Agincourt and all that

Submitted by alkirtley on Thu, 11/21/2019 - 15:36

Sir John Blaket, “the hero of Agincourt”, is shown in many publications, including Burke’s Landed Gentry, as being one of the Blacketts of Woodcroft and Wylam, and the grandfather of Nicholas Blackett. Much is known of Sir John. He is listed among the retinue of King Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt on 25 October 1415. He had charge of one man-at-arms and six archers during the battle, and was knighted by the King shortly afterwards. According to the expenses claim he put in, (a copy of which is held at the Public Record Office), Sir John received a total of £54 7s 8d in cash and “precious objects” for him and his men, though there seems to have been a later dispute with the King over various items that should have been returned. Sir John died in 1430, and his tomb is in the Chapel of the Blessed Mary at Icomb, Gloucestershire. Icomb, (pronounced “Ickum”), is the village where the original Tom, Dick and Harry lived.

All of which is very exciting and glamorous, except that we have found no evidence that he had any connection whatsoever with the Blacketts of North-East England. The Wills of Sir John and his son Edmund, together with the Writs of Diem Clausit Extremum issued after the deaths of Edmund and Sir John’s last wife, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s Inquisition Post Mortem have been examined and contain no mention of any property in North-East England, nor the names of any of the Blakheved (as the name was then spelled) family who are known to have lived at, or owned, Woodcroft at that time. It seems that Sir John has been confused with John Blakheved (1359/60-1418) who died “fuit seisitus de Wodecroft”, and indeed some references to Sir John erroneously show his date of death as 1418. The 45th Annual Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records, 1884, contains an unbroken line of Inquisitions Post Mortem passing down Woodcroft to each successive heir. This starts with the Inq. p.m. of Richard Blachved (sic) dated 30 November 1349 and extends down to that of John Blakheved dated 24 January 1462/3, whose heir was John, aged 24. Sir John Blaket does not appear in this line of ownership of Woodcroft. It seems that his forbears had been based in central southern England for some time, as on 12 October 1335 King Edward III sent to the escheator for the counties of Southampton (i.e.Hampshire), Wilts., Oxford, Berks., Bedford and Buckingham an order confirming John Blaket as the rightful heir of the estates of his father, another John Blaket. Sir John Blaket is known to have had estates in that part of the country.

The confusion may have originated with “John Blaket of Stanhope” being appointed in 1404 as a forester by Walter, Bishop of Durham. This was almost certainly John Blakheved, who had occupied the position in 1397, and “Blaket” may reflect the clerk (presumably Norman-trained) spelling the name “Blakheved” phonetically as it was pronounced at the time. The only other 13th century reference to a “Blaket” in connection with north-east England that we have discovered is the following reference in the Patent Rolls for 1276:

“Biccleston (”Bicclesdon") (Northumberl.) ; appointment of John de Reygate and William de Northburgh to take the assise of mort dancestor arraigned by Agnes daughter of Radulph de Bicclesdon against William Blaket, touching a mesuage and land in."

The male line of Sir John seems to have died out with his son Edmund, who died in 1444. In 1930, Evelyn Blackett in a letter (see note) to Rose Bourke (nee Blackett) commented: “We are not descended from Sir John Blackett [sic] who fought in Agincourt, that was put in by Radcliffe the Herald, who was employed by Mr. Christopher Blackett of Wylam, to make out a pedigree, it was a great mistake it was ever allowed to be put in, as according to the family papers, & all Radcliffe’s letters, which we have here, we could not possibly be related, he jumps over at least 100 years, & gets to the Blacketts of Woodcroft that way!!” (Note: We are indebted to Kildare Bourke-Borrowes, a grandson of Rose Bourke nee Blackett, for this information.)

Nonetheless, since at least as far back as the early 19th century, there has been a belief in some branches of the family that a connection to Sir John exists, and if anyone can provide information enabling us to establish a link please contact us.

A number of other Blakets, mostly based in the south and south-west of England but one in Yorkshire, appear in the records of the Court of Common Pleas (a civil court) in the 15th and 16th centuries. For details please click here. There is, however, no evidence to suggest that these Blakets were related to Sir John Blacket of Icomb, or to the Blacketts/Blakheveds of north-east England.