Henry JENKINS - and the WASTELL Family
Much has been written over the years concerning the longevity of Henry Jenkins who lived at Ellerton upon Swale, near Scorton in the North Riding of Yorkshire. The Bolton on Swale burial register shows that Henry Jenkins was buried there on 9th December 1670, with the added comment that he was "a very aged and poor man". In 1743, an obelisk to Jenkins’ memory was erected in the Bolton Churchyard; in the church itself a black marble tablet was placed, recording that he lived to the ‘amazing age of 169’.
It is not my intention to examine the stories and legends surrounding this old man, nor to attempt to determine the truth behind this claim. However, in studying the accounts of Henry Jenkins, I have encountered several interesting references to his association with the WASTELL family of Scorton.
In April 1667 there was a Commission to take Depositions in Chancery concerning a case relating to the tythes received by the then Vicar of Catterick. Eight witnesses were examined, Henry Jenkins being the last. Records show that at this time (1667) he claimed to be aged "one hundreth fifty and seaven or theirabouts". One of his fellow witnesses was "William WASTELL, of Ellerton-upon-Swale gent., aged 29 or thereabouts". This William Wastell was son to Matthew Wastell, and nephew to Colonel John WASTELL, who had died at Scorton in 1659.
But this was far from being the first time that the paths of Jenkins and the Wastells had crossed. In the 1660s, - and probably for many years before that - Henry Jenkins had been in the habit of visiting the Wastell manor house of Scorton, to "beg an alms". Anne SAVILE, born 1643, the unmarried daughter of the late John SAVILE of Methley, and sister of Elizabeth, Mrs Leonard WASTELL of Scorton, came to live with her sister’s family at Scorton (or Bolton as she sometimes calls it) after the death of her father in 1658. It was this Anne SAVILE who provided an account of her "interview" with the old man, in a letter written to Sir Richard Graham of Norton Conyers. It was not until August 1739 that Sir Reginald Graham, grandson of Sir Richard, forwarded a copy of this letter to the antiquarian, Roger Gale of Scruton. Perhaps it was also then that the district decided a monument to Henry Jenkins was certainly warranted., resulting in the Churchyard obelisk of 1743.
From Surtees, Volume 8, page 340 – Note that the letter to Sir Richard Graham is undated, though it was estimated to have been written, 1662-1663. –
When I first came to live at Bolton, it was told me a man lived in the parish 150 years old, that he had sworne (as witnesse in a cause at York) to 120 years, which the judge reproving him for, he said he was butler at that time to Lord Conyers. They told me it was reported that his name was found in some old register of the Lord Conyers’s servants; but truly it never was in my thoughts to enquire of my Lord Darcy whether this last particular was true or not; for I believed little of the story for a great many years, till one day, being in my sister’s kitchen, Henry Jenkins come in to beg an alms, I had a mind to examine him. I told him he was an old man, who must shortly expect to give an account to God for all he did or sayd, and desired him to tell me very truly how old he was. He paused a little, and then said that, to the best of his knowledge, he was about an hundred and sixty-two or three. I asked him what kings he remembered, he said ‘Henry the Eighth’; I asked him what publick thing he could longest remember, he said ‘Floyden field’; I asked if the king was there, he said ‘No, he was in France, and that the Earl of Surrey was generall’; I asked how old he might be then, he said ‘between ten and twelve, for’ says he, "I was sent to Northallerton with a horse load of arrows, but they sent a bigger boy from thence to the army with them.’
I thought by these marks I might find something in history. I lookt into an old book that was in the house, and did find that Flodden-field was 152 years before, so that if he was then eleven years old, he must be 162 or 163 years, as he said when I examined him. I found by the book that bows and arrows were then used, and that the earl he named was generall at that time, and that King Henry the Eighth was then at Tournay in France, so that I don’t know what to answer to the consistency of these things, for Henry Jenkins is a poor man, can neither write nor read. Here are allso four or five people in the same parish that are reputed, all of them, to be 100 years old, or within 2 or 3 years of it, and they all say he was an elderly man ever since they knew him, for he was born in another parish, and before any registers in churches, as it’s said. He told me when he was butler to Lord Conyers, that he remembered the abbot of Fountains, who used to drink with his lord a glass heartily; and the dissolution of the monasterys he said he well remembered.
Canon James Raine, in his account (YAJ, Volume 1, published 1870, pages 127-131),
"The family of Wastell, which showed so much kindness to Jenkins, appears in Dugdale’s Visitation of Yorkshire in 1666. The pedigree is continued by B. Longmate, in a genealogical volume by him in the library of the Dean and Chapter of Durham.
The chief residence of the Wastells was in the village of Scorton. According to the traditions of the place, the old house has long been haunted by a stately dame in a rustling dress, who bears the name of Lady Tancred. She was the wife of Sir Richard Tancred, and died on the first of April, 1665. Her first husband was John Wastell of Scorton, soldier and lawyer, for he was Recorder of Richmond and a Colonel in the service of Parliament. He died in 1659 aet. 66. His widow, if the popular belief were true, has been in a state of unrest for more than two centuries."
Further information on Henry Jenkins can be found on the GENUKI site for:
Bolton upon Swale