It is frustrating that so many of the Blechenden family carry the same name. Thomas, John and Edward for the boys being particular favourites for this family. But, whilst it can cause confusion for family historians trying to establish whether someone is a son, a brother or a cousin it can also occasionally help to prove a family connection especially if the name is an unusual one or is a family name. It certainly wasn’t unusual for a mother’s or grandmother’s maiden name to be passed down to children as a first name. Some of those family names and connections have helped me unravel and confirm the next part of the Blechenden tree below.
This time I am looking at Thomas Blechenden (1633-1690) who in 1658 marries Margaret Lynch (1631-1712). Thomas is the eldest son of John Blechenden (1612-1701) and Anne Glover and the grandson of Thomas Blechenden (1586-1661) and Elizabeth Boys (1587-1618).
Thomas was the eldest son and as such stood to inherit lands and properties from his father. Unfortunately we do not have his father or his mother’s last will and testament so it is difficult to be absolutely clear about this but we do have his will so know what lands and properties he passed on. We also have his grandfather’s will which, on the face of it, seems to treat Thomas harshly: his sister Elizabeth gets £300 and his other siblings get an even share in their grandfather’s “half-part share and interest in the lease of the Rectory of Winsborough” whilst Thomas is bequeathed just five shillings!
By the time of his grandfather’s will Thomas was about 28 years of age, married, and with two or three children of his own. I take the view that Thomas’ grandfather knew that Thomas would be secure financially and instead used his will to provide financial support to some of his other grandchildren.
We don’t know much about Thomas’ childhood and unlike some others in the family, I have found no records of admission to either Oxford or Cambridge. As the son of a gentleman he would have had a formal education but perhaps, given the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, when Thomas was still a child, this disrupted his plans. It is interesting to note that Thomas’ youngest sister Anne was baptised in 1641 just before the outbreak of war. Does the lack of any further siblings suggest that his parents were separated because of the war or sequestration? It does look as if Thomas’ father eventually remarried (see his grandfathers will dated 1661 which refers to someone called “Jane”) so perhaps there are no further siblings because his mother died after the birth of Anne.
We do know that Thomas and his siblings – John, Edward, Elizabeth and Anne – were baptised at Woodnesborough and grew up there. When his brother John makes his will on board the HMS Bonaventure in 1672 he refers to himself as being “late of Woodnesborough” and when Thomas is married he is described as being “of Woodnesborough”.
Marriage to Margaret Lynch
Thomas and Margaret are married on the 28 December 1658 in Staple in Kent in the parish church of St James the Great. Thomas was 25 years old and Margaret 28 when they married which seems quite late but I feel sure that the marriage would have been viewed in a positive light. The Blechendens were a well known “ancient family” and the Lynch’s were also a well-established county family in Kent. Margaret’s great great grandfather Simon Lynch MP for Sandwich, had bought the Groves estate in Staple in Kent where the family resided for at least two centuries – there are memorials to a number of the Lynch family at the parish church in Staple.
Margaret’s cousin, Sir Thomas Lynch, was a sugar baron and three times Governor-Lieutenant of Jamaica. Her uncle Aylmer Lynch, like her father John Lynch, went to Jesus College Cambridge and entered the Church. Uncle Aylmer left a detailed will with many references to family members one of whom is Margaret who is left the generous sum of £100:
Item I give and bequeath to my Neice Margaret Blechenden wife of Thomas Blechenden Gent. the sum of one hundred pounds.
Extract from the will of Aylmer Lynch, dated 27 November 1686
Aylmer Lynch was possibly named after his mother Judith Aylmer or more likely his grandfather John Aylmer, who was appointed as Bishop of London during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. He was also briefly the tutor to Lady Jane Grey and after a distinguished career in the Church was, when he died, buried in St Paul’s Cathedral. The name Aylmer (also Aelmer/Ailmer/Elmer) helps to further positively identify one of Thomas and Margaret’s children – Aylmer Blechenden baptised in Aldington in 1670.
Thomas and Margaret spend their early married life in Woodnesborough where their first three children are baptised. The records then suggest that they then moved for a time to Harrietsham, where two further children were baptised, before they then moved to Aldington where we see further baptisms.
Thomas and Margaret moved to Aldington in circa 1668 because Thomas inherited the family property Simnells (this first came into the Blechenden family when Thomas’ ancestor William Blechenden married Agnes Godfrey in the late 1400s/early 1500s). Although briefly in the hands of John Cason after he married Elizabeth Blechenden, John Cason transferred it back to the Blechenden family (i.e. to Thomas and Margaret) in 1663.
Thomas Blechenden of Woodnesborough, gent, who afterwards resided there and died siezed of it in 1690..leaving issue by his wife Margaret Lynch several children and the eldest son John Blechynden succeeded him in this estate and likewise resided at Simnells. He left Ann his wife surviving and she joined with her eldest son Thomas, of New Romney, gent in 1715, in the sale of this estate to Stephen Haffenden, of Egerton, clerk, who died the next year
the Children of thomas and margaret
Thomas and Margaret have nine children and unusually it looks as if most, if not all, survive infancy. Certainly the first eight are all mentioned in the probate record to their uncle John’s will in 1672 with the youngest Anne not mentioned only because she hadn’t yet been born.
Two children, Thomas and Margaret, are baptised in Harrietsham in Kent. This is the first time I have come across a Blechenden baptism in Harrietsham and it was initially unclear to me which branch of the Blechenden tree they belonged to but, given that the baptism dates fit neatly between the Woodnesborough and Aldington baptisms, and given that we know from the probate record to John Blechenden’s 1672 last will that Thomas and Margaret Blecheden had two children also named Thomas and Margaret, I am confident that the baptisms in Harrietsham are for the children of Thomas Blechenden and Margaret Lynch.
There are also some family connections with Harrietsham through Margaret’s father John Lynch who was the Rector of Harrietsham from 1630 until he was sequestered in 1646 (British History online says he was sequestered “about 1642” during the English Civil War but restored in 1660). Margaret’s sister Grace also lived in Harrietsham around this time. Grace married the Rev. John Squire and sadly their daughter, also called Grace, died in Harrietsham in 1664 at just 12 years of age. 1664 is the same year that Thomas and Margaret Blechenden baptised their son Thomas in Harrietsham so perhaps the family were staying with the Rev. Squire and Margaret’s sister Grace.
The children of Thomas Blechenden and Margaret Lynch are:
Elizabeth Blechenden baptised 14 Nov 1659 Woodnesborough, Kent
Grace Blechenden baptised 10 Dec 1660 Woodnesborough, Kent
John Blechenden baptised 01 Jan 1662 Woodnesborough, Kent
Thomas Blechenden baptised 08 May 1664 Harrietsham, Kent
Margaret Blechenden baptised 27 Mar 1666 Harrietsham, Kent
Edward Tookey Blechenden baptised 2 June 1668 Aldington, Kent
Aylmer Blechenden baptised 26 April 1670 Aldington, Kent
Gratian Blechenden baptised 10 December 1672 Aldington, Kent
Anne Blechenden baptised 19 May 1676 Aldington, Kent
I will set out a little more detail on each of the children in the post immediately following this one.
The last will and testament of Thomas Blechenden
Thomas Blechenden wrote his will on the 9th of June 1681, just a few days after he buried his eldest daughter Elizabeth on 28 May. Perhaps this is a second will, rewritten to take account of his daughter’s passing. But it is his final will and when Thomas dies in June 1690 probate follows swiftly on 29 July 1690.
Thomas was just 57 when he died and left behind his wife Margaret, one married daughter, Grace, who isn’t mentioned in the will, and seven other children including his heir John. Margaret is the primary beneficiary of the will with Thomas leaving her the lands and properties until her demise after which they pass to their eldest son John. Margaret and John are joint executors of the will which is overseen by “my loving son George Tooky gent.” George Tooky is a mystery figure – I have not been able to locate him or establish why he is described as “my loving son” but given that Thomas names one of his children Edward-Tookey there must be a close family relationship. I only have a transcribed copy of the will (and will put a copy of that on my pages) so it is possible that this is an error and should read George Hussey – that would make much more sense – but that question is unresolved until I am able to find the original and check against it.
In his will Thomas asks to be decently buried in the south chancel of Aldington Church near his “great grandfather John Blechynden Esq. dec” and this naming of his great grandfather, buried in Aldington helps to provide greater certainty of his lineage.
Thomas’ grandfather is the John Blechenden who was married to Margaret Ashenden and then to his cousin Frances Blechenden. John Blechenden lived his later years in Monkton in Kent but his will expressly set out that “I commend my body to the parish church of Aldington“. This image shows the lineage from John Blechenden down to his great grandson Thomas.
Margaret Blechenden, nee Lynch, lived until 1712 and was 82 years old when she died. She probably remained at Simnells until her death – the Aldington parish registers record her burial as April 7th 1712 and I hope that she was buried with her husband in the church. Her eldest son John pre-deceased her dying in 1709, so Simnells then passed to John’s son Thomas (born 1692) who, together with his mother Ann, sold the Simnells estate in 1715 ending 200 years of ownership by the Blechenden family.
Thomas Blechenden of Woodnesborough, gent, who afterwards resided there and died siezed of it in 1690..leaving issue by his wife Margaret Lynch several children and the eldest son John Blechynden succeeded him in this estate and likewise resided at Simnells. He left Ann his wife surviving and she joined with her eldest son Thomas, of New Romney, gent in 1715, in the sale of this estate to Stephen Haffenden, of Egerton, clerk, who died the next year.
Edward Hasted, ‘Parishes: Aldington’, in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 8 (Canterbury, 1799), pp. 314-327. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-kent/vol8/pp314-327 [accessed 28 January 2023]
This post gives a short summary of the children of Thomas Blechenden and Margaret Lynch – some of whom I will follow up later. The image below shows the children of Thomas and Margaret in the Blechenden family tree:
Thomas and Margaret’s eldest child Elizabeth Blechenden is baptised on the 14 November 1659 in Woodnesborough, in Kent. She marries Paul Loftie from Smeeth, in Kent, on 18 October 1680 but is not mentioned in her father’s will and this is because she dies in May 1681. Paul Loftie remarries to Eleanor Turner and whilst there is a monument to Paul and Eleanor in Smeeth parish church, sadly there is no mention of his first wife Elizabeth. Paul and Eleanor have a number of children and I understand that they are the 5xgreat grandparents of Alan Turing the WWII code-breaker and father of modern computing.
Grace Blechenden is baptised on 10 December 1660 in Woodnesborough, in Kent, and marries George Hussey on 19 October 1680 just one day after her elder sister’s marriage to Paul Loftie. It seems odd to me that Grace and her sister did not marry on the same day and in the same location – that would have saved a lot of time and effort! However, Grace’s father Thomas Blechenden secures his daughters future by paying George “700” as Grace’s marriage portion. In return George sold the manor of Sutton Court near Dover to Thomas for just 5 shillings on the basis that it was retained for the use of George and Grace for their use as long as they lived:
Parties: George Hussey of Sutton near Dover on the one part, and Thomas Blechynden of Aldington and Grace Blechynden, his daughter, on the other part. Thomas will pay George 700 for Grace’s marriage portion. George has bargained and sold the manor and mansion house to Thomas, retaining for himself and his wife their use for their lives.
details of their marriage settlement dated 16 October 1680. Held by the Kent History and Library Centre
George and Grace have one child, a daughter also called Grace who is born in 1691. Interestingly, George Hussey’s mother is Anne Crayford to whom the Blechenden’s are related by marriage, although quite distantly by this time. This earlier post explored some of the connections to the Crayfords: Tudor Crispes, Crayfords and Blechendens.
John Blechenden, the eldest son, is baptised on 1 January 1662 in Woodnesborough in Kent. John marries Ann Lane in 1690 and they have nine children together before he dies in 1709. John is the intended main beneficiary of his father’s will but only after the death of his mother. However, because he pre-deceased his mother the family property and lands at Simnells and in Stonested, both in Aldington, passed to his eldest son, Thomas, on the death of Margaret Blechenden. Ann is pregnant when John dies and she baptises the son he never saw Benoni Blechenden. I understand that, in Hebrew, Benoni means “son of my sorrow”. Thomas Blechenden died with some debts owing – I am not sure to what extent but this perhaps helps to explain why John’s son Thomas, when he interited Simnells on the death of Margaret, sold the estate in 1715.
Thomas and Margaret Blechenden
I mentioned in my earlier blog the two children, Thomas and Margaret, who were born/baptised in Harrietsham and presumably named after their parents. Thomas was baptised on 8 May 1664 and Margaret on 27 March 1666 and they are both named in their father’s will dated 1681 so we know they survived infancy and would have lived in Aldington, but I haven’t yet been able to establish spouses, children or death records for either.
Edward Tookey Blechenden
The first son to be baptised following Thomas and Margaret’s move to Aldington is Edward Tookey Blechenden on 2 June 1668. Edward marries Elizabeth Lancefield in Sevington on 12 March 1695 and they have at least 11 children. I have puzzled over why Edward is Edward Tookey Blechenden. Usually the middle name would be a family one and often from the mother’s line. But I cannot see a Tookey in the family tree – at least not until Edward’s daughter Mary marries Bartholomew Tookey in 1729 (Mary at this point is a widow having first married John Carey in 1725). Mary Blechynden/Carey/Tookey is a formidable character and gets quite the mention in History of Parliament Online which I will pick up in a future post.
The mystery of Edward Tookey Blechenden deepens further when you read his father Thomas Blechenden’s last will and testament – in that Thomas names “my loving son George Tooky gent. overseer and desire my executers to council and advise with him in the management of the executorship and I do give unto him the said George Tooky a ring of a mark...”. I haven’t been able to identify George Tooky – he isn’t the natural son of Thomas (unless he was “baseborn”) and he isn’t the husband of one of his daughters. I also can’t find any suggestion that Margaret Lynch married a Tookey and had children before she married Thomas Blechenden. I did wonder if the will had been mistranscribed and instead of George Tooky it should read George Hussey. Perhaps, but that doesn’t help understand the naming of Edward Tookey Blechenden! If anyone can identify George Tooky please do get in touch!
Aylmer Blechenden (although I think this is spelled Elmor on the baptism record) is baptised in Aldington on 26 April 1670. Aylmer is a family name and he could either be named for his mother’s uncle the Rev Aylmer Lynch or perhaps down from his mother’s great grandfather John Aylmer, the Bishop of London. Aylmer marries three times, firstly to Jane Stowe (Stone?) on 16 July 1694, in Bekesbourne, Kent; secondly to Mary Saffory on 16 March 1696/7 in Deal, Kent, then thirdly to Mary Eastes on 25 March 1708, also in Deal. Aylmer and Mary Saffory had a number of children, including Margaret (1697), Thomas (1699), Jane (1702), Aylmer (1703), Margaret (1705), Savory (1707) and Elizabeth (1708).
We know that Aylmer was involved in the trade of cotton, woolen and/or silk as in 1709 he was declared bankrupt and described as a “chapman”. A chapman was another word for a merchant in the 1700s and 1800s, before the advent of factories, who would invest in raw materials and put out the work to spinners and weavers at home on piece-rates, and – in theory -sell the product for profit:
WHereas a Commission of Bankrupt is awarded against Aylmer Blechenden of Deal, in the County of Kent, Chapman,and he being declared a Bankrupt, is required to surrender himself to the Commissioners on the 12th and 19th Instant, and on the 8th of June next, at the Irish-chamber in Guildhall London, at the 8th of Afternoon; at the first of which Sittings the Creditors are to Come prepared to prove their Debts, pay Contribution-mony, and chuse Assignees.
Gratian Blechenden is the youngest son of Thomas and Margaret and is named after Margaret’s brother Gratian Lynch. He was baptised on 10 December 1672 in Aldington in Kent. Gratian gets a mention in Thomas White’s last will and testament- when he is given a conditional bequest of ten pounds. Gratian would have been about 18 when Thomas White wrote his will and perhaps felt a sense of obligation to help some of his cousins. The will indicates that Gratian’s father Thomas was in debt when he died and Thomas White was prepared to help, up to a point:
Item I give and bequeath to Gratian Blechynden (the son of Thomas Blechynden of Symnells of Aldington lately deceased) the sum of ten pounds provided he be bound forth an apprentice and his brother John Blechynden doe pay the arrears of his rent for Giggers Green which as Michmas next amount to above ninety pounds and discharge the arrears of Cophurst in his father’s hands when he dyed or therefore I give him nothing.
Extract from the will of Thomas White, Bishop of Peterborough
Gratian marries Ann Robinson on 09 Dec 1700 at All Hallows Bread Street and St John the Evangelist in London. It’s unclear why they were married in London given that both Gratian and Ann are from Charing in Kent: “Gratian Blechynden, Excise-man of Charing, Kent, & Ann Robinson of ye same par., singlewoman“. They have at least one child, Elizabeth, who is baptised on 12 Feb 1702 in Folkestone.
I have found some records online which suggest that Gratian Blechenden knew an Edward Gurney, son of Thomas Gurney and entered into a mortage arrangement: “28 Sept. 1704 Mortgage from Edward Gurney, son of Thomas Gurney to Gratian Blechynden, Gent., to secure £55 plus interest.” In the same records it is clear that Edward Gurney, as executor of his father Thomas Gurney’s will, pays £60 to an Isaac Brisenden to discharge a legacy in the will. Isaac was married to Joane Gurney in 1697 but she died one year later in 1698. Given the link to the Gurney family I wonder if Gratian and Isaac are related in some way?
Ann Blechenden, the youngest child, is baptised on the 19 May 1676 in Aldington in Kent. Like her siblings Margaret, Thomas, Edward-Tooky, Aylmer and Gratian, her father leaves her £50 in his will to be paid when each reaches the age of 21. Thomas dies a few years after making his will when Ann is just 14 years old but she likely would have stayed with her mother at Simnells until her marriage or death. I haven’t been able to ascribe with certainty a marriage for Ann – one possibility is with Thomas Colfe of Canterbury in 1708 or possibly John Rumfield, Grocer of Wye, in 1710. Either of these would mean that Ann did not marry until she was in her 30s.
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”:
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.
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
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.
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”]?”
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.
Addendum (31 December 2022)
I recently had an opportunity to visit the parish church of St Mary the Virgin, Bottesford, Leicestershire, where Thomas White was rector for six years and amongst the many impressive toombs and monuments to the Roos and Manners families I was thrilled to find a monument to Thomas White hidden away in what is now a storage area to the side of the church’s organ. There is also a list of all the rectors of Bottesford which includes Thomas White.
The monument to Thomas White was erected by the rector of the parish in 1916. I haven’t seen this monument anywhere on line so wanted to share it here. It does not give any new information but I did pause on the reference to Thomas White being “buried in St George’s vault in the precincts of St Paul’s Cathedral” as this seems to contradict the account given by Francis Turner, Bishop of Ely of a burial “in St. Gregory’s, i.e., in the churchyard, for there is no church“. It is important to recall that when Thomas White died St Paul’s Cathedral was still being rebuilt following the great fire of London and St Gregory by St Paul’s was also destroyed in the fire and not rebuilt and the parish was instead merged with that of St Mary Magdalen, Old Fish Street. There is a St George’s chapel in the new St Paul’s Cathedral but there is no suggestion in records that Thomas White was buried there and given both the building work which was ongoing and the very clear description given by Francis Turner of his funeral I think the monument contains an error and that he is indeed and sadly buried in an unmarked grave on the south side of the Cathedral.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
This second post on John Blechenden focuses on his later years including his two marriages to Margaret Ashenden and Frances Blechenden and his children.
We don’t really know where John spent his childhood or as a young man and the first record we have which gives us any clues is in 1576 when John would be in early 20s and he takes on takes on a 78 year lease of the Manor and parsonage of Woodnesborough with the houses, buildings, rents, glebe lands, tithes, pensions, oblations, portions, emoluments, commodities and profits at a cost of £33 rent per annum. In those documents he is referred to as John Blechenden of Allington, gentleman. Allington, Edward Hasted explains, is how Aldington was usually referred to at that time. This suggests to me that John was probably living with or close to the wider Blechenden family who had a range of properties in Aldington and in Mersham, especially after the fortuitous marriage of his great grandfather William Blechenden to Agnes Godfrey. That marriage brought with it the properties at Ruffyns Hill and Simnells in Aldington which were family homes to the Blechendens including John at one point. However, taking on the lease at Woodnesborough also suggests to me that John is looking to establish himself in his own property and perhaps especially before his marriage two years later to Margaret Ashenden.
Lockdown has helped me to find many more online resouces than I realised were available and in particular I am grateful to those which the National Archives have made available online for free during the past year or so. These have helped me to establish family relationships and links to properties and land that may have otherwise taken me months or years to do so. For example, they have helped demonstrate that John Blechenden of Kennington, of Aldington, of Symnells and of Monkton are one and the same person. They have helped to demonstrate that John’s son and heir, Thomas, is the Thomas who marries Elizabeth Boys, which is where my interest in this family started. See the following Deed of Settlement made in 1607, shortly before John died:
Deed of Settlement Made between John Blechenden of Monkton in the Isle of Thanet and Thos B his son of the one part Sir John Boys of St Gregory’s near Canterbury Knt and Sir Edward Boys of Fredvill in the pa of Monnington of the other part, of lands in Eastbridge & Bonnington on the marriage of Thos B to Elizabeth da of Sir Edw Boys. Dated: 1607
MARGARET ASHENDEN (d. 1596)
John and Margaret Ashenden were married in Nonington, Kent, in 1578 and the parish records describes them both as gentry. Margaret is the daughter of Richard Ashenden of Tenterden, gent (d.1562) and Jane Engham, who goes on to marry, after her husband’s death, Edward Boys of Fredville in Nonington (there is a very colourful story about Edward Boys’ marriages that I will cover in a separate post).
It is unclear whether John and Margaret ever lived at Woodnesborough after their marriage or just benefited from the revenues of the estate. However, at least one child, Jane, was baptised at Nonington which is just five miles from Woodnesborough. I haven’t been able to find, yet, baptism records of the other children of John and Margaret, including that for Thomas, John’s son and heir, but we know from the burial inscription to Margaret at St Martin’s Church in Aldington that, in their 18 years of marriage together before Margaret passed away (on 30 June 1596) they had five sons and eight daughters together! Given the lack of reference to their children in other documents I suspect, for now, that the majority did not survive infancy. There is an intriguing reference, however, to a “John Blechenden of Fredvill” in papers dated 31 Oct 1609 regarding the bargain and sale of lands from Thomas Blechenden to William Ashenden..” (Canterbury Cathedral Archives).
John Blechenden of Fredville is unlikely to be John, the subject of this post, given he died in 1607 and never, as far as I am aware, lived in Fredville the home of the Boys family. John Blechenden of Fredville also cannot be the John born to Thomas Blechenden and Elizabeth Boys as he was baptised in 1612. So perhaps John Blechenden of Fredville is one of John and Margaret’s missing children. There were close links between the Boys and the Blechendens and as Jane Engham’s (Margaret Ashenden’s mother) second marriage was to Edward Boys perhaps this John of Fredville was brought up in the home of his grandmother and step-grandfather at Fredville or found an occupation on the estate?
Records held by Canterbury Cathedral Archives indicate that John and Margaret spent some years at Kennington in Kent before moving to the family home Simnells at Aldington; an Indenture of Agreement dated 1585 states that John Blechenden of Kennington and Margaret his wife, amongst other parties, allow the use of Callowfields in Aldington to Edmund Smith and his heirs. And in 1586 an indenture involving the Boys, the Ashendens and the Blechendens, amongst others, refers to John as John Blechenden of Kennington, Kent. His eldest son and heir Thomas is also born in Kennington and we know this because he refers to himself as of Woodnesborough, born in Kennington, Kent when he appears as a witness at the Court of Chivalry in 1638. From information online it does not suggest that parish records for St Mary’s in Kennington have survived pre-1670 so it seems unlikely that parish records will be able to confirm whether John and Margaret’s children were born and baptised there.
One of John and Margaret’s surviving children, Jane, marries Andrew Mennes and is the mother of Sir John Mennes, Vice Admiral, Comptroller of the Navy and sometime poet. Mennes features heavily in the Diary of Samuel Pepys who reported directly to Mennes at the Navy Office. You get the strong impression from the Diary that Pepys thought little of Mennes as an administrator of Navy business – clearly Mennes’ strengths were at sea and not in the office. However, Pepys considered Mennes’ skills as a poet and a mimic made him the best of company.
Although John and Margaret were living in Kennington in 1586 they eventually moved to the family home Simnells in Aldington. The last will and testament of Nicholas Robinson who d. 1594 (see below) refers to John Blechenden of Simnells and there is also a reference to it both on Margaret’s monument inscription (she dies in 1596) as well as on John’s.
It is worth mentioning that Kent Archeological Society records the monument inscription for Margaret Blechenden, as noted by the Rev Bryan Faussett in 1759, as MargaretlatethewifeofRichardAshenden who departed this life on 30 June 1596 with the implication that it was with Richard, and not John, that she had the many sons and daughters. It continues that this was on a brass plate in the Chancell of Aldington Church but now kept in the Parish Chest. However, there is a fuller inscription which states:
Here lieth burried that religious and modest gentlewoman Margaret Blechenden the late wife of John Blechynden of Simnels in Aldington, gent. and daughter of Richard Ashenden late of Tenterden, gent. who had by her said husband 5 sons and 8 daughters she departed this life in faith of Christ 30th June 1596. Sister of Sir William Ashenden.
This fuller account rings truer because John’s own burial monument states that he was the father of a “numerous issue” and it seems highly unlikely to me that, as a young man, he would take on a widow who had had so many children.
FRANCES BLECHENDEN (1565-1611)
Thomas Epps – First Husband
John was about 40 when Margaret died and in February the following year 1597 at Minster, in Kent, he married his cousin Frances Blechenden, daughter of his uncle Thomas Blechenden. Frances’ first husband was Thomas Epps of New Romney (Jurat and twice Mayor of New Romney) and they were married on 22 July 1584 but the marriage was short-lived with Thomas dying the following year. There is an account in The Discovery of Witchcraft, by Reginald Scot, first published in 1584 of how, when Thomas Epps’ first wife, Maria Stupenny, was taken ill her parents in law suspected witchcraft. But this is a cautionary tale intended to demonstrate the foolishness of such beliefs. Scot was a native of Kent, with properties in Aldington, Brabourne and Romney Marsh and may even have knows the Epps family personally. Certainly John Blechenden knew Sir Thomas Scott, Reginald’s first cousin who he often stayed with (Sir Thomas is a party to the Indenture of Agreement dated 1585 mentioned above), and it is highly probable that the Blechenden’s knew the Epps family ahead of Frances’ marriage to Thomas Epps.
The abstract of Thomas Epps’ will does not suggest that Frances was left with much apart from the “best bedsteddle…with feather bed upon same..” with the majority going to his sons William and Allen by his first wife, Maria Stupenny:
Nicholas Robinson – Second Husband
Frances’ second husband was Nicholas Robinson of Monkton, gent. (died 23 June 1594). Nicholas’ monument inscription indicates that he had five children by Frances: three sons and two daughters. He left an extensive will (which is in two parts plus a codecil) leaving the majority of his land, properties and goods to his eldest son Thomas Robinson but also making provision for his surviving children Henry Robinson and Anne Robinson. However, Frances gets the majority of it until her demise so she would have been very well provided for. She is named the Executrix but there are two perhaps surprising overseers to the will:
Al the rest of all my goods moveable my debtes and legaceys discharged I give and bequeath to Francis Robinson my wife whom I make and ordeyne my sole Executrix of this my last will and testament. Also I do make constitute and ordeyne my cosen John Blechenden of Simnells in Aldington gentleman and my brother Humfrey Blechenden of Aldington aforesayed gentleman my overseers and to be assistant to my executrix in the performing of this my last will and testament.
The will shows that there was a clear and friendly relationship between Nicholas and Frances Robinson and the Blechendens of Aldington, specifically her brother Humphrey and her cousin John and so it is likely she also knew well John’s first wife Margaret Ashenden. I can not see in the will of Nicholas any proviso that, should Frances remarry, everything goes to the children. Indeed, she is charged with bringing them up and ensuring that the two boys are good scholars and be maintained at school at either the university of Oxford or of Cambridge. Frances would therefore have been a wealthy widow at the age of just 29.
John Blechenden – third husband
Frances’ third husband is her cousin John. I do wonder if Frances’ father Thomas Blechenden had a hand in arranging the marriage between the two cousins in order to consolidate land and property including both the Ruffyns Hill and Simnells properties in his children and their heirs. The parish records state that John Blechenden of Aldington and Frances Robinson, of Monkton, are married in Thanet on 6 February 1596 (which with the calendar change would be 1597). At this second marriage it appears that John moved home and lived the remainder of his days at Monkton and perhaps in the “Mansion House” at Monkton that Nicolas Robinson refers to in his will. It would be tempting to think that after almost 20 years of marriage to Margaret, not to mention 13 children, and Frances’ two marriages with at least three surviving children, John’s second marriage to his cousin Frances was a pragmatic or transactional relationship but the monument inscription (see below) to Frances at Monkton Church states that Frances had children by all three of her husbands.
John Blechenden, esq, held a number of positions in his later years – he was a Justice of the Peace and in 1601 appointed Treasurer for the lathes of St. Augustine, Shepway, the hundreds annexed, and the four hundreds of Scray. There are also a number of records held at either the National Archives, Canterbury or Kent History and Library Centre which show that John was involved in a number of legal disputes around land and property. One of which involving Andrew Osborne, of London, merchant tailor, about property in Birchington, seems to have become quite fractious with John in 1603 making a claim that there had been: Tampering with witnesses in a Star Chamber suit for a messuage and land in Birchington. Proceedings were also undertaken in 1602 against Raimund Brooke of Woodnesborough and against John Lancasheire in 1606 regarding property in Eastbridge, Romney Marsh shortly before he died.
If John was born around 1556 as the son of William Blechenden, Captain of Walmer Castle, he would have been about 51 when he died. This would explain the monument at Aldington which indicates that he died before old age:
John Blechynden, esq. of Simnells, who died an immature death, being then married to his second wife, and father of a numerous issue. He lived the latter part of his life at Monkton, in Thanet, obt. 1607, [arms, Blechenden impaling a lion rampant, gules.]
I have recently (yesterday!) been able to access The Blechynden Story on FamilySearch which has given some additional information one of which is a slightly different reading of the monument at Aldington but which states the age of John as about 51 (in the fifty second year of his life) which matches exactly with my own conclusions. The text is reproduced below including any typos:
here lies buried under solid marble the body of John Blechynden gent. of arms, holding Simnells as his seat, whom fatal internal stone brought to a sad end, and an early death carried him shen he was united in his second marriage, a parent to numerous prosperity, from the earth. He drew out the last threads of life at Monkton in the Isle of Thanet…He died in the year of our Lord 1607, September 19 in the fiftysecond year of his life.
The Blechynden Story, E.M. Hall, H.V.Hall, 1964
I wonder what the fatal internal stone was that brought John to a sad end and an early death. Perhaps some form of cancer or other illness took John from Frances and his young family? TheBlechyndenStory includes some references to the contents of John’s will. It states that John left the property to eldest son Thomas, gave a small gift to his “Godson John Minnes, son of my daughter Jone” and £300 as a wedding dowry to his daughter Margaret. A daughter-in-law Ann is mentioned and it is suggested that she is the widow of one of John’s son’s. Ominously, none of the other children of John and his first wife Margaret, are mentioned. According to TheBlechyndenStory, John’s will is mostly concerned with his second family, his wife Frances and their children Frances, John, William and Millicent and he asked his brother Humphrey and bother-in-law John Wright to take charge of his young children.
Following her husband’s death Frances had to make a claim under the terms of the settlement of her husbands will. The defendents include Thomas Blechenden,who I assume is not her father but her late husband’s son and heir from his first marriage, and also Jervas Leeds, Elizabeth Leeds and Thomas Noble:
Short title: Blechenden v Blechenden. Plaintiffs: Frances Blechenden (late the wife of John Blechenden). Defendants: Thomas Blechenden, Jervas Leeds, Elizabeth Leeds and Thomas Noble. Subject: claim under the settlement and will of John Blechenden to lands in Chislett, Hearne, St Nicholas, St Giles, and Moncton, Kent, formerly of Nicholas Robinson, the plaintiff’s first husband, and also Symnells in Allington alias Aldington, and lands called the Prior’s Lane, and an annuity of £50 charged upon the rectory of Winnesburrowe alias Wodensborrowe.
Copies of both John and Frances’ wills are at the Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library and the Kent History and Library Centre which I hope to be able to visit in the near future. This may clear up who the other defendents are above. However, one option is that Elizabeth Leeds was born a Blechenden, perhaps a sibling of Thomas. The Canterbury Cathedral Probate Records https://wills.canterbury-cathedral.org/ indicate that an Inventory was taken in 1604 of the goods of Elizabeth Leeds also known as “Basenden” and that an Inventory was taken in 1620 for Jervis Leeds from Kennington where we know the Blechendens had a family home. The Blechynden Story includes some snippets from John’s will and from Frances’ but no mention is made of Thomas Noble or the Leeds’ so they are a mystery for now.
Frances Blechenden only lived a further four years after losing John, dying on 25 December 1611 just before her 48th birthday. The Blechynden Story states that Frances’ will was made 23 December 1611 just before she died and probated the following February, in which she requests burial in Monkton Church near “My late husband Nichilas Robinson”. Frances also died very young but led quite a full life; she had three husbands, outlived each one, had children by each of them, seven of which survived her. On her monument it is stated, which makes me smile, that “she injoyed three husbands”:
Here lyeth interred the body of that modest gentlewoman Frances Blechenden eldest daughter of Thomas Blechenden Gent. She injoyed three husbands, Thomas Epps of New-Romney Gent. her first; Nicholas Robinson of this Parish of Monkton Gent. her second; and John Blechenden of Aldington Esq; She had by each of them Issue; she lived 48 years wanting twelve days, departing this world in the true faith of Christ the 25 of December 1611.
The History and Antiquities Ecclesiastic and Civil of the Isle of Tenet in Kent, by John Lewis, printed 1723
What happened to their children?
We know that eldest son Thomas from John’s first marriage became his son and heir – and will be the subject of my next post. Jane married Andrew Mennis and Margaret, of the £300 dowry is a mystery. Of the children from John’s second marriage we know that Millicent, born approx 1605 and no doubt named after her grandmother Millicent See (who dies in 1612), married Leonard Hughes of Woodnesborough. The Visitation of Kent 1663-1668 further clarifies that Millicent is the daughter of John Blechenden of Monkton in Thanet. And young Frances, who is bequeathed all her mothers linen and jewels, marries Samuel Pownell, Vicar of Alkham:
Hughes, Leonard, of Ringleton in the parish of Woodnesborough, g., ba., about 31, and Millicent Blechinden, s, p., v., about 23, d. of John Blechinden, dec. At same. Feb 14 1628.
Canterbury marriage licences, Vol 2
Pownall, Samuel, clerk, B.A.. vicar of Alkham, ba., about 35, and Frances Blechinden of Newington n. Hythe, v., about 25, whose parents are dead. At Newington. Philemon Pownall of the Precincts of Ch. Ch., Cant., clerk, and Abdias Pownall of Shepherdswell, g., bonds. Oct. 27, 1627.
Canterbury marriage licences, Vol 2
TheBlechyndenStory says that the two boys, John and William, from John’s marriage to Frances are “packed off to college with a choice between Oxford and Cambridge”. I can’t, however, find a reference to them in the Alumni records and it is unclear, for now, what happened to the two boys. More research needed there but for another day.