydon in 1772. There is no suggestion or evidence that any of Richard’s siblings or parents moved to Deal. On the other hand we can be confident that Richard Blesslend is the Richard Blissenden who dies in the poor house in Deal because two of his sons name one of their daughters Sarah Moat Blissenden apparently after their grandmother and at least one other grandchild has Moat as a middle name. One example of this is shown below in the daughter of William Blissenden and Sarah Reynolds.

Extract from my family tree

All of the above leads me to conclude that it is very unlikely that the Richard who is born in 1747 in Sanderstead in Surrey is my 4th great grandfather. It is time to remove him, his spouse, his siblings and his parents from my family tree.


So, in removing the Sanderstead family, this reopens the question of who are the parents and ancestors of Richard Blesslend? Recent research has thrown up some possible avenues to follow. In particular, there are a number of “Blesslends” and name variants living in and around Deal in the 1600s and 1700s as well as Blissendens and Blechyndens. It is possible that my 4th great grandfather Richard belongs to one of those families. Some examples are:

  • 21 Feb 1635 – Joshua Blasland baptised (Eastry), son of Richard and Jane
  • 17 Dec 1686 – Joshua Blasland baptised (Deal), son of Joshua and Elizabeth
  • 1691 – Anne Blissenden baptised (Deal), daughter of Richard and Anne
  • 4 May 1699 – Richard Bleshland buried (Deal)
  • 25 Dec 1705 – Mary Bleshland baptised (Great Mongeham), daughter of William and E.
  • 20 Apr 1707 – Thomas Blaxland married (Faversham) Mary Moat
  • 2 June 1707 – William Bleshland baptised (Deal), son of William and Ann
  • 20 Sept 1713 – William Blessland baptised (Great Mongeham), son of William and Elizabeth
  • 6 Jan 1716 – Thomas Blessland baptised (Great Mongeham), son of William and Elizabeth
  • 13 Sept 1719 – Edward Blessland baptised (Great Mongeham), son of William and Elizabeth
  • 13 May 1722 – Elizabeth Blessland baptised (Great Mongeham), daughter of William and Elizabeth
  • 12 June 1726 – Richard Bleslend baptised (Deal), son of Richard Blesland and Elizabeth
  • 2 Nov 1729 – Henry Blesland baptised (Deal), son of William and Elizabeth
  • 11 Oct 1747 – Richard Blaxland baptised (Margate), son of William and Mary
  • 02 Jul 1749 – Richard Blaxland baptised (St Laurence in Thanet), son of Richard and Elizabeth
  • 08 Dec 1751 – Henry Blassland baptised (Deal), son of Thomas and Mary Blassland
  • July 1776 – Thomas Blesendon buried (Great Mongeham)

And the following family, assuming they are one and the same, is interesting given the change in name from Blaxland to Blissland to Blissenden:

  • 02 Jan 1739 – Thomas Blaxland m Hanna Collins at St. John The Baptist Church, Margate
  • 25 Dec 1747 – Mary Blissland baptised (Deal), daughter of Thomas and Hannah Blissland
  • 10 October 1755 – Thomas Blissenden baptised (Deal), son of Thomas and Hannah Blissenden
  • 28 Mar 1759 – Edward Blissenden baptised (Deal), son of Thomas and Hannah Blissenden

A hard life

Although I don’t have much information about Richard and his wife Sarah we can be fairly sure that they had a hard life bringing up their children. Just two years after he died evidence was given to the 1833 Select Committee on Cinque-Port Pilots that tells of the depth of poverty that the Boatmen & their families suffered. I found the following at Families & History of Deal & Walmer which includes a list of Deal boatmen including my 3x great grandfather Stephen Blissenden, son of Richard. The select committee took evidence about the boatmen with Joseph Marryatt Esq. M.P. for the town and port of Sandwich to which Deal & Walmer were united writing:

“The state of the boatmen, I can assure your lordship is generally speaking, deplorable. They are pennyless and too frequently without food or sufficient clothing…”

Mr. T Robinson of the Dover Benevolent Society also wrote:

“.. coals, soup and blankets, the latter on loan until 1st May in each year”, and that

“the boatmen’s dwellings…for the most part are so wretched; furniture they have none, and their apparel by day serves to cover their innocent babes by night…”


I am no further forward in resolving my brick wall but I have found a number of possible avenues to follow up. I may never be able to track down with certainty my 5x great grandparents and this is because they were poor and illiterate; they probably left no will and no property. I have been able to follow the Blechynden’s across the generations because they were monied; they had land and property; they were literate and they mingled with the monarchy; with gentry and left detailed wills. The difference between the Blechynden’s and the Blessland/Blissenden’s is stark but no less interesting because of it.

Thomas Blechenden (1633-1690) and Margaret Lynch (1630-1712)

It is frustrating that so many of the Blechenden family carry the same name. Thomas, John and Edward for the boys being particular favourites for this family. But, whilst it can cause confusion for family historians trying to establish whether someone is a son, a brother or a cousin it can also occasionally help to prove a family connection especially if the name is an unusual one or is a family name. It certainly wasn’t unusual for a mother’s or grandmother’s maiden name to be passed down to children as a first name. Some of those family names and connections have helped me unravel and confirm the next part of the Blechenden tree below.

This time I am looking at Thomas Blechenden (1633-1690) who in 1658 marries Margaret Lynch (1631-1712). Thomas is the eldest son of John Blechenden (1612-1701) and Anne Glover and the grandson of Thomas Blechenden (1586-1661) and Elizabeth Boys (1587-1618).

Thomas was the eldest son and as such stood to inherit lands and properties from his father. Unfortunately we do not have his father or his mother’s last will and testament so it is difficult to be absolutely clear about this but we do have his will so know what lands and properties he passed on. We also have his grandfather’s will which, on the face of it, seems to treat Thomas harshly: his sister Elizabeth gets £300 and his other siblings get an even share in their grandfather’s “half-part share and interest in the lease of the Rectory of Winsborough” whilst Thomas is bequeathed just five shillings! 

By the time of his grandfather’s will Thomas was about 28 years of age, married, and with two or three children of his own. I take the view that Thomas’ grandfather knew that Thomas would be secure financially and instead used his will to provide financial support to some of his other grandchildren.

We don’t know much about Thomas’ childhood and unlike some others in the family, I have found no records of admission to either Oxford or Cambridge. As the son of a gentleman he would have had a formal education but perhaps, given the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, when Thomas was still a child, this disrupted his plans. It is interesting to note that Thomas’ youngest sister Anne was baptised in 1641 just before the outbreak of war. Does the lack of any further siblings suggest that his parents were separated because of the war or sequestration? It does look as if Thomas’ father eventually remarried (see his grandfathers will dated 1661 which refers to someone called “Jane”) so perhaps there are no further siblings because his mother died after the birth of Anne.

We do know that Thomas and his siblings – John, Edward, Elizabeth and Anne – were baptised at Woodnesborough and grew up there. When his brother John makes his will on board the HMS Bonaventure in 1672 he refers to himself as being “late of Woodnesborough” and when Thomas is married he is described as being “of Woodnesborough”.

Marriage to Margaret Lynch

Thomas and Margaret are married on the 28 December 1658 in Staple in Kent in the parish church of St James the Great. Thomas was 25 years old and Margaret 28 when they married which seems quite late but I feel sure that the marriage would have been viewed in a positive light. The Blechendens were a well known “ancient family” and the Lynch’s were also a well-established county family in Kent. Margaret’s great great grandfather Simon Lynch MP for Sandwich, had bought the Groves estate in Staple in Kent where the family resided for at least two centuries – there are memorials to a number of the Lynch family at the parish church in Staple.

Margaret’s cousin, Sir Thomas Lynch, was a sugar baron and three times Governor-Lieutenant of Jamaica. Her uncle Aylmer Lynch, like her father John Lynch, went to Jesus College Cambridge and entered the Church. Uncle Aylmer left a detailed will with many references to family members one of whom is Margaret who is left the generous sum of £100:

Item I give and bequeath to my Neice Margaret Blechenden wife of Thomas Blechenden Gent. the sum of one hundred pounds.

Extract from the will of Aylmer Lynch, dated 27 November 1686

Aylmer Lynch was possibly named after his mother Judith Aylmer or more likely his grandfather John Aylmer, who was appointed as Bishop of London during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. He was also briefly the tutor to Lady Jane Grey and after a distinguished career in the Church was, when he died, buried in St Paul’s Cathedral. The name Aylmer (also Aelmer/Ailmer/Elmer) helps to further positively identify one of Thomas and Margaret’s children – Aylmer Blechenden baptised in Aldington in 1670.

Thomas and Margaret spend their early married life in Woodnesborough where their first three children are baptised. The records then suggest that they then moved for a time to Harrietsham, where two further children were baptised, before they then moved to Aldington where we see further baptisms.

Thomas and Margaret moved to Aldington in circa 1668 because Thomas inherited the family property Simnells (this first came into the Blechenden family when Thomas’ ancestor William Blechenden married Agnes Godfrey in the late 1400s/early 1500s). Although briefly in the hands of John Cason after he married Elizabeth Blechenden, John Cason transferred it back to the Blechenden family (i.e. to Thomas and Margaret) in 1663.

Thomas Blechenden of Woodnesborough, gent, who afterwards resided there and died siezed of it in 1690..leaving issue by his wife Margaret Lynch several children and the eldest son John Blechynden succeeded him in this estate and likewise resided at Simnells.  He left Ann his wife surviving and she joined with her eldest son Thomas, of New Romney, gent in 1715, in the sale of this estate to Stephen Haffenden, of Egerton, clerk, who died the next year

the Children of thomas and margaret

Thomas and Margaret have nine children and unusually it looks as if most, if not all, survive infancy. Certainly the first eight are all mentioned in the probate record to their uncle John’s will in 1672 with the youngest Anne not mentioned only because she hadn’t yet been born.

Two children, Thomas and Margaret, are baptised in Harrietsham in Kent. This is the first time I have come across a Blechenden baptism in Harrietsham and it was initially unclear to me which branch of the Blechenden tree they belonged to but, given that the baptism dates fit neatly between the Woodnesborough and Aldington baptisms, and given that we know from the probate record to John Blechenden’s 1672 last will that Thomas and Margaret Blecheden had two children also named Thomas and Margaret, I am confident that the baptisms in Harrietsham are for the children of Thomas Blechenden and Margaret Lynch.

There are also some family connections with Harrietsham through Margaret’s father John Lynch who was the Rector of Harrietsham from 1630 until he was sequestered in 1646 (British History online says he was sequestered “about 1642” during the English Civil War but restored in 1660). Margaret’s sister Grace also lived in Harrietsham around this time. Grace married the Rev. John Squire and sadly their daughter, also called Grace, died in Harrietsham in 1664 at just 12 years of age. 1664 is the same year that Thomas and Margaret Blechenden baptised their son Thomas in Harrietsham so perhaps the family were staying with the Rev. Squire and Margaret’s sister Grace.

The children of Thomas Blechenden and Margaret Lynch are:
  • Elizabeth Blechenden baptised 14 Nov 1659 Woodnesborough, Kent
  • Grace Blechenden baptised 10 Dec 1660 Woodnesborough, Kent
  • John Blechenden baptised 01 Jan 1662 Woodnesborough, Kent
  • Thomas Blechenden baptised 08 May 1664 Harrietsham, Kent
  • Margaret Blechenden baptised 27 Mar 1666 Harrietsham, Kent
  • Edward Tookey Blechenden baptised 2 June 1668 Aldington, Kent
  • Aylmer Blechenden baptised 26 April 1670 Aldington, Kent
  • Gratian Blechenden baptised 10 December 1672 Aldington, Kent
  • Anne Blechenden baptised 19 May 1676 Aldington, Kent

I will set out a little more detail on each of the children in the post immediately following this one.

The last will and testament of Thomas Blechenden

Thomas Blechenden wrote his will on the 9th of June 1681, just a few days after he buried his eldest daughter Elizabeth on 28 May. Perhaps this is a second will, rewritten to take account of his daughter’s passing. But it is his final will and when Thomas dies in June 1690 probate follows swiftly on 29 July 1690.

Thomas was just 57 when he died and left behind his wife Margaret, one married daughter, Grace, who isn’t mentioned in the will, and seven other children including his heir John. Margaret is the primary beneficiary of the will with Thomas leaving her the lands and properties until her demise after which they pass to their eldest son John. Margaret and John are joint executors of the will which is overseen by “my loving son George Tooky gent.” George Tooky is a mystery figure – I have not been able to locate him or establish why he is described as “my loving son” but given that Thomas names one of his children Edward-Tookey there must be a close family relationship. I only have a transcribed copy of the will (and will put a copy of that on my pages) so it is possible that this is an error and should read George Hussey – that would make much more sense – but that question is unresolved until I am able to find the original and check against it.

In his will Thomas asks to be decently buried in the south chancel of Aldington Church near his “great grandfather John Blechynden Esq. dec” and this naming of his great grandfather, buried in Aldington helps to provide greater certainty of his lineage.

Thomas’ grandfather is the John Blechenden who was married to Margaret Ashenden and then to his cousin Frances Blechenden. John Blechenden lived his later years in Monkton in Kent but his will expressly set out that “I commend my body to the parish church of Aldington“. This image shows the lineage from John Blechenden down to his great grandson Thomas.

Margaret Blechenden, nee Lynch, lived until 1712 and was 82 years old when she died. She probably remained at Simnells until her death – the Aldington parish registers record her burial as April 7th 1712 and I hope that she was buried with her husband in the church. Her eldest son John pre-deceased her dying in 1709, so Simnells then passed to John’s son Thomas (born 1692) who, together with his mother Ann, sold the Simnells estate in 1715 ending 200 years of ownership by the Blechenden family.

Thomas Blechenden of Woodnesborough, gent, who afterwards resided there and died siezed of it in 1690..leaving issue by his wife Margaret Lynch several children and the eldest son John Blechynden succeeded him in this estate and likewise resided at Simnells.  He left Ann his wife surviving and she joined with her eldest son Thomas, of New Romney, gent in 1715, in the sale of this estate to Stephen Haffenden, of Egerton, clerk, who died the next year.

Edward Hasted, ‘Parishes: Aldington’, in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 8 (Canterbury, 1799), pp. 314-327. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-kent/vol8/pp314-327 [accessed 28 January 2023]

The Children of Thomas Blechenden and Margaret Lynch

This post gives a short summary of the children of Thomas Blechenden and Margaret Lynch – some of whom I will follow up later. The image below shows the children of Thomas and Margaret in the Blechenden family tree:

Elizabeth Blechenden

Thomas and Margaret’s eldest child Elizabeth Blechenden is baptised on the 14 November 1659 in Woodnesborough, in Kent. She marries Paul Loftie from Smeeth, in Kent, on 18 October 1680 but is not mentioned in her father’s will and this is because she dies in May 1681. Paul Loftie remarries to Eleanor Turner and whilst there is a monument to Paul and Eleanor in Smeeth parish church, sadly there is no mention of his first wife Elizabeth. Paul and Eleanor have a number of children and I understand that they are the 5xgreat grandparents of Alan Turing the WWII code-breaker and father of modern computing.

Grace Blechenden

Grace Blechenden is baptised on 10 December 1660 in Woodnesborough, in Kent, and marries George Hussey on 19 October 1680 just one day after her elder sister’s marriage to Paul Loftie. It seems odd to me that Grace and her sister did not marry on the same day and in the same location – that would have saved a lot of time and effort! However, Grace’s father Thomas Blechenden secures his daughters future by paying George “700” as Grace’s marriage portion. In return George sold the manor of Sutton Court near Dover to Thomas for just 5 shillings on the basis that it was retained for the use of George and Grace for their use as long as they lived:

Parties: George Hussey of Sutton near Dover on the one part, and Thomas Blechynden of Aldington and Grace Blechynden, his daughter, on the other part. Thomas will pay George 700 for Grace’s marriage portion. George has bargained and sold the manor and mansion house to Thomas, retaining for himself and his wife their use for their lives.

details of their marriage settlement dated 16 October 1680. Held by the Kent History and Library Centre

George and Grace have one child, a daughter also called Grace who is born in 1691. Interestingly, George Hussey’s mother is Anne Crayford to whom the Blechenden’s are related by marriage, although quite distantly by this time. This earlier post explored some of the connections to the Crayfords: Tudor Crispes, Crayfords and Blechendens.

John Blechenden

John Blechenden, the eldest son, is baptised on 1 January 1662 in Woodnesborough in Kent. John marries Ann Lane in 1690 and they have nine children together before he dies in 1709. John is the intended main beneficiary of his father’s will but only after the death of his mother. However, because he pre-deceased his mother the family property and lands at Simnells and in Stonested, both in Aldington, passed to his eldest son, Thomas, on the death of Margaret Blechenden. Ann is pregnant when John dies and she baptises the son he never saw Benoni Blechenden. I understand that, in Hebrew, Benoni means “son of my sorrow”. Thomas Blechenden died with some debts owing – I am not sure to what extent but this perhaps helps to explain why John’s son Thomas, when he interited Simnells on the death of Margaret, sold the estate in 1715.

Thomas and Margaret Blechenden

I mentioned in my earlier blog the two children, Thomas and Margaret, who were born/baptised in Harrietsham and presumably named after their parents. Thomas was baptised on 8 May 1664 and Margaret on 27 March 1666 and they are both named in their father’s will dated 1681 so we know they survived infancy and would have lived in Aldington, but I haven’t yet been able to establish spouses, children or death records for either.

Edward Tookey Blechenden

The first son to be baptised following Thomas and Margaret’s move to Aldington is Edward Tookey Blechenden on 2 June 1668. Edward marries Elizabeth Lancefield in Sevington on 12 March 1695 and they have at least 11 children. I have puzzled over why Edward is Edward Tookey Blechenden. Usually the middle name would be a family one and often from the mother’s line. But I cannot see a Tookey in the family tree – at least not until Edward’s daughter Mary marries Bartholomew Tookey in 1729 (Mary at this point is a widow having first married John Carey in 1725). Mary Blechynden/Carey/Tookey is a formidable character and gets quite the mention in History of Parliament Online which I will pick up in a future post.

The mystery of Edward Tookey Blechenden deepens further when you read his father Thomas Blechenden’s last will and testament – in that Thomas names “my loving son George Tooky gent. overseer and desire my executers to council and advise with him in the management of the executorship and I do give unto him the said George Tooky a ring of a mark...”. I haven’t been able to identify George Tooky – he isn’t the natural son of Thomas (unless he was “baseborn”) and he isn’t the husband of one of his daughters. I also can’t find any suggestion that Margaret Lynch married a Tookey and had children before she married Thomas Blechenden. I did wonder if the will had been mistranscribed and instead of George Tooky it should read George Hussey. Perhaps, but that doesn’t help understand the naming of Edward Tookey Blechenden! If anyone can identify George Tooky please do get in touch!

Aylmer Blechenden

Aylmer Blechenden (although I think this is spelled Elmor on the baptism record) is baptised in Aldington on 26 April 1670. Aylmer is a family name and he could either be named for his mother’s uncle the Rev Aylmer Lynch or perhaps down from his mother’s great grandfather John Aylmer, the Bishop of London. Aylmer marries three times, firstly to Jane Stowe (Stone?) on 16 July 1694, in Bekesbourne, Kent; secondly to Mary Saffory on 16 March 1696/7 in Deal, Kent, then thirdly to Mary Eastes on 25 March 1708, also in Deal. Aylmer and Mary Saffory had a number of children, including Margaret (1697), Thomas (1699), Jane (1702), Aylmer (1703), Margaret (1705), Savory (1707) and Elizabeth (1708).

We know that Aylmer was involved in the trade of cotton, woolen and/or silk as in 1709 he was declared bankrupt and described as a “chapman”. A chapman was another word for a merchant in the 1700s and 1800s, before the advent of factories, who would invest in raw materials and put out the work to spinners and weavers at home on piece-rates, and – in theory -sell the product for profit:

WHereas a Commission of Bankrupt is awarded against Aylmer Blechenden of Deal, in the County of Kent, Chapman, and he being declared a Bankrupt, is required to surrender himself to the Commissioners on the 12th and 19th Instant, and on the 8th of June next, at the Irish-chamber in Guildhall London, at the 8th of Afternoon; at the first of which Sittings the Creditors are to Come prepared to prove their Debts, pay Contribution-mony, and chuse Assignees.


Gratian Blechenden

Gratian Blechenden is the youngest son of Thomas and Margaret and is named after Margaret’s brother Gratian Lynch. He was baptised on 10 December 1672 in Aldington in Kent. Gratian gets a mention in Thomas White’s last will and testament- when he is given a conditional bequest of ten pounds. Gratian would have been about 18 when Thomas White wrote his will and perhaps felt a sense of obligation to help some of his cousins. The will indicates that Gratian’s father Thomas was in debt when he died and Thomas White was prepared to help, up to a point:

Item I give and bequeath to Gratian Blechynden (the son of Thomas Blechynden of Symnells of Aldington lately deceased) the sum of ten pounds provided he be bound forth an apprentice and his brother John Blechynden doe pay the arrears of his rent for Giggers Green which as Michmas next amount to above ninety pounds and discharge the arrears of Cophurst in his father’s hands when he dyed or therefore I give him nothing.

Extract from the will of Thomas White, Bishop of Peterborough

Gratian marries Ann Robinson on 09 Dec 1700 at All Hallows Bread Street and St John the Evangelist in London. It’s unclear why they were married in London given that both Gratian and Ann are from Charing in Kent: “Gratian Blechynden, Excise-man of Charing, Kent, & Ann Robinson of ye same par., singlewoman“. They have at least one child, Elizabeth, who is baptised on 12 Feb 1702 in Folkestone.

I have found some records online which suggest that Gratian Blechenden knew an Edward Gurney, son of Thomas Gurney and entered into a mortage arrangement: “28 Sept. 1704 Mortgage from Edward Gurney, son of Thomas Gurney to Gratian Blechynden, Gent., to secure £55 plus interest.” In the same records it is clear that Edward Gurney, as executor of his father Thomas Gurney’s will, pays £60 to an Isaac Brisenden to discharge a legacy in the will. Isaac was married to Joane Gurney in 1697 but she died one year later in 1698. Given the link to the Gurney family I wonder if Gratian and Isaac are related in some way?


Ann Blechenden, the youngest child, is baptised on the 19 May 1676 in Aldington in Kent. Like her siblings Margaret, Thomas, Edward-Tooky, Aylmer and Gratian, her father leaves her £50 in his will to be paid when each reaches the age of 21. Thomas dies a few years after making his will when Ann is just 14 years old but she likely would have stayed with her mother at Simnells until her marriage or death. I haven’t been able to ascribe with certainty a marriage for Ann – one possibility is with Thomas Colfe of Canterbury in 1708 or possibly John Rumfield, Grocer of Wye, in 1710. Either of these would mean that Ann did not marry until she was in her 30s.

The Last Will of Dr Thomas White, Bishop of Peterborough, proved 1698

Thomas White after unknown artist line engraving, early 18th century, National Portrait Gallery D30900.

My last post was about Dr Thomas White, the former Bishop of Peterborough but I thought I would try to set out some points from his will which was proven in 1698. Although written in about 1690 (he says in the opening paragraph he is almost 62 years of age) the will is undated and there are also no named witnesses. This seems very unusual given the length of the will and it would seem that he pondered over aspects of it and changed elements from the first time it was written. Some text is struck out and there are comments and/or additional text in the margins, not all of which is legible.

I have added my transcription of the will to my last wills and testaments page so won’t repeat it all here but try to pull out a few key points and especially as they refer to his Blechynden relatives.

Thomas White starts his will in the usual way but then moves on quickly to commentary on some of the key matters that have played out during his life – he begins by professing his belief in the Church of England as the “safest way to heaven” and also his frustration that not everyone understands this: “O that my deluded countrymen would think soe too”.

He leaves £10 to the poor of the parish “where I shall dye” and £240 pounds to the poor in each of the parishes of Aldington; Newark; Bottesford; Peterborough and Castor. However, strict conditions are attached to this charity as those who might benefit must first repeat the Lords prayer, the Apostles Creed and the Ten Commandments “distinctly and exactly” and if one word is missed out or changed then they are not to benefit. Whilst this may seem like a very harsh test for those most in need of aid, Thomas White explains that he wants his charity to also benefit them spiritually and to encourage them to learn what it is to be a Christian:

And I do desire withal it may be observed that I do design this gift not only as a Corporal but as Spiritual alms to doe good unto the souls as well as the bodies of the poor, having with sorrow of heart taken notice of the inconceivable ignorance which prevails amongst the poorest sort of people that they are (at least very many of them) Xtians only in name, but know not why they are soe nor what it is they are to believe or practise or pray for or to answer the demand of the Xtian profession. 

Extract from Thomas White’s will

Thomas White makes mention in his will to being deprived of his bishopric for not taking the Oaths of Allegience and Supremacy in 1689 and asked for reference to that to be made on a small headstone. This did not happen and his grave in the grounds of St Paul’s Cathedral remains unmarked. In his will he also leaves a small bequest of £200 to his fellow “poor among the clergy” who were similarly deprived of their living in 1689 for not taking the Oaths and asks Francis Turner, the former Bishop of Ely, to distribute the monies.

Bequests to blechynden relatives

He leaves bequests to his cousins, the children of Dr Thomas Blechynden and Margaret Aldersey, with the largest amount to Thomas Blechynden (who inherited Ruffins Hill) although this is clearly to pay off debts and fifty pounds is given subject to a list of creditors being given and the debts resolved or he “gives him nothing”. Margaret (Aldersey) Blechynden in her will dated 1682 makes similar comments about the profligacy of her son so he was clearly already in debt then and his situation no better by 1690.

in considerasoin that my son Thomas was not so careful as he ought to have beene in receiving and accounting the rent of the Courtlage,

Extract from Margaret Blechynden’s will dated 3 February 1682/3

The other children of Dr Thomas Blechynden and Margaret Aldersey are left small bequests: Theophylact Blechynden is left the sum of thirty shillings and Ann Blechynden, Mrs Mary Dilkes, Margaret Blechynden and Dorothy Blechynden are given “ten pounds to be equally divided between them viz to each of them fifty shillings“. 

Next Thomas White gives to his cousin “Mr Richard Blechynden thirty pounds“. This must be his cousin Richard who is the son of  Richard Blechynden and Anne Cleark. Richard also enters the Church and is ordained 23 December 1677. He preaches a sermon at the consecration of Thomas White as Bishop of Peterborough and also receives a prebendal position at Peterborough Cathedral in 1686 so it seems highly likely that he would be remembered in Thomas White’s will. Richard Blechynden, although 20 years younger than Thomas White actually dies the year before him and makes Thomas White his sole Executor which suggests an ongoing family relationship.

And I doe constitute the Rt Reverend father in God Thomas White Dr in Divinity late Lord Bishop of Peterborough my honoured Lord my sole Executor if he pleases to undertake the trouble And that he may take to himselffe (my funeral charges, debts and legacies being first paid) what he pleases or to distribute it amongst my relations or in works of charity as he thinks fitt…

Extract from Richard Blechynden’s will dated 26 October 1697

Thomas White bequeaths thirty pounds to his godson another Richard Blechynden, the son of Thomas Blechynden “towards the discharge of the expense of the degree of Bachelor of Laws when he shall take it at Oxford.”  This Richard Blechynden took his Bachelor of Laws, was rector of two parishes and became the first Provost of Worcestor College, Oxford until his death 8 October 1736.

Thomas White makes a conditional bequest of ten pounds to his distant cousin Gratian Blechynden “the son of Thomas Blechynden of Symnells of Aldington lately deceased“. This Thomas was the Thomas Blechynden who married Margaret Lynch and who died in 1690 leaving Symnells to his eldest son John. Clearly this branch of the Blechynden family were also not doing as well as they should but Thomas White gave the ten pounds on the basis that the youngest son of Thomas and Margaret learn a trade, “be bound forth an apprentice“, and in a typically firm way, that his brother John Blechynden:

…pay the arrears of his rent for Giggers Green which at Mich’mas next amount to above ninety pounds and discharge the arrears of Cophurst in his father’s hands when he dyed or therefore I give him nothing.

Extract from Thomas White’s will

There is a further reference to Giggers Green and Cophurst in Thomas White’s will but with some of the text struck through which suggests that he changed his mind at some point after the will was initially written in circa 1690. Unfortunately it isn’t all entirely legible and the number of people called John or Thomas in the Blechynden family make some of this extremely hard to follow. But what we do know from records at the National Archives is that Thomas Blechynden (the son of Dr Thomas Blechynden who d. 1662) together with his widowed mother sold some of their land in Aldington to Thomas White and Julius Deedes in 1668 and perhaps Giggers Green is part of this or followed later.

The Thomas Blechynden above who sold the land in Aldington did not have a brother John (i.e. Dr Thomas Blechynden did not have a son John) and it is therefore most likely that the reference to Mr John Blechynden of Aldington in the struck out text below is to the John who was the eldest son of the Thomas Blechynden who married Margaret Lynch. Earlier text in the will indicated that that John, brother of Gratian, was in arrears at Giggers Green and so it seems as though Thomas White decided to leave it to another John Blechynden who was the son of another Thomas Blechynden, this one of Fenchurch Street, in London.

Item I give and bequeath all that parcel of land called Giggers Green being sixty acres ….or life now in the onnparon of Mr John Blechynden of Aldington in the County of Kent to John Blechynden the sonne of Thomas Blechynden of Fenchurch Street in London and to his heirs forever being that parcel of land which I purchased of the said Mr Thomas Blechynden about twelve years since.  Item I leave the farme of Cophurst and all the land belonging thereunto to my heir at common law being as I think the Grandsonne of my Uncle Mr Paul White. 

Extract from Thomas White’s will

In trying to work out who is John, son of Thomas of Fenchurch Street, there are two strong contenders. The first is the son of Thomas White’s cousin Thomas Blechynden who is given £50 on the basis that he pays off his debts. John is the third, possibly fourth, surviving son of this Thomas, is born in 1680 and baptised, along with some of his other siblings in St Nicholas Cole Abbey in the City of London which is approximately one mile from Fenchurch Street. But would Thomas White have intended to give lands to the 10 year old son of his cousin Thomas whilst at the same time knowing that Thomas was not managing his financial affairs well at all. And why a younger son and not the eldest son Richard who was also his godson?

The other contender is John the son of Thomas White’s cousin Thomas Blechynden (son of Richard and Anne Blechynden). This Thomas Blechynden is born in 1650, is a land surveyor for the port of London but dies in c 1695 leaving a widow Mary and a son, John. In Richard Blechynden’s will of 1697 he mentions Mrs Mary Blechynden, widow of Mr Thomas Blechynden, who gets five pounds and five pounds to each of her children except her son John to whom he gives ten pounds which suggests to me that John is the eldest son. Thomas Blechynden, as a land surveyor for the port of London, could quite possibly have worked from the new Customs House building designed by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London. Customs House (although now a new building) is still no more than a five minute walk from Fenchurch Street.

Regardless of which is the right John and Thomas Blechynden it is clear from Thomas White’s will that he changed his mind and decided to leave the land at Giggers Green and the farm at Cophurst to his “heir at common law being as I think the Grandsonne of my Uncle Mr Paul White” thus cutting out his Blechynden relatives from all but small financial bequests.  There is a lawsuit following Thomas White’s death “Baxter v Bletchynden” concerning his will. Perhaps this is about the struck out text and the sixty acres at Giggers Green? George Baxter is the Executor to the will and given that the will is undated and not witnessed that does perhaps raise questions about the struck out text and the intent of Thomas White.

Other bequests

Other cousins are given small amounts of money: James White gets five pounds and Mary Rousewell “wife of Mr Rousewell now or late Minister of Rislip near Uxbridge in Buckinghamshire tenn pounds”. The very helpful clergy database records Mr Rousewell as Robert Roswell who was vicar at Ruislip between 1682 and 1708. I haven’t confirmed this but suspect that Mary Rousewell was born Mary White.

Next Thomas White gives to “Mrs Lucy Brockman my watch clock and Alarme which I formerly received from her” and also receives a ring of 15 shillings.  As mentioned in my post Thomas and his mother Anne went to live with their relatives, the Brockmans of Beachborough in Kent, after his fathers death.

There a few small bequests to non family members including his “worthy friend Dr Walter Needham” who receives ten pounds. Dr Walter Needham was a physician and anatomist, admitted as an honorary fellow of the College of Physicians in 1664 and fellow in 1687; elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1667 and physician to the Charterhouse in 1672. He also gives twenty pounds to his “old good friend Major John Pownell of Borton in Wye in Kent” and ten pounds to “Corp Rob Marris of Newark.” This is likely to be the Robert Marris who was Mayor of Newark in 1675, 1687, 1700 and 1709. He also leaves ten pounds to “Mr William Whatton of Belvoire“.  William Whatton was a non-juror and Chaplain to the Earl of Rutland at Belvoir Castle. For six years Thomas White had been vicar of St Mary the Virgin at Bottesford, the parish church for the Earls of Rutland, and probably where the association with William Whatton began.

The Seven Bishops who were tried for seditious libel, by Simon Gribelin 1688

Thomas White remembers four of his colleagues who were tried with him for seditious libel: Dr William Sancroft late Archbishop of Canterbury; Dr William Lloyd late Bishop of Norwich; Dr Francis Turner late Bishop of Ely; and Dr Thomas Ken late Bishop of Bath and Wells and gives each of them “a ring of 20 shillings price which I desire them and each of them to accept as a memorial of their fellow sufferers service and friendship“.  Dr Robert Frampton late Bishop of Gloucester, is also named in the above list although he was not one of the seven bishops but this is only because, due to a delay in travel plans, he was not able to join the delegation that petitioned the king and was not then imprisoned in the Tower of London. Two other bishops are not mentioned: John Lake Bishop of Chichester but he died in 1689 shortly after being suspended from office and Jonathan Trelawney Bishop of Bristol. Of the seven bishops tried only Trelawney was not also a non-jururing bishop and perhaps this is why he is not mentioned in Thomas White’s will.

Thomas White makes some final bequests (rings to the value of 15 shillings) to friends and colleagues and appoints Mr George Baxter “my faithful servant” to be sole Executer and leaves to him any “goods, chattels and personal estate” not already bequeathed. He appoints “two worthy friends William Thursby of the Middle Temple Esq and Edward Jennings of Lincoln Inn Fields Esq” to oversee the disposal of his estate to the various charities he mentioned and to assist George Baxtor and for their trouble they are each given ten pounds.

Thomas White Library

Finally, it is worth mentioning that Thomas White gives all his printed books to the town of Newark to form the start of a Library. With Thomas White’s usual thoroughness he gives detailed instructions for the location of the Library “in the upper End of the Church of Newarke behind the Quire” and that they shall be kept separate from the rest of the Church by means of “a lock and key thereto which key I require shall be kept by the Vicar of the Towne for the time being” and states there should be security of a thousand pounds to prevent embezzlement. Furthermore, there should be an audit of the Library once a year with any missing books replaced and the Library “shall be swept once every month and the bookes shall be all bright and rub’d once every quarter of a year”.

It is probably due to this typical fastidiousness that the Bishop White Library still exisits today in St Mary Magdalene with St Leonard, Newark. It has been expanded upon and contains some 1300 books from the period 1600-1800 but largely from the seventeenth century. The Church’s website records that the books are regularly cleaned and conserved and I am sure Thomas White would have approved.

Rev. Thomas White D.D., Bishop of Peterborough, 1628-1698

Kneller, Godfrey; Thomas White, Bishop of Peterborough (1628-1698) Magdalen College, University of Oxford;

Thomas White was the only son of Peter White of Aldington in Kent and Anne Blechynden, eldest daughter of Humphrey Blechynden also of Aldington. He was born into a family of relatively modest means but, as Bishop of Peterborough and as Chaplain to the future Queen Anne, played a pivotal role in the relationship between the Church, the State and the Monarchy. He was a devout man of strong principles which brought him into opposition with the King and with Parliament and resulted in a schism in the Church of England. Even though he spent his final years quietly, the principled decisions he had taken in his life, led to arguments after his death about his funeral and sadly his grave unmarked.

Thomas White’s early years

The marriage license, dated 3 November 1628, for Peter and Anne states that Peter White of Aldington is a yeoman, a bachelor, and aged about 39 and that Anne is unmarried, aged about 34, the daughter of Humphrey “Bleshinden” who gives consent (Canterbury Marriage Licenses 1619-1660). None of Anne’s brothers or sisters marry particularly young. Her brother Dr Thomas Blechynden D.D. is 42 when he marries, sister Mary is unmarried at the age of 42 (mentioned in her father’s will), brother Richard is 32 when he marries and, of the others, they either die young or never marry.

There is no rush to the altar for the Blechynden’s which is why it seems odd that the eldest daughter of the family, who given their many connections and local standing, would fall pregnant and perhaps even have the child before marriage. The baptism record survives in the Aldington parish records and states that Thomas, sonne of Peter Whyte, was baptised on the 19th December 1628 whilst his parent’s marriage was on 30th November 1628! Perhaps this was a love match and, rather than wait any longer, Anne and Peter forced the issue or perhaps, more prosaically, there is a date error somewhere.

Sadly Peter White died shortly after the birth of Thomas. In Edward Hasted’s History of Kent he refers to Peter White’s will of 1629 and Anne was certainly a widow by 1639 when her father wrote his will. Edward Hasted relates that through the family connection to the Clarke’s Peter White, and then subsequently Thomas, inherited the estate at Cophurst which was in the southern part of the parish of Aldington. Thomas White, in his will, refers to this as the “farme of Cophurst”.

Although the will and the death and burial record for Peter White eludes me but it appears to be generally understood that Anne and her young son Thomas went to live with their relatives, the Brockmans of Beachborough (aka Bitchborough). Henry Brockman is Anne’s 1st cousin once removed through her maternal grandmother Elizabeth Clarke whose sister Margaret marries William Brockman (d.1605). Sir William Brockman, son of Henry Brockman, gained local fame during the Civil War. A staunch Royalist, Sir William was imprisoned from 1642 to 1645, and in 1648 he came with a troop of 800 men to the aid of Maidstone, under siege from General Thomas Fairfax’s Parliamentary army.

The mother of Dr. Thomas White, a widow and grave matron, lived long in the family of William Brockman esq. of Beachborough in Kent, and was nearly related to that family, and had a jointure of estate in or near Romney Marsh holding of the court of Aldington.

Restituta Or Titles, Extracts, and Characters of Old Books in English Literature, Revived · Volume 1 by Samuel Egerton Brydges 1814

Thomas White was therefore brought up in a staunchly Royalist household in the years preceeding the Civil War and it is telling that he was admitted to St John’s College in Cambridge at the age of just 14 on 29 October 1642 (further confirmation of a date of birth in 1628) just a few short weeks before his uncle Dr Thomas Blechynden and Sir William Brockman, along with many others, would be imprisoned in Winchester House at the start of the Civil War in 1642.

The Cambridge admission record states that Thomas was admitted after three years at school in Wye, Kent, and there is a suggestion in other papers that he also attended King’s School, Canterbury, but it seems certain that he spent the early years of his education at the Grammar School at Newark-on-Trent, where he distinguished himself by his “genius, industry, and learned attainments, and was remarked for his singular personal strength, courage, and pugilistic skill”. According to one biography Thomas White often said:

“that he ever looked back to his school days, at Newark, as the pleasantest and happiest of his life.”

The Lives of the Seven Bishops Committed to the Tower in 1688, Agnes Strickland, 1868

The pugilistic skill and personal strength was something which clearly carried on into his adulthood. There is a story that on one occasion, when accompanying the Bishop of Rochester to Dartford to officiate there, a trooper of the guard insulted the two and impeded their progress. Thomas White reproved the man, who retaliated by challenging him to fight it out. A fight ensued, in which Thomas White was victorious, and the trooper was compelled to ask the Bishop’s pardon.

King Charles II was, allegedly, highly amused at the story, which he had only heard second hand, and told Thomas White “that he should impeach him of high treason, for committing a personal assault on one of his guards“. But when Thomas White explained the provocation he had received, and the unprovoked insolence of the trooper, the King commended him “for the spirit and personal courage with which he had acted in teaching the fellow better manners” and promised to remember him when an opportunity of conferring a suitable preferment occurred.

When he was admitted to St John’s College, Cambridge, his tutor was “Mr Blechynden”. This is Francis Blechynden, his mother Anne’s brother, who was a tutor and a Fellow of the college. His admission record also speaks to his family’s status at the time as he is admitted “plebeii” i.e. a commoner, non- gentry class, which reflects his late fathers status as “yeoman” and also that he was admitted “sizar”. This means he had a form of scholarship and may have had to perform some duties in the college in return for assistance with college fees.

Thomas White, son of Peter White, ‘plebeii’ lately deceased, of Allington, Kent; born at Allington; school, Wye Kent (Mr Suerty-on-high Nichols) for 3 years; admitted sizar, tutor and surety Mr Blechynden, 29 Oct. 1642 aet 14.

Admissions to the College of St John the Evangelist in the University of Cambridge, Parts I II, Jan 1629/30 – July 1715

Whilst Thomas White was at college he would have witnessed the turbulence of the English Civil War first hand when, in 1644, the Earl of Manchester arrived to force the “perfect reformation” of the College. The college Master was removed and the Fellows had to swear to a new oath which some found unpalatable. Thomas would have seen his uncle, Francis Blechynden, now a Senior Fellow, summarily ejected from his position for refusing to subscribe to the so-called “Oath of Discovery”. Perhaps Thomas White recalled his uncle’s principled refusal when he also refused to take an oath of allegience many years later. Despite the ejection of his uncle Thomas White finished his studies and took the degree of B.A. in 1646.

Career in the Clergy

After he received his degree and during the Protectorate (1653-1659) under Oliver Cromwell, he held the post of lecturer at St. Andrew’s, Holborn where he became noted as one of the most eloquent preachers in London. (It is possible that the lecturer at St Andrew’s was actually another Thomas White who held the post of rector at St Mary At Hill in the City of London. However, the Memoirs of the Life of Mr. John Kettlewell – link below – published in 1718, not long after the death of Thomas White, states it was the Thomas White who became Bishop of Peterborough. I have therefore assumed this to be true for now given that when it was written it was very recent history.)

Immediately after the restoration of the Monarchy in May 1660 Thomas White petitioned King Charles II for the vicarage of Newark-on-Trent, which he obtained on 30 July 1660. Perhaps Thomas continued to preach in London as, when the Rectory of All Hallows the Great in the City of London became vacant in 1666, Thomas White again petitioned for the post and was granted it because he was “of known parts and Abilities, and much desired by the Parishoners there”:

Act Books of the Archbishop of Canterbury 1663 – 1914

Just four months after being appointed to the Rectory of All Hallows the Great the Church itself was destroyed, in September 1666, as were many others, in the Great Fire of London. The parishes of All Hallows the Great and All Hallows the Less were combined after the fire and temporary structures were erected to allow services to be held.

The Church was eventually rebuilt by the office of Sir Christopher Wren between 1677 and 1684 so Thomas White would have seen the work start but, in July 1679 he received the rectory of Bottesford described as the “Great Living” of the Earl of Rutland upon the death of “Old Boots of Trinity”, Dr Anthony Marshall who was rector of Bottesford for 17 years. I’m not sure whether “Old Boots” is a term of endearment or one of derision.

Thomas White, throughout his career, had built up some strong alliances and patrons and this became more evident shortly after his appointment to the rectory of Bottesford. On 4 June 1683 he was created Doctor of Divinity of the University of Oxford and, shortly afterwards, chaplain to the Lady (afterwards queen) Anne, daughter of James, Duke of York, on her marriage in July 1683 with Prince George of Denmark. He was also installed archdeacon of Nottingham that year on 13 August 1683. Then, on 3 September 1685, he was elected Bishop of Peterborough, was consecrated on 25 October and enthroned by proxy on 9 November. One of Thomas White’s cousins, Richard Blechynden, had also taken holy orders, and preached a sermon at Thomas White’s consecration which took place in the Archbishop’s chapel at Lambeth Palace. Thomas White subsequently appointed his cousin Richard to a prebendary position at Peterborough Cathedral in 1686.

Chaplain to Lady Anne

Thomas White was personal chaplain to the future Queen Anne, from the point of her marriage to Prince George of Denmark in 1683, until he was suspended on 1 August 1689 for not taking the new Oath of Allegiance. The Lady Anne was born into the heart of royal and political life on 6 February 1665. She was the daughter of James, Duke of York (who became King James II), and his first wife, Anne Hyde. Although Anne was brought up in the Protestant faith, according to the instructions of her uncle King Charles II, when her mother died (when Anne was only 6 years old), her father remarried in 1673 to Mary of Modena confirming his allegiance to the Roman Catholic faith.

The country had lived through many years of conflict between Church and State, Parliament and Monarchy, Protestants and Catholics, and it wanted stability. The appointment of the personal chaplain to the Lady Anne was not carelessly made given her important place in the royal succession of heiress-presumptive to the throne, after her father and childless elder sister, the Princess of Orange.

…the appointment of so firm a churchman and excellent a character as the apostolic, learned, and eloquent Dr. White, became a matter of general satisfaction. All England, indeed, looked anxiously to him as the person on whose influence the religious principles of their future sovereign in a great measure depended.

The Lives of the Seven Bishops Committed to the Tower in 1688, Agnes Strickland, 1868

Thomas White remained Chaplain to the Lady Anne until 1 August 1689 and it has been suggested that it was his influence upon her that encouraged her moderate and conciliatory approach towards the Church and Parliament. It is the case that Queen Anne, last of the Stuarts, ruled in a new way and one which we might recognise today. She retained her commitment to the Church of England and a Protestant succession and unlike her grandfather, Charles I, she did not seek to rule according to the divine right of kings but, instead, set the path for monarchs to rule in conjunction with parliament.

Her fostering conduct to the Church is the best part of her career in life, and this was assuredly owing to her spiritual adviser, Dr. Thomas White. There was no other holy and purely disinterested person who enjoyed her confidence in opening life excepting White, whose influence could have worked on her mind for good.

The Lives of the Seven Bishops Committed to the Tower in 1688, Agnes Strickland, 1868

Trial of the Seven Bishops

Dr Thomas White, Bishop of Peterborough, is best known for being one of the seven bishops who were committed to the Tower of London in June 1688 for declaring that the King’s use of the dispensing power (i.e. the power to do away with acts of parliament in certain cases), was illegitimate and an inappropriate infringement on the rights of the church. King James II had issued an order in May 1688 that all his ministers should read his second ‘Declaration of Indulgence’ which granted religious toleration, but the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Sancroft, and six of his bishops including Thomas White, petitioned against it whilst, at the same time, professing their loyalty to the King.

James II’s overt Roman Catholicism and favouritism shown to Catholics was causing concern amongst the political and spiritual elite. Even those church leaders who had supported James’s right to succeed to the throne resisted the Declaration of Indulgence. This far and no further, they declared. The King was furious at the petition and summoned the bishops to explain themselves:

“Is this what I deserved, who have supported the Church of England, and will support it? I will remember you that have signed this paper. I will keep this paper; I will not part with it. I did not expect this from you, especially from some of you. I will be obeyed in publishing my Declaration.”

James II and the Trial of the Seven Bishops, William Gibson 2009

“God’s will be done” was Thomas White’s response to the King at his fury. The King feared this act of defiance would lead to wider rebellion and charged the seven bishops with seditious libel, committing them to the Tower of London on 8 June 1688. The trial was heard on the 29 June and the quickly prepared defense argued, at some length, that the bishops had the right to privately petition the King and that to read out the Declaration of Indulgence would run counter to the Act of Uniformity.

“My Lords, this is the bishops’ case with submission; they are under a distress being commanded to do a thing which they take not to be legal, and they with all humility, by way of petition acquaint the king with this distress of theirs, and pray him, that he will please to give relief.” – Serjeant Levinz (for the defence)

extract from: The Proceedings and Tryal in the Case of the Most Reverend Father in God, William, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, London: Printed for Thomas Basset and Thomas Fox, 1689

The charge of seditious libel was a serious one and had been a legal concept since 1275. The telling or publishing of “any false news or tales whereby discord or occasion of discord or slander may grow between the king and his people or the great men of the realm” became a crime tried by the King’s Council in the Star Chamber (a court that sat at the Palace of Westminster). Then in 1606, the Case De Libellis Famosis, tried in the Star Chamber, developed the concept further and set out that libel against the monarch or the government might also be a crime because “it concerns not only the breach of the peace, but also the scandal of government.” This is important because it meant that any criticism, whether grounded in truth or not, of the monarch or of the government, could be seditious.

Trial of the Seven Bishops by John Rogers Herbert

The Solicitor General, arguing the case for the King, argued that no one had the power to petition the King unless it was through Parliament. The audience watching the trial were furious at this and there were audible hisses across the court room. Even the Lord Chief Justice baulked at this but acknowledged that it could lead to instability for the Government:

Truly, Mr Solicitor, I am of the opinion that the bishops might petition the King, but this is not the right way of bringing it…I am sure it will make the Government very precarious.

extract from: The Proceedings and Tryal in the Case of the Most Reverend Father in God, William, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, London: Printed for Thomas Basset and Thomas Fox, 1689
Simon Gribelin etching of the seven bishops, 1688, courtesy of the British Museum

After much deliberation the jury was asked to retire and consider their verdict. This went on throughout the night and it was six in the morning before they were all agreed. When the jury announced their verdict of “Not guilty” the court room erupted, the thousands who had gathered nearby shouted and cheered and the news spread quickly. This was no back room trial with a disinterested public. It was the news of the day. Church bells rang out in celebration, commemorative coins were stamped, poems were written, the engraver Simon Gribelin had prints of his etchings of the seven bishops drawn up and distributed across London. The seven bishops became popular heroes, and the King’s attempt to enforce his will and quell rebellion massively backfired. The trial and aquittal of the seven bishop fatally undermined James II’s authority. Later that year James II fled the country and a new monarch was installed following the so-called Glorious Revolution.

Despite the outcome of the trial the bishops continued to advise James II for the next few months and Thomas White, with other bishops, attended on the King to give counsel on 24 September, on 3 October, and again on 6 November, when he says “we parted under some displeasure.” On that occasion he made a personal protestation that he had not invited the William of Orange to invade, nor did he know any that had done so. Thomas White remained loyal to the King despite the gaping differences between them.

The nonjuring bishop

In December 1688 James II fled the country and the following year William of Orange and his wife Mary (daughter of James II) were invited to take the throne. Constitutionally this was challenging. James II had not died so who was the monarch? In the end it was decided that he had abdicated and a Declaration of Rights was drawn up which was agreed to by William and Mary ahead of their joint accession to the throne.

The Declaration is worth a read as it curbs the power of the monarchs and elevates that of Parliament. It includes a reference to the trial of the seven bishops and says that James II “did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant Religion, and the Laws and Liberties of this Kingdom….. By committing and prosecuting divers worthy Prelates, for humbly petitioning to be excused from concurring to the said assumed [dispensing] Power.” The Declaration then goes on to make the dispensing power illegal, enshrines the right of the subject to petition the King and that of freedom of speech in Parliament:

That the pretended Power of dispensing with Laws, or the Execution of Laws, by Regal Authority, as it has been assumed and exercised of late, is illegal.

“That levying of Money, for or to the Use of the Crown, by Pretence of Prerogative, without Grant of Parliament, for longer Time, or in other Manner, than the same is or shall be granted, is illegal.

“That it is the Right of the Subject to petition the King; and all Commitments and Prosecutions for such Petitioning are illegal.

“That the raising and keeping a Standing Army within this Kingdom, in Time of Peace, unless it be with Consent of Parliament, is against Law.

“That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence, suitable to their Condition, and as allowed by Law.

“That Election of Members of Parliament ought to be free.

“That the Freedom of Speech and Debates, or Proceedings in Parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parliament.

‘House of Lords Journal Volume 14: 12 February 1689’, in Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 14, 1685-1691 (London, 1767-1830). British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/lords-jrnl/vol14/pp124-127

But not everyone was happy with the new world order. Again Thomas White along with William Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury, and other senior clerics opposed this change. I am sure they did not oppose the right to petition the King, how could they, but they had given their oath of allegience to James II and oaths before God were not to be taken lightly.

Thomas White, as Bishop of Peterborough, argued in the House of Lords, following the flight of James II, that the king had not abdicated and made his throne vacant and instead sought a lesser form of words which would allow William of Orange to govern in a form of regency and not as monarch. However, on 6 February 1689, word came from the House of Commons that they insisted on a clean break, and that the King had abdicated. This time the House of Lords agreed, although Thomas White put his name to the list of those who dissented:

Vote that King James has abdicated, and that the Throne is vacant, agreed to.

And, after Debate, this Question was put,

“Whether to agree with the House of Commons in the Word [“abdicated”], instead of the Word [“deserted”]; and to the Words that follow, [“and that the Throne is thereby vacant”]?”

Resolved in the Affirmative

‘House of Lords Journal Volume 14: 6 February 1689’, in Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 14, 1685-1691 (London, 1767-1830). British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/lords-jrnl/vol14/pp118-119.

William and Mary were proclaimed King and Queen and the Lords Spiritual and Temporal were required to take new oaths of allegience. Thomas White refused, was suspended from office on 1 August 1689 and deprived of his see on 1 February 1690. Thomas White was not alone in refusing to take the new oaths. Five of the bishops who were tried in 1688 refused the oath along with others and about 400 members of the clergy! This became known as the nonjuring schism in the Church of England. Nonjuring means a refusal to take the oath.

Whilst some of the nonjuring bishops returned eventually to the established church, four of them, including Thomas White, sought to create an alternative nonjuring Church of England. Archbishop William Sancroft passed his authority as primate of the English church to William Lloyd, who sent a delegation to seek approval from the exiled James II to consecrate bishops and so continue the episcopal line. James II approved this request and so in February 1694 Thomas White, William Lloyd and Francis Turner (Bishop of Ely) consecrated George Hickes and Thomas Wagstaffe as suffragan bishops for the diocese of Norwich. This was to pointedly establish the principle that it was for the Church to carry out ordinations of members of the Church and not Parliament.

Thomas White lived out his remaining years relatively quietly. His last public appearance was at the execution at Tower Hill of Sir John Fenwick on 28 January 1697, a notable supporter of James II and implicated in a plot to assasinate William III. At the scaffold Sir John presented a paper “Contemplations upon life and death…” and it has been suggested that this was written by Thomas White or co-authored. If true this might suggest a closer, if quieter, alignment between Thomas White and the Jacobite cause.

Thomas White died on the 30th of May 1698 and was buried on the 4th of June at about 9 or 10 in the evening in the churchyard of St Gregory’s by St Paul’s, a parish church in the City of London, built against the south-west tower of St Paul’s cathedral but which was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and not replaced. The parish burial record refers to him as Dr Thomas White, late Bishop of Peterborough.

Sadly, even Thomas White’s burial was not without controversy. His remains were attended by the nonjuring bishops, Francis Turner of Ely, Lloyd of Norwich, and the Irish Bishop of Kilmore, who with two other deprived members of the clergy supported the coffin to the graveside. Forty of the ejected clergy, and several of the Jacobite nobility and gentry followed the hearse; but, when Francis Turner requested that he, or one of the other nonjurors present, should read the burial service, this was rejected by the Dean of St. Paul’s, who insisted upon a conforming minister. At this the bishops, the forty clergy and majority of the nobility and gentry left. I hope some of his Blechynden relatives were present and remained to witness his final resting place.

Francis Turner, Bishop of Ely, gives an account of Thomas White’s funeral in the following letter to his brother:


“I acquainted you with the sad occasion of my being in town last week. There I stayed till yesterday, that I might attend the funeral on Saturday night. It was earnestly desired by many that I should perform the office at the grave (in St. Gregory’s, i.e., in the churchyard, for there is no church). I yielded, if it might be permitted, which I told them would hardly be, and that my poor name would never pass muster. Yet the curate of the place agreed with all the ease and respect imaginable. But his de facto dean, Dr. Sherlock, coming to know it, forbade it expressly, nor could any intercessions prevail with him to suffer any one of the deprived, not the most obscure or least obnoxious, to officiate. This did not hinder me nor anybody else from waiting on the corpse to the grave, the Bishop of Kilmore and myself with four others holding up the pall. As soon as our bearers set down we made our exit; and all the clergy with most of the gentry followed.”

The Lives of the Seven Bishops Committed to the Tower in 1688, Agnes Strickland, 1868

Thomas White wrote a lengthy will which referred to the challenging times he lived through. It gave various bequests to the poor, to his family and to his fellow deprived clergymen. I will set out the will separately but note here Thomas White’s final request for his burial which, sadly, was not made good. Perhaps the Dean of St Paul’s, who refused to have a nonjuring Bishop officiate at his burial, would also not allow the headstone that Thomas White asked for and so his final resting place, albeit in the grounds of St Paul’s Cathedral, is unmarked:

Having commended my soul unto the mercy and grace of God, I do appoint my body to be buryed in the churchyard of the parish wherein I shall die, without any funeral pomp, sermon, or expenses above ten pounds; and without any monument or inscription, saving this upon a little stone, if it may be allowed. The body of Thomas White, DD: late Bishopp of Peterburgh, deprived of that Bishopprick for not taking the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy established one thousand six hundred eighty nine is buryed here in hope of a happy resurrection.

Extract from Thomas White’s last will and testament.

Addendum (31 December 2022)

I recently had an opportunity to visit the parish church of St Mary the Virgin, Bottesford, Leicestershire, where Thomas White was rector for six years and amongst the many impressive toombs and monuments to the Roos and Manners families I was thrilled to find a monument to Thomas White hidden away in what is now a storage area to the side of the church’s organ. There is also a list of all the rectors of Bottesford which includes Thomas White.

Monument to Thomas White, St Mary the Virgin parish church, Bottesford.

The monument to Thomas White was erected by the rector of the parish in 1916. I haven’t seen this monument anywhere on line so wanted to share it here. It does not give any new information but I did pause on the reference to Thomas White being “buried in St George’s vault in the precincts of St Paul’s Cathedral” as this seems to contradict the account given by Francis Turner, Bishop of Ely of a burial “in St. Gregory’s, i.e., in the churchyard, for there is no church“. It is important to recall that when Thomas White died St Paul’s Cathedral was still being rebuilt following the great fire of London and St Gregory by St Paul’s was also destroyed in the fire and not rebuilt and the parish was instead merged with that of St Mary Magdalen, Old Fish Street. There is a St George’s chapel in the new St Paul’s Cathedral but there is no suggestion in records that Thomas White was buried there and given both the building work which was ongoing and the very clear description given by Francis Turner of his funeral I think the monument contains an error and that he is indeed and sadly buried in an unmarked grave on the south side of the Cathedral.

Lieut John Blechynden of Woodnesborough, Junior 1635-1672

John Blechynden of Woodnesborough was the second son of John Blechynden and Anne Glover. He was born in 1635 into a well-to-do county family in Kent but, as the second son, he was expected to make his own way in the world given that he was unlikely to inherit property from his father. London merchants were frequently the younger sons of landed families sent to London to make their fortune and John Blechynden was no different. In 1651, when he was 16, John Blechynden was apprenticed to Christopher Bradbury of the Drapers Company. The Worshipful Company of Drapers is one of the historic Great Twelve Livery Companies and was founded during the Middle Ages. The Drapers Company focused on the wholesale trade of wool and cloth and helped to regulate prices in that market.

The online London Livery Records show that John Blechynden (actually spelled Blissenden – see my earlier post here) was apprenticed to Christopher Bradbury for seven years. I had puzzled over the fact that, when he wrote his will on 29 July 1672 (at the age of just 37), he did so on board the King’s ship Bonaventure with one of the witnesses to his will being the ships surgeon (“chirurgian”) John Cotton. In England, surgeons were employed on naval ships and on some long commercial voyages. Did he write his will in the full knowledge of his imminent death on board the Bonaventure? Perhaps, although his will says that he is in good and perfect health and memorie:

I John Blechynden late of Woodnesborough in ye County of Kent the younger gent, being in good and perfect health and memorie thanks be to Almightie God, doe make and ordaine this my last Will and Testament in manner and form following.

extract from John Blechynden’s Will

There is no evidence that he actually died on board the Bonaventure and there is a likely burial record dated 27 December 1672 for a John Bletchenden, Gent., at St Clement Danes in Westminster. The date, and the acknowledgement in the burial records that he is a Gentleman, accords with his status and the probate date of 17 January 1672/3.

So, the question remains, why would someone who had spent seven years training to be a draper write his last will and testament on board the Bonaventure? We know that the 17th century was an age of international trade and competition with the East India Company at the height of its power. The following passage suggests that the Bonaventure was in the West Indies in 1668 and perhaps conveyed goods including, sadly, slaves.

II. Mem. of slaves, cattle, sugars, and other goods conveyed away by Lieut.-Gen. Willoughby from Surinam, after knowledge and publication of the Peace at Barbadoes with the Bonaventure on 19th Feb. last, viz. :—412 slaves, 160 cattle, 67 persons, and 150,000 lb. sugar, besides planks, speckled wood, and dry wares to the value of 150,000 lbs. sugar. With attestation and certificate as above. 

‘America and West Indies: May 1668’, in Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies: Volume 5, 1661-1668, ed. W Noel Sainsbury (London, 1880), pp. 564-576. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/colonial/america-west-indies/vol5/pp564-576
The Burning of the Royal James at Solebay

Interestingly when John Blechynden wrote his will on the Bonaventure this was just two months after the Battle of Solebay, the first naval battle of the Third Anglo-Dutch War, which took place off the Suffolk coast. The Bonaventure was in the Van for that action and lost three men with ten wounded. Hundreds of men were lost from the flagship, the Royal James, including the Admiral of the Blue Squadron Edward Montagu, Earl of Sandwich. Perhaps John Blechynden was on board the Bonaventure, was wounded, and eventually died from his wounds? But, if so, why was a draper on board?

Perhaps surprisingly, apprenticeship into the Drapers Company does not necessarily mean that John Blechynden was ever intended to become a draper. It is possible that he was apprenticed into the Drapers Company but that his master was actually a mariner, or a mariner as well as a draper as some members of the company wore two occupational hats and had a “steady business” as well as a more eratic but potentially lucrative one particularly for the officer class on board the ships. Increasingly, I think this is the case for John Blechynden as handwritten records which are described as “A catalogue of all the Flag Officers of the Several Fleets since His Majesties happy Resoration in ye Year 1660. His Royal Highness the Duke of York Lord High Admiral of England” and to be found at https://globalmaritimehistory.com/adm-8-database-project/ show that John was a Lieutenant in what we would now call the Kings Navy. In 1665, at the age of 30, the records show that he was a Lieutenant on board the Golden Lyon and then in 1672 a Lieutenant on board the Bonaventure:

Record of John Blechynden’s appointments to the Golden Lyon and Bonaventure (note the mispelling which is corrected) from http://www.globalmaritimehistory.com

The Golden Lyon was actually captured from the Dutch in 1664 off the west coast of Africa by Major Robert Holmes who had been given specific instructions to do so in order to protect from the Dutch the Royal [African] Company’s agents, goods, ships, and factories as above, especially from molestation by the Golden Lion.  The Royal African Company had been granted a charter in 1660 granting it a monopoly over English trade along the west coast of Africa with the Company’s primary purpose being the search for gold. In 1663 the Company was granted a new and expanded charter granting it an expanded trade remit and monopoly including the trade in ivory and in slaves.

National interest and international trade were indistinguishable in the 17th century and mercantile competition led to the first Anglo-Dutch War in 1652. Forts were built to protect ships and harbours, and even operated as trading stations, but were captured and recaptured. We don’t know to what extent John Blechynden was involved in trade on the African coast or if he was involved in the Royal African Company and its capture of the Golden Lyon in 1664 but we do know he was appointed to it the following year and then in April 1666 it was agreed that the ship should be given to the Royal African Company:

The King to the Duke of York. Upon suit of the Royal African Company, his Royal Highness is commanded forthwith to give order to bestow upon them the ship Golden Lyon taken from the Dutch on the coast of Africa, with her tackle and furniture

‘America and West Indies: April 1666’, in Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies: Volume 5, 1661-1668, ed. W Noel Sainsbury (London, 1880), pp. 369-379. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/colonial/america-west-indies/vol5/pp369-379

No reference to John Blechynden’s appointment as a Lieutenant to either the Golden Lyon or the Bonaventure is made in his will but he does refer to pay he was owed by the King for his services:

To my brother Thomas Blechynden and my brother Edward Blechynden’s children all of them each alike to be divided amongst them all my monyee as is due to mee and likewise the Pay which shall become due unto mee from His Majestie for my Services.

extract from John Blechynden’s will

An appointment to the Golden Lyon in 1665 and the Bonaventure in 1672 does suggest a navy career and that potentially John was at both the Battle of Vågen  in August 1665 (which saw an English flotilla battle against Dutch merchant ships in the neutral port of Bergen in Norway as part of the Second Anglo-Dutch War) and at the Battle of Solebay. There is a family connection to the navy through Sir John Mennes, John Blechynden’s grandfather’s “loving nephew” and who had been commander of the navy; commander-in-chief in the Downs and admiral of the Narrow Seas and then Comptroller of the Navy. Such a family connection could have secured John Blechynden a valuable position in the navy from which he could make his fortune.

But was John Blechynden ever actually a Draper? On balance I think he was a member of the Company but probably did not engage in the wholesale trade of wool and cotton. If he traded at all it is more likely to have been in tobacco; spices, ivory and maybe slaves. It is perhaps telling that when he was apprenticed to the Drapers Company his master was a Christopher Bradbury. There is a Captain Christopher Bradbury who dies in 1685 in Barbados and in the extract to his will he refers to himself as a vintner and a mariner and who had an estate in Barbados:

Extract from Captain Christopher Bradbury’s last will, 1685.

John Blechynden’s will is quite short (and is transcribed in my pages) and I had initally assumed, given that it was written on board the Bonaventure, that it was a nuncupative will. But looking again at it I don’t think it is nuncupative and, as already mentioned, he describes himself as being of good and perfect health and memorie. He is not on his “death bed” and his probable burial record shows that he was buried in St Clement Danes in Westminster in London in December 1672. Although his will is quite short it is helpful in confirming some family relationships. He states that he wants all money that is due to him and the pay due to him from His Majesty to be divided equally between his brother Thomas Blechynden and his brother Edward Blechynden’s children. These children are not named but they are referred to in the probate record of 17 January 1672/3. Thomas and Margaret (Lynch)’s children as mentioned in the probate record are: John; Thomas; Edward-Tookey; Elmer; Gratian; Elizabeth; Grace and Margaret Blechynden, and Edward and Mary (Blyth’s) children are: Maria; Elizabeth and Sara Blechynden. John’s will also refers to his sister Elizabeth who is made Executrix of his will and forty shillings to buy a ring in remebrance of him:

Item I doe give unto my sister Elizabeth Blechynden fortie shillings of lawful money of England to buy her a ring, whome I doe make my Executrix of this my last Will and Testament.

extract from John Blechynden’s will

There is no mention of any wife or children of his own and sadly he died at the age of just 37 but his short will hints at a life at sea and travels far beyond those of any of his ancestors.

John Blechynden 1612-1701

I have found it hard to find the time to write recently as we have been very busy preparing for and then getting used to living with a lovely family from Ukraine. But its about time I set out a little more about another of the Blechynden clan, namely John Blechynden, son of Thomas Blechynden and Elizabeth Boys. I’ll also set out some of John’s own family from his marriage to Anne Glover.

John Blechynden was born in 1612, probably in Nonnington in Kent. Although I haven’t found a birth record for John but we know his age from the Oxford University Alumni records which show that John matriculated in 1627, when he was just 15, at the same time as his older brother Edward.

Blechinden, Edward, s. Thomas, of Bishopsborne, Kent, gent. ST ALBAN HALL, matric. 4 May, 1627, aged 17.

Blechinden, John, s. Thomas, of Bishopsborne, Kent, gent. ST ALBAN HALL, matric. 4 May, 1627, aged 15. B.A. from MAGDALEN HALL, 1 Feb., 1630-1, brother of the last named.

Oxford University Alumni 1500-1714, Vol 1

John’s brother Edward Blechenden above remains a mystery. There is no suggestion in the Alumni records that he finished his studies at Oxford; there are no marriage records that can be positively attributed to him and when his father dies in 1661 his last will and testament makes no mention of Edward or any children. For now it appears as if Edward died before he finished his studies at Oxford which would have made John the eldest son and heir to his fathers properties.

As well as Edward, John has an elder sister Marie/Mary, a sister Elizabeth, a sister Francis and a younger brother Thomas. Marie and Elizabeth marry into the Cason family of Furneux Pelham in Hertfordshire. Marie marries Edward Cason and they have a number of children together before her death in 1650 at the age of just 42. Elizabeth marries John Cason and it appears that they lived in Woodnesborough in Kent but moved to Burwash in Sussex at some point in the 1660s which is where she dies in 1679. Memorials to both John and Elizabeth Cason are to be found in St Bartholomew’s at Burwash.

John’s sister Francis dies in London when she is just a baby in September 1618 and although brother Thomas is born just over a month later in November 1618 sadly his mother Elizabeth dies in childbirth, or shortly afterwards, and is buried two days after the baptism of Thomas. Both his sister Francis, and his mother Elizabeth, were buried at St Olave’s in Silver Street in the City of London. St Olave’s was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666 and wasn’t rebuilt and the Churchyard which remained was also damaged during the blitz. There is now a garden on the site with a small plaque that informs of the existence and destruction of the Church there.

John’s younger brother Thomas is mentioned is his father’s will dated 1661 so we know he survived into adulthood. There is also a mention of a Mortage document in 1666 between Margaret Sherman and Thomas Blechenden, son of Thomas Blechenden Clk. but so far I haven’t established what this mortgage relates to.

The brothers and sisters of John Blechenden can be summarised as:

  • Marie, baptised in Nonington, Kent on 21 August 1608, married Edward Cason had several children, died in 1650;
  • Edward, baptised in Nonington, Kent on 16 April 1610, probably died as a young man;
  • Elizabeth, baptised in Nonington on 26 June 1614, married John Cason, two surviving children, died in Burwash, Sussex in 1679;
  • Francis, baptised in Aldington on 29 September 1617 and died September 1618 in London; and
  • Thomas, baptised in St Olave’s London on 5 November 1618 (mentioned in his fathers will dated 1661 but no obvious wife or children).

Marriage to Anne Glover

John Blechenden married Anne Glover at St George the Martyr’s, Canterbury on 10th May 1631 when he was just 19 years old and shortly after he graduated from Oxford. The Visitation of Kent 1663-1668 states that John Blechynden of Woodnesborough married Anne, daughter of ….Glover of Canterbury. Her father is unfortunately not named, other than Glover, and I haven’t been able to identify him.

We don’t have too much information about John and Anne Glover but the little snipet below shows that Anne was called to account for withholding some monies left in the will of John Smith for the poor of the parish. I haven’t found many references to women being the executors of wills, unless they were the wife or other close family member of the deceased, so it seems likely that John Smith is a relative of Anne Glover but I haven’t been able to confirm this. The Blechynden’s do have a family connection to the Smith’s of Boughton Monchelsea and Chart next Sutton via the marriage of Reignold Blechynden’s step daughter Mary Hales to Symon Smith and they do have a son called John Smith. However, the dates don’t look quite right, there is no evidence so far that that John Smith lived in Woodnesborough and the family connection – unless a closer one with the Glovers can be found – seems tenuous. Unfortunately, from a genealogical perspective, John Smith is not the easiest of names to research!

1637.   Mrs. Anne Blessenden, wife of Mr. John Blessenden of Wodensbergh, whom we present for withholding the sum of £6, being the remainder of a legacy given to the poor of our parish in and by the last will of Mr. John Smith, deceased, late of our parish, of which will she is one executrix; the other is dead.

extracts from the Visitations of the Archdeacon of Canterbury by Peter de Sandwich

When John’s father Thomas Blechenden dies in 1661 his will refers to his two sons John and Thomas and his grandchildren but only those grandchildren that are the children of John and Anne. There is no mention of any children of John’s brother Thomas and, perhaps he had none, or none surviving, but he also does not mention any Cason grandchildren even though we know that both Marie and Elizabeth had children. I have commented on Thomas’s will in an earlier post: My Boys Family Connection.

There is, in the Furneux Pelham baptism records, an unusual record of the godparents of one of Marie and Edward Cason’s children, a Thomas Cason baptised in February 1635/6 and who was, no doubt, named in honour of his two sponsors: his step-grandfather Sir Thomas Cecil of Keldon (fourth son of the Earl of Salisbury) now married to Edward’s mother Susan (née Oxenbridge), and our own Thomas Blachyndon (Blechynden) his maternal grandfather. Marie and Edward Cason tragically lost at least five sons and one daughter when they were just infants before Marie died at the age of 42.

I don’t think the lack of a reference to Cason children in Thomas Blechenden’s will indicates a snub at all as there does seem to be a close family connection to the Blechyndens. The family home of Simnells in Aldington becomes the property of John Cason of Woodnesborough and I suspect is transferred on a temporary basis perhaps as part of the marriage settlement with Elizabeth Blechynden. John Cason then alienates Simnells in 1663 to Thomas Blechynden, the eldest surviving son of John Blechynden and Anne Glover before the Casons move to Burwash in Sussex. John Cason is a witness to Thomas Blechynden’s will in 1661 and, in return his will is witnessed by his “cozen” (actually his niece) Elizabeth Blechynden in 1670. John Cason (junior) also stood as Bondsman in the marriage of the son of his cousin Thomas in 1690 (i.e. that of a future John Blechynden to Ann Lane).

John and Anne’s Children

As mentioned above John Blechenden married Anne Glover when he was just 19 in 1631 and presumably she would have been of a similar age. Given their youth we could assume that they would have had a large number of children together and some five children can be positively identified, all of whom are born in Woodnesborough, in Kent, between 1633 and 1641. These are:

  • Thomas (1633 – 1690);
  • John (1635 – 1672);
  • Edward (born 1637);
  • Elizabeth (born 1640) and
  • Anne (born 1641).

St Mary’s Church, Woodnesborough. Image from Edward Hasted, ‘Parishes: Woodnesborough’, in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 10 (Canterbury 1800), pp. 121-144. British History Online: www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-kent/vol10/pp121-144

However, these are the only children I have been able to identify as the children of John and Anne and I suspect, but cannot prove, that Anne died shortly after the birth of her namesake. We do know that the English Civil War broke out in 1642 just one year after the baptism of Anne, and perhaps this took John away from home. We know his father supported the Parliamentarians and was on the local committee responsible for the seizing and sequestering the Estates of Papists and Delinquents, and for the Weekly Assessments, in the County of Kent. So it is possible that John took up the Parliamentarian cause. But I think it is also likely that Anne died as, in John’s father’s will, he refers to his son John and also to “Jane now wife to the said John Blechynden”. It is clear from Thomas Blechenden’s will that the majority of his estate has already been settled upon John but in his will he makes provision for John’s wife, Jane. The wording in the will is unusual – “now wife” rather than “wife to John” and makes me think that the marriage of John and Jane is a recent one and perhaps happened after the settlement of the estate upon John.

And so by me bequeathed is to be as an […] to him the said John Blechynden over and beside what is already settled upon him.   Item my will and meaning is that in case Jane now wife to the said John Blechynden shall survive him the said John that she shall have and receive the sum of twenty pounds yearly during the term of her natural life to be paid her quarterly as aforesaid.

Thomas Blechynden’s will 1661.

This extract from my family tree shows Johns relationship to his immediate family:

John’s eldest son Thomas married Margaret Lynch and had nine children; son John died during the Anglo Dutch Wars; Edward married Mary Blyth and had four children. It is unclear whether Elizabeth or Anne were ever married and Elizabeth was certainly still unmarried in 1670 when she witnessed her uncle John Cason’s will.


When I started this blog I said that I wanted to find a link to my Blissenden family who, frustratingly, I have not been able to trace beyond the early 1700s but who came from Kent where many of the Blechynden’s had land and property. So I wondered if perhaps there was a family link? The Blissenden surname isn’t a common one although there are many variations – Blessenden; Brissenden and many more beside so it was interesting to note in the online records of London’s Livery Companies that John Blechynden, in 1651, is recorded as the father of John Blechynden, apprentice to Christopher Bradbury of the Company of Drapers. But, rather than being recorded as Blechynden both are recorded in the Livery Company records as “Blissenden”! Eureka!

Whilst this does not of course prove any direct family line it does indicate that my Blissenden ancestors could be from the Blechynden family. Of course, it is possible that this John Blissenden is a different John but, given that the records state that he is John Blissenden of Wynsborough, gentleman, it is highly likely that this is John Blechynden, the subject of this post, as Woodnesborough, where he lived at this time was also known as Winsborough (or Wynsborough) and there are no other John Blechyndens or Blissendens living in Woodnesborough at this time who are “gentlemen” that fill the bill. In John’s father’s will of 1661 Thomas Blechynden refers to himself as Thomas Blechynden of Winsborough in the county of Kent, Esq. so it is very likely that John would also have used Winsborough not Wooodnesborough.

John’s second son John was born in 1635 and would have been 16 years old at the time of the apprenticeship which also adds weight to this being John Blechynden not a different John Blissenden or Brissenden. John Blechynden the younger, after his apprenticeship, appears to change profession to a naval one and dies when serving on board HMS Bonaventure in 1672 – in his will he refers to himself as John Blechynden, late of Woodnesborough in ye county of Kent the younger gent. Stying himself as “the younger gent” indicates that his father John was still alive in 1672.

John’s Death in 1701?

In 1668 John’s niece Frances Cason married John Polhill. They lived in Burwash in Sussex and, as already mentioned, Frances’ mother and father, Elizabeth and John Cason, also moved to Burwash. I think that John Blechynden may also have moved to Burwash in his later years, perhaps after settling his Kent properties on his children and grandchildren, to be close to his sister Elizabeth. I have found no burial record or last will and testament for John Blechynden in Woodnesborough or other likely locations in Kent, but I have found a burial record in Burwash for a John Blissenden, gentleman, in 1701. There is a Brissenden family in Burwash at the time and it is possible that the burial records relates to the John Brissenden who marries Mary Giles in Burwash in 1681. There is no suggestion, however, in the records I have found that John Brissenden was a “gentleman“. I have also found a burial record for a Jane Blechinden in 1699 at Southwark, St Saviour, Denmark Park. Jane was the “wife of John Blechinden, gentleman“. Could this be the Jane mentioned in Thomas Blechynden’s will of 1661?

By 1701 John Blechynden would be very elderly and to live to the great age of 89 was very unusual – his eldest son Thomas died at the age of just 57 which was not atypical. If John did die in Burwash in 1701 at the age of 89 he would have outlived his sons, lived through the English Civil War, seen the execution of Charles I and later the Restoration of the Monarchy, lost a son in the Anglo Dutch Wars and also witnessed in the Glorious Revolution the overthrow of James II and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy. He did live in interesting times.

Peter Wentworth MP, died 10 November 1596, Tower of London

Peter Wentworth MP died in the Tower of London on his third stay there. His wife Elizabeth Walsingham, also died in the Tower a few short months before hand. She had been given permission to stay with her husband in the Tower and he described her as “my cheifest comfort in this life, even the best wife that ever poor gentleman enjoyed”. Wentworth even refused to be released from the Tower because it would be too much to be sent home to Lillingstone Lovell with memories of his wife there. He died in the Tower on 10 November 1596.

I am always a little surprised that the Wentworths died in the Tower, after all Elizabeth was the sister of Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth I’s “spymaster”. Did family count for nothing? But Sir Francis died in 1590 so could pull no strings and Peter Wentworth was his own worst enemy. He knew what would land him in trouble but carried on anyway. And I am full of admiration for him because of that.

Peter Wentworth was a thoughtful man, deliberate in what he said, and not one to pull any punches. In Parliament he raised the question of the Royal Succession, openly criticised the Queen and advocated for freedom of speech in Parliament. These were radical, maybe even treasonous, ideas especially as Elizabeth I had put in place controls over what the Commons could or could not discuss.

I have to admit that before digging around my family history I was not aware of Peter Wentworth or the speeches he made to Parliament and I think he deserves a wider audience, maybe a place in the national curriculum. I have mentioned in an earlier blog his connection to the Boys and Blechenden families so this one will just focus on controversial career in the House of Commons.

House of Commons, 11 November 1566

In 1566 Queen Elizabeth I had been on the throne for eight years and, aged 33, questions about her marriage and succession were rife. On 5 November of that year a delegation of 60 Lords and Commoners met with the Queen to urge her to consider the question of her marriage and the succession which provoked an angry response and on 6 November she sent a message to the Lords and the Commons that they were not to discuss the succession:

her Grace had signified to both Houses, by words of a Prince, that she by Gods Grace would Marry, and would have it therefore believed; and touching limitation for Succession, the perils be so great to her Person, and whereof the hath felt part in her Sisters time, that time will not yet suffer to trèat of it.

On 11 November Peter Wentworth questioned whether the Queen’s command to not discuss the question of her succession was contrary to the liberties and privileges of the House? The matter was debated for some time and the following day the Speaker of the House had to relay a special Command from her Highness that there should not be further talk of that matter in the House. Although the Queen later softened her approach, at least for a time, it is clear that freedom of speech in Parliament was only with Her Majesties Gracious Permission. Peter Wentworth’s questions, written in his hand, regarding the liberties of the House to free speech, have survived and can be seen on the National Archives website:

Whether hyr hyghnes’ commandment, forbyddyng the Lower Howse to speake or treate any more of the succession or of any theyre escewsses in that behalffe, be a breache of the lybertie of the free speache of the howse or not?

Wheter Mr Controller, the vicechamberlaine, and Mr Secretarye pronowncyng in the Howse the sayd commandment in hyr hyghness’ name, are of awthorytye suffycyent to bynde the howse to silence in that behalffe, or to bynde the howse to acknowledge the same to be a direct and sufficient commandment or not?

Yf hr hyghness’ said commandment be no breache of ye lybertie of the howse, or yf the commandment pronownced as afore is sayde be a suffycyent commandment to bynd the howse to take knoledge theroff, then what offence is it for anye of the howse to err in declaryng his opynyon to be otherwys?

House of Commons, 8 February 1576

Between 1572 and 1576 Parliament was prorogued on no less than ten occasions which gave Peter Wentworth time to consider the speech that he would deliver on the first day of the new session on 8 February 1576. This is his speech that is best known amongst parliamentary orations and is credited with being the first ever full statement of the doctrine of freedom of speech in the House of Commons.

Mr. Speaker, I find written in a little volume of words these words in effect: Sweet indeed is the name of Liberty and the thing itself a value beyond all inestimable Treasure. So much the more it behoveth us to take care lest we contenting our selves with the sweetness of the name, lose and forgo the thing, being of the greatest value that can come unto this noble Realm.

He criticised the infringements upon the freedom of speech in previous sessions of Parliament and argued that without it it was just a place of “flattery and dissimulation”. It’s not hard to see why some of his fellow parliamentarians may not have welcomed Wentworth’s words:

I was never of Parliament but the last and the last Session, at both which times I saw the Liberty of free Speech, the which is the only Salve to heal all the Sores of this Common-Wealth, so much and so many ways infringed, and so many abuses offered to this Honourable Council, as hath much grieved me even of very Conscience and love to my Prince and State. 

…that in this House which is termed a place of free Speech, there is nothing so necessary for the preservation of the Prince and State as free Speech, and without it is a scorn and mockery to call it a Parliament House, for in truth it is none, but a very School of Flattery and Dissimulation, and so a fit place to serve the Devil and his Angels in, and not to glorify God and benefit the Common-Wealth.

He carefully spoke about rumours and messages on what the Queen liketh or liketh not and why these did ‘very great hurt’:

Amongst other, Mr Speaker, Two things do great hurt in this place, of the which I do mean to speak: the one is a rumour which runneth about the House and this it is, take heed what you do, the Queens Majesty liketh not such a matter, whosoever prefereth it, she will be offended with him; or the contrary, her Majesty liketh of such a matter, whosoever speaketh against it she will be much offended with him.

The other: sometimes a Message is brought into the House either of Commanding or Inhibiting, very injurious to the freedom of Speech and Consultation, I would to God, Mr Speaker, that these two were Buried in Hell, I mean rumours and Messages; for wicked undoubtedly they are, the reason is, the Devil was the first Author of them, from whom proceedeth nothing but wickedness.

Wentworth, argued that only by speeking freely could they best serve Her Majesty, even if that meant suffering the Queen’s displeasure:

Then I will set down my opinion herein, that is, he that dissembleth to her Majesties peril, is to be counted as an hateful Enemy; for that he giveth unto her Majesty a detestable Judas his Kiss; and he that contrarieth her mind to her Preservation, yea though her Majesty would be much offended with him, is to be adjudged an approved Lover, for faithful are the wounds of a Lover, saith Solomon, but the Kisses of an Enemy are deceitful.

 And he similarly exhorted the Queen to heed the advice of her councillors, with cricicism implied, or, rather ominously, risk the instability of her Kingdom:

And I beseech the same God to endue her Majesty with his Wisdom, whereby she may discern faithful advice from traiterous sugared Speeches, and to send her Majesty a melting yielding heart unto sound Counsel, that Will may not stand for a Reason: and then her Majesty will stand when her Enemies are fallen, for no Estate can stand where the Prince will not be governed by advice.

Unfortunately for Wentworth his arguments for the need for freedom of speech in Parliament led him to a more direct and explicit cricisism of the Queen -although he argued throughout that this was said for her own good as a faithful servant of Her Majesty:

Certain it is Mr. Speaker that none is without fault, no, not our noble Queen … Her Majesty hath committed great faults, yea dangerous faults to herself and the state … It is a dangerous thing in a prince unkindly to entreat and abuse his or her nobility and people as her Majesty did the last Parliament, and it is a dangerous thing in a prince to oppose or bend herself against her Nobility and People … and how could any prince more unkindly entreat, abuse and oppose herself against her nobility and people than her Majesty did the last Parliament? Did she not call it of purpose to prevent traitorous perils to her person and for no ther cause? Did not her Majesty send unto us two bills, willing us to make a choice of that we liked best for her safety and thereof to make a law, promising her Majesty’s royal consent thereto? And did we not first choose the one and her Majesty refused it, yielding no reason, nay yielding great reasons why she ought to have yielded to it? Yet did not we nevertheless receive the other and agreeing to make a law thereof did not her Majesty in the end refuse all our travails? And did not we her Majesty’s faithful nobility and subjects plainly and openly decipher ourselves unto her Majesty and our hateful enemy? And hath not her Majesty left us all to her open revenge? Is this a just recompence in our Christian Queen for our faithful dealings?

…It is a great and special part of our duty and office Mr. Speaker to maintain the freedom of consultation and speech for by this are good laws that do set forth God’s glory and are for the preservation of the prince and state made.

Therefore I say again and again, hate that is evil and cleave to that that is good. And this, loving and faithful hearted, I do wish to be conceived in fear of God, and of love to our prince and state, for we are incorporated into this place to serve God and all England and not to be Time-Servers and Humour Feeders, as Cancers that would pierce the Bone, or as Flatterers that would fain beguile all the World…

I particularly like the last sentence and perhaps all modern Parliamentarians should consider that they are incorporated into this place to serve God and all England and not to be times-servers and humour feeders.

Wentworth drew his speech to a close with the following although it is also suggested that he was interrupted at this point out of a reverend regard of her Majesty’s Honour and and he was stooped from proceeding before he had fully finished his Speech:

Thus I have holden you long with my rude Speech, the which since it tendeth wholly with pure Conscience to seek the advancement of Gods Glory, our Honourable Soveraigns Safety, and to the sure defence of this noble Isle of England, and all by maintaining of the Liberties of this Honourable Councel, the Fountain from whence all these do Spring; my humble and hearty Suit unto you all is, to accept my good will, and that this that I have here spoken out of Conscience and great zeal unto my Prince and State, may not be buried in the Pit of Oblivion, and so no good come thereof.

Peter Wentworth was immediately sequestered for this speech and questioned by members of the Queen’s privvy council in the afternoon of the 8th February. A transcript of the questioning remains and it is interesting to see him invoke parliamentary privilege, although he does not use that term. Parliamentary privilege is enshrined in the Bill of Rights over 100 years later: Article 9 of the Bill of Rights (1689) states “the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament” but in 1576 when Wentworth is asked about certain rumors of the Queens Majesty, he answers:

If your Honours ask me as Councellors to her Majesty, you shall pardon me; I will make you no Answer: I will do no such injury to the place from whence I came; for I am now no private Person, I am a publick, and a Councellor to the whole State in that place where it is lawful for me to speak my mind freely, and not for you as Councellors to call me to account for any thing that I do speak in the House; and therefore if you ask me as Councellors to her Majesty, you shall pardon me, I will make no Answer; but if you ask me as Committees from the House, I will make you the best Answer I can.

During the questioning Wentworth is asked to explain himself and demonstrate the truth of his speech and again and again the committee is forced to agree with him, until at last they just admit he could have phrased it better!:

Commit. Yea but you might have uttered it in better terms…

Despite this Peter Wentworth was committed to the Tower for his “violent and wicked words” on 9 February and “there to remain until such Time as this House should have further Consideration of him”.

House of Commons, 12 March 1576

Fortunately for Peter Wentworth he was not in the Tower of London for too long, as by the Queens special favour he was restored again to his Liberty and place in the House on Monday 12 March that same year. But not before he had to make an admission of his fault on his knees:

Mr Peter Wentworth was brought by the Serjeant at Arms that attended the House, to the Bar within the same, and after some Declaration made unto him by Mr Speaker in the name of the whole House both of his own great fault and offence, and also of her Majesties great and bountiful mercy shewed unto him, and after his humble Submission upon his Knees acknowledging his fault, and craving her Majesties Pardon and Favour, he was received again into the House, and restored to his place to the great contentment of all that were present.

House of Commons, 1 March 1587

In 1587 not only was the question of sucession central to Elizabeth’s reign but she was also grappling with religious turmoil which the Elizabethan Settlement had sought to address. It did not. Peter Wentworth was a puritan and was MP for Northampton, a centre of puritan activity. When in 1587 the Queen surpressed a parliamentary Bill which sought to presbyterianize the Anglican church, Peter Wentworth was ready to argue for the right to debate the matter. He prepared again a series of questions on the matter, including the one below, but the Speaker on reviewing the Articles “pocketted” them up, showed them to Sir Thomas Heneage, and Wentworth was committed straight to the Tower and the questions were not moved at all. It is unclear how long he remained there.

Whether this Council be not a place for any Member of the same here assembled freely and without controllment of any person or danger of Laws, by Bill or speech to utter any of the griefs of this Commonwealth whatsoever touching the service of God, the safety of the Prince and this Noble Realm.

One of Wentworth’s questions that were never put before the House of Commons. Simonds d’Ewes, ‘Journal of the House of Commons: February 1587’, in The Journals of All the Parliaments During the Reign of Queen Elizabeth (Shannon, Ire, 1682), pp. 407-411. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/jrnl-parliament-eliz1/pp407-411
Imprisoned again, the Gatehouse, 1591

In 1587, after the death of Mary Queen of Scots, Wentworth drafted A Pithie Exhortation of her Majestie for establishing her successor to the crowne, a tract which was given prominence when published posthumously in 1598. In it Wentworth was his characteristic blunt self. He argued strongly about the need to settle the question of the succession arguing that without this the country would be thrown into confusion and perhaps civil war with Elizabeth effectively sentencing her subjects to the “merciless bloody sword”. Drafts of the tract were leaked to the Privy Council, and in August 1591 he was once again imprisoned but this time in the Gatehouse – a prison in Westminster which stood at the front of Westminster Abbey. He was moved in November 1591 and confined in a private house before being released in February 1592.

House of Commons, 25 February 1593

At the start of a new Parliament Wentworth, returned again for Northampton, went to Westminster determined to raise again the question of the succession. Using the arguments he had set out in his Pithie Exhortation, he tried to influence newer Members of Parliament but news got out of Wentworths plans. Despite his several imprisonments he was unrepentant and remained convinced of the need to, and of his right as a Member of Parliament to, debate the matter of the succession. Peter Wentworth, together with Sir Henry Bromley, sought to obtain the support of the Lords as well as the Commons in the consideration of a Bill regarding the question of the succession. This did not go down well with Queen Elizabeth who was “highly displeased” and despite the House not sitting Wentworth, Bromey and some others were called before members of the Privy Council with Wentworth being sent to the Tower where he was to remain until his death.

Wentworth and Bromeley committed. The day after, being Sunday, and Feb. 25. and the House sat not; yet the aforesaid Mr. Wentworth, Sir Henry Bromeley, and some others, were called before the Lord Burleigh Lord Treasurer of England, the Lord Buckhurst, and Sir Thomas Henage, who intreated them very favourably, and with good Speeches; but so highly was her Majesty offended, that they must needs commit them, and so they told them. Whereupon Mr. Peter Wentworth was sent Prisoner to the Tower, Sir Henry Bromeley, and one Mr. Richard Stevens (to whom Sir Henry Bromely had imparted the matter) were sent to the Fleet, as also Mr. Welche the other Knight for Worcestershire.

For about 30 years Peter Wentworth argued for the right to freedom of speech in Parliament without limitation, without the need for the Monarch’s approval and in order to debate and perhaps help settle some of the most pressing issues of the day. He spent a number of years in the Tower of London for his pains and both he and his wife died there. Peter Wentworth was not a great politician. He was a man of conviction but he pressed ahead regardless of the almost certain consequences when perhaps a more subtle approach would have won the day. As the Committee in 1576 said “…you might have uttered it in better terms…”. But I like to think that he helped to lay the foundations for the Freedom of Speech enshrined in the 1689 Bill of Rights and which is symbolically reasserted at the beginning of every Parliament even today.

Tudor Crispes, Crayfords and Blechendens

Today I’m returning from digging into the English Civil War to Tudor times to look at the family links between the Blechendens of Aldington, the Crispes of Quekes and the Crayfords of Great Mongeham. Apologies for the Tudor Crisps reference in the heading – they were my favourite snack when I was a child and I still remember the catchphrase “canny bag of Tudor” from the TV advert! But back to family history. Looking at the Crispe family brings me within touching distance of a direct ancestor via marriage to a Denne and then a Nethersole. But I need to do a thorough health check on the Denne/Nethersole link so for now I’ll stick to the Crispes, Crayfords and Blechendens.

Margaret Crispe of Quekes

Margaret Crispe was born in c 1509 the daughter of John Crispe of Quekes (also referred to as Quex) and Avice Denne, the year that Henry VIII became King of England. The Crispe family can be traced back to the 1300s in Oxfordshire but one branch of the family decided to make the move to Kent and very quickly established themselves with Margaret’s grandfather, John Crispe, becoming Mayor of Canterbury in 1489-90. When John Crispe died in 1501 he asked to be buried near his wife at the Monastery of St Augustine, Canterbury. Less than 40 years later the Monastery would be all but reduced to ruins as a result of Henry VIII’s break with Rome and the dissolution of the monastaries.

To be buried in the cemetery near my wife at the Monastery of St. Augustine outside the Wall of Canterbury, or elsewhere in the next churchyard where my body shall die. To the Abbot 3s. 4d., and to every monk there, if I am buried there, 12d.—John Crispe of Thanet, 1501. (Consistory, Vol. 8, fol. 9.)
(This is the first John Crispe of Thanet, whose wife was probably Joan Sevenoak. John Crispe was Mayor of Canterbury, where he had property, for the official year 1489-90. Two of his daughters—Agnes married Henry Goseborne, Mayor 1497-8, and Joan married Stephen Barrett, Mayor 1487-8 and 1496-7. His son John Crispe married Agnes Quex.)

Further Notes from Kentish Wills by Arthur Hussey, Kent Archaeological Society

The marriage of John Crispe’s son, also John Crispe, to Agnes Quekes, sole hieress of the Manor of Quekes in Birchington, on the Isle of Thanet helped to solidify the family’s position in Kent. Within two generations, the family had aquired so much land and property, that Sir Henry Crispe, Margaret’s brother, was known as the Little King of Thanet. The Manor of Quekes remained in the Crispe family until 1680 when, upon the death of Thomas Crispe, it passed to his son-in-law Richard Breton who immediately sold it on. Although the image below is from 1781 the basic structure of the house was probably little altered from the 16th century when Margaret Crispe was born there and no doubt the Blechenden family visited. Quekes Manor was eventually pulled down in the 1800s and replaced with a grand regency building.

South View of Quekes, 1781

Marriage to John Crayford

In circa 1529 Margaret Crispe married John Crayford (Crafford/Craford) of Great Mongeham in Kent who was descended from William Crayford, made knight-banneret by Edward IV. Margaret and John’s home in Great Mongeham was the “mansion” of Stone Hall which no longer exists. Like the Crispe’s the Crayford’s also had extensive lands in Kent and the Visitations of Bedfordshire record that Margaret’s husband, John Crayford, was a gentleman usher of the privy chamber to Henry VIII as this summary on the National Archives website, (which concerns the right to hunt small game within a given area by a license known as “free warren”), confirms:

Folio 13-16. PLAINTIFF: John Crafford, gentleman usher of the Chamber DEFENDANT: Sir Edward Guildford, warden of the Cinque Ports PLACE OR SUBJECT: Claim of defendant to free warren between Dover Castle and Sandwich COUNTY: Kent


Positions in the Kings Privy Chamber were highly sought after and were often stepping stone for positions of greater power. If you had the ear of the King, which the gentlemen of the privy chamber certainly did, then lands and titles could follow. The gentlemen ushers were responsible for ensuring that protocol was observed at all times within the privy chamber. They guarded the King’s door, ushered visitors into his presence, would ensure the King had food and drink etc. Detailed regulations were published in 1526 “for keeping order in the King’s and Queen’s chambers” which explain the role of the various members of the privy chamber with just a small sample below:

For the keeping of the King’s privy chamber pure and clean, and free from great resort of people who disturb the King’s retirement, no one is to be allowed to enter it besides those he himself calls for, except the ministers deputed to attend there, viz., the marquis of Exeter, “which is the King’s near kinsman, and hath been brought up of a child with his Grace in his chamber,” six gentlemen [waiters], two gentlemen ushers, four grooms, the King’s barber, and a page; in all, 15 persons.

Henry VIII: January 1526, 26-31′, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 4, 1524-1530, ed. J S Brewer (London, 1875), pp. 852-878. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol4/pp852-878

In 1530 Margaret and John had a son, Edward, who married Mary See (Atsea) and one further son, Thomas, who died without issue. Mary See is the sister of Millicent who married William Blechenden, Captain of Walmer Castle. Sadly, John Crayford died very young, when he was about 29 or 30 years old in 1535, when Edward and Thomas were still infants and is buried at St Martin’s Church, Great Mongeham. John’s son Edward Crayford also died when he was quite young in 1558 and as I understand it, at around the same time as his wife Mary leaving, according to the 1619 Visitation of Kent, three children: Millicent, William and Margaret.

The Crayford Tree from County Genealogies:pedigrees of the families of the County of Kent

Some years later, in 1636, a William Crayford is the defendent in Argent v Crayford at the Court of Chivalry. I have mentioned this in a previous post but it is worth recalling that one of the witnesses to that case is a later John Blechenden who refers to William Crayford as his “kinsman”. If he is the William Crayford born in c1609 then he would be the great-great-grandson of John Crayford and Margaret Crispe. This would make William Crayford and John Blechenden distant cousins by marriage.

UPDATE [September 2022]: I have found yet another link between the Crayford family and the Blechendens. Ann Crayford, only daughter of Edward Crayford and Ann Hayward, married Samuel Hussey and their son George married Grace Blechenden, daughter of Thomas Blechynden and Margaret Lynch. So Grace Blechenden’s mother-in-law was born a Crayford which maintained the family links until at least the mid-late 1600s.

Looking into the Crayford’s also led me via a circuitous route, to Rudyard Kipling via this: in 1505 John Crayford of Mongeham (i.e. the John who is top of the tree above) entered into a Bond with Robert Brygenden of Tenterden, yeoman about the delivery of guns to the Sovereign. For a number of reasons that I will explore later I suspect the Tenterden Brygendens/Brekendens/Blechyndens are related to the Aldington family and if so, this would demonstrate another connection with the Crayfords that predated the marriage to Margaret Crispe/Crayford. Robert Brygenden was Clerk of the King’s Ships and for reasons I haven’t quite figured out, was the subject of a short story or poem written by Rudyard Kipling – King Henry VII and the Shipwrights. I would love to know whether this is based on actual events – it seems too random not to be!

John Blechenden

Following her husband’s death Margaret Crayford married John Blechenden, one of the younger sons of William Blechenden of Mersham and Agnes Godfrey. As a younger son John Blechenden was never going to inherit the lands at Ruffins Hill or Simnells in Aldington, but given that he was styled as being “of Mersham” it is possible that he resided at the family property there known as Quarington Manor. This was a medieval moated manor and had been in the Blechenden family since the 1300s when it came into the possession of Nicholas Blechenden. Hasted states that it is Nicholas’ grandson William (as mentioned above) who is the earliest owner with his name on the deeds of it that we still have today. I do wonder, however, whether William can be Nicholas’ grandson given that he wasn’t born until c1460. Perhaps he is a great or great-great-grandson.

The Blechenden’s were “an ancient family” in Kent and had by marriage extensive contacts as well as land and properties in East Kent and the Isle of Thanet. As Margaret Crayford was made a widow at a young age with two young sons but from an influential family – both her father’s and her late husband’s – it was inevitable that she would look to marry again. By that time she had also lost both her mother and her father and as one of a number of siblings it is unlikely she would have inherited much property in her own right.

Although a number of records elude me I suspect that Margaret moved back to Quekes after John Crayford’s death and that perhaps she and John Blechenden lived there following their marriage, or in a property close by, given that when John dies in 1580 his will refers to him as “John Blechinden of Birchington in Thanet, gentillman” and not of Aldington or Mersham.

John and Margaret Blechenden have a number of their own children and it seems likely that Edward and Thomas Crayford, the sons of Margaret and John Crayford, are brought up by John Blechenden and in the heart of the Blechenden family. I mention this because Sir William Crayford, Margaret’s grandson, in his will refers to his “uncle Robert Blechenden” and his “cosen George Blechenden” and this makes me think that Edward Crayford and his children, Millicent, William and Margaret, remained close to their step-siblings and cousins. Even a couple of generations later we have John Blechenden referring to William Crayford as his “kinsman” in Argent v Crayford.

Crispe memorials, All Saints Birchington

There were also clearly close family ties between the Crispes and the Blechendens. Margaret’s brothers William Crispe, in his will of 1576, refers to his “brother John Blechenden” and Sir Henry Crispe (the “little king of Thanet”) makes his “brother Blechenden” one of the two overseers to his will (in 1575). Then, when John Blechenden writes his will he specifically asks to be buried “in the netherend and northside or the chancel where Sir Henry Crispe is buried.” This is in the church of All Saints in Birchington where there are many magnificent memorials to the Crispe family. Sadly, however, I suspect John did not get his wish. John Blechenden makes his will in 1579 with probate on 30 April 1580. I haven’t found any record to suggest that John was buried in Birchington in line with his will but there is a record of a burial on the 4th April 1580 at Saint John in Thanet, Margate, (four miles down the coast from Birchington) for someone called “Bledcherden”. There is no first name or indication of gender but given the proximity and date of burial it is likely to be John. I have also found no record of a burial or will for Margaret Crisp/Crayford/Blechenden. She is not mentioned in the extract below or in either William Crispe or Sir Henry Crispe’s will which suggests she perhaps died before 1575.

Kentish wills, genealogical extracts from sixteenth century wills in the Consistory Court of Canterbury

John and Margaret’s Children

I don’t think I have seen a comprehensive list of John and Margaret’s children anywhere with their spouses and children, so I have set this out below. Birth, marriage and death records seem to be few and far between so a lot of the information has come from their wills, or those of other family members and many dates of birth or marriage have necessarily had to be estimated. And on the working assumption that Margaret would have remarried shortly after her first husbands death and had children with John whilst she was still of child-bearing age, it is likely that these were born in the 1540s possibly into the 1550s.

Henry Blechenden

Henry is mentioned in his father’s will (proved 1580) but there is little mention of him elsewhere and this is because he dies in 1583. His nuncupative will is very short and indicates that Henry died in his chambers at Staple Inn in Holborn. Staple Inn was one of the Inns of Chancery so it is likely that Henry was a barrister. His will was taken when he was “sycke in his bed in his Chamber” and states that he meant to leave his goods to his two brothers but given that his goods “were but small” he would make no will. His brothers Robert and Reynolde are named when the will is proved.

Robert Blechenden

Robert is also mentioned in his fathers will and we have a number of other records of him and his children. The Appendix to the 1592 Visitation of Kent spells out that Robert Blechenden of Whitstable married Lyddys (Lydia) Johnson, daughter of Paul Johnson of Fordwich. In 1585 Robert was made godparent to Reginald Johnson, son of Timothy, Lydia’s brother. I have assumed that Robert would be unlikely to be made godparent unless already married to Lydia and have found the following children for them:

  • Margaret – likely to have been born 1589/90 but died/buried 27 February 1589/90, Newington Next Hythe, Kent.
  • Lydia – baptised 21 Dec 1592, Newington Next Hythe (both parents mentioned on the record).
  • Robert – baptised June 26 1596, West Langdon (the Tyler Index to Parish Registers refers to Robert “Blitchends” son of “Mr Robert, gent”).
  • Martha – baptised 17 Dec 1598, West Langdon.
  • Paule – baptised 14 Dec 1600, West Langdon.
  • George – baptised 13 June 1603, West Langdon.
Reynolde Blechenden

Reynolde (Reignold/Reginald) is also mentioned in his father’s will and we have a number of records for him and his family. In 1585 Reignold marries Elizabeth Hales, the widow of William Hales. Elizabeth was born Elizabeth Johnson and is the sister of Lydia Johnson who marries Robert. Elizabeth has children by both William Hales and Reynolde Blechenden. Reynolde may be the eldest son of John and heir to his properties. We know that Reynolde was “of Mersham” and his children were baptised at Mersham. Perhaps he had inherited Quarington Manor.

We know that Reynolde dies before 1622 because, in Elizabeth’s will dated 1622, she refers to herself as “widow late wief of Reynolde Blechenden esquire deceased”. Several records indicate that Reynolde died in 1606 in Woodchurch. First, in son Thomas’ apprenticeship record Reynolde’s address is given as Woodchurch; second the Canterbury Probate Records database has a record of a will made by Reginald Blechenden of Woodchurch in 1606 with probate in the same year; finally there is a further record in the National Archives of a bond which refers to Elizabeth Blechynden of Woodchurch, widow dated 1608. We know additionally that Elizabeth’s son Edward Hales acquired the sizeable Woodchurch estates through his first marriage to Deborah Harlackenden in 1601, so it seems likely that the Blechendens moved to Woodchurch from Mersham.

Re Quarrington Manor, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent, Edward Hasted 1790,

It is around this time as well that Quarington Manor in Mersham moves out of the hands of the Blechendens and to “Claget of Canterbury” and then to “Estday” and “Knatchbull”. The sale of the property would have made sense for Reynolde as his sons moved to London to pursue careers in the law and in the silk and related trades. Silk manufacture in London had rapidly taken off in the mid-late 1500s after a large number of immigrants arrived in London from the Netherlands and was a booming industry by the early 1600s.

Elizabeth and William Hales’s Children:

  • Sir Edward Hales 1576-1654 – marries first Deborah Harlackenden, second Martha Carew.
  • Elizabeth Hales – marries Robert Kenrick in 1599, St Martin’s Ludgate, London.
  • Mary Hales – marries first Simon Smith in 1604 in Woodchurch and second George Curtis.
Sir Edward Hales

Elizabeth and Reynolde’s Children:

  • John – born 1589 in Mersham. Possibly the John who is made Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Mercers in 1613. John dies in 1621 and his will helpfully makes a number of references to brothers, sisters etc.
  • Thomas – born in 1591 in Mersham. In 1604 Thomas is apprenticed to William Frith of the Worshipful Company of Habadashers in London.
  • Ralph – born in 1593 in Mersham. Has an illegitimate child Joane in 1612 who is baptised in Hackney. Marries Ann Hoaden in 1622 in St Olave’s, Southwark. They have a number of children in London and in 1631 his occupation is stated as “silkman”, i.e. a trader in silks.
  • Anne – baptised in Mersham 23 November 1595, marries William Dowman of Uffington, co Lincoln. William was the son of Edmund  of Swinhope, co. Lincoln and Jane, daughter of Thomas Hatcliffe of Hatcliffe M.P., co. Lincoln. William Dowman initiated another Court of Chivalry case Dowman v Faulcon.
  • Alice – born c1597 marries William Finch, 30 May 1615 in Hothfield, Kent. William is Mayor of Tenterden in 1614 and again in 1626.
  • Margaret – (possibly the oldest child) marries William Marriott in 1608 in Kings Sutton, Northamptonshire. No baptism record found but “sister Marryett” is mentioned in the wills of Edward Hales and John Blechenden and “son William Marryott” is mentioned in Elizabeth’s will.
Alice Blechenden

Alice may be the eldest of John and Margaret’s children given that she must be married by about 1560 to Thomas Tournay of Brockhall Manor, Saltwood. Together Alice and Thomas have fourteen children in a period of about 20 years most of whom survive infancy. Perhaps because they have so many children both Alice and her husband Thomas leave detailed wills which I will add to my Last Wills and Testaments page. These give us helpful information on their children and their spouses, grandchildren and other family and friends. Thomas Tourney’s will is dated 1592 and he died and was buried that year on 19 November. Alice’s will is dated 1596 and she died and was buried in Saltwood on 14 May 1598. Alice names her two brothers Robert and Reynolde overseers to her will.

Alice and Thomas Tournay’s Children:

  • John – baptised 1561 in Boughton Aluph in Kent. Confusingly the baptism record refers to him as the son of John, not the son of Thomas but we know Alice and Thomas had a son John, who was the eldest son and who married Elizabeth Wilkins, sister and hier of David Wilkins of Bax. John died in 1588 and predeceased his mother and father but not before he had three children with Elizabeth. She subsequently remarried John Edolph in 1592 and dawter in lawe Elisabeth Edolf is mentioned in Thomas Tourney’s will.
  • Roger – baptised 1563 in Boughton Aluph. Not mentioned in either of his parents wills so perhaps he died in infancy.
  • Bennet – baptised January 1564 in Boughton Aluph. In 1585 Bennet married the colourful Ambrose Warde (with thanks to Anne Petrie) whose father John was Captain of Sandgate Castle.
  • Anne – baptised 26 March 1565/66 in Boughton Aluph. Married William Thwaite/Twayte. Mentioned in her mother’s will and the 1619 Visitation of Kent.
  • Thomas – born 1566 in Boughton Aluph and died the same year.
  • Jane – baptised 3 August 1567 in Boughton Aluph. Jane maried Stephen Gibbes 13 February 1585 at Saltwood. Stephen Gibbes was lieutenant of Sandgate Castle.
  • Thomas – born 1568 in Saltwood, married Elizabeth Heyman (daughter of Henry Heyman) in Sellindge, Kent, October 5th 1598.
  • Margaret – born in 1569 in Saltwood, married William Collins 25 March 1591 but dies very young (in childbirth?) in 1595. Alice Tournay’s will refers to grandchildren Alice and Anne Collins.
  • Alice – born in 1571 in Saltwood, married John Baker in 1591 in Saltwood.
  • Robert – born in 1572 in Saltwood, married Alice Bargrave. Likely to be the Robert Turney of Darenth who initiated proceedings in yet another Court of Chivalry Case in 1634 Turney v Woodden.
  • Amy – born in 1573 in Saltwood, married Thomas Bedingfield of Postling 11 February 1593/94. Thomas is of the Bedingfield’s of Quidenham, Norfolk.
  • Mary – born in 1575 in Saltwood, married John Johnson on 11 October 1597 in Saltwood. John Johnson is the son of Timothy Johnson and grandson of Paul Johnson of Fordwich and also the godson of Sir Henry Crispe.
  • Katherine – born in 1576 in Saltwood and on 15 September 1599 she married Walter Mantill in Canterbury (the Mantills of Northampton and Kent are connected by marriage to the Hales’).
  • Elizabeth – baptised 16 February 1579/80 in Saltwood. Elizabeth is unmarried in her mother’s will dated 1596 and I haven’t found a clear record yet for a marriage or death. The 1619 Visitation of Kent states that she marries Thomas Reve but this is a mistake. The Elizabeth Tourney who marries Thomas Reve is the widow of the above Thomas Tourney who was born in 1568. Her memorial inscription seems to make this clear: Here lieth the Body of Elisabeth Reve ye Eldest Daughter of Ralph Hayman Esq who was first married To Thomas Tournay, Gent. by whome Shee had Issue 3 Sonnes and 5 Daughters. and, surviveing him, was remarried to Thomas Reve, Gent. but had noe Issue by Him. Whom she, alsoe surviving, dyed at The Age of 62. July The 18th 1641