Tudor Crispes, Crayfords and Blechendens

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

Margaret Crispe of Quekes

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

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

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

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

South View of Quekes, 1781

Marriage to John Crayford

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Blechenden

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

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

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

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

Crispe memorials, All Saints Birchington

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

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

John and Margaret’s Children

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

Henry Blechenden

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

Robert Blechenden

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth and William Hales’s Children:

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

Elizabeth and Reynolde’s Children:

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

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

Alice and Thomas Tournay’s Children:

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

John Blechenden of Kennington (Part 2)

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


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.  

Sir John Mennes 1599-1671
courtesy of The National Portrait Gallery

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 Margaret late the wife of Richard Ashenden 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.


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:  

Extract from the will of Thomas Epps from the Kent, England, Tyler Index to Wills, 1460-1882
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? The Blechynden Story 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 The Blechynden Story, 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

The Blechynden Story 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.