Lieut John Blechynden of Woodnesborough, Junior 1635-1672

John Blechynden of Woodnesborough was the second son of John Blechynden and Anne Glover. He was born in 1635 into a well-to-do county family in Kent but, as the second son, he was expected to make his own way in the world given that he was unlikely to inherit property from his father. London merchants were frequently the younger sons of landed families sent to London to make their fortune and John Blechynden was no different. In 1651, when he was 16, John Blechynden was apprenticed to Christopher Bradbury of the Drapers Company. The Worshipful Company of Drapers is one of the historic Great Twelve Livery Companies and was founded during the Middle Ages. The Drapers Company focused on the wholesale trade of wool and cloth and helped to regulate prices in that market.

The online London Livery Records show that John Blechynden (actually spelled Blissenden – see my earlier post here) was apprenticed to Christopher Bradbury for seven years. I had puzzled over the fact that, when he wrote his will on 29 July 1672 (at the age of just 37), he did so on board the King’s ship Bonaventure with one of the witnesses to his will being the ships surgeon (“chirurgian”) John Cotton. In England, surgeons were employed on naval ships and on some long commercial voyages. Did he write his will in the full knowledge of his imminent death on board the Bonaventure? Perhaps, although his will says that he is in good and perfect health and memorie:

I John Blechynden late of Woodnesborough in ye County of Kent the younger gent, being in good and perfect health and memorie thanks be to Almightie God, doe make and ordaine this my last Will and Testament in manner and form following.

extract from John Blechynden’s Will

There is no evidence that he actually died on board the Bonaventure and there is a likely burial record dated 27 December 1672 for a John Bletchenden, Gent., at St Clement Danes in Westminster. The date, and the acknowledgement in the burial records that he is a Gentleman, accords with his status and the probate date of 17 January 1672/3.

So, the question remains, why would someone who had spent seven years training to be a draper write his last will and testament on board the Bonaventure? We know that the 17th century was an age of international trade and competition with the East India Company at the height of its power. The following passage suggests that the Bonaventure was in the West Indies in 1668 and perhaps conveyed goods including, sadly, slaves.

II. Mem. of slaves, cattle, sugars, and other goods conveyed away by Lieut.-Gen. Willoughby from Surinam, after knowledge and publication of the Peace at Barbadoes with the Bonaventure on 19th Feb. last, viz. :—412 slaves, 160 cattle, 67 persons, and 150,000 lb. sugar, besides planks, speckled wood, and dry wares to the value of 150,000 lbs. sugar. With attestation and certificate as above. 

‘America and West Indies: May 1668’, in Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies: Volume 5, 1661-1668, ed. W Noel Sainsbury (London, 1880), pp. 564-576. British History Online
The Burning of the Royal James at Solebay

Interestingly when John Blechynden wrote his will on the Bonaventure this was just two months after the Battle of Solebay, the first naval battle of the Third Anglo-Dutch War, which took place off the Suffolk coast. The Bonaventure was in the Van for that action and lost three men with ten wounded. Hundreds of men were lost from the flagship, the Royal James, including the Admiral of the Blue Squadron Edward Montagu, Earl of Sandwich. Perhaps John Blechynden was on board the Bonaventure, was wounded, and eventually died from his wounds? But, if so, why was a draper on board?

Perhaps surprisingly, apprenticeship into the Drapers Company does not necessarily mean that John Blechynden was ever intended to become a draper. It is possible that he was apprenticed into the Drapers Company but that his master was actually a mariner, or a mariner as well as a draper as some members of the company wore two occupational hats and had a “steady business” as well as a more eratic but potentially lucrative one particularly for the officer class on board the ships. Increasingly, I think this is the case for John Blechynden as handwritten records which are described as “A catalogue of all the Flag Officers of the Several Fleets since His Majesties happy Resoration in ye Year 1660. His Royal Highness the Duke of York Lord High Admiral of England” and to be found at show that John was a Lieutenant in what we would now call the Kings Navy. In 1665, at the age of 30, the records show that he was a Lieutenant on board the Golden Lyon and then in 1672 a Lieutenant on board the Bonaventure:

Record of John Blechynden’s appointments to the Golden Lyon and Bonaventure (note the mispelling which is corrected) from

The Golden Lyon was actually captured from the Dutch in 1664 off the west coast of Africa by Major Robert Holmes who had been given specific instructions to do so in order to protect from the Dutch the Royal [African] Company’s agents, goods, ships, and factories as above, especially from molestation by the Golden Lion.  The Royal African Company had been granted a charter in 1660 granting it a monopoly over English trade along the west coast of Africa with the Company’s primary purpose being the search for gold. In 1663 the Company was granted a new and expanded charter granting it an expanded trade remit and monopoly including the trade in ivory and in slaves.

National interest and international trade were indistinguishable in the 17th century and mercantile competition led to the first Anglo-Dutch War in 1652. Forts were built to protect ships and harbours, and even operated as trading stations, but were captured and recaptured. We don’t know to what extent John Blechynden was involved in trade on the African coast or if he was involved in the Royal African Company and its capture of the Golden Lyon in 1664 but we do know he was appointed to it the following year and then in April 1666 it was agreed that the ship should be given to the Royal African Company:

The King to the Duke of York. Upon suit of the Royal African Company, his Royal Highness is commanded forthwith to give order to bestow upon them the ship Golden Lyon taken from the Dutch on the coast of Africa, with her tackle and furniture

‘America and West Indies: April 1666’, in Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies: Volume 5, 1661-1668, ed. W Noel Sainsbury (London, 1880), pp. 369-379. British History Online

No reference to John Blechynden’s appointment as a Lieutenant to either the Golden Lyon or the Bonaventure is made in his will but he does refer to pay he was owed by the King for his services:

To my brother Thomas Blechynden and my brother Edward Blechynden’s children all of them each alike to be divided amongst them all my monyee as is due to mee and likewise the Pay which shall become due unto mee from His Majestie for my Services.

extract from John Blechynden’s will

An appointment to the Golden Lyon in 1665 and the Bonaventure in 1672 does suggest a navy career and that potentially John was at both the Battle of Vågen  in August 1665 (which saw an English flotilla battle against Dutch merchant ships in the neutral port of Bergen in Norway as part of the Second Anglo-Dutch War) and at the Battle of Solebay. There is a family connection to the navy through Sir John Mennes, John Blechynden’s grandfather’s “loving nephew” and who had been commander of the navy; commander-in-chief in the Downs and admiral of the Narrow Seas and then Comptroller of the Navy. Such a family connection could have secured John Blechynden a valuable position in the navy from which he could make his fortune.

But was John Blechynden ever actually a Draper? On balance I think he was a member of the Company but probably did not engage in the wholesale trade of wool and cotton. If he traded at all it is more likely to have been in tobacco; spices, ivory and maybe slaves. It is perhaps telling that when he was apprenticed to the Drapers Company his master was a Christopher Bradbury. There is a Captain Christopher Bradbury who dies in 1685 in Barbados and in the extract to his will he refers to himself as a vintner and a mariner and who had an estate in Barbados:

Extract from Captain Christopher Bradbury’s last will, 1685.

John Blechynden’s will is quite short (and is transcribed in my pages) and I had initally assumed, given that it was written on board the Bonaventure, that it was a nuncupative will. But looking again at it I don’t think it is nuncupative and, as already mentioned, he describes himself as being of good and perfect health and memorie. He is not on his “death bed” and his probable burial record shows that he was buried in St Clement Danes in Westminster in London in December 1672. Although his will is quite short it is helpful in confirming some family relationships. He states that he wants all money that is due to him and the pay due to him from His Majesty to be divided equally between his brother Thomas Blechynden and his brother Edward Blechynden’s children. These children are not named but they are referred to in the probate record of 17 January 1672/3. Thomas and Margaret (Lynch)’s children as mentioned in the probate record are: John; Thomas; Edward-Tookey; Elmer; Gratian; Elizabeth; Grace and Margaret Blechynden, and Edward and Mary (Blyth’s) children are: Maria; Elizabeth and Sara Blechynden. John’s will also refers to his sister Elizabeth who is made Executrix of his will and forty shillings to buy a ring in remebrance of him:

Item I doe give unto my sister Elizabeth Blechynden fortie shillings of lawful money of England to buy her a ring, whome I doe make my Executrix of this my last Will and Testament.

extract from John Blechynden’s will

There is no mention of any wife or children of his own and sadly he died at the age of just 37 but his short will hints at a life at sea and travels far beyond those of any of his ancestors.

John Blechynden 1612-1701

I have found it hard to find the time to write recently as we have been very busy preparing for and then getting used to living with a lovely family from Ukraine. But its about time I set out a little more about another of the Blechynden clan, namely John Blechynden, son of Thomas Blechynden and Elizabeth Boys. I’ll also set out some of John’s own family from his marriage to Anne Glover.

John Blechynden was born in 1612, probably in Nonnington in Kent. Although I haven’t found a birth record for John but we know his age from the Oxford University Alumni records which show that John matriculated in 1627, when he was just 15, at the same time as his older brother Edward.

Blechinden, Edward, s. Thomas, of Bishopsborne, Kent, gent. ST ALBAN HALL, matric. 4 May, 1627, aged 17.

Blechinden, John, s. Thomas, of Bishopsborne, Kent, gent. ST ALBAN HALL, matric. 4 May, 1627, aged 15. B.A. from MAGDALEN HALL, 1 Feb., 1630-1, brother of the last named.

Oxford University Alumni 1500-1714, Vol 1

John’s brother Edward Blechenden above remains a mystery. There is no suggestion in the Alumni records that he finished his studies at Oxford; there are no marriage records that can be positively attributed to him and when his father dies in 1661 his last will and testament makes no mention of Edward or any children. For now it appears as if Edward died before he finished his studies at Oxford which would have made John the eldest son and heir to his fathers properties.

As well as Edward, John has an elder sister Marie/Mary, a sister Elizabeth, a sister Francis and a younger brother Thomas. Marie and Elizabeth marry into the Cason family of Furneux Pelham in Hertfordshire. Marie marries Edward Cason and they have a number of children together before her death in 1650 at the age of just 42. Elizabeth marries John Cason and it appears that they lived in Woodnesborough in Kent but moved to Burwash in Sussex at some point in the 1660s which is where she dies in 1679. Memorials to both John and Elizabeth Cason are to be found in St Bartholomew’s at Burwash.

John’s sister Francis dies in London when she is just a baby in September 1618 and although brother Thomas is born just over a month later in November 1618 sadly his mother Elizabeth dies in childbirth, or shortly afterwards, and is buried two days after the baptism of Thomas. Both his sister Francis, and his mother Elizabeth, were buried at St Olave’s in Silver Street in the City of London. St Olave’s was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666 and wasn’t rebuilt and the Churchyard which remained was also damaged during the blitz. There is now a garden on the site with a small plaque that informs of the existence and destruction of the Church there.

John’s younger brother Thomas is mentioned is his father’s will dated 1661 so we know he survived into adulthood. There is also a mention of a Mortage document in 1666 between Margaret Sherman and Thomas Blechenden, son of Thomas Blechenden Clk. but so far I haven’t established what this mortgage relates to.

The brothers and sisters of John Blechenden can be summarised as:

  • Marie, baptised in Nonington, Kent on 21 August 1608, married Edward Cason had several children, died in 1650;
  • Edward, baptised in Nonington, Kent on 16 April 1610, probably died as a young man;
  • Elizabeth, baptised in Nonington on 26 June 1614, married John Cason, two surviving children, died in Burwash, Sussex in 1679;
  • Francis, baptised in Aldington on 29 September 1617 and died September 1618 in London; and
  • Thomas, baptised in St Olave’s London on 5 November 1618 (mentioned in his fathers will dated 1661 but no obvious wife or children).

Marriage to Anne Glover

John Blechenden married Anne Glover at St George the Martyr’s, Canterbury on 10th May 1631 when he was just 19 years old and shortly after he graduated from Oxford. The Visitation of Kent 1663-1668 states that John Blechynden of Woodnesborough married Anne, daughter of ….Glover of Canterbury. Her father is unfortunately not named, other than Glover, and I haven’t been able to identify him.

We don’t have too much information about John and Anne Glover but the little snipet below shows that Anne was called to account for withholding some monies left in the will of John Smith for the poor of the parish. I haven’t found many references to women being the executors of wills, unless they were the wife or other close family member of the deceased, so it seems likely that John Smith is a relative of Anne Glover but I haven’t been able to confirm this. The Blechynden’s do have a family connection to the Smith’s of Boughton Monchelsea and Chart next Sutton via the marriage of Reignold Blechynden’s step daughter Mary Hales to Symon Smith and they do have a son called John Smith. However, the dates don’t look quite right, there is no evidence so far that that John Smith lived in Woodnesborough and the family connection – unless a closer one with the Glovers can be found – seems tenuous. Unfortunately, from a genealogical perspective, John Smith is not the easiest of names to research!

1637.   Mrs. Anne Blessenden, wife of Mr. John Blessenden of Wodensbergh, whom we present for withholding the sum of £6, being the remainder of a legacy given to the poor of our parish in and by the last will of Mr. John Smith, deceased, late of our parish, of which will she is one executrix; the other is dead.

extracts from the Visitations of the Archdeacon of Canterbury by Peter de Sandwich

When John’s father Thomas Blechenden dies in 1661 his will refers to his two sons John and Thomas and his grandchildren but only those grandchildren that are the children of John and Anne. There is no mention of any children of John’s brother Thomas and, perhaps he had none, or none surviving, but he also does not mention any Cason grandchildren even though we know that both Marie and Elizabeth had children. I have commented on Thomas’s will in an earlier post: My Boys Family Connection.

There is, in the Furneux Pelham baptism records, an unusual record of the godparents of one of Marie and Edward Cason’s children, a Thomas Cason baptised in February 1635/6 and who was, no doubt, named in honour of his two sponsors: his step-grandfather Sir Thomas Cecil of Keldon (fourth son of the Earl of Salisbury) now married to Edward’s mother Susan (née Oxenbridge), and our own Thomas Blachyndon (Blechynden) his maternal grandfather. Marie and Edward Cason tragically lost at least five sons and one daughter when they were just infants before Marie died at the age of 42.

I don’t think the lack of a reference to Cason children in Thomas Blechenden’s will indicates a snub at all as there does seem to be a close family connection to the Blechyndens. The family home of Simnells in Aldington becomes the property of John Cason of Woodnesborough and I suspect is transferred on a temporary basis perhaps as part of the marriage settlement with Elizabeth Blechynden. John Cason then alienates Simnells in 1663 to Thomas Blechynden, the eldest surviving son of John Blechynden and Anne Glover before the Casons move to Burwash in Sussex. John Cason is a witness to Thomas Blechynden’s will in 1661 and, in return his will is witnessed by his “cozen” (actually his niece) Elizabeth Blechynden in 1670. John Cason (junior) also stood as Bondsman in the marriage of the son of his cousin Thomas in 1690 (i.e. that of a future John Blechynden to Ann Lane).

John and Anne’s Children

As mentioned above John Blechenden married Anne Glover when he was just 19 in 1631 and presumably she would have been of a similar age. Given their youth we could assume that they would have had a large number of children together and some five children can be positively identified, all of whom are born in Woodnesborough, in Kent, between 1633 and 1641. These are:

  • Thomas (1633 – 1690);
  • John (1635 – 1672);
  • Edward (born 1637);
  • Elizabeth (born 1640) and
  • Anne (born 1641).

St Mary’s Church, Woodnesborough. Image from Edward Hasted, ‘Parishes: Woodnesborough’, in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 10 (Canterbury 1800), pp. 121-144. British History Online:

However, these are the only children I have been able to identify as the children of John and Anne and I suspect, but cannot prove, that Anne died shortly after the birth of her namesake. We do know that the English Civil War broke out in 1642 just one year after the baptism of Anne, and perhaps this took John away from home. We know his father supported the Parliamentarians and was on the local committee responsible for the seizing and sequestering the Estates of Papists and Delinquents, and for the Weekly Assessments, in the County of Kent. So it is possible that John took up the Parliamentarian cause. But I think it is also likely that Anne died as, in John’s father’s will, he refers to his son John and also to “Jane now wife to the said John Blechynden”. It is clear from Thomas Blechenden’s will that the majority of his estate has already been settled upon John but in his will he makes provision for John’s wife, Jane. The wording in the will is unusual – “now wife” rather than “wife to John” and makes me think that the marriage of John and Jane is a recent one and perhaps happened after the settlement of the estate upon John.

And so by me bequeathed is to be as an […] to him the said John Blechynden over and beside what is already settled upon him.   Item my will and meaning is that in case Jane now wife to the said John Blechynden shall survive him the said John that she shall have and receive the sum of twenty pounds yearly during the term of her natural life to be paid her quarterly as aforesaid.

Thomas Blechynden’s will 1661.

This extract from my family tree shows Johns relationship to his immediate family:

John’s eldest son Thomas married Margaret Lynch and had nine children; son John died during the Anglo Dutch Wars; Edward married Mary Blyth and had four children. It is unclear whether Elizabeth or Anne were ever married and Elizabeth was certainly still unmarried in 1670 when she witnessed her uncle John Cason’s will.


When I started this blog I said that I wanted to find a link to my Blissenden family who, frustratingly, I have not been able to trace beyond the early 1700s but who came from Kent where many of the Blechynden’s had land and property. So I wondered if perhaps there was a family link? The Blissenden surname isn’t a common one although there are many variations – Blessenden; Brissenden and many more beside so it was interesting to note in the online records of London’s Livery Companies that John Blechynden, in 1651, is recorded as the father of John Blechynden, apprentice to Christopher Bradbury of the Company of Drapers. But, rather than being recorded as Blechynden both are recorded in the Livery Company records as “Blissenden”! Eureka!

Whilst this does not of course prove any direct family line it does indicate that my Blissenden ancestors could be from the Blechynden family. Of course, it is possible that this John Blissenden is a different John but, given that the records state that he is John Blissenden of Wynsborough, gentleman, it is highly likely that this is John Blechynden, the subject of this post, as Woodnesborough, where he lived at this time was also known as Winsborough (or Wynsborough) and there are no other John Blechyndens or Blissendens living in Woodnesborough at this time who are “gentlemen” that fill the bill. In John’s father’s will of 1661 Thomas Blechynden refers to himself as Thomas Blechynden of Winsborough in the county of Kent, Esq. so it is very likely that John would also have used Winsborough not Wooodnesborough.

John’s second son John was born in 1635 and would have been 16 years old at the time of the apprenticeship which also adds weight to this being John Blechynden not a different John Blissenden or Brissenden. John Blechynden the younger, after his apprenticeship, appears to change profession to a naval one and dies when serving on board HMS Bonaventure in 1672 – in his will he refers to himself as John Blechynden, late of Woodnesborough in ye county of Kent the younger gent. Stying himself as “the younger gent” indicates that his father John was still alive in 1672.

John’s Death in 1701?

In 1668 John’s niece Frances Cason married John Polhill. They lived in Burwash in Sussex and, as already mentioned, Frances’ mother and father, Elizabeth and John Cason, also moved to Burwash. I think that John Blechynden may also have moved to Burwash in his later years, perhaps after settling his Kent properties on his children and grandchildren, to be close to his sister Elizabeth. I have found no burial record or last will and testament for John Blechynden in Woodnesborough or other likely locations in Kent, but I have found a burial record in Burwash for a John Blissenden, gentleman, in 1701. There is a Brissenden family in Burwash at the time and it is possible that the burial records relates to the John Brissenden who marries Mary Giles in Burwash in 1681. There is no suggestion, however, in the records I have found that John Brissenden was a “gentleman“. I have also found a burial record for a Jane Blechinden in 1699 at Southwark, St Saviour, Denmark Park. Jane was the “wife of John Blechinden, gentleman“. Could this be the Jane mentioned in Thomas Blechynden’s will of 1661?

By 1701 John Blechynden would be very elderly and to live to the great age of 89 was very unusual – his eldest son Thomas died at the age of just 57 which was not atypical. If John did die in Burwash in 1701 at the age of 89 he would have outlived his sons, lived through the English Civil War, seen the execution of Charles I and later the Restoration of the Monarchy, lost a son in the Anglo Dutch Wars and also witnessed in the Glorious Revolution the overthrow of James II and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy. He did live in interesting times.

My Boys Family Connection

Today’s post reflects on the links between the Blechendens and Boys family in Kent. I almost entitled this post “my connection to Boys” but thought better of it when I realised that it might attract the wrong sort of internet traffic! Anyway, back to the serious stuff. I have tracked down quite a large number now of my direct ancestors in Kent, England, including one directly back to the Boys/Boyes/Bois family in Kent through the marriage of John Wanstall to Hannah Boys in Waldershare, near Dover in Kent, in 1735.  Hannah Boys is a descendent of  Thomas Boys of Bonnington (d 1508) who married Thomasine.  Through this line I can take the family tree further back to c1066 – thanks to the large amount of research that has gone into this family already.

William Boys and Isabella Phallop brass plate at Holy Cross Church, Goodnestone

The photo on the left was taken earlier this year when as a special wedding anniversary treat my husband took me on a hunt of my Kentish ancestors. The rest of our family think we are mad but I was thrilled to find this brass plate on the floor of the Church of the Holy Cross Goodnestone dedicated to my 14x great grandparents William Boys (d1507) and Isabella Phallop (d1517). The inscription underneath the effigies says something like “Here lies William Boys and Isabella his wife. William died the last day of July 1507. God have mercy on their souls“.

As mentioned, the Boys family are well researched and written about and in one of those documents I spotted a marriage between Elizabeth Boys/Bois and Thomas Blechenden on 26 August 1607 at Nonington in Kent.  There is also a further marriage between Edward Boys and Emily Grace Blechynden in Tenterden in 1837 which having looked into it a little does suggest that some lines of the families remained in the same area of Kent and perhaps in touch over that period of time.  This made me wonder whether there was a family connection here to help me with my Blissenden blockage.

Thomas BlechEnden and Elizabeth Boys

But back to Thomas Blechenden and Elizabeth Boys – the focus of this post. Thomas was born in c1586 in Kennington in Kent, the son of John Blechenden and Margaret Ashenden. Elizabeth Boys was born c1587 in Nonington, Kent the daughter of Edward Boys (1528-1599), later to be knighted as Sir Edward Boys, and his first wife Mary Wentworth, daughter of Sir Peter Wentworth MP and Elizabeth Walsingham.

I haven’t been able to find a birth record for Thomas but I have been able to estimate his date and place of birth from evidence he gives to the Court of Chivalry in 1638/39 in which he is described as Thomas Blechenden of Woodnesborough, co Kent, esq. born in Kennington, co Kent, aged 56 – this would give his year of birth as c1586.   There are many Thomas Blechendens in the family but I am confident that this is the right Thomas given the approximate year of birth and because a deed of settlement is made in 1607 between the fathers of Thomas and Elizabeth on their marriage. This deed is held by the Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library but the website of the National Archives describes it as:

Deed of Settlement. Made between John Blechenden of Monkton in the Isle of Thanet and Thomas B his son on the one part Sir John Boys of S 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 da of Sir Edward Boys.

Admission to Gray’s Inn

The first real record we have of Thomas Blechenden is from October 24 1604, at the age of about 18, when he is admitted to Gray’s Inn, still one of the most famous Inns of Court, in London.  The Register of Admission to Gray’s Inn, 1521-1889, states that  Thomas Blechenden was the “son and heir of John Blechenden of Monckton, Isle of Thanet, Esq.

This helps to confirm Thomas’ identity as we know that his father John moved to Monkton on his second marriage to his cousin Frances (see earlier post).  The Gray’s Inn website explains that in the 16th century the prosperity of the Inns grew and attracted a broader culture to the Inns which included entertainment, pageants and plays and this also meant that it became a fashionable place for noblemen and country gentlemen to send their sons, many of whom had no intention of becoming barristers. This seems to be the case for Thomas as I have found no evidence that he became a barrister and instead imagine that admission to Gray’s Inn at the age of about 18 years old was more in the nature of a finishing school and networking opportunity!  

Elizabeth Boys’ family

Thomas’ wife to be, Elizabeth Boys, was born around 1587 according to the baptism records at Nonington. She was the daughter of Edward Boys, later to be knighted as Sir Edward Boys, and his first wife Mary Wentworth. Mary Wentworth herself is of interest as she was the daughter of Sir Peter Wentworth MP by his second marriage to Elizabeth Walsingham the sister of Sir Francis Walsingham (also a member of Gray’s Inn) who was Queen Elizabeth’s so-called spy master and principal secretary.

It is sometimes too easy when researching family history to focus on names and dates and forget the social, religious and political context of the day.  Thomas and Elizabeth certainly lived in turbulent times.  One year after they were born saw the attempted invasion via the Spanish Armada in 1588; there was religious dissent and persecution both at home and abroad and growing speculation and concern about the question of the royal succession.  

Elizabeth herself grew up in a strongly protestant household – her grandfather Sir Edward Boys, the Elder of Fredville, was one of the 800 or so “Marian Exiles” who fled abroad in fear of religious persecution, first to Frankfurt in Germany in 1557 and then to Geneva to help establish a puritan colony at Aarau. Whilst at Geneva Boys was probably heavily influenced by John Calvin and may have helped bring some of  Calvin’s ideas back to England when he returned after Queen Mary’s death in 1558.  There is a passing reference to Edward Boys (Bois) in The Lives of Two and Twenty English Divines which describes him as a “man eminent for Piety in those daies“.

Elizabeth’s other grandfather, Sir Peter Wentworth MP, was also a prominent puritan who spoke out in the House of Commons on what were, at that time, very controversial issues, including freedom of speech, religion and the royal succession. Sir Peter spent time in the Tower of London for his outspokenness in Parliament in 1576, 1587 and then again in 1593. This last stay would be his last, he died there in November 1596 aged 73. Sir Peter was probably not considered a great Parliamentarian amongst his peers, and I get the impression that he wasn’t a great politician. But he was exceptional in his clarity of thought and should hold a stronger place in our history for speaking so clearly about the need for freedom of speech – his speeches to the House of Commons are the first such statements recorded and because of his convictions he spent his aged and final years in the Tower of London. The History of Parliament online is a useful reference for Peter Wentworth MP.

Sir Peter’s wife, Elizabeth Walsingham, also spent her final years in the Tower demonstrating that being the sister of Sir Francis Walsingham carried no special privileges. Elizabeth also died in the Tower just four months before her husband, and was buried on 21 July 1596.  I wonder whether Elizabeth Boys (perhaps named for her grandmother) ever really knew her grandparents – she was just six years old when the Wentworth’s died.  I imagine the family would feel a deep sense of injustice, but perhaps also pride, that elderly members of their family died in the Tower for their beliefs.  Memorials for both Peter and Elizabeth Wentworth are in the Chapel of Saint Peter-ad-Vincula within the walls of the Tower of London.  

Given Elizabeth’s upbringing in a staunchly protestant/puritan family it is most likely that Thomas Blechenden was of the same faith and puritan leanings.  However, there is no evidence that Thomas’s immediate family were also Marian exiles or spoke out so publicly on controversial matters.  The Blechendens were doing alright for themselves; they had land and property; they mingled with and married into influential families but to turn a phrase, they kept their heads down and kept their heads on! 

The Boys were an influential family in Kent and Thomas Blechenden, or rather his father John, who would have had a leading role in organising the match, must have thought this would be a route to better things. For Sir Edward Boys and his brother Sir John, named in the marriage settlement, this must also have been a good marriage – Thomas was the heir to his father’s properties and the marriage would have seen Elizabeth, one of a number of daughters, settled comfortably. There were also pre-existing family ties between the Boys and the Blechendens: Thomas’ grandmother was Jane Engham who married Richard Ashenden. Her second husband was Edward Boys of Nonington and Fredville (1528-99) whose first wife was Clara Wentworth. 

Family tree of Thomas and Elizabeth

The family tree becomes a little complicated, especially with the various marriages on the part of the Boys and Wentworths so this extract from my Ancestry family tree tries to set it out more clearly. It shows that there was no blood relationship between Thomas and Elizabeth, but given both of their grandmothers (Clara Wentworth and Jane Engham) had been married to Edward Boys of Nonington and Fredville it is likely that Thomas and Elizabeth knew each other as children.

Thomas and Elizabeth’s children

1663 Visitation of Kent

In the 1663-68 Visitation of Kent there is an outline of the Blechynden family tree which takes us from Thomas’ marriage to Elizabeth in 1607 in Nonington (although the Visitation record mistakenly refers  to her as Mary, perhaps confusing her with her mother) to the first three children of his grandson Thomas and Margaret Linch/Lynch.   The Visitation record only gives information of one of Thomas and Elizabeth’s children: John who married Anne, the daughter of “Glover of Canterbury”.  We can, however, identify their other children from various records:  

  • Maria, baptised in Nonington, Kent on 21 August 1608,
  • Edward, baptised in Nonington on 16 April 1610,
  • Elizabeth, baptised in Nonington on 26 June 1614,
  • Francis, baptised in Aldington on 29 September 1617, and
  • Thomas, baptised in St Olave’s London on 5 Nov 1618.  

John was probably also baptised in Nonington in 1612 but I have not found a baptism record. However, we have some evidence for his date of birth from Oxford University Alumni records which illustrate that Edward and his brother John matriculated at the same time – Edward was 17 and John just 15 which would make John’s date of birth as 1612 fitting neatly in between the births of siblings Edward and Elizabeth.

Blechinden, Edward, s. Thomas, of Bishpsborne, Kent, gent. ST ALBAN HALL, matric. 4 May, 1627, aged 17.

Blechinden, John, s. Thomas, of Bishopsborne, Kent, gent. ST ALBAN HALL, matric. 4 May, 1627, aged 15. B.A. from MAGDALEN HALL, 1 Feb., 1630-1, brother of the last named.

Oxford University Alumni 1500-1714, Vol 1

The parish church for Nonington, St Mary the Virgin, where most of the children are baptised, is less than one mile from Fredville Park which suggests that Thomas and Elizabeth perhaps either lived with her family at Fredville after their marriage, or near by, given that their first four children are baptised there. Thomas would have inherited Simnells, the Blechenden family home, in Aldington after his father John’s death in 1607 but it is unclear whether Thomas and Elizabeth lived there at all before c1617. When his daughter Francis is baptised in Aldington the parish records state that she is the daughter of Thomas Blechenden of Simnells. Only one year later, however, Thomas and Elizabeth are in London – perhaps visiting some family or in town to witness the execution of Sir Walter Raleigh on 29 October? Sadly, however, whilst they are staying in London their baby daughter Francis dies and is buried on September 25th at St Olave’s, Silver Street, in the City of London. Just over a month later Thomas and Elizabeth have another child, Thomas, who is baptised on 5 Nov 1618, but it would appear that Elizabeth dies in childbirth, or shortly after, as she is buried just two days later on 7 Nov 1618 also at St Olave’s. St Olave’s was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666 and was never rebuilt.

Record of the burials of Francis and Elizabeth Blechenden, St Olave’s, City of London

The death of Elizabeth in 1618 meant that Thomas became a widower with 5 young children at the age of just 32. It was not unusual for people to remarry even when there were a number of children involved, as was the case for Thomas’ father John Blechenden, but I have not found any reference to a second marriage for Thomas. Memorials to him refer to his arms as Azure, a fess nebulee argent, between three lions’ heads erased, or, attired gules, empaling; Boys. No other family is mentioned.

Perhaps Thomas spent the next few years ensuring the future of his children. It appears that he moved from Simnells in Aldington to Bishopsbourne – in 1623 there is a record of a sale of land in Eastbridge by Thomas Blechenden of Bishopsbourne and the records of Edward and John’s education at Oxford (matric 1627) refer to their father as Thomas Blechenden of Bishopsbourne. We know that his two daughters married into the Cason family. Maria (Mary) married Edward Cason of Furneaux Pelham, Hertfordshire in 1629 at Woodnesborough, and Elizabeth married Edward’s younger brother John in 1633 also at Woodnesborough. Records suggest that the family home of Simnells in Aldington transferred to the Casons around this time although John Cason alienated it back to Thomas and Elizabeth’s grandson, “Thomas Blechenden of Woodnesborough, gent”, in 1663.

Despite the death of Elizabeth in 1618 it is likely that the Blechenden and the Boys remained close. One piece of evidence of the ongoing family links and friendship between the Boys and the Blechenden’s is in a case brought before the Court of Chivalry in 1638/39. This is a strange case which was made against one William Crayford for “scandalous words provocative of a duel”. In this both Thomas Blechenden and Edward Boyes of Betteshanger are called as witnesses (and the case is heard before Thomas’ father-in-law Sir Edward Boys). Although the outcome of the court case is not known it sounds as if there was a long-standing disagreement between a Mr Argent and a Mr Crayford and then, one market day in Sandwich, a group of gentlemen were sitting down in the Pelican (tavern) for refreshments when the old argument flared up again. Thomas Blechenden refers to sitting down for dinner and Edward Boyes in his evidence says that he was at the Pelican in Sandwich because “there was an ordinary for gentlemen where he met his friends”. It was not unusual for both men and women to dine out in taverns and “an ordinary” usually referred to a set dinner at a fixed price. Despite the dispute between Mr Argent and Mr Crayford we can infer that the Blechendens and the Boyes as well as having family connections were on friendly terms.

The civil war years and beyond?

There are a couple of references which suggest that Thomas Blechenden may have followed in his fathers footsteps and become involved in the administration of local affairs and perhaps controversially so. During the English Civil War in 1643 Thomas Blechynden was added to the list of committee members responsible for seizing and sequestering the estates of “papists and delinquents” by order of the House of Lords. Sequestration was a policy implemented by Parliament during the Civil War to legally seize the assets or impose a fine to Catholics and those who may have supported the King. This was a great revenue earner for the Parliamentarians and, although there was a process where families could appeal against sequestration or offer to pay a fine, many families were still ruined financially as result of the Civil War. The Boys were also committee members – John Boys was appointed the same time as Thomas Blechenden and Sir Edward Boyes was appointed to the Kent Committee in March 1643.

It is this Day Ordered, by the Lords in Parliament, That Sir William Springate Knight, John Boys of Trappam Esquire, Sir Edward Monins Baronet, Thomas Blechynden, Thomas Westroe, Esquires, Sir John Roweth, and Mr. Thomas Plummer of Cranbrooke, be added to the Committee for seizing and sequestering the Estates of Papists and Delinquents, and for the Weekly Assessments, in the County of Kent.

House of Lords Journal Volume 6: 10 May 1643′, in Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 6, 1643 (London, 1767-1830), pp. 38-41. British History Online

Records of Thomas’ involvement with the committee and attendance at committee meetings have not survived as far as I am aware and it is impossible to say to what extent he was involved with the sequestration of properties of his Kentish neighbours and possibly his family (a cousin also named Thomas Blechenden D.D. was subject to a sequestration order).

Following Thomas’s death in 1661 his son, Thomas, enters into a mortgage agreement in 1666 with a Margaret Sherman the papers to which refer to him as “Thos Blechenden son of Thos Blechenden Clk”. Was Thomas a Clerk, perhaps a Clerk of the Peace? A Clerk of the Peace helped to record court sessions, performing the many functions of a clerk to the court and usually required someone with some legal training so perhaps, if this is the case, then Thomas’ time at Gray’s Inn was put to good use. It was also a position which was held for life and, if he was a Clerk of the Peace, this may also explain the monument to him at St Mary’s Church in Woodnesborough which says he died at a grave old age after steadfastly and industriously administering public affairs but also that he was distinguished for his justice which I hope also prevailed as a member of the sequestration committee. The marble monument is in Latin so with the help of google translate it says something like this:

Under this marble will be resurrected Thomas BLECHENDEN Arm. The bones were buried, descended from the ancient family of the Blechendens of Aldington in the county of Kent. He was distinguished for his piety, justice, and refinement, and at length, at a grave old age of 77, after steadfastly and industriously administering public affairs to the brothers, he died on November 22, 1661.

The will of Thomas Blechenden

Thomas Blechenden died on the 22 November 1661 and I have to admit his last will and testament puzzles me. He is the father to five children and a large number of grandchildren through his sons and daughters. Yet his will only directly references two of his sons – John and Thomas who each receive a very small inheritance – and some, but not all of his grandchildren. Only the children of his son John are mentioned in the will with John, Edward and Anne each receiving an equal share of Thomas’ half-part share and interest in the lease of the rectory of Winsborough (Woodnesborough). Grandson Thomas, the heir in waiting, gets five shillings and the eldest grand-daughter Elizabeth gets £300! The Casons and Cason grandchildren receive nothing even though John Cason is a witness to the will. The Executor of the will is Thomas’ “loving nephew” Sir John Mennes who also receives £10 to buy a ring of remembrance and whom he entrusts to execute the will “not doubting of his faithful service of the same amending to my true intent and meaning herein discharged”. There is no mention of land or properties or goods in his will other than his half-part share in the rectory of Winsborough, which is surprising – what about Simnells? Or properties in Bishopsbourne or Kennington? There are two possibilities here, the first is that Thomas has already settled the majority of his goods and lands etc on his children and grandchildren and this is the final “divvy up”. His will does say “And so by me bequeathed is to be as an […?] to him the said John Blechynden over and beside what is already settled upon him.” Perhaps grandson Thomas – who was by this time married with his own children – had already had a bequest from his grandfather and hence the token five shillings. There is also the possibility that some of this was lost to the Blechenden’s during the English Civil War – despite being on the sequestration committee is it posible that lands were taken or offered up to help raise money? There is no evidence of the latter so I favour the former option. But it is a very modest last will and testament despite the lack of the usual reference to the distribution of property etc. He offers up his soul “into the hands of Almighty God my Creator” but there are no requests to be buried within a specific part of the parish Church, or with his wife or other family; simply to be “decently interred at the discretion of my Executors”. £5 is also given to the poor of the parish. His last will and testament reflects the words on his monument: piety, justice and refinement.

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 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.