Francis King of West Blagrove Farm

In this month’s Living History article, Frances Bevan traces the story and complicated personal life of Francis King of West Blagrove Farm in the early 19th century.

“In the churchyard at St Mary’s, Lydiard Park, tucked away beneath an ancient yew tree, stand a group of nine chest tombs, just three metres east of the chancel east wall. Dating from the late 18th to the mid-19th century, these Grade II tombs were listed in 1986.

The limestone tombs have a moulded base and table and recessed corner balusters. One of the tombs is a plain box without corner decoration. The inscription on the table top is weathered and difficult to read. This is the grave of Francis King who died in 1745 and his wife Bridget who died in 1766, Close to them lies their son, also named Francis, who died in 1808.

The younger Francis made his will on ‘the second day of January in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Seven,’ just over a year before he died.

Deciphering Francis’s will was relatively straightforward but trying to unravel his private life was considerably more difficult.

Francis was born in 1738. The Lydiard Millicent parish registers record ‘Francis ye base born son of Briget [sic] Tuckey’ was baptised at All Saints on ‘August ye 8 1738.’ His parents married in 1744 when he was six years old and his father died the following year.

Throughout his life Francis was known by both surnames, which seems a little unusual since he was so young when his parents married. Sometimes he signed himself Francis King otherwise Tuckey and sometimes Francis King alias Tuckey. The Tuckey family was another wealthy, local, land-owning family so perhaps Francis just wanted to keep his options open.

He begins his will ‘In the Name of God Amen I Francis King otherwise Tuckey of West Blagrove Farm in the parish of Wroughton …

He leaves ten pounds to his cousin Mary King of Stanford in Berks, but the rest of his will is concerned with his immediate family members.

Francis owned a property and some eight acres of land at Shaw in the parish of Lydiard Millicent, which he left to his son Richard Dore King.

A farm and land Francis held belonging to the Earl of Clarendon at Wakefield [sic] along with the ‘Cattle Hay Implements of Husbandry and Household Goods’ was to go to his son Francis along with three leasehold cottages also at Wakefield and one hundred pounds.

Francis named two good friends, William Dore and James Packer as his trustees and executors and gave them one thousand and two hundred pounds upon trust to invest on behalf of his two daughters Ann and Mary, ‘for and towards their respective Education and Maintenance until they shall severally and respectively attain their respective Ages of Twenty-One Years or Marriage’ (Ann was 22 and Mary 18 at the time their father made his will.)

Francis directs that William Dore and James Packer – ‘Do and shall carry on the Business of the said last mentioned Farms [West Blagrove and Whitehill] for the benefit of Anne my wife and my son John King until he shall attain his Age of Twenty-One Years or be married. (John was 20 years old at the time Francis made his will.)

A further investment of one thousand pounds is to be made with the interest or dividends to go to his wife Anne for her lifetime. After her death the investment is to be paid to his sons and daughters Richard Dore, Francis, John, Ann and Mary.

So all this is pretty straightforward. But what about the personal details?

It would appear that Francis King otherwise Tuckey probably married three times. Unless you know differently …

His first wife was Elizabeth Dore whom he married by licence on May 29, 1769 at St Mary’s Church, Lydiard Tregoze. Elizabeth was most probably the mother of Richard Dore King who bears her maiden name.

Wife number two was probably Jane Cole. An entry in St Mary’s parish registers lists Francis King married Jane Cole by licence on October 21st 1773.

Francis married for a third time, again by licence at St Mary’s, to Ann Hedges on November 24, 1784. These dates would tally with the birth of three of the children mentioned in his will, Ann born in 1785, John in 1787 and Mary in 1789.

The table top tomb in the churchyard is a memorial to Francis and his wife Ann who outlived him by forty years and their son John and two daughters Mary and Ann. On the end of the memorial is the following inscription: In Memory of Elizabeth, Daughter of Francis and Elizabeth King who died Feby. 8th 1813 aged 3 weeks.

The glorious, stained glass window over the west door of St Mary’s was installed in the memory of John King by his two sisters, Ann and Mary. Have a look at this and the family graves when you next visit St Mary’s.

Francis died on March 2, 1808 at the farm at Blagrove. He was 69 years old.

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