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
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

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