Francis Langworth (1597 – 1688)

In the last few posts, I’ve been exploring the lives of Mary Langworth and her husband Richard Hawkins, an early seventeenth-century Kent landowner and prominent Catholic recusant. Before that, I wrote extensively about other members of the illustrious Hawkins family, all of whom were staunch Catholics, and before that about Mary Langworth’s sister Helen, who married Nathaniel Spurrett, another recusant. Mary and Helen Langworth were the daughters of Dr John Langworth, the poet and cleric who served as Prebendary of Canterbury Cathedral but was reputed to be sympathetic to Catholicism. According to the Langworth pedigree in the record of the 1619 Visitation of Kent, John Langworth and his wife Frances had seven children. Besides Helen and Mary, these were Thomas, Arthur, John, Anthony, Francis and Ann.

Parish church of St Michael, Wilmington, Kent (via

Parish church of St Michael, Wilmington, Kent (via

Of these, we probably know most about John’s youngest son Francis. In the pedigree included in the records of a later Visitation, which took place in 1663-8, Francis is said to be of Wilmington, which is in the north-west of Kent, near Dartford, and some forty-five miles from Canterbury. The pedigree places Francis’ father John in the same village, despite his official position in Canterbury and the fact that some records identify him with other properties in Kent. The pedigree states that Francis was 66 years old in 1663; we know from his tombstone that he was born in 1597. Francis Langworth followed in his father’s footsteps, going up to the Catholic-inclined Hart Hall, Oxford, and matriculating there on 31st October 1617. The list of Oxford alumni confirms that he was from Wilmington, but contradicts the Visitation record in claiming that his father John lived at Ospringe, near Faversham, where we know that John’s brother Adam owned property. In 1620 Francis Langworth was apparently a student at Grays Inn, London. On 7th July 1628 he married Mary Tucker, who was born in 1602, the daughter of George Tucker of Milton near Gravesend and his wife Mary, who was the second daughter of John Darell of Calehill. The wedding took place at Little Chart near Ashford, close to the ancestral home of the Darells at Calehill.

Parish church, Little Chart (via wikipedia)

Parish church, Little Chart (via wikipedia)

This connection to the Darell family is one reason for my interest in Francis Langworth. The Darells of Calehill were another notable recusant family and were related to the Darells of Lamberhurst, whose history overlaps with that of my own ancestors. I’m interested to discover whether Mary Tucker inherited the religion of her mother’s family, and whether her husband Francis was, like his sister Mary and Helen, a Catholic. What do we know of George Tucker and his family? Apparently he was born at Milton, the son of another George Tucker and his wife Maria Hunter. He married Mary Darell on 20th February 1598, also at Little Chart, where she had been born in September 1577, the daughter of John Darell. According to at least one source, Mary Darell was George Tucker’s second wife, his first being Elizabeth Staughton. The same source claims that George’s will, made in 1622, reveals that he and his brother Captain Daniel Tucker owned shares in the Bermudas and were members of the Virginia Company. Apparently some members of the family would migrate to Virginia and become leading figures in the colony. Mary Darell, the mother-in-law of Francis Langworth, was the daughter of John Darell of Calehill, who died in 1618. Among his other offspring were Nathaniel Darell, a governor of Guernsey, and John Darell, a gentleman harbinger to both James I and Charles I.

Calehill House - demolished in the 1950s (via lost

Calehill House – demolished in the 1950s (via lost

According to the 1663 pedigree, Francis and Mary Langworth had three sons and a daughter, though other sources claim they had a greater number of children. At the time of the Visitation their son George Langworth was said to be of Froome in Somerset. Francis, their son and heir, was said to be 33 years old in 1663, which means he was born in about 1630. Daniel was apparently their second son. Their daughter Elizabeth was said to be the wife of George Sidley or Sedley of the parish of St Dunstan’s in Fleet Street, London. (The name Sidley or Sedley recurs in the Darell family tree: John Darell’s sister Elizabeth married a Robert Sidley, and his daughter Elizabeth married a Richard Sedley). Inscriptions on the family tombs in Wilmington parish church confirm that there were a number of other Langworth children who died young. For example:

Here lies the remainder of Mary Langworth, daughter of Francis Langworth who departed this life April 30 1663 at the age of [?18] years 3 months and – days. Here lyeth interred the bodyes of Sarah and Bartholomew Langworth. She dyed ye 5th of September 1650 aged 19 yeares 9 moneths. He dyed April 24th 1653 at ye age of eight yeares 1 moneth 22 dayes. She was the eldest daughter and he the 6th sonne of Francis Langworth.

It seems that Daniel Langworth also died before reaching adulthood:

Here lyeth interred the body of Daniell Langworth, youngest son of Francis Langworth who ended this life October 13 1665 aged 17 yeares 5 moneths 7 dayes.

Francis Langworth died in 1688 at the age of 91, while Mary lived for another 13 years, dying in 1701 at the age of 98. Born in the last years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, they had lived through the reigns of James I and Charles I, the Civil War and execution of the King, the Restoration under Charles II, and the short reign of James II. Francis died a few months before the coup that ousted James and brought William of Orange to the throne, while Mary survived almost until the reign of Queen Anne. The inscription of their tomb reads as follows:

Here rest the bodyes of Francis Langworth, gent., and Mary his wife who lived in wedlock sixty years and were married ye 7th of July 1628. The parents of seven sons and three daughters. He died the 1st day of June 1688 aged 91 years and 3 months being the 5th son of John Langworth, D.D. decd. Born February 25th 1597. She dyed the 29th day of January 1701 aged 98 years and 10 months being the second daughter of George Tucker, Esq., of Milton iuxta Gravesend, decd. Born March 1st 1602.

Their married daughter Elizabeth is also buried in Wilmington church, as we read in the following inscription:

Here rest the body of Elizabeth Sedley daughter of Francis Langworth, gent., of this parish and relict of George Sedley citizen of London by whom she had issue 2 sons and 5 daughters. She died ye 8 of October 1693 aged 61 years 15 days.

I’ve been unable to find any records that associate Francis or Mary Langworth with recusancy, or any indication of their religious sympathies. Francis made his last will and testament in August 1666, two years before his death. I’ll discuss the will in my next post, and among other things I’ll be scrutinising it for evidence of his religious affiliation.

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Some notes on the will of Richard Hawkins

Before Christmas I posted my transcription of the 1640 will of the recusant Kent landowner, Richard Hawkins, the husband of Mary Langworth. In this post I’ll share some reflections on what the will can tell us about Richard, his family and his Catholic connections.

Richard asks to be ‘decentlie buryed’ in the parish church at Boughton-under-Blean, next to his brother Sir Thomas Hawkins the younger, who was recently deceased, and his parents Thomas Hawkins the elder and ‘Dame Anne his wife’, both of whom had died about fifteen years previously.

Hawkins family monument, parish church of St Peter and St Paul, Boughton-under-Blean

Hawkins family tomb, parish church of St Peter and St Paul, Boughton-under-Blean

Richard Hawkins makes generous provision in his will for five children – his sons John and Charles, and his daughters Katherine, Bennet and Martha. I haven’t been able to discover what became of any of them, though Katherine is probably the niece who is mentioned in the will of Richard’s brother Thomas Hawkins the younger. Notable by her absence from the will is Richard and Mary Hawkins’ other daughter Anne who, as I mentioned in an earlier post, joined a community of English Franciscan nuns in exile in Brussels and would have been about thirty years old when her father died.

Among the properties left to his younger son Charles is one in Selling, near Boughton, called ‘Solestreete’, which Richard had apparently purchased from Anthony and Thomas Langworth. These were almost certainly the sons of Adam Langworth, the brother of Richard’s father-in-law Dr John Langworth – and therefore his wife Mary’s cousins. This suggests a continuing close relationship between the Hawkins family and their Langworth relatives, though I have no information as to whether Adam Langworth or his offspring were also recusants.

At least two other relatives were among the witnesses to Richard Hawkins’ will. One of these was William Pettit, who was probably his cousin (Richard’s mother’s maiden name was Pettit). The Pettits, who lived at Colkyns in Boughton, were another prominent Kent recusant family. The other was Katherine Kirton, who was almost certainly a relative of the recusant physician John Kirton, described as a nephew in the will of Richard’s brother Thomas Hawkins the younger. Katherine may have been John Kirton’s sister, or perhaps his mother.

Wootton Lodge, Staffordshire, built by Sir Richard Fleetwood (photograph by Roger Temple, via

Wootton Lodge, Staffordshire, built by Sir Richard Fleetwood (photograph by Roger Temple, via

We learn from Richard Hawkins’ will that he had purchased annuities from two prominent members of the Staffordshire gentry, suggesting a connection of some kind with that county. Sir Richard Fleetwood of ‘Kullwidge’ (Culwich or Caldwick) had been created a baronet in 1611 by James I and served as High Sheriff of Staffordshire. Sir Walter Heveningham of Pipe had also served as High Sheriff. Both men were staunch Catholics and, despite their public status, had suffered for their recusancy, with Sir Walter and his wife being fined frequently for their non-attendance at church.

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‘A perfect member of his misticall bodie the auntient holly Catholique and appostollicall Church’: the last will and testament of Richard Hawkins

In the last post I wrote about the recusant Richard Hawkins of Selling, Kent, who married Mary Langworth, daughter of the clergyman and poet Dr John Langworth. Richard Hawkins died in 1642, the first year of the English Civil War, but he had made his last will and testament two years previously. My transcription of the will follows, and in the next post I’ll discuss what we can learn from it about Richard’s family and associates.

In the name of God Amen the twentie fourth daie of November Anno Domini One thousand six hundredth fortie and one I Richard Hawkins of the parish of Boughton under the Bleane in the Countie of Kent Esquire beinge in perfect health and in a disposing memory I give God heartie thankes And yet knowinge nothinge to be more uncertaine than the houre of Death, Therefore while good opportunitie serveth, And also to prevent worldlie cogitacons against the time or houre of my death, And that I maie bee wholly intentive to the good of my Soule in prepareinge for the greater Accompt of all Accompts I have to make, to sett a perfect order and stay for my wife and children, that after my death noe variance strife or debate neither in present or future maie arrise about the same soe neere as in mee lyeth to prevent, ffor which respecte I doe make and ordaine this my last Will and Testament in manner and forme following ffirst I bequeath my Soule into the handes of Almightie God my Creator Redeemer and Sanctifier most humblie and from the bottome of my hearte craving and asking mercy pardon and forgivenesse of all my sinnes that through frailtie I have comitted in the whole course of my life, appealing in this behalf from his Justice, unto his incomprehensible Mercie without the which noe flesh can bee saved, Trustinge and confiding through the merritte of the precious passion of Christ Jesus his sonne whome I acknowledge to bee my Mediator and Saviour, will graunt mee full remission of all my former sinnes and misdeeds whatsoever comitted, beseeching him whensoever I shall departe this life, I maie dye a perfect member of his misticall bodie the auntient holly Catholique and appostollicall Church, And my bodie I will to be decentlie buryed in Boughton Church next unto my Brother Sir Thomas, and neere my ffather Sir Thomas Hawkins knight, and Dame Anne his wife my deere and most honoured Parents which I leave to the discrecon of my Executor hereafter named. Imprimis I give to the poore of the parish of Boughton abovesaid twelve pence a piece to fortie of the poorest people the next daie after my buryall. And also I doe give to thirtie two of the poorest of the said parish every St Thomas daie before Christmasse one seame of wheate and halfe a seame of Maulte for five yeares together The wheate to bee delivered out in Pecks and the Maulte in gallons by my Executor or his assignes. Item I give unto thirtie of the poorest in Hernhill twelve pence a piece the next daie after my buryall Item I give unto twentie of the poorest of the Parishe of Sellinge twelve pence a piece the next daie after my buryall. Item I give and bequeath to my Daughters Katherine and Bennett to each of them One thousand poundes apiece of lawful money of England to bee paid unto them by my Executor hereafter named at their respectives age of twentie one yeares or daies of marriages which shall first happen. Item I give and bequeathe to my Daughter Martha the remainder of her porcon I promised her three hundreth and fiftie poundes to bee paid unto her by my said Executor within one yeare after my decease If it bee not before that tyme paid. Item I give and bequeath to my youngest sonne Charles the some of fower hundreth poundes of lawfull money of England to bee likewise paid unto him by my said Executor within one yeare after my decease If I make not a provision for him to that value over and above the lands and tenements I give him here in this present expressed. And untill the said respective porcons shall become due and payable unto my said Daughters Katherine and Bennett, my will and meaning is my Executor shall paie and satisfie unto them fortie poundes per Annum a piece at the two usuall feasts and daies of payment vizt. At the feast of Saint Michaell Tharkaungell and Thannunciacon of our blessed Lady St Mary the virgin by even and equall porcons toward their maynteynance and livelihood. And to my Daughter Martha in like manner until her said porcon shall become due and payable twentie poundes per Annum to be paid her. And in case my said Executor shall not paie and satisfie unto my said Daughters respectively their said respective porcons as alsoe unto my said sonne Charles the said some of fower hundreth poundes at the tymes before lymitted, Then my will and meaning is That my said sonne and Daughters shall and maie as their said porcons shall become due and payable, And I do hereby give them full power and authoritie to enter into and upon Eleaven Closes of arable land meadowe and pasture lying in the severall Parishes of Boughton under the Bleane ffeversham and Hernhill in the Countie of Kent, three of which Eleaven Closes are called Knockinges the residue are called Beckleton, Washfield, Beadlesfield, the fower acres olde Boldry meade, longe meade, water meade and Lylly dolone [?] meade And alsoe into and upon one other parcel of land called Johnsens Crofte and Bournefield conteyninge fowerteene acres lyinge in Boughton and ffeversham aforesaid, And alsoe unto and upon all those six parcells of land called Black Marsh heelers Marsh foord uplands and Denby Lees lyinge in the Parishes of Hernhill, Graveny, and Seasalter with their and every of their appurtenaunces in the said countie of Kent, And to take and receive the yssues and profitts thereof to their [???] uses to bee devided amongst them according to the proporcons of money each and one [???] to receive and not satisfied And if my said Executor shall not within the space of one yeare next after such Entry as aforesaid paie and satisfie unto my said Daughters and sonnes their said respective porcons, Then my will and meaning is, That my said Daughters or such of them as shall be living and unsatisfied of their said porcons shall and lawfully maie And I doe by this my will give them full power and authoritie to sell all or anie parte of the said premisses to anie person or persons whatsoever, And out of the moneys that shall bee made thereof, to paie themselves what shall be justlie due unto them together with all such damages as they shall anie waies have sustained by reason of their non payment of their said porcons accordinge to this my will, And after their said respective porcons and damages shall bee satisfied, what shall remaine over and above my will and desire is that shall be paid and delivered to my said Executor. And alsoe I give and bequeath unto my sonne Charles my Messuage or Tenemt called Solestreete in the Parishe of Sellinge in the countie of Kent aforesaid purchased of Anthony and Thomas Langworth gentlemen And all the orchards profitts and appurtenances thereunto belonginge or apperteyninge to him my said sonne Charles and the heires male of his bodie lawfully begotten. And for fault of such yssue, to the heires males of my sonne John lawfully begotten, if he my said sonne John have anie heirs male of his bodie at the tyme of my sonne Charles his decease Otherwise to my said sonne Charles and his heires for ever. And alsoe my will and meaning is, And I doe give him all the furniture in the howse and stocked without doors, as it shall bee found at the tyme of my decease, or as usually it hath beene furnished within and without doors when I dwelled there. And alsoe I doe give and bequeath unto my said sonne Charles my Tenement called Barne Wyland, And all the newe found lands, newe fresh marshes Together with the salte in the said Tenement belonginge or apperteyninge late purchased of John Abrooke belonginge I give unto my said sonne Charles to him and his heires for ever. And whereas differences and questions maie arrise after my decease betweeene my wife and my sonne John concerning the third of my Estate for her Dowrie if shee be not satisfied with her former Joynture My desire is That in regard the severall somes of moneye given to my Daughters for their porcons, as alsoe the land given to my sonne Charles, together with my debts and legacies rises to a considerable value I wish and heartily desire that for good respecte my said wife incline for the consideracons aforesaid to moderacon and Motherly love least hee bee pinched with the maine [???] and debt, And I will and desire, and my true meaning herein is, That if good accord happen betweene them in the aforesaid premisses without too much stricktnesse on my wifes parte, Then I will and bequeath unto my said wife one hundred Markes and a Chamber well furnished for her degree and calling Otherwise I must leave it to God and their best natures and [???] [???], And hope they will soe compose thinges, That their friends and neighbours maie be edified by their example. And whereas I have purchased longe since of Sir Richard Fleetewood of Kullwidge, in the countie of Stafford Knight for the consideracon of five hundred poundes an Annuitie of twentie poundes per Annum for ever, with a proviso therein to bee redeemed upon the payment of the aforesaid some, and all the arrears thereon due which on the five and twentieth daie of this present November there is due unto mee Eleaven yeares and a halfe behind and unpaid. And whereas alsoe I have purchased longe since of Sir Walter Heveningham of Pype in the aforesaid countie of Stafford knight for the consideracon of two hundred poundes An Annuitie of twentie poundes per Annum for ever with a Provisoe therein to be redeemed upon the repayment of the aforesaid some, And also rents and arrears that shall happen then to bee due and unpaid. Both which said Annuities and all the arreares thereon due or hereafter shall bee due unto my Executor, I give it unto him for and towarde the raising of my childrens porcons above menconed And alsoe I give him all my goods and chattles of what name or nature soever Except that I have before herein bequeathed for the raising of my said childrens porcons, And for and towards the payment of my debts and legacies and pforming this my last Will and Testament. And I doe make constitute and ordaine my lovinge sonne John Hawkins gent my sole Executor, And whatsoever is or maie bee defective in this my Will and Testament for want of right understandinge in the laws, I doe ratifie the same by my will intention and playne meaning herein, And doe further charge my said sonne John by all the power and prereogative due to a ffather that he not onlie performe this my last will and Testament according to my intention and playne meaning, But alsoe that he be dutifull to his Mother, loving to his Brothers and Sisters, and helpful in all occasione to doe them good whereby true love maie be conserved amongest them, In all which I am right confident hee will. And whereas since I began the writinge of this my last Will and Testament, I have sealed a Deed unto my sonne Charles of those lands in Wade [???] [???] And alsoe Solestreet and the land thereunto belonginge purchased of Thomas and Anthony Langworth gentlemen in the parishe of Sellinge before in this presente menconed which in consideracon of his marriage and advancement, I have settled it upon him parte in present for his lyvelyhood and his wifes Joynture, the rest after my decease, And also I have sealed unto him a bond of Eight hundred poundes fo the payment of ffower hundred poundes one yeare after my decease. This therefore is a confirmacon both of my bequest aforesaid and my late Deed and bond to his use, Accordinge to the Deed therein expressed and not otherwise. Item I give unto my eldest and youngest daughter to each of them tenn poundes a peece to buy a piece of plate if they thinke good. Item I give unto all my servaints that dwelleth with mee at the tyme of my decease twentie shillinges a piece, Except William Blake thirtie shillinges, and to [???] ffin a Noble. The residue of all and singuler my goods chattels and cattles of what name or nature soever they bee called not before herein given or bequeathed I give unto my Executor abovesaid nominated and appointed for and towards the raising of my childrens porcons and payment of my debts and legacies, and for and towards the pformance of this my last Will and Testament. And so leaving Gods blessing and myne amongest my children beseeching Almightie God to indue them all with his holy grace, I comitt myself to the infinite mercy and goodnes of the Almightie, and them to his holy protection. In witnes whereof I have hereunto put my hand to every one of the three sheetes of paper wherein my last will and Testament is expressed and declared, and my hand and seale to the last sheete the daie and yeare first above written One thousand six hundred fortie one. Richard Hawkins. Subscribed Sealed and Declared this to bee my last Will and Testament in the presence of those who names are hereunder written. William Petit, Katherine Kirton, Elizabeth Smith, Walter Watson.

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Mary Langworth and Richard Hawkins

My exploration of a network of recusant families in Elizabethan and Jacobean Kent and Sussex began with the Langworth family, and specifically with the children of Dr John Langworth, the cleric and poet who was reputed to be a church papist. Having examined the life of John Langworth’s daughter Helen, who married Nathaniel Spurrett and whose daughter Frances joined an exiled Franciscan convent, I turned my attention to Helen’s sister Mary, who married into the Catholic Hawkins family of Boughton-under-Blean near Canterbury. I’ve taken a roundabout route to finally arrive at Mary herself, having followed a number of detours to explore the Hawkins family and their connections with other noted Catholic families, such as the Hildesleys, Finches and Knatchbulls. In recent posts I’ve written about Mary’s three brothers-in-law: the poet and translator Sir Thomas Hawkins the younger, the physician, translator and grammarian John Hawkins, and the Jesuit priest and author Henry Hawkins; and about her three sisters-in-law: Susan Finch of Grovehurst, Anne Hildesley of Little Stoke, and Benedict Hawkins who joined the exiled Benedictine community in Brussels.

Parish church of St Peter and St Paul, Boughton-under-Blean

Parish church of St Peter and St Paul, Boughton-under-Blean

Now it’s time to turn to Mary Langworth, who married Richard Hawkins, yet another Hawkins sibling. The parish register of Boughton-under-Blean includes the following entry for 1581:

The 28th of Decebr was bapt. Rychard Haukyns the sonne of Thomas Haukyns, Ju., gent. 

(Note: the person referred to here as Thomas Hawkins junior was the man I have been calling Sir Thomas Hawkins the elder, who was in fact the son of yet another Thomas Hawkins.) Like his brothers and sisters, Richard was born at Nash Court, Boughton, while Mary, his future wife, would have grown up either in nearby Canterbury, where her father Dr John Langworth served as Prebendary until his death in 1614, or at one of the country properties that he is said to have owned, possibly even closer to Boughton. I don’t have a record of their marriage, but I would imagine it took place some time in the first decade of the seventeenth century, either in the closing years of Elizabeth’s reign or in the early years of the reign of King James I.

Oast house at Selling, Kent

Oast house at Selling, Kent (via wikipedia)

We can ascertain a certain amount about Richard and Mary Hawkins from the Who were the Nuns? website. From this we learn that their daughter Anne, who was born in about 1610, joined the Franciscans in Brussels, being clothed on 15th September 1629 at the age of 17, and taking the additional name Bonaventure. Her cousin Frances Spurrett had joined the same convent a few years earlier and was actually professed two days after Anne’s clothing. The website provides us with some clues about Anne’s family. For example, we learn that they lived at Selling, about three miles south of Boughton. But we also learn that Anne was born in Clerkenwell, leading us to assume that the Hawkinses also kept a house in London – although, intriguingly, her uncle Henry Hawkins, S.J., was said to live at the Jesuits’ secret residence in Clerkenwell. Anne Bonaventure Hawkins left the Franciscan convent in Brussels in 1658/9 to help found a Conceptionist community in Paris. She served there as novice mistress, portress and later as vicaress, a post which she resigned in 1680. Apparently she accompanied Abbess Elizabeth Timperley on business to England in 1662. Anne died in Paris on 4th May 1689 at the age of 79. The Hawkins family tree at the Who were the Nuns? website suggests that Richard and Mary had at least two other children. Apparently their son John  married Mary Wolllascot and they had four children: Thomas Hawkins, who married Catherine Gifford; Mary Hawkins, who married James Bryan; and Susanna Joseph Hawkins and Anne Domitilla Hawkins who joined their aunt Anne’s Conceptionist convent in Paris.  Another niece of Anne Hawkins who became a Conceptionist was Mary Teresa Harris, one of the two daughters of Richard and Mary Hawkins’ daughter Martha, who married Richard Harris. Richard and Martha Harris’ other daughter was named Winifred Mary.

St Beatriz da Silva, founder of the Conceptionists

St Beatriz da Silva, founder of the Conceptionists

Unsurprisingly, Richard Hawkins, like other members of his family, was frequently in trouble because of his recusancy. For example, in 1640 Richard’s name appeared in a list of local recusants, together with his nephew Clement Finch of Milton and his cousin William Pettit of Boughton. However, in an account of the diocese of Canterbury during the reign of Charles I we read the following:

Eventually, a few harried recusants, such as Richard Hawkins of Selling, Henry Roper of Hartlip, and Susan Finch of Preston-next-Faversham, were permitted liberty of conscience.

Richard Hawkins’ will, made in November 1640 (he died in 1642), is a useful source of information about his family and associates. For example, we learn from this document that he and Mary had another son, Charles, and two other daughters, Bennet and Katherine. I’ll share my transcription of Richard’s will in the next post.

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Susan Hawkins and John Finch of Grovehurst

In recent posts I’ve been exploring the lives of the children of the recusant Sir Thomas Hawkins the elder of Boughton-under-Blean, Kent, who died in 1617. In this post, I’m turning my attention to Thomas’ daughter Susan or Susanna. The Boughton parish register for 1580 includes the following entry:

The vith of Septebr was bapt. Susan Haukins the Daughter of Thomas Haukyns the youngr. 

We know, from an account of the life of Susan’s brother, Henry Hawkins S.J., that she married John Finch of Grovehurst, at Milton-next-Sittingbourne, who was also said to be a recusant. Sittingbourne is about ten miles north-west of Boughton-under-Blean. Milton, in some documents called Middleton, is today a suburb of Sittingbourne and known as Milton Regis. A document reproduced at British History Online has this to say about Grovehurst:

Grovehurst, now usually called Grovers, is a manor situated somewhat less than a mile northward from the town of Milton. It was once the inheritance of a family of that name. Sir William de Grovehurst possessed it in the reigns of king Edward I and II as did his descendant Sir Richard Grovehurst in that of king Henry VII. At length Thomas Grovehurst, esq. in the reign of Edward VI alienated it to Clement Fynche, a branch of those of Netherfield, in Sussex, who were descended from Vincent Herbert, alias Finch, and ancestors of the several branches of this family from time to time created peers of this realm, whose arms they likewise bore.

It appears by the escheat-rolls of the 3rd year of queen Elizabeth, that he then held this manor in capite. He died in the 38th year of that reign and lies buried in the great chancel of this church, where is a monument erected to his memory, with the effigies of him, his two wives, and his son John Fynche, on it.

The thirty-eighth year of Elizabeth I’s reign was either 1595 or 1596 (my 11 x great grandfather John Manser of Wadhurst, Sussex, made his will on 26th December 1597 ‘in the fortieth yeare of the raigne of our soveraigne Lady Elizabeth’).

Finch family memorial in Holy Trinity Church, Milton Regis

Finch family memorial in Holy Trinity Church, Milton Regis

John Finch’s father Clement Finch was the son of another John Finch who died in 1549. He made his will in the previous year, the third year of the reign of Edward VI, describing himself as ‘John ffynche of Myddleton nexte Syttyngborn in the Countye of Kent, gent.’ One of the executors of the will was Christopher Roper, who was almost certainly the Member of Parliament from Lynsted, the brother of William Roper who married Sir Thomas More’s daughter Margaret, and the father of John Roper, first Baron Teynham.

We learn from John Finch’s will that he was married three times. His third wife, Margaret, who was still living, had previously been married to (Robert?) Piper and by him had two sons, Richard and Robert, and two daughters, Joan and Margaret. John Finch’s two previous wives were called Ursula and Alice. Alice was previously the wife of John Knatchbull (confusingly rendered as Snachbull in the transcription that I found online) and her maiden name was Fowle. She was said to be from Tenterden. There is also mention in the will of a Thomas Fowle of Mersham Hatch, near Ashford (about fifteen miles from Tenterden), who presumably was a relative. I haven’t been able to find any link between this branch of the Fowle family and my own Fowle ancestors, who can be traced to Lamberhurst (though my supposed ancestor Bartholomew Fowle, the prior of St Mary Overie, Southwark, at the time of its dissolution, was said to be from Lynsted). The Knatchbulls also lived at Mersham.

John and Alice Knatchbull appear to have had a number of children before John’s death in 1540. I’ve been unable to find out anything about their son John, but another son, William, married Catharine Greene, daughter of John Greene. A third son, Richard, was married twice and had four daughters by each wife. He also had a number of sons, including Thomas Knatchbull, whose son Norton (1602 – 1685) was a member of Parliament and was made a baronet. A fourth Knatchbull son, Reginald, married Anne Elizabeth Crispe, daughter of William Crispe, lieutenant of Dover Castle. One of Reginald and Anne’s sons, John Norton Knatchbull, became a Jesuit, while their daughter, Elizabeth Lucy Knatchbull, joined the English Benedictines in Belgium and was the first abbess of their convent in Ghent (see this source on the relationship between brother and sister, and between the Jesuits and the Benedictines in exile). Reginald’s and Anne’s two other sons each had two daughters who also joined the Benedictines.

Mary Knatchbull, daughter of John and Alice, married Thomas Finch, son of the John Finch who died in 1549. Thomas Finch seems to have been married twice. His second marriage was to Bennet Norton, the widow of William Norton of Hernehill, and the daughter of William Maycott of Preston next Faversham, whose property Thomas would inherit. I believe that Bennet’s first husband William Norton was related to the Thomas Norton of Fordwich whose daughter Aphra was briefly married to Henry Hawkins, who after her death joined the Jesuits. Bennet Finch died in in 1612. In his will of 1615 Thomas Finch mentions ‘my brother Reginald Knatchbull’ and ‘my nephew Thomas Knatchbull’, confirming that his marriage to Mary Knatchbull had preceded his marriage to Bennet. Thomas appointed his nephew John Finch of Grovehurst as his executor and left him Preston House, also mentioning his wife ‘Suzan’.

Memorial to Thomas and Bennet Finch in Preston parish church, Kent

Memorial to Thomas and Bennet Finch in Preston parish church, Kent

Thomas Finch had two brothers, Clement and Henry or Harry, both of whom are mentioned in their father’s will. Clement was the father of John Finch who married Susan Hawkins. I haven’t managed to find out much about him, but I suspect he was born in the 1540s and probably married (though we don’t have the name of his wife) in the late 1570s. However, we do know that he had another son besides John: I’ve found a baptismal record for Thomas Finch, son of Clement, in October 1580. There was also a daughter named Bennett who was christened at Milton in January 1582. She married Edward Hales of Chilham in about 1603 and they had five sons and seven daughters before Edward’s death on 10th January 1634. The will of Thomas Finch, brother of John, refers to ‘Bennet Hales, wife of Edward Hales, gent., my niece’. There is a plaque commemorating Edward and Bennet Hales in the north chancel of the parish church in Faversham (see below).




I imagine that John Finch and Susanna Hawkins were married some time in the first decade of the seventeenth century, and certainly by 1608. I’ve found evidence of a Susan Finch being born to John Finch of ‘Milton at Sittingbourne’ in 1609. We also know that John and Susan Finch’s daughter Elizabeth, who would join the English Benedictine convent in Ghent, was born in 1614. Since the will of Susan’s brother Sir Thomas Hawkins the younger, written in 1639, appoints his nephew Clement Finch as an overseer, I conclude that John and Susan Finch had a son of that name.

Elizabeth Finch took the additional name Aldegonde when she joined the Benedictines. She was clothed in Ghent on 13th December 1643 at the age of 29 and professed on 5th February 1647 at the age of 31. In 1665 Elizabeth left Ghent to help found another convent in Ypres, though she only stayed a year or so, returning to her former convent before the end of 1666. She died in Ghent on 1st February 1692 at the age of 78.

There’s firm evidence that Susan Hawkins remained true to her family’s Catholic faith after her marriage to John Finch. I’ve only found second-hand evidence of John’s recusancy, but the National Archives contains at least three documents attesting to Susan’s refusal to conform to the established protestant Church. In April 1607 an indictment in the records of the West Kent Quarter Sessions stated that ‘Susan, wife of John Finche of Milton, esquire, being over sixteen years of age “did not repaire” to the parish church of Milton or any other church for the space of two months.’ A similar indictment was issued in the following year. And on 15th January 1610 an Ecclesiastical Cause paper recorded the excommunication of a number of defendants, including ‘Lady Ann HAWKINS wife of Sir Thos H Boughton Blean, Sus FINCHE wife of John F Milton by Sittingbourne gent’: in other words, Susan Finch née Hawkins and her mother.

I’m not sure when John Finch died, but I’ve found a record of Susan’s death in 1641, which states that she was a widow. I assume that the Clement Finch of Grovehurst who made his will in 1645 was John and Susan’s son. If so, then during his relatively short life (he was probably only in his forties when he died), Clement and his wife Mary, who seems to have survived him, managed to produce four sons – John, Clement, Harbert and Charles – and three daughters – Mary Ann, Elizabeth and Philip (sic). There is evidence that John, Clement Finch’s eldest son and heir, maintained the family tradition of recusancy and as a result the family continued to be penalised after Clement’s death.

Judging by his will, there is no doubt that this Clement Finch held resolutely to the faith of his fathers, the preamble being the most explicitly Catholic that I’ve yet to come across, especially when we consider that it was written  at the height of the Civil War and proved during the fourth year of Cromwell’s Commonwealth:

First I bequeath my soule into the blessed hands of my deare Saviour Jesus Christ who redeemed it with his precious blood firmly beleiveing all whatsoever his Spouse the holy Catholic Church holds and teaches out of which there is noe salvation.

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Ann Hawkins and the Hildesley family

Ann Hawkins was another of the daughters of the recusant Sir Thomas Hawkins the elder of Nash Court, Boughton-under-Blean, Kent. I haven’t been able to discover the date of Ann’s birth, but we know that she was probably married some time in the early 1620s.

Ann’s husband, William Hildesley, was descended from the Hildesleys of Crowmarsh Gifford, not far from Dorchester-on-Thames, on the borders of Oxfordshire and Berkshire. (It’s an area that I know well, having lived at nearby Abingdon in the 1980s, when I had responsibility as an adult education organiser for the group of villages just to the north of Crowmarsh.) There are records of the Hildesleys owning property in the villages of Beenham and Ilsley (which I imagine derives its name from the family, or vice versa) in the reign of Henry VII. An earlier William Hildesley, grandfather of the William who married Ann Hawkins, married Margaret Stonor, daughter of John Stonor of North Stoke (the Stonors were a prominent local recusant family who suffered much under the penal laws), and died in 1576.

East Ilsley (via

East Ilsley (via

The Hildesleys adhered to the Catholic faith, and Walter Hildesley, who succeeded his father William, suffered the loss of much of his property under the penal laws. He also came under suspicion at the time of the Gunpowder Plot. In the Recusant Roll of 1592 Walter’s estate, which included ‘two-thirds of Illesley or Hildesley Farm’ as well as some other property, was said to be leased to Charles Pagett, a groom of the queen’s chamber.

Walter Hildesley was succeeded by his younger brother William, who died in 1623. The preamble to William’s last will and testament is the most explicitly Catholic of any Jacobean will that I’ve seen so far: he bequeaths his soul ‘unto almightie god my onelye saviour and redeemer by whose death, merritts and passion I verily hope to be saved, as allsoe by the intercession of the blessed virgin Mary the mother of god & all the whollye Companye of Saints in heaven.’

William was succeeded by his son, another William, who, as a recusant, was forced to mortgage his lands. It was this William who married Ann Hawkins. I understand that William and Ann Hildesley, who lived at Little Stoke, had five children: one son and four daughters. Their son Francis (obviously a popular name in the extended Hawkins family) married Mary Winchcombe and inherited property in Ilsley and Little Stoke. As mentioned in the previous post, all four of William and Anne’s daughters entered the Sepulchrine order in Liège, Belgium, as follows:

Mary Hildesley, who was born in 1624, entered the convent on 5th July 1647 and professed on 15th February 1650 at the age of 29, taking the name Sister Mary Catherine of the Visitation. Mary served as Sub-Prioress between 1657 and 1661, and from 1664 to 1669. She died on 7th January 1693. 

Catherine Hildesley, who was born in 1625, entered the convent on 11th April 1651 and professed on 26th June 1653 at the age of 28, taking the name Sister Catherine of Teresa. She died in 1698. 

Anne Hildesley, who was born in 1626, entered the convent on 16th June 1648 and professed on 16th February 1650 at the age of 28, taking the name Anne Margaret of the Blessed Trinity. She died on 30th December 1691. 

Susanna Hildesley, who was born in 1631, entered the convent on 16th September 1649, taking the name Magdalene of the Transfiguration, and professed on 5th September 1652 at the age of 21. She died on 9th April 1670.

I’m not sure when William Hildesley died, but we know that his property was inherited by his son Francis. Francis Hawkins and his wife Mary had three sons and one daughter. Their son William was born in 1653 and at least one source claims that he had a brother named Martin. Another brother, Francis the younger, joined the Society of Jesus. His sister Frances followed the example of her four aunts and joined the Sepulchrines in Liège. Born in 1662, Frances Hildesley entered the convent on 28th June 1680 and made her profession on 28th October 1681, taking the name Francis Mary Magdalene. She died in 1693 at the age of 29.

Chapel of St Amand and St John the Baptist, Hendred House

Chapel of St Amand and St John the Baptist, Hendred House

William and Martin Hildesley, sons of Francis Hildesley, were both said to be present at the re-dedication of St Amand’s Chapel at East Hendred, about five miles from East Ilsley, on Christmas Day 1687. One of the celebrants at that first Mass was their brother, Fr. Francis Hildesley, S.J.

The Chapel of St. Amand and St. John the Baptist in Hendred House had been built in 1256, with the permission of Pope Alexander IV. After the Dissolution of the Chantries in 1547, the chapel was no longer used for Mass, though the Eyston family of Hendred House were Catholic and certainly heard Mass in secret. The chapel is one of only three built in England before the Reformation that has never been used for protestant worship. It was restored by George Eyston during the reign of James II, a time of renewed hope for English Catholics after many years of persecution. However, James’ reign was cut short by the coup that put William of Orange on the throne, and in December 1688, less than a year after its re-opening, the chapel was ransacked by soldiers from William’s Dutch army, on their way from Hungerford to Oxford. So much for the ‘Glorious’ Revolution.

Hendred House (via

Hendred House (via

Francis Hildesley S.J. died in 1719. His brother William married a woman named Mary and they had two daughters: Mary, who married Robert Eyston of East Hendred (presumably a relative of the George Eyston who restored the chapel); and Agnes, who married Peter Webbe. The Webbes had two daughters, Anne and Mary, both of whom joined the English Franciscan convent in Brussels – the same community that Frances Spurrett, daughter of Nathaniel Spurrett and Helen Langworth, had joined a century before them. The Eyston family also had close ties with the English Franciscans in Belgium, supplying them with numerous recruits during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

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Benedict Hawkins (Sister Barbara Benedict): 1586 – 1661

The parish register of Boughton-under-Blean, Kent, for the year 1586 includes the following entry:

The 31th of Julye was bapt. Bennett the Daughter of Thomas Haukins, gent.

Bennett or Benedict Hawkins was the youngest daughter of the recusant Sir Thomas Hawkins the elder and his wife Anne Pettit who lived at Nash Court, Boughton. She was the sister of the Jesuit priest and author, Henry Hawkins, the poet and translator Sir Thomas Hawkins the younger, and the physician, grammarian and translator John Hawkins.

16th century map of Brussels (via

16th century map of Brussels (via

Benedict was the first of a number of female members of the extended Hawkins family to join one of the English monastic communities in exile. On 22nd July 1610 she was received into the English Benedictine convent in Brussels. Exactly a year later, at the age of twenty-four, she was ‘invested with the holie Habitt of St Benedict’, and exactly a year after that she made her profession, taking the name Barbara Benedict. Her dowry was 3800 florins. Sister Barbara Benedict served as sacristan in 1623 and again in 1652. She died in 1661, at the age of 75.

Six of Benedict Hawkins’ nieces would follow her example, choosing the life of a nun in an exiled English convent, as would five of her great nieces. This was in addition to Frances Spurrett, the niece of Benedict’s brother Richard Hawkins (Frances was the daughter of Helen Langworth, sister of Richard’s wife Mary; she entered the English Franciscan convent in Brussels in 1626). Richard and Mary Hawkins had one daughter who, like Frances Spurrett, joined the Franciscans in Brussels. Benedict’s sister Susan, who married John Finch of Grovehurst, had a daughter who joined the Benedictines in Ghent. Another sister, Anne, who married William Hildesley, had four daughters, all of whom joined the Sepulchrine order in Liege.

Benedictine nuns

Benedictine nuns

To a modern sensibility, the idea of sending one’s daughters to a foreign country, to live in an enclosed, celibate community for the remainder of their lives, is difficult to understand. However, the historian Caroline Bowden has argued that, in the case of the English religious communities in exile, ‘care was taken to ensure that women entered convents of their own free will and evidence has survived from many of the convents showing that candidates could, and in fact did, leave if they changed their mind about joining.’ Bowden claims that, far from resenting the experience of religious enclosure, the exiled nuns seem positively to have welcomed separation from a secular world in which they and their families had experienced persecution and had been prevented from practising their religion freely.

I’ll write about the families of Ann, Susan and Richard Hawkins in separate posts.

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