BLAKE, William (c.1582-1630), of Hale House, Kensington, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. c.1582, 1st s. of John Blake of Andover, Hants, and Margaret, da. of William Blake of East Anton, Hants.1 m. Mary (bur. 29 Sept. 1644),2 da. of Henry Beverley of London, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da.3 suc fa. 1606;4 kntd. 13 Oct. 1627.5 d. 30 Oct. 1630.6
Blake, whose parents were first cousins, was born in Andover, where his family had been settled for at least two generations.13 Little has been discovered of him before 1603, when he was made free of the Vintners’ Company of London. Early in the following year he was appointed a commissioner under John Hercy, a surveyor of Crown lands, to provide evidence upon which the future sale or lease of royal manors could be made. By July 1604 he had formed a syndicate with Peter Vanlore and Lawrence Baskerville to contract for the sale of Crown rectories and tithes, and in July 1605 he was allotted one of the five circuits for surveying the king’s manors.14 Blake took advantage of his position to purchase and lease a number of properties throughout England and Wales.15 However, he was poorly paid for his work, and complained to the 1st earl of Salisbury (Robert Cecil†), that during his four years as a commissioner his only remuneration had been 20 marks. In May 1608 Salisbury, as lord treasurer, cancelled all further surveys of Crown estates, although Blake continued to be involved in the sale of rectories until at least the following February.16
In the meantime Blake had inherited his father’s property in Hampshire, and by 1612 his profits from enterprise were sufficient to buy Hale House, a substantial residence on the periphery of London with 30 acres, which he had tenanted since at least 1605.17 He remained a member of the Vintners’ Company until his death, but does not seem to have been personally involved in its trade, for by 1616 he had set himself up as a scrivener in Fleet Street.18 In 1618 he purchased the ferry between Chelsea and Battersea from the 3rd earl of Lincoln (Thomas, Lord Clinton* alias Fiennes), but shortly afterwards incurred substantial debts, probably related to his professional transactions on behalf of investors.19 In late 1624 he hoped to bail himself out by his son’s marriage to the daughter of Thomas Hawker of Heytesbury, Wiltshire. He bought Heytesbury manor from Hawker for £11,500, the price being partially offset by the girl’s dowry of £3,000.20 Ownership of the manor conferred some influence in Heytesbury’s parliamentary elections, and by returning himself there in 1626 Blake may have been seeking protection from his creditors. He was not named to any committees, and spoke only once, during the supply debate on 23 Mar., when despite moving that the House should first present its grievances to the king, he argued that the Crown’s ‘necessities are as great as they seem to be, no time now to balk how and what we are able to give, but to do it’.21
Blake’s subsequent fortunes were closely tied to his nephew and apprentice William Rolfe*.22 Perhaps in an effort to secure a more steady income, he bought an office in the court of Common Pleas in 1626 that was worth around £700 a year. However, in order to raise the necessary £10,000 purchase price he was compelled to sell two manors to Rolfe, including Heytesbury, and also to mortgage most of his remaining property.23 Rolfe then proceeded to default on his payments to Blake, but ‘by reason of the great trust and confidence he reposed in him on all occasions’ Blake accepted promissory notes instead.24 This trust was misplaced; in a series of subsequent Chancery suits Rolfe’s debts were estimated to have reached £30,000.25
Blake died intestate at Hale House on 30 Oct. 1630, and administration was granted to his only surviving son; litigation ensued between his widow and Rolfe for restitution of her jointure lands and other estates.26 Blake was buried at St. Mary Abbots, Kensington, on 2 Nov. 1630, where a now vanished monument and six-stanza epitaph were erected to his memory.27 Soon after his death his fellow trustees for the charitable benefactions of the philanthropist Henry Smith (d.1627) purchased several parcels of his diminished Kensington estate.28 No member of his immediate family subsequently sat in Parliament.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Henry Lancaster
- 1. Vis. Hants (Harl. Soc. lxiv), 210.
- 2. Kensington Par. Reg. (Harl. Soc. xvi), 117.
- 3. Vis. Hants (Harl. Soc. lxiv), 210.
- 4. PROB 11/109, ff. 184-5v.
- 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 193.
- 6. C142/480/114.
- 7. GL, ms 15211C/1, f. 5.
- 8. Ibid. 15201/2, ff. 251, 278.
- 9. Estates of Eng. Crown ed. R. Hoyle, 222; E403/2723, f. 227v.
- 10. C2/Chas.I/B77/56; 2/Chas.I/B66/11; M. Prestwich, Cranfield, 479.
- 11. C181/1, f. 113v.
- 12. C231/4, f. 109; C66/2527.
- 13. Som. and Dorset N and Q, x. 310; PROB 11/109, f. 184.
- 14. E403/2726, ff. 43v-4v; E214/1023, 1482, 1553, 1640.
- 15. SO3/2, unfol. (December 1604); SO3/3, unfol. (December 1606, May 1607); CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 215; HMC Sackville, i. 210; J. Aubrey and J. Jackson, Wilts. Collections, 265; Lansd. 1217, ff. 20v, 21v, 22, 23, 26, 38v, 41v, 51.
- 16. HMC Hatfield, xxiv. 143.
- 17. E115/64/137; L. Sanders, Old Kew, Chiswick, and Kensington, 156, 283; T. Faulkner, Kensington, 610.
- 18. C2/Chas.I/B107/62; GL, ms 15211C, f. 443.
- 19. T. Faulkner, Chelsea, i. 32.
- 20. C78/489/20.
- 21. Procs. 1626, ii. 352.
- 22. Som. and Dorset N and Q, x. 310.
- 23. C54/2606/30.
- 24. C2/Chas.I/B77/56.
- 25. C2/Chas.I/B66/11.
- 26. PROB 6/13, f. 199; C2/Chas.I/107/62; 2/Chas.I/B115/12.
- 27. D. Lysons, Environs of London, iii. 202; Faulkner, Kensington, 198, 314-15.
- 28. C. Gwilt, Notices relating to Thomas Smith and Henry Smith, 68; D. Stroud, S. Kensington Estate of Henry Smith, 13.