by Graham P. Steer
(transcriber’s note: This William Henden was the grandfather
of Richard & Josias Hendon and migrated to America c1700)
William Henden (bapt.1640 at Hothfield) was the son of William Henden and his second wife, Mary Covert, and was born at Hothfield where his parents lived from the late 1630s. The years of William’s childhood were marred by the Civil War between the autocratic high-church King and his democratic Puritan Parliament under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell. The Hendens, who had relatives at Court, were probably sympathizers with the King, but lived in an area which was pro-Parliament. Whether they moved away from Kent as this time to avoid conflict is not known. The King made his capital at Oxford, and the west country including Cornwall, Devon and the southwestern counties rallied around him. Did William’s parents take the family there for safety, or did they move elsewhere in order to be more anonymous? Sometime at the beginning of the Civil War, young William’s half-sister, Mary Henden, married Robert Blanchard of Wiltshire, which suggests that the family may indeed have gone to the west  country.

When the hostilities were over and Parliament triumphed, the Hendens were no doubt distressed at the outcome: the King was tried and executed, the Puritan religion was enforced. Henceforth, there were to be no celebrations at Easter or Christmas, which were regarded as normal working days, there were no more “celebrations” in church, no more baptisms or Christian burials, and marriage was reduced to a mere civil contract. Taverns, which provoked lewd entertainment, were shut down too. This continued until the late 1650s, when Oliver Cromwell gave up his position as Protector of the Realm.

By the 1650s, William Henden had become a young man and possibly a headstrong one, if we read between the lines of the Will of his older (half)-brother, John, who was an apothecary at Maidstone. Interestingly, this John Henden occupied property belonging to Sir John Henden of Biddenden, a staunch royalist, and this suggests that the family of Hendens at Hothfield were also royalists, otherwise Sir John would not have leased them the shoppe and house in the High Street at Maidstone. Apothecary John died in 1659 leaving a long complicated Will in which he mentions his married sister, Mary Blanchard and his younger unmarried sister, Anne Henden, as well as his younger half-brother William, whom it seems benefits from the inheritance of properties in three places. This inheritance enabled him to become a “Gentleman”, and as such he went in search of a wife.

His sister, Mary Blanchard, lived in or around Bath in the 1660s, and when her husband died and she remarried at Batheaston in 1666, no doubt William was there to wish her well and possibly ‘give her away’, as eldest surviving brother. It has been surmised that William Henden might well have met his future wife, Dinah Counsell, through his sister Mary, as she was a resident in an area and in social circles  which would have brought them into contact.

However they met, William married Dinah at Marksbury in 1669. Dinah’s father was the Rector of Marksbury and came from an old family established at Barrow Gurney which had acquired property from the monastic lands after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI. The ancestor’s name was Richard Counsell. Amongst his great-grandchildren was William Counsell (born 1610), Dinah’s father, who together with his cousin, John Counsell, went up to Oxford University to study at Gloucester Hall (which is now Worcester College). Another cousin was Josias Counsell, who was certainly acquainted with the Rector of Marksbury and his family. It can be no coincidence that some of the children of Dinah and William Henden bore names traditional in the Counsell family: Jane (born 1670) named after Dinah’s mother, and Solomon (born 1671) named after her late teenaged brother. Surrounded by their Counsell relatives at Barrow Gurney and ever-conscious of family history, the children of Dinah and William Henden would have known more about their mother’s family than their father’s. Ancestral Counsell names were therefore preferred to traditional Henden names, when it came to the choice of names for their grandchildren. Richard and Josias would have been logical names to commemorate the founder of the family at Barrow Gurney and a favorite kinsman.

William and Dinah most likely lived at the Rectory at Marksbury to look after Dinah’s aged and widowed father, who no doubt had great pleasure in performing the baptisms of his grandchildren; Jane in 1670 and Solomon in 1671. His remaining grandchildren were not born during his lifetime. The records of Solomon’s entrance to Cambridge University state that he was indeed born at Marksbury and that his father was “baliff”, probably to the Lord of the Manor at the present-day Barrow Gurney.

The Rev. William Counsell died in 11674 and was buried at his church, being commemorated on a large wall monument in Latin.  The monument lists the Rector and his wife and their son, Solomon, but there is no mention of Dinah and William Henden although the blank marble suggests a space  was reserved for their details. If they were in the country one would have expected the details to have  been provided, but the entire Henden family seems to have disappeared without a trace.

After the death of her father, Dinah gave birth to two further sons: William in 1676 and John in 1679, both born and baptized at Marksbury. As far as we have been able to research in both Kent and Somerset, none of William and Dinah’s family have had a marriage or burial recorded in the records.