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 Peter’s 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:

“MOST DEAR SIR,

“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.

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.

Blissenden/Blechynden

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?

https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/elizabeth-monarchy/peter-wentworths-questions/
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

https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7122417

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

Margaret Blechynden’s Last Will and Testament, 1682

Margaret Blechynden (nee Aldersey) died in c 1683. Her will was first published in 1682/3 but then republished in July 1683 “least it should be lost”. It is worth reflecting on the will because it shows that she was not just the wife of a cleric (albeit one who initially enjoyed noble and Royal patronage) but someone with social standing in her own right. When she writes her will she describes herself as being of the Parish of St Paul Covent Garden which was still at that time a fashionable part of town for the gentry and nobility. She makes no specific request about where to be buried just that she be decently buried according to the Liturgy of the Church of England. So, until a burial record comes to light we don’t know if she is buried with her husband – likely to be buried in Aldington in Kent – or in London, or perhaps with her Cheshire family.

Provision for her children in her will

There is no reference to land or properties in her will, bar a passing reference (see below), so presumably those were set out in her husband’s will. We know that her son Thomas was heir to the properties in Kent and specifically the family home in Ruffins Hill, but it is nevertheless surprising not to see some reference to this. In terms of financial provision she gives her two sons, Thomas and Theophilat “five broad pieces of Gold” each and her daughters (Anne, Mary, Margaret, Dorothy) get “five pounds a piece in silver” which are in lieu of the legacy of five pounds a piece that were in their fathers will. Clearly they never received what was in their fathers will but Magaret justifies this by saying that she is “well satisfied that I have made up to my daughters much more of their portions then ever came to my hands”.

There is a confusing passage in the will where Margaret chides her son Thomas for not being as careful as he should have been in receiving and accounting the rent of the Courtlage (the only property mentioned) and says to “supply his default” she is willing to give £200 divided into three parts but none of the thirds go to Thomas! One third goes to daughter Margaret, one third goes to Dorothy and one third to daughter Mary’s children. Mary gets no part of the £200 because her mother previously gave her £100 “besides other advantages”.

There is a further £50 which is divided between Margaret’s sons – half to Theophilat and half amongst Thomas’ children.

Gifts to wider members of the family

George Saville, 1st Marquess of Halifax, statesman, writer and politician

After the financial provision to her children and grandchildren Margaret Blechynden sets out who is to receive her jewellry and other items of value. This is interesting because it helps to confirm family relationships. The first mentioned in her will is “my Lord Halifax” who is bequeathed “the Medall of King Charles the first in gold and the small ring tied to it.”  Lord Halifax is George Savile, 1st Marquess of Halifax, the son of her cousin Anne Coventry via her marriage to Sir William Savile (3rd Baronet of Thornhill, an ardent Royalist who was killed in action in 1644). Anne Coventry was the daughter of Thomas Coventry, 1st Baron Coventry of Aylesborough, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal and Elizabeth Aldersey, sister to Samuel Aldersey. I could write much about Lord Halifax but for now will just note that he was took the popular side on the occasion of the trial of the Seven Bishops in June 1688, visited them in the Tower of London, and led the cheers with which the verdict of “not guilty” was received in court. I mention this because one of the seven bishops was the Bishop of Peterborough, Thomas White, nephew of Dr Thomas Blechynden and Rev Francis Blechynden as mentioned in an earlier post.

Margaret’s Sister Venables

The next item that Margaret bequeathes is her “biggest Diamond Ring” to her sister Venables which was their mothers. Her sister Venables is Elizabeth Aldersey who married first Thomas Lee esq. of Darnhall, Cheshire and had seven children. One of the children, her nephew Thomas Lee, is named in Margaret’s will as a sort of assistant to the Executor of the will. Elizabeth’s husband Thomas Lee died in 1642 and she eventually remarried General Robert Venables of Antrobus and Winsham. Unlike many of Margaret Blechynden’s family and friends General Venables fought on the Parliamentarian side but they did not marry until 1654.

Elizabeth’s diary has been published along with an account of the life of General Robert Venables and provides useful insights and information for family historians. General Venables died in 1687 and Elizabeth Venables in 1689.

The next item Margaret bequeathes is her large pearl ring which she gives to her son Theophilat’s wife. Unfortunately she does not name her and I have not been able to identify her. It may be an “Elizabeth” given a baptism record I have found – George Blechenden son of Theopheleck and Elizabeth Blechenden, 12 Jun 1688, in Rochester Kent – but I have no other information at this time.

sir samuel eyre

Sir Samuel Eyre

Margaret’s next bequest is to her nephew Sir Samuel Eyre, son of her sister Anne Aldersey and Robert Eyre, barrister, of Salisbury and Chilham. Sir Samuel Eyre was born in 1633, and inherited the estate of Bonhams from his great-uncle William Eyre. He was a lawyer of some emminence and one the the puisne judges of the Kings Bench. Margaret Blechynden names Samuel Eyre as her Executor later in the will and leaves to him her “small Diamond ring and my pair of Golds called a double Spur: royal”. From what I understand the gold Spur Royal was a coin struck in very limited numbers during the reign of James 1. Today only 20 are thought to be in existance. Presumably they had a rarity value when Margaret made her will in 1682 which is why she specifically refers to them unlike the “five broad pieces of gold” she gives to her sons.

Margaret also gives to Samuel Eyre’s wife her “small sapphire ring with two small diamonds”. Samuel Eyre’s wife is Martha Lucy, third daughter and co-hieress of Francis Lucy Esq (fifth son of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote). Through this marriage Samuel Eyre acquires the estate of Brightwalton in Berkshire.

My Lady Thynne

Margaret Blechynden then refers to “my Lady Thynne” and bequeathes to her a “ring of Three Diamonds and two deaths heads” which her mother gave to her. There are two possible options here. My Lady Thynne could refer to her cousin Mary Coventry who married Henry Frederick Thynne. It is possible that Mary’s mother Elizabeth Aldersey gave Margaret Blechynden a ring which she then returns to her daughter. When Henry Frederick Thynne makes his will in 1678 his wife Dame Mary Thynne is named so may still be alive when Margaret makes her will in 1682. The alternative option is that the rings were given to Margaret Blechynden by her cousin Mary Coventry/Thynne and that “my Lady Thynne” is a reference to her daughter-in-law Frances Finch who married Thomas Thynne of Longleat who became the second baronet after his father’s death in 1679/80.

View of Longleat, 1678, Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum

Thomas Thynne was made 1st Viscount Weymouth on 11 December 1682 and it appears as if close family ties remained between the Blechyndens and the Thynne’s as, in his will dated 1709, Thomas Thynne mentions “his kinsman Captain Blechynden and to his son, the testator’s godson 50l. each“. Captain Blechynden is Theophilat, son of Margaret and Thomas Blechynden.

Margaret Blechynden also bequeathes to “my Lady Thynne” her french enamelled ring which was given to her by “my Lady Savile having her haires in it”.   Lady Savile is, I believe, her cousin Anne Coventry, wife of Sir William Savile and mother of Lord Halifax mentioned above. This very personal item, along with the various bequests, does suggest a close relationship between Margaret Blechynden and her surviving sisters, her Coventry cousins and their families. There are a couple of Coventry cousins not mentioned in the will that are worth mentioning briefly here: Dorothy Coventry who was famed for her intellect, her writings and her piety. She married Sir John Packington and died in 1679. Second, Margaret Coventry who died in 1649 when just 29. Her husband was Sir Anthony Ashley-Cooper, the 1st Earl of Shaftesbury. Here, close family relationships end, as the Lords Halifax and Shaftesbury became bitter political rivals and most famously debated, for many hours, the second Exclusion Bill in the House of Lords, with the eloquence of Halifax carrying the day for the King. This debate is credited with leading to the creation of the two political parties – the Whigs and the Tories.

Final Bequests

For completion, I have set out the remaining items of Margaret Blechynden’s will. Other than her children named I haven’t been able to identify the following:

  • Mrs Margaret Jones of Chester is given two pairs of Golds wrapt about a black ribbon;  
  • Her wedding ring, seven other small rings, and any remaining Golds are to be divided between her three unmaried daughters and son Theophilat;
  • Her daughter Anne receives one of Margaret’s Silver Porringers and spoons and Mr J Wight gets the other of them;
  • Mrs Tate, formerly Mrs Guyn, is given her silver tankards and her daughter her silver cordial cup and spoons.

Blechynden almshouses

Finally, after all debts being paid and funeral costs discharged Margaret leaves the “rest and residue of my Estate” to the building of a house for “Six poore Widdows and in purchasing of lands of Inheritance for their support and the repairing of the house forever”. She entrusts this final charitable act to her Executor, her nephew Sir Samuel Eyre who, in 1684, purchased a site in Winchester Street in Salisbury for £120 10s. and built the almshouse on it for £99 15s. 9d.. I understand that these are still operational today and provide sheltered accommodation.

Rev. Francis Blechynden, 1601 – ?

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.

St John’s College c1685

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.

Thomas White

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
Print of the Solemn League and Covenant, courtesy of the British Museum

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.

Thomas and Margaret Blechynden – the impact of the English Civil War

This second post on Dr Thomas Blechynden and his wife Margaret focuses on the civil war years and beyond. For the first post click here.

The start of the English Civil War in 1642 was a difficult time for Thomas and Margaret Blechynden and their four young children. Thomas was summarily ejected from the clergy and his living as Parliament sought to overhaul the Church of England and make it less “popish”. This process had already started following the arrest of the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, in 1640 on a charge of Treason. These were febrile times.

Archbishop Laud had been an ally of Thomas and had intervened personally to help him secure a position at Canterbury Cathedral through the patronage of King Charles I. There is no evidence that Thomas was overtly “Laudian” or that he wanted the Church of England to move more closely to Rome although it seems fair to assume, given his Royal patronage that he was a supporter of the Monarchy. On the other hand we know that he married into a well-connected family with strong Puritan sympathies and it seems likely that Thomas was at least open to some of the new ideas and perhaps therefore walking a difficult theological tightrope.

Regardless of Thomas’ personal faith wider events took over when the King left London and raised the Royal Standard at Nottingham in August 1642. Senior members of the clergy of the Church of England were ejected from their posts and replaced with new men; land and revenues were sequestered by Parliament and many, including Thomas, were charged with being a delinquent. As early as October in 1642 Parliament was looking to seize the livings of members of the clergy, as well as the aristocracy, to support their cause:

Sequestration of Delinquents Estates. 14 Oct 1642

Resolved, &c. That the Fines, Rents, and Profits, of Archbishops, Bishops, Deans, Deans and Chapters, and of such notorious Delinquents, who have taken up Arms against the Parliament, or have been active in the Commission of Array, shall be sequestered for the Use and Service of the Commonwealth. The Manner of the Sequestration is referred to the Committee for sequestring the Estate of the Lord Capell.

‘House of Commons Journal Volume 2: 14 October 1642’, in Journal of the House of Commons: Volume 2, 1640-1643 (London, 1802), pp. 807-809. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/commons-jrnl/vol2/pp807-809.

For members of the clergy this was an anxious and unsettling time, many were subjected to violence and had to witness acts of vandalism and iconoclasm. There is even a record of the personal impact of this on Thomas and Margaret which must have taken place in Canterbury before he was ejected from his living there and most likely to be the “Disorders committed at Canterbury, by the Soldiers” referred to in the House of Lords on 10 September 1642. Given that their daughter, also Margaret, was baptised on 4 December 1642 it is possible that Margaret was heavily pregnant at this time. This passage leaves me with the impression that Thomas was probably scared for his life and that of his young wife:

when she saw a man strike at the Image of Christ lying in the manger, she skreet out and ran to her husband, who came … and pleaded for the Images, … and while this prebend was disputing … he grew very sicke, and was faine to go out of the Cathedral.

Thomason Collection of Civil War Tracts

Imprisonment and delinquency

On 21 November 1642 the war became even more personal for Thomas and Margaret as Parliament resolved that “several Gentlemen of Kent … as persons disaffected to the Peace of the County, and of the Kingdom… shall be forthwith committed Prisoners to Winchester House, there to remain during the Pleasure of the House.” The Gentlemen of Kent are noted as: Sir Anthony Ager, Sir John Fotherby, Sir Thomas Wilford and his Son, Mr. Geo. Chute, Mr. Anthony Hamond, Dr. Blechenden, Dr. Horsmanden, Mr. Henry Deering, Mr. Paynter, Mr. Smyth.

However, it would seem that this was overturned but then reissued one week later on 28 November with, I think, a rebuke to the Committee for the Safety of the Kingdom:

Prisoners remanded

Ordered, That Sir Jo. Fotherby, Dr. Blechenden, and Mr. Painter, committed Prisoners to Winchester House, by a former Order of this House, and released by a Warrant from the Committee for the Safety of the Kingdom, be forthwith remanded to Prison to Winchester House: And the Committee for the Safety of the Kingdom is to take Care herein. 

‘House of Commons Journal Volume 2: 28 November 1642’, in Journal of the House of Commons: Volume 2, 1640-1643 (London, 1802), pp. 866-868. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/commons-jrnl/vol2/pp866-868
Winchester House in 1660

Winchester House was taken from the Bishops of Winchester, who had owned this site on the Southbank of the Thames for many centuries, at the start of the war. The House was used as a prison for Royalists until after the war, when it was sold off. It is perhaps not totally surprising that Winchester House should be used as a prison given that it already had a small but notorious prison within its grounds: the Clink! A name now synomymous with all prisons.

It is unclear how long Thomas languished in Winchester House. In January 1643 the House of Commons resolved that “Dr Blechenden and Dr Baker be forthwith sent for, as Delinquents”. But does this mean he was still imprisoned in Winchester House at this time? This is unclear although from letters written by Sir William and Lady Ann Brockman we know that conditions in Winchester House were far from ideal. The Blechynden’s were related to the Brockman’s and Thomas’ sister Anne had been living with the Brockman’s since the death of her husband Peter White. Sir William was sent up as prisoner on 28 November 1642 and committed to Winchester House on 2nd December so may have been living in close quarters with Thomas Blechynden. We know that Sir William was imprisoned for some time as Lady Ann Brockman pleads for her husband to be moved to a prison close to home fearing for his health on 7 Feb 1644:

Feb 7 1644
The Humble petition of the Lady Brockman to the Honourable Committee for the Parliament Affairse in Kent

Sheweth, that whereas my deare husband hath been a prisoner in Winchester house,4 London for the space of thirteene monthes, and upwards: I am bold to crave this lawfull favour at your hands, that you would vouchsafe to use such meanes as your wisdome shall prompt unto you, for his Removall from thence to Ostenhanger where he may be secured as well as there, under the Gouvernement of the Hon’ble Sr Edward Scott.

The maine end I aim at in this request is only the preservation of his health, wch I feare may be in some danger through the multitude of prisoners committed lately to that place from Arundell Castle, to the number oone hundred and upwards of wch companie divers have dyed since soe I commend this businesse to your serious and charitable consideration wherein if you shall gratify me I shall remaine gratefull to you and always pray for your welfare,
Ann Brockman

https://www.kentarchaeology.org.uk/Research/Pub/ArchCant/132-2012/132-02.pdf

I have not yet found a record for Dr Thomas Blechynden of the outcome of the accusation of delinquency. “Delinquents” were those who supported the monarchy in the Civil War or who were “papists” or “recusants”. The National Archives explains that following an accusation of delinquency, if well grounded, the estate in question was seized and held until the accusation could be investigated. If the delinquency was proved to the satisfaction of the committee the delinquent was deprived of his whole estate, one fifth being, however, allowed to him for the maintenance of his children, and one fifth of the proceeds of the estate being allowed to the informer.

Therefore, just the accusation of delinquncy could mean that lands were held for months or years until the question was resolved. Although I have found no evidence that Dr Thomas Blechynden was a proven delinquent or had his estate sequestered it would appear that he remained in prison as his brother Richard, in August 1644, bailed him out but on the condition that he wasn’t allowed to travel far without consent and certainly not back to his estate in Ruffins Hill in Aldington:

Bond of Thos. Blechenden of London, S. T. P., Robert Crane of Whitecross-street, and Richard Blechenden of Paternoster-row, in 500l. to the Serjeant-at-Arms, John Hunt, conditioned that Dr.-Thos. Blechenden shall not go above three miles from London without consent of the Committee for Prisoners.

Charles I – volume 502: August 1644′, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1644, ed. William Douglas Hamilton (London, 1888), pp. 387-465. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/1644/pp387-465

It is worth reflecting that 500l , or £500, is a significant amount of money to raise. Today this would be worth about £60,000. An evaluation of Thomas’ estates in 1650 assessed them at £200.

Execution of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Archbishop William Laud with image of his execution in the background

In March 1644 the long trial began of Thomas’ former ally, William Laud the Archbishop of Canterbury. Laud was a controversial figure, a staunch supporter of the King and had sought to combat Puritanism during his tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury. He was arrested on charges of High Treason but managed to successfully prove that he had not committed treason under known law. Therefore, as with Thomas Wentworth the Earl of Strafford, he was held to have subverted the constitution, and he was condemned by bill of attainder. Laud was executed at Tower Hill on 10 January 1645 at the age of 71.

It is impossible to know what personal impact the execution of William Laud had on the Blechynden’s. Thomas had spoken in his defense regarding the practice of bowing towards the altar which the puritans argued was evidence of Laud’s popish proclivities. Thomas argued that the practice had been in place for some time and ever since his own installation which took place “above ten years ago”. Regardless of his personal views the beheading of the Archbishop of Canterbury must have been a shocking event and deeply unsettling for the Anglican clergy who had been ejected from their livings in 1642.

Kentish Rebellion – what next?

On Christmas Day in 1647 the people of Canterbury decided they had had enough of puritan austerity. They wanted to celebrate Christmas and have a day off work and this led to what was known as the “plum pudding riots”. Although over relatively quickly it sowed the seed for the Royalist uprising in Kent that took place in May 1648. Again, the uprising was quashed this time with some force by Lord General Fairfax at the Battle of Maidstone on 1 June 1648.

The Kentish Rebellion began as a “humble petition of the Knights, Gentry, Clergy and Commonality…” and there is a suggestion that Thomas Blechynden was involved. Although initial charges made in 1648 were dropped the County Committee for Kent, on the 9th of October 1650, sent to the Committee for Compounding “a list of the estates of recusants and others which we have seized according to your instructions, and will transmit the charges and proofs against them as soon as transcribed” and amongst the estates seized of “delinquents in the late insurrection” was that of Dr Blechynden with a yearly valuation of his estate at £200.

Information was then provided on 7 Nov 1650 by Solicitor Thomas Fowle that Thomas Blechynden “promoted the late libellous and seditious petition of Kent, aided the late insurrection, was at several assemblies, and was in arms against Parliament” to which accusation Thomas defended himself or, rather his wife Margaret did, as it is she that she writes to the Committee for Compounding to challenge the case against him which she does successfully.

14 Nov. 1650. Order on his request that the County Committee give him a copy of the charge against him, and allow him to examine witnesses in his defence. They are also to send up a copy of the old charge of delinquency exhibited to the late County Committee against him.

10 Dec. He begs discharge, unless further cause appear against him. Was accused in 1648, and compounded with the County Committee, who discharged him, but now the County Committee revive the very charge from which he was acquitted. Signed, Margaret Blechinden.

10 Dec. His sequestration discharged, there being no convincing proof of delinquency.

Cases before the Committee: November 1650′, in Calendar, Committee For Compounding: Part 4, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1892), pp. 2595-2635. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/compounding-committee/pt4/pp2595-2635

In March 1649 Thomas makes his will in which, according to The Blechynden Story, by E.M. Hall and H.V. Hall, he “bemoaned the unnatural wars and years of sequestration“. Perhaps it is telling that he makes his will after he had been suspected of involvement in the Kentish Rebellion and shortly after the execution on 30 January 1649 of King Charles I outside the Banqueting House, Whitehall. It was many years before his will was proven on 23 February 1663 so perhaps Thomas was seriously ill in 1649/50 which is why Margaret also writes to the Committee for Compounding on his behalf. Or had the years of imprisonment and suspicion taken their toll and after witnessing the executions of both Archbishop Laud and the King, Thomas decided to plan ahead and provide for his wife and children in case worse was to come?

I am conscious that I have not spent much time in this post on Margaret Aldersey. The civil war years for her must have been challenging especially, if like Lady Brockman, Thomas was imprisoned for a significant amount of time or at least unders suspician and investigation. Writing to the Committee for Compounding in 1650 shows strength of character and I imagine, like Ann Brockman, she lobbied on her husbands behalf to get him home or at least to a prison nearer home. Her will points to interesting family connections and, well frankly money, as she distributes her gold, diamonds and pearls amongst her family. But she also sets up through her will almshouses for “six poor widows” to be maintained “forever” and these are still operational today providing sheltered accommodation in Salisbury!

Dr Thomas Blechynden eventually gets to go home to Ruffin’s Hill and spends the remainder of his days there dying in 1662 or 1663 – his death and burial record eludes me but his will is probated in 1663. Margaret Blechynden outlives her husband by 20 years and her will (1683) records that she is living in the parish of St Paul’s, Covent Garden, in the County of Middlesex (now central London). Margaret’s will is worth looking at separately to explore her wider family connections. So I will follow that up shortly but end this one with a quick summary of their children:

Children of Dr Thomas Blechynden and Margaret Aldersey:

  • Ann – eldest daughter, baptised 23 Dec 1636 Canterbury Cathedral, mentioned in her mothers will of 1683, still unmarried at that time.
  • Mary – second daughter, baptised 7 Jan 1639/40 Canterbury Cathedral. Marries Edward Dilkes (possibly related to the Dilkes of Maxstoke Castle, Warwks). Her mother’s will refers to Mary’s “children” and she and her children are also referenced in her cousin Richard Blechynden’s will dated 1697.
  • Thomas – eldest son and heir, baptised 12 Mar 1640/41 Canterbury Cathedral. Marries Marie Cartwright in Dulwich and has a number of children.
  • Margaret -baptised 4 Dec 1642 (note this is just a few days after the House of Commons orders her fathers imprisonment). Never marries. Will proven in Chester 20 April 1713.
  • Dorothy – no baptism record found. Mentioned in her father’s will so born before 1649. Never marries. Will proven in Chester in 1717.
  • Theophilact – no baptism record found but mentioned in his father’s will so born before 1649. His mother’s will of 1683 refers to him and his wife (Elizabeth Garland?) and his cousin Richard’s will (1697) refers to “Captain Theophilus Blechynden and his wife”.

Dr Thomas Blechynden and Margaret Aldersey

This post will focus on Thomas Blechynden, Doctor of Divinity, and his wife Margaret Aldersey. Dr Thomas Blechynden was a distant cousin of Thomas Blechenden. They were direct decendents of James Blechenden but decended down the lines of his two wives. The Thomas Blechenden who married Elizabeth Boys inherited the family home of Simnells in Aldington in Kent and the Thomas Blechynden who married Margaret Aldersey inherited Ruffyns Hill in Aldington.

The extract from my ancestry tree shows that they were of the same generation and, as contemporaries who died just a year apart, they lived through the same political and religious upheaval. But their lives took a very different path. Thomas Blechenden studied law at Gray’s Inn and was involved in public affairs in Kent but lived relatively quietly whilst Dr Thomas Blechynden studied at Cambridge, entered the Church, enjoyed Royal patronage but who was also thrown into prison at the start of the Civil War in 1642.

Thomas Blechynden was the eldest son of Humphrey Blechynden and Mary Toke and the eldest of eight children (not all of whom survived infancy) . He was born in Aldington in Kent and baptised at the local Church in January 1592/3. As the eldest son of a well-connected country gentleman Thomas would have received a good education and in 1609, when Thomas was 16 he went to study at St John’s, Cambridge, receiving his B.A. 1612-13. Thomas continued his studies and received his M.A. in 1616; B.D. in 1624 and D.D. in 1635. D.D. is the degree of Doctor of Divinity. This is the highest of the degrees awarded by the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. It often appears in the sources as ‘STP’, that is Sanctae Theologiae Professor. It also sometimes appears as ‘Theo. dcr.’ and as ‘STD’ (Sanctae Theologiae Doctor).

So, it would seem that Thomas Blechynden had no interest in managing the family estates and headed instead for a career in the Church. Following his ordination in Peterborough Cathedral on 23 May 1619, and whilst still a Fellow of St John’s, he was appointed household Chaplain to Francis, Lord Russell of Thornhaugh, 4th Earl of Bedford. Through his patronage he was appointed Rector of Sowton in Exeter in 1625, a position he held for the next 10 years. In 1627 he was also appointed Rector of Norton Fitzwarren in Somerset via the patronage of Edward Bourchier, 4th Earl of Bath, a position he held until 1638.

The Earl of Bedford was heavily involved in the programme to drain the Fens and correspondence survives between The Earl of Bedford and Sir Henry Vane, Ambassador at the Hague about this. There is an interesting element to the letters which indicates the close relationship between Thomas Blechynden and the Earl and Countess of Bedford as it would seem that the Earl planned to settle two of his younger sons in the “Low Countries” and the Countess asked Thomas to go with them and see them settled there. Perhaps accompanying the children abroad wasn’t in the job description of household Chaplain as the Earl, in his letter of 25 July 1630 to Sir Henry Vane, says he “hopes this will not be a cause of misunderstanding between him and Mr. Blechenden.

There is also a letter dated 2 November 1630 from Thomas Blechynden to Sir Henry Vane which suggests that he was, or was angling for, a position as Sir Henry’s chaplain. The letter also passes on news from the Earl about the work to progress the draining of the Fens. Here is a summary of his letter from the Calendar of State papers (and a slightly fuller version is also here):

On 17th October, the Earl of Bedford countermanded former directions for the writer to see his two sons to Leyden, because the Lord Treasurer had made some alteration in the business of the Fens, which reason of delay is to the writer a mystery. Would have waited upon Sir Henry as chaplain, but was informed from “my Lady” that Mr. Vane had gone over in that capacity. If Sir Henry commands the writer to attend him in the States, begs the favour of a previous letter to the Bishop of London. Congratulations on the birth of a son. P.S. dated the next day adds, that a fresh letter from the Earl of Bedford explains that the stoppage in the business of the Fens arises out of a misunderstanding of Vermuyden’s former proceedings; but he is well esteemed here, and the business of draining is now conceived so feasible, that the Earl will have sharers sufficient in England to carry him through that vast undertaking. He will reserve a considerable quantity of acres for Sir Henry.

‘Charles I – volume 175: November 1630’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1629-31, ed. John Bruce (London, 1860), pp. 371-396. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/1629-31/pp371-396

It would seem that Thomas was made chaplain to Sir Henry Vane, as in 1631/2 a letter from Bishop Laud to Sir Henry refers to Thomas as “Sir Henry’s Chaplain”. The letter suggests that Laud held Thomas Blechynden in esteem or, as a minimum, held Sir Henry in esteem and wanted to assist his chaplain.

My very good Lord, I wish you all health and happiness in your employment. I shall according to my promise, take all the care I can for Mr. Blechenden’s business. But sure, if Dr. Anyon have denied Dr. Hunt his dividend in the church of Canterbury, it is not with any eye to Sir Henry’s chaplain, but to increase their own dividend; for it hath been the custom in that church, and in some others, to allow some small proportion to him that lives absent, and when the audit comes, to share the remainder among themselves, towards their charge of housekeeping upon the place. And howsoever, if they refuse to give the Dean of Durham anything at all, yet Mr. Blechenden cannot challenge any part of it, being as yet no prebend there. And whosoever caused your Lordship to write in that way did much deceive both himself and you. For the business, if I live to see the place made void, I shall fail in no point of trust, but be ready to move His Majesty for Mr Blechenden.

Letter CCXXXV to Sir Henry Vane, January 27 1631/2. Scott, W., Bliss, J., Laud, W. (1860). The Works of the Most Reverend Father in God, William Laud, D.D. Sometime Lord Archbishop of Canterbury. United Kingdom: John Henry Parker.

Royal Patronage

I find the comment made by Bishop Laud that Thomas Blechynden was “as yet no prebend” puzzling. The very useful Church of England Clergy database says that on 14 September 1631 that he was presented for appointment to the Prebendary of Canterbury Cathedral and this time his patron was King Charles I. It is possible that the Bishop rejected the presentation, but is that likely given the King was the patron? Whatever the matter here, Thomas was presented again by the King on 15 November 1633 by which time William Laud was the Archbishop of Canterbury and this time there seems to be question of Thomas’ appointment. Notes to the presentation indicate that Thomas was “royal chaplain in ordinary to King Charles” which would have been a largely honorary, albeit still prestigious, role but could have meant he preached occasionally at the Royal Chapel or to other members of the Royal family. Royal patronage and the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury could have set Thomas Blechynden on the path to much greater things if it wasn’t for the Civil War and, by 1649, the execution of both Archbishop Laud and King Charles.

In addition to his position as a prebend of Canterbury Cathedral in 1638 Thomas Blechynden was appointed Perpetual Vicar of Eastry with Worth and in 1639/40 Vicar of Kingston, Kent. The Parish Registers of St Giles make reference the Return of the Churchwardens to the Visitation in 1640 with a note on “Dr Blechindin” which helps confirm his recent appointment there:

“Dr. Blechindin’s Chancel wants Tyling, and it doth rain in upon the Communion table.”

The Parish Registers of S. Giles, Kingston by Rev. Christopher Hales Wilkie, published 1893

Both of these later positions – in Eastry and Kingston – he held until his death in 1662 although it is unknown whether he had access to the livings from these two parishes during the Commonwealth. The Parish Registers of S. Giles, Kingston by Rev. Christopher Hales Wilkie, are also helpful in that they contain a short biography of Thomas Blechynden D. D. which helps to provide further evidence of his family:

There is one further possible appointment in Esher as there is a letter from Thomas Blechynden to William Dell, Secretary to Archbishop Laud, about a “insolent work of darkness” which took place in the Church to remove the altar rail and which names a number of suspects. Thomas refers to a witness to the act Katherine Gill, a “poor woman” of “ill life and fame” and there is an unsettling, unchristian threat made in the letter which does not make me think highly of him:

I shall labour to have her confess it to some other; she is threatened with the pulling down of her house, and subtraction of maintenance when I am removed to Canterbury.

Charles I – volume 460: July 14-23, 1640′, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1640, ed. William Douglas Hamilton (London, 1880), pp. 475-508. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/1640/pp475-508 

Margaret Aldersley

Thomas Blechynden spent his early years in study, advancing his career and building up a network of powerful friends and allies. By the time he was 41 he was prebendary to Canterbury Cathedral with no less than the Monarch as his patron and an ally in the Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud. His attention then turned to marriage, and perhaps recognising the need for a future heir to the family estate he turned his eye on young Margaret Aldersley. They were married in 1635 when he was 42 and she just 18 years old!

Thomas and Margaret’s license to marry

Their marriage license is difficult to read but it says something like: “Which day appeareth formally Thomas Blechynden one of the prebendary of Christ Church of Canterbury bachilour aged 42 years and allegedly he intendeth to marry with Margaret Aldersey of the parish of St Katherine Coleman Street London maiden aged 18 years  and the lawful and real daughter of Samuel Aldersey merchant deceased, and she at y disposal  of her mother-in-law [i.e. step-mother] Margaret Aldersey who consents to this intended marriage.  And of the month …. Also that there is no lawful lot or impediment by reason of any existant …….affinity or otherwise to hinder the so intended marriage ho made faith and do first …. to be married in the church  of St Faiths London or in ye …Church of St Leonard Foster Lane London….”. The marriage was attested to by Thomas’ younger brother Richard Blechynden who is a silkman living in Paternoster Row, close to Saint Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London.

Margaret Aldersey was the daughter of Samuel Aldersey of Bunbury in Cheshire an influential and generous member of the Habadashers Company who died in 1633 and was buried in the Chancel of St Stephen’s, Coleman Street. St Stephen’s was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren but destroyed again in the blitz, 29 December 1940 but there is happily, the following record of his burial:

In the Chancel lies buried the Body of Mr. Samuel Aldersey, Merchant Citizen and Haberdasher of London, July 25. 1633. His Hatchments and Ensigns proper to his Name and Estate, hang over him.

John Strype’s A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, Coleman Street Ward [Monuments]Vol 1, 1753

We should take a moment to pause on Samuel Aldersey and the significance of St Stephen’s in Coleman Street as it speaks volumes about the type of person that Margaret probably was and the family that Thomas was marrying into. The parish of Coleman Street was a notorious hotbed of religious radicalism – not only in the parish church of St Stephen’s but in the merchant houses and the taverns and inns nearby. Samuel Aldersley was at the centre of that in the early 1600s. He was well known by the Dutch community in London (his first wife, Mary Van Oyrel, was Dutch) and also by the elders of the Dutch Reformed Church. Samuel was a vestryman at St Stephen’s and helped to appoint the leading Puritan minister John Davenport to the Church in 1624. Samuel Aldersey was also one of the three founding members of the Massachusetts Bay Company which was formed in 1628 as a joint stock venture to trade in the fish and furs of New England but leading members of the company also wanted to use it to promote the founding of a Puritan religious commonwealth.

Sir Norton Knatchbull and Mary Aldersey, 1629

Samuel’s sister Mary married firstly Thomas Westrow, Alderman of London and secondly Sir Norton Knatchbull (not to be confused with his nephew also Sir Norton Knatchbull, Baronett, who as a “dear friend” is one of the overseers of Thomas Blechynden’s will) and we can assume therefore that they knew each other well. People seemed to move in quite small social circles and I found it interesting to note that Sir Norton’s first wife was Ann Wentworth, eldest daughter of Paul Wentworth who was in turn the brother of Peter Wentworth, grandfather to Elizabeth Boys, and the wife of the other Thomas Blechenden mentioned at the start of this post. Sir Norton Knatchbull, Baronett, also married Dorothy Westrow, the daughter of Thomas Westrow and Mary Aldersey, shortly after Mary remarried to Sir Norton Knatchbull (senior).

Thomas and Margaret’s children

Thomas and Margaret married in 1635 and quickly had children, six in total: Anne (bap 1636), Mary (bap 1640), Thomas (bap 1641), Margaret (bap 1642), Theophilact and Dorothy. The first four children are all baptised at Canterbury Cathedral -appropriate given Thomas’ position as a prebendary of the Cathedral – but I have not been able to find baptism records for Theophilact and Dorothy.

Things probably started taking a worrying turn for Thomas in 1640 when Archbishop William Laud was arrested for Treason and I would imagine questions were asked about his friends, family and those he appointed to prominent positions. The start of the English Civil War started in earnest on 22 August 1642 when King Charles left London and raised his standard in Nottingham with the first battle at Edgehill in October that year. This changed everything for Thomas and Margaret. He lost his position at Canterbury Cathedral and later in 1642 by order of the House of Commons was ordered to be remanded to prison.

Although we don’t know where Theophilact and Dorothy were baptised during this period of war, disruption and uncertainty, it is perhaps telling that the name of his youngest son means “guarded by God”.

The Civil War years and beyond will be covered in my next post.