William Bendy was born in about 1620 and died in 1684. He was an Oxford educated barrister and during the Civil War both he and his father were evidently both stalwarts for Parliament in Staffordshire. He was born at the family house at Shut End, Kingswinford and his parents were William Bendy (1593-1657) and Mary Barnesley (1593-1653). He matriculated at New Inn Hall Oxford on 17 Oct 1634 at the tender age of 14. He attained his BA on 17 Jan 1637 and was precociously admitted at Lincoln's Inn on 3 Jun 1638 and was active in 1645. This would make him a direct contemporary of Richard Cromwell.

There were a succession of William Bendy's of Shut End going back to the reign of Elizabeth - a nineteenth century descendant claimed that there were 12 fathers and sons of the same name in a row - but the period of the Civil War transformed the family. It is often not clear whether the William Bendy that appears on documents at this time is father or son but there are connexions at the highest level in the Commonwealth government and the City of London. For the young William to go to Oxford, as a plebeian, implies a considerable social advance for the father William Bendy (b 1593) and there are hints of many important social connexions that continued after his death in June 1657. 

William Bendy of Kingswinford is listed as a key member of the "Committee of Stafford" from 1643 to 1645 set up, amongst other things, to deal administratively with the financial and legal issues arising from Royalist property in the county. Other key members of the committee included Sir William Brereton. One of William Bendy's actions, for example, was to order the demolition of Stafford Castle after it had been captured from the Royalists. His endorsement is also squarely on the orders to sequestrate Royalist property throughout the county. Is this the revolutionary zeal of a 50 year old working amongst his peers or the ardour of a highly educated lawyer at the age of 23? 

The will of William Bendy, the elder, dated 1657 sheds some light on this. Firstly it indicates that he is a yeoman and he does not seem to have great wealth. His sons Nicholas and Edward are engaged in the City of London but his eldest son William is in residence at Shut End. Samuel the fourth son was a fellow of St John's College Cambridge and went on to become Rector of Watton at Stone in Hertfordshire. Samuel and the youngest son, John are named as joint executors but William is appointed to pay £100 to Edward on the latter's marriage. William Bendy also mentions his brother-in-law Thomas Pudsey, married to his wife's sister Margaret, in the will - significantly he also appears on the list of the important "Committee at Stafford"

William Bendy, the younger, married Dorothy Lee the daughter of Lancelot Lee in about 1652. The Lees of Coton Hall, Alveley, Shropshire were a wealthy gentry family. In his will, probate 10 Jan 1667, Lancelot leaves to his "sonne Bendy and his daughter Bendy twenty shillings apiece". William and Dorothy's two eldest children are mentioned in William Bendy's will of 1657. 

Dorothy's grandfather was Henry Gough (1561?-1655), a wealthy draper and Royalist, who had bought Old Fallings Hall in Wolverhampton in 1609. Henry Gough had strong connections in the City of London and the pattern emerges of a number of families from Staffordshire who had made it good by trade in the economic spurt driven as the aftermath of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The Bendys had connexions with most of them over the next two generations. 

The evidence to support the important political role of William Bendy, the father is sketchy, but perhaps the circumstances of his two younger sons' education shows that he was the more likely man (rather than his son) to be the William Bendy on the parliamentary committee for Stafford. If as a yeoman he sends his eldest son to Oxford University in 1634 it is one fact, but in 1646 and 1648 he sends his fourth and fifth eldest sons to Emmanuel College Cambridge. In 1646 Oxford was the Capital of Royalist England whilst Cambridge was closer in every way to Oliver Cromwell's heartlands. Emmanuel had been founded by Sir Walter Mildmay, Queen Elizabeth's Chancellor of the Exchequer, as a Puritan seminary. It is significant that he had the connexions and means to accomplish this education.

Moreover, in the 1658 will of Sir John Wollaston, former Lord Mayor of London, William Bendy of Shutend Esq is named as one of the seven trustees of the advowson of the Rectory of Wombourne. As the bequest was to each of the seven and their heirs, it later created enormous issues and grounds for dispute culminating in 1801 when Thomas Foley, a direct heir of William Bendy, was ejected from the living through a ruling in the Court of Chancery. Sir John Wollaston, who died childless and had made his money as a city Goldsmith, retained strong links with his native Staffordshire. As a Roundhead and contemporary of William Bendy (snr) we can presume that he believed him to be the type of man to select and appoint "a learned and painful preacher honest in life and conversation" to the living. It would also seem likely that Sir John was related to the Bendy's through the Barnsley family of Trysull. Significantly two of the fellow trustees, Captain Henry Stone of Walsall and John Birch of Cannock were members of the Committee at Stafford. (Caveat - There are possibly two John Birches - a John Birch from Bristol, a committed Parliamentarian and John Birch of Leacroft, a royalist who had his lands sequestered by the same Committee)

It is presumed if the father sat on the "Committee at Stafford" in the early 1640's, the William Bendy who is recorded as being Clerk of the Peace for Staffordshire after 1647 is more likely to be the son, with his formal legal training and experience. There is some evidence that he was responsible for 'ejecting' certain priests in the County during the Commonwealth years. Ironically, his brothers Samuel and John, respectively Rectors of Watton and Narborough were vulnerable to such counter ejections after 1660 but survived the restoration and both died incumbent in their livings in 1689 and 1675 respectively.

The transition under the Restoration must have been more difficult for William in view of some of his activities and his part in the sequestration of assets and the ejection of priests with Royalist sympathies. It looks as if after 1660 for the last 24 years of his life, William spent considerable time in London, where his brother Nicholas was a Citizen and Salter and where he continued to be a member of Lincoln's Inn.

William Bendy junior's oldest son, also William, was born in Alveley on 19 Mar 1653  and like his father he too was to receive an Oxford education. His other surviving children were Mary Dovey (1655-aft1687), Lancelot Bendy (1656-1687), Benjamin Bendy (1660-1723) and Dorothy Bendy (1661-1706).

William Bendy's will, written probably in his own hand in 1668, was proved in Lichfield on 3 Mar 1684. Here he describes himself as of Lincoln's Inn. His executors were his wife Dorothy, his uncle Richard Brettell and his brother-in-law Lancelot Lee. Richard Brettell married to another of his mother's many sisters Ann died fairly contemporaneously and would not have been able to carry out these functions. His wife Dorothy Bendy was buried on 11 Nov 1712, naming her son Benjamin Bendy as her executor.  

 

 

Selected Sources

 

The Committee at Stafford 1643-1645, D H Pennington (ed), Manchester University Press, 1957  - "Dec. 21, 1643 It is ordered by the Committee, that Stafford Castle shall be forthwith demolished. Present : Colonel Rugeley, Mr. Compton, L. C. Chadwick, Mr. Broughton, Mr. Swynfen, Capt. Stone, Mr. Greg, Mr. Pudsey, Mr. Bendy, and Capt. Foxall."

Alumni Oxonienses, Foster and Cambridge Alumni, Ancestry.com

Record of the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn, Admissions, Lincoln's Inn 1896

Staffordshire Pedigrees, William Dugdale, 1912

Will of William Bendy, Yeoman of Kingswinford, Probate 18 May 1658, National Archives

Will of William Bendy, of Lincoln's Inn, Probate 3 Mar 1684/5, Lichfield Record Office. 

Will of Sir John Wollaston, Alderman, Probate 14 May 1658, National Archives

Admon of Dorothy Bendy, Widow of Kingswinford, 9 Feb 1712, Lichfield Record Office (wife)