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