Today’s post is to record what I know about Francis Blechynden, son of Humphrey Blechynden of Aldington and younger brother of Dr Thomas Blechynden.
Francis was born in Aldington in Kent where he was baptised on 3 May 1601. Although a younger brother and Humphrey’s third son he also had the opportunity of a good education and followed his brother Thomas to St John’s, Cambridge receiving his B.A. in 1621-2; M.A. in 1625 and B.D. (Bachelor of Divinity) in 1631. Like his elder brother, Francis entered the Church and was ordained a priest at Upton Chapel in Northamptonshire on 9 June 1628.
I’m not sure, however, that Francis entered “active service” as it were, as we know from The Oxinden Letters that Francis was at Cambridge and tutoring James Oxinden there between 1629-31 where it would appear that it was a constant battle to get Henry Oxinden to provide for his brother James which often left Francis putting his hand in his own pocket:
….I feare my owne purse againe must satisfie his wants, which will hardly supplie mine owne. Wherefore lett me intreat you not to lett the Carriar returne from you empty handed, and since I have undertaken to be a petitioner unto you, lett me further intreat you to furnish your brother with a winter gowne;“The Oxinden Letters” (archive.org)
There is an interesting reference in the Oxinden Letters to an outbreak of the plague in Cambridge in 1630 which forces the college to close down and for “both fellowes and schollers, to depart“. Francis later writes that between March and November of that year “343 people have dyed or suspected to have dyed of the Plague.”
In 1631 Francis writes that “Urgent occasions doe now call me from the Universitie into west contrye, and as yet I know not how long or how litle while I shall stay there, wherefore I have thought fitt to convertt your Brother to another man’s Tuition..”. I haven’t been able to discover what the “urgent occasions” might have been although his brother Thomas held a couple of livings in the “west countrye” at this time – at Sowton in Devon and Norton Fizwarren in Somerset.
Francis Blechynden was appointed Vicar of Ospringe in Faversham, Kent in 1638 but this is a short term post as he resigned in 1639 and was replaced by Thomas Mason in February 1640. This was an appointment essentially made by the College who held the ability to appoint to the post and benefit from the revenues etc from lands in the parish. The probable reason for his resignation was his impending appointment in 1640 as a Fellow of St John’s College. He also held the post of Bursar in 1643/44 and was made a Senior Fellow on 21 July 1643.
Whilst at Cambridge Frances stood surety to at least three students who were admitted “sizar” which I understand to mean that they had a form of scholarship on the basis that they undertook defined work around the college. One of these students was his nephew Thomas White, the son of his sister Anne who, when her husband Peter White died, went to live with Sir William Brockman. It is interesting to note that Thomas White is admitted to Cambridge at the age of just 14 on 29 October 1642 just a few short weeks before Dr Thomas Blechynden and Sir William Brockman, along with many others, would be imprisoned in Winchester House at the start of the Civil War. I wonder if Anne was removing her only son from what might have been a tense situation at home to the relative calm of Cambridge and the care and protection of her brother Francis?
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 Blechendyn, 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
Thomas White is worthy of his own blog post, rising to the position of Bishop of Peterborough, tutor to Princess Ann and “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“. But despite this he ended up in the Tower of London for refusing to take the new oaths of alligiance (seems to run in the family!), was stripped of his bishopric and his living and died a few short years later. His will is helpful as it name-checks a large number of people including many Blechynden relatives.
Ejected from the College
From what I have found to date it looks as if Francis Blechynden had settled upon a career in education and learning but this was abruptly brought to an end in 1644 when, like his brother Thomas, the English Civil War changed the course of his life. As part of the puritan reforms it was seen as necessary to ensure that the Universities were compliant and supportive. The Earl of Manchester was empowered by Parliament to ensure reformation of the college and he ejected the Master of St John’s, William Beale, and then arrived at the college to appoint a new one, John Arrowsmith. Unlike other appointments the records note that Arrowsmith was made master by the Rt Hon Lord Earl of Manchester by the authority of parliamentary ordination.
As part of his appointment Arrowsmith had to take an oath which would provide for the “perfect reformation both of the College and University” which also became a requirement for the Fellows, including Francis, together with swearing to uphold the doctrines enshrined in the Solemn League and Covenant. Not all felt able to agree to this and many Senior Fellows and Fellows were summarily ejected from their posts at the College.
…which with the Covenant not being of easy digestion, several of the Fellows were ejected, beginning with the seniors Mr Thornton, Bodurda, Tirwhit, and Blechenden, men of good worth;History of the College of St John the Evangelist, Cambridge by Thomas Baker – Part 1
The trail for Francis goes cold after he is ejected from St John’s College. There is one reference to a possible appointment to a new living at Brenzett in Kent, on the Romney Marsh. The National Archives has the following record:
24 November 1646 — Application for an order for Sir Nathaniel Brent to institute and induct Francis Blechinden to the vicarage of Brenzett, Kent, on the presentation of Sir William Brockman.https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/e50ebea8-ae68-45e9-a76e-366bcc33eb3f
However, there is no evidence in the Clergy Database that Francis became Vicar of Brenzett and perhaps the presentation by Sir William Brockman – a staunch Royalist – went against him. After this, I have found no further records that can be ascribed with certainty to this Francis, the brother of Dr Thomas, son of Humphrey and Mary, educator and sometime vicar.
There is a burial record for a Francis Bletchenden dated 19 March 1672/73, St George the Martyr, Southwark and perhaps this is him. Other members of the family had moved out of Kent and were now living in London or its outskirts. But Francis is a family name and this record could also belong to the Francis who was born in the City of London in 1642, son of Ralph Blechenden. For now, at least, what happened next for Francis Blechynden is a mystery.
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