Eugene Stratton (“Applied Genealogy”) attempted to firmly quash the notion that the John Washbourne, who died in 1546 in Bengeworth, Worcestershire, England (1546) was identical with the John Washbourne designated in the 1569 Visitation of Worcestershire as the second son of John Washbourne of Wichenford, Esq. by invoking E.A.B. Barnard (“Some Notes on the Evesham Branch of the Washbourne Family”). Stratton contended that Barnard “… 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 Washburn in question…”.
Actual evidence (court records, tax records, manor records and the Washbourne arms displayed within Evesham Abbey) suggests that the Washbournes engaged in the Evesham/Bengeworth area in the 1200s, 1300s and later were the senior line of the gentry Washbournes and not some stray cadet family that remained in the Bengeworth area for generations, finally giving rise to the John Washbourne of Bengeworth who first appears there on the 1525 tax records, baptizes children in the parish and dies there in 1546.
Conversely, so far, we have been unable to discover any record (including from an exhaustive review of wills from the traditional tenants of the Abbey) of a cadet family of Washbourne living in the Bengeworth area. Other than the appearance of the Washbourne arms on an encaustic tile at Evesham Abbey (the tile appears to have been made by monk craftsmen in the workshops and kilns of Great Malvern Priory between 1450 and 1500 or by the Malvern Chase tilers who worked well into the 16th century), subsequent to the 1300s, no Washbournes of any kind have yet been found in Bengeworth/Evesham until 1546 suddenly shows up there on the 1525 tax record. And I would refer readers to an excellent essay by Peter Franklin found within the introduction to "The Taxpayers of Medieval Gloucestershire, An Analysis of the 1327 Lay Subsidy Roll with a New Edition of its Text" published 1993. As Dr. Franklin says: "...it was hard to carry on peasant agriculture for long without committing some minor offense..." and thus showing up in the court records.
What we do find are records showing that the Bengeworth Washbournes walked paths long associated with the gentry Washbournes at Tewkesbury, Little Washbourne and in the Cotswalds.
In the early 1200s, Abel de Washbourne traveled from Little Washbourne to Dixton, Worcestershire to marry the sister of the Lord of Dixton. The Abbot of Tewkesbury granted land to him. 140 years later, apparent descendants of this Abel contested the ownership of Abel’s Tewkesbury property with the then Abbot.
From the 1200s on, the gentry Washbournes held land in Beckford, Tewkesbury and had legal dealings in the area.
When the John Washbourne, Esq. of Wichenford who died there in 1633 married his first wife, he traveled to the Cotswolds, baptising his first three babies in the Parish of Broadway, 7 miles from Evesham.
In 1574 the grandson of the John Washbourne who died in 1546 appears to have traveled from Bengeworth back to the Beckford/Ashchurch/Tewkesbury area to marry (his third wife). This journey alone, back to an area long familiar with the gentry family, is an important clue on its own and is added evidence of possible connections. Further, the Roberts girl he married there appears to have come from a family with whom the Wichenford Washbournes had extensive dealings, so extensive in fact that one descendant, Giles Roberts, ultimately held property in the manor of Little Washbourne.
These are only a few of the many connections we have collected and are analyzing in context as possible evidence supporting the possibility that the Washbourne family of Bengeworth was closely related to the family at Wichenford.
“…one can only make a reasonable deduction from the absence of evidence when the general level of evidence survival is such that there is a reasonable presumption that it would be included among the surviving records.” TAF
The idea that the John Washbourne who died in Bengeworth in 1546 was probably closely related to the Washbournes at Wichenford is moving closer to substantiation. However, at this time, we cannot say with certainty that 1546 was the son of John Washbourne, Esq. who died at Wichenford in 1517. He may have been, or he may have simply been a cousin. Further research may or may not eventually settle this matter definitively.
However, contrary to Stratton’s dismissive assertion, the claim is not demolished. The question remains: If John of Bengeworth, dead 1546, was not the second son of John Washbourne, Esq. of Wichenford, then whose son was he?
We have no idea if a “family tradition” of royal descent was maintained by the Bengeworth Washbournes. We have noted previously that a fragment of heraldic glass, appearing to possibly represent part of the Washbourne arms was salvaged when the old St. Peters church was demolished in 1870. Later generations of Washbournes, descended from the Bengeworth line, did use the Washbourne arms, but we do not know why they thought that they were entitled to use them or if they were entitled to use them. AJB