In an attempt to firmly quash the notion that the John Washbourne, who died in 1546 in Bengeworth, Worcestershire, England was identical with the John Washbourne designated in the 1569 Visitation of Worcestershire as the second son of John Washbourne of Wichenford, Eugene Stratton, in his book Applied Genealogy, quoted another author, E.A.B. Barnard. Stratton wrote: “E.A.B. Barnard, however, completely demolishes the claim by showing that there were Washburn families in the neighborhood of Bengeworth for centuries prior to this time and therefore it is superfluous and unreasonable to have to look outside Bengeworth for the origins of the John Washburne in question unless there are other compelling reasons for it.”
What Barnard said was: "Other Washbournes may have lived in these Parishes before this time, but there is no direct evidence that such was the case. However the name had long existed in the neighborhood of Evesham, the earliest mention of it appearing in the Lay Subsidy Roll for the county of Worcester (c 1280) where, under the village of Bretforton-some three miles away-we find a payment for land de Johanne Wasburn..." Barnard also cites the Lay Subsidy Roll of 1327 under Bretforton - de Roberto de Wasseborne; then again in 1332.
The argument is that because we have evidence of Washbournes paying tax in the Bengeworth area in the 1200s and 1300s then the John Washbourne who dies at Bengeworth in 1546 has to have descended from a family established by one of those men and not from the senior line of the Washbournes which was at this time John Washbourne of Wichenford who died in 1517.
There are two problems with this argument: The first is that the Washbournes paying tax in the area were actually the senior line seated at Stanford-on-Teme. The Roberto de Wasseborne on the Lay subsidy Rolls in the early 1300s was almost certainly Roger de Washbourne, Knight whose name was subjected to a scribal change from Roger to Robert. More evidence of this is seen in the taxation records of 1340 at Overbury (Little Washbourne), 12 miles from Bretforton, where, his proper name restored, he appears as Rogeri Wasshebourn.
The name Roger was very often stated as Robert during the medieval period depending upon individual scribal proclivities. Davenport observed that, in Weavers Visitation of Herefordshire 1569, a man who is very clearly Roger of Stanford, is named Robert Waseborne. Roger is named Robert on one of the College of Arms pedigrees as well.
We find another example of this change from Roger to Robert in the Beauchamp Cartulary, #79 dated to between 1236 x 1269. Here, the man, sealing on behalf of all of the people of Stanford on Teme, is identified as Robertus de Wasseburn’. In the 1240s and 1250s, the Washbourne dealing with land at Stanford-on-Teme was William de Washbourne. According to the 1255 Eyre Court records from Worcestershire, this William died prior to 1255 when his widow Lucy and son and heir Roger assumed control of the Washbourne properties at Stanford. So the only possible person who could have been sealing an accord on behalf of Stanford would have been either William or his son Roger, called Robert in the Charter.
The evidence presents a very strong case that the Washbournes holding land in Bretforton were those of the senior line seated at Stanford and not stray sons of sons; thus, entirely deflating both Stratton and Barnard's arguments.
The second problem is one of continuity. There are no continual established families of Washbournes in the area from which John of Bengeworth could ultimately have emerged.
In an interesting aside, William, one of the sons of John Washbourne of Bengeworth, settled at Bretforton, possibly on land long associated with the senior line of the family.
Yes there were many younger Washbourne sons down the generations. Most of them, both legitimate and not, were priests. Some of them left sons, others died of the plague or sweating sickness. Most of these sons have been documented and their sons traced. None of them left a trail to Bengeworth. Conversely, after John Washbourne settled in Bengeworth, the Washbourne name continued in the area until the 1800s.
John of Bengeworth’s descendants married into families very closely tied into the senior line at Wichenford. We prove this by tracing land transactions between the various generations.
Untying John of Bengeworth from a senior line at Stanford requires that one explain the presence of the Washbourne Crest in a window at old St. Peter’s Church at Bengeworth. Untying him from Wichenford requires explaining why the family’s coat of arms – charged with cinquefoils - was blazoned on a heraldic tile found in the ruins of Evesham Abbey.
Finally, if John of Bengeworth was simply a stray son of one of many younger sons’ sons from a very early generation of the senior line, how did he come to hold more than a hide and a half of valuable arable land in Bengeworth which he was free to lease to others and pass on to his heirs “forever.” Land, or sufficient money to buy land in the middle ages came from one’s family or one’s marriage – which was dictated by one’s pedigree. Even the proven third son of John of Wichenford, Walter, was unable to garner enough money to acquire land of his own and was left to live on the charity of his nephew until he died on Washbourne land in the Slaughters. The youngest son of John and Joan, Francis, appears to have become a priest.
If John of Bengeworth was not the second son of John of Wichenford, then whose son was he? A viable alternative paternal candidate has not yet been identified. AJB