A Biography of
Richard Blachford 1570 - 1652 Dorchester and London Merchant
from A FAMILY HISTORY by Jack A. G. Blachford
Blachford coat of Arms


Richard Blachford, the son of William Blachford of Holway in the Parish of White Staughton, was born in approximately 1570.

Richard spent his early years in the employ of Gilbert Smyth, a merchant in the town of Exeter who imported and exported goods through the port of Weymouth.

Richard married Frances, the daughter of John Combe of Ashmer and started his own business in Dorchester in approximately 1593. He went into partnership with John Finn, and also with his eldest son John, importing and exporting wool and other goods through many ports between Bristol and London.

Richard was a town councillor, Alderman, a member of the Company of Freemen, and Bailiffe of Dorchester.

In the municipal records on the 20th September, 1606……Mathew Chubb and Richard Blachford, Bailiffes, leased a plot of Ground (land) to Thomas Bushrode, haberdasher, at a rent of 4 shillings per year.

Richard’s eldest son John married Margaret Mambree at St. Peter’s church Dorchester on the 6th of October 1610. The record of the marriage appears in those of the church of the Holy Trinity. St Peter’s has no records as early as 1610, so there is some doubt as to in which church the ceremony actually took place.

It is not know exactly when the BLACHFORD ARMS were granted, but during the Herald’s visitation of the counties of England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, three pedigrees were recorded for the same name.

The Arms were :- for Richard Blachford of London and Dorchester, Merchant. A confirmation by William Segar “Garter”, 1629 “Barry wavy of six OR and GULES on a cheif AZURE, three PHEONS ARGENT. The CREST was a SWAN rising with wing elevated ‘GUTTEE des LARMES‘” (that is sprinkled with blue drops).

At the visitation of London in 1633/34 a pedigree of Blachford was recorded. The Arms are the same as those above. This is obviously the Paternal Coat, but in this instance it impales another coat quarterly of twelve. Two crests are given. One is the swan as above; the second crest is a three tiered plume of ostrich feathers. The quartered coat of arms with the crest of ostrich feathers were the arms of the Moleynes (or Mollineu) family, the ancestors of Eleanor Waterton, wife of Richard Blachford, the third son of Richard Blachford of Dorchester. It combines the Arms of MOLEYNS, COURTE; MONTAGUE, MONTHERIER, and FRAMLINGHAM.

This pedigree was collected in 1530, 1575, 1622, and 1634. Richard’s second son William, merchant of Dorchester, was admitted to the company of freemen on the fourteenth of November, 1621.

Books in the Dorchester library in 1631 included these given by Mr. William Blachford :-

  • Saliani Annales Vol. 3
  • Centurise Magdeburgh Vol. 3
  • Bradwardinus de Causa Dej.
  • Zan chij Opera Vol. 3

A fourth son, Henry, married Maria (Mary) Bird at Chichester on the 30th October, 1629. Henry appears to have grown apart from the rest of the Dorchester family as there is no mention of his brothers in his will, although he does mention his mother Frances, for whom he showed great affection.

He settled in Chichester after his marriage, and died in 1646, owning considerable property including:

  • “Premises called Or Known by the name of the Signe of the Swan in the City of Chichester”,
  • “Capital Messuage or Tenement and garden in the South Street of the City”
  • “The lane leading from the Southgate to the Eastgate under the walls of the City”
  • “West lands and Tenements in West Stoke in Surrey”.

Henry also owned Broile Farm near the City of Chichester

Richard’s eldest son John was elected a Capital Burgess of the Dorchester Borough Council on the third of January, 1623.

Francis Dashwood, son of Edmund Dashwood mercer, was apprenticed for eight years to John Blachford merchant of Dorchester on the sixth of December, 1625.

An extract from a letter when Edmund Dashwood was Mayor, to the Mayor of Oxon reads “concerning the merchants of this town, none of them have any trade with Newfoundland, Verginea, or Spayne, save only Mr. John Blachford who is now in London.”

Council minutes, 28th August, 1639. “In regards to Mr, John Blachford of the said Borough hath been absent from this Borough and lived in France for about three years, whereby he could be of no service in the place where he was chosen. It is ordered that a new choice shall be made of another Capital Burgess in his place on Wednesday 3rd, September next.”

4th September 1639 “John Bushrode versus John Blachford who has resided in France for three years past” (John Bushrode elected)

From the Charter of Charles I, 29/9/1629 “A Major shall be chose from the more honest and discreet Burgesses” Richard and John Blachford were among the first fifteen Capital Burgesses, and Richard was one the first six Aldermen.

Thomas Blachford was one of the first twenty four members of the Common Council.

On August 8th, 1629 the Council received the following directive:

“Where as I have received a commission of rebellion, a writ of assistance, and another writ upon the statue of Northampton to disarm divers persons which are in the said commission of rebellion. These are therefore to will and require you whose names are here under written, and twenty other more sufficient persons, house holders and inhabitants of the town of Dorchester which under my under sheriff shall and doth nominate, appoint, and warn, to come and appear personally before me at the sign of the Lion in Shaftbury within this county on Wednesday next the twelth (sic.) day of this month of August, by two of the clock in the afternoon of the same days at the farthest time, and there be ready with your necessary and sufficient arms, to attend and be assisting unto me in all things diligently as becometh you and every of you according unto the said writs and my command on that behalf. Where of fail you not as you tender his Majesty’s Service, and will answer the contrary at your uttermost peril .

Given under my hand and seal this eight day of August Ano 5 Reg’s Caroli (1629)” Thomas Still, Vic. Reinoldo Knapton (under sheriff) Richard Blachford (merchant) and William Whiteway junior (merchant) ‘Bailiffes’ of the town of Dorchester, or one of them to come. Henry Maber (clothier) ‘ Constable ‘, Denys Bond (merchant) John Perkins (merchant) Joseph Paty (clothier) William Paty (clothier) …etc. Thirty four more names follow.

December 23rd, 1629 “This day a commission was granted by the Mayor and company unto Mr. William Derby, Mr. John Hill, Mr. John Blachford, and Mr. Robert Blake, under the new Town seal, for the petitioning of the Privy Council about the privileges of the Town concerning musters.”

September 22nd, 1629 “The document appointing Sir Francis Ashley as Recorder, was signed by (inter alia) Henry Whittell and Richard Blachford (justices)”

and on October 6th, 1629 “The company of freemen chose Mr. Richard Blachford and others as assistants to the governor”

In November 1630, the corporation decided to purchase the rectory at Seaton and Beer in Devonshire. John White the Rector of Holy Trinity was the active mover in raising a sum of about £1,500, to be invested as an endowment for the minister of All Saints’ and the assistant minister of St. Peter’s, and with this, the Parsonage of Seaton and Beer was bought. £100 was given by Mr. John Blachford, a Magistrate of the town. The documents relating to the transaction included a lease of twenty one years from William Fry to Richard Blachford (merchant) ….John Hill (iremonger) and Richard

Dorchester was notorious for its disloyalty during the Civil War: (Clarendon says) “A place more entirely dis-affected to the King England had not.

It was the magazine from whence the other places were supplied with the principals of rebellion, and was a considerable town and the seat of great malignity.”

The town was early fortified against the King by the leaders of the republican faction. The fortifications were begun on July 20th, 1642, and carried on with the greatest activity until May 1643. Several bulwarks and forts were erected, a fort and platform at the South gate, a platform for ordinance at the West gate, works and a court of guard at the East gate, and works at the North gate, at the Priory, and at Maenbury.

The Civil War began in 1642 and Dorchester was strongly Parliamentarian; though, despite its fortifications, it quickly fell to Royalist forces under Lord Carnarvon. It was soon recaptured for Parliament by Colonel Sydenham in July 1644. Oliver Cromwell was there in March 1645.

Individual family records during these troubled years of mistrust, confusion and bloodshed are almost non-existent, but Richard’s part in the Civil War is recorded in the minute books of the Dorset Standing Committee.

These minute books record the Parliamentary Standing Committee which sat in Dorset during the civil war and interregnum. They range from 23rd. September 1646 to May the 8th. 1650, and are probably the only examples of these books of the county committees throughout the Kingdom which have survived to the present day.

The functions of the Committee were of a comprehensive character, comprising matters Civil, Military, and Ecclesiastical.

  • (Fol.63. 17th November, 1646, Dorchester) “Thomas Hayter……where as it appeareth that Captain Richard Blachford did for two years since take up thirty yards of Broad cloth of one Thomas Hayter a clothier by order of the committee, It is ordered that the treasurer of this county pay unto said Thomas Hayter the sum of six pounds for the thirty yards of cloth aforesaid.”
  • (Fol. 103. 29th December, 1646, Dorchester) “William Edmonds…..It is ordered that you pay unto William Edmonds of Woolbridge, clothier, the sum of seven pounds for fourty (sic.) yards of broad cloth which the said Edmonds delivered to Captain Richard Blachford at the appointment of the committee of this county, for the clothing of his soldiers in February 1644.”
  • (To the treasurer Mr. Richard Burie) (Fol. 38. 13th March, 1647, Dorchester) “John Covett……It is ordered that the treasurer pay unto John Covett the sum of twenty pounds as soon as he is able, being for one grey mare, and one horse with saddle and armes employed in the parliamentary service, as by several certificates under the hands of captain Edward Masters and Captain Richard Blachford appeareth, and in the mean time the public faith of the Kingdom is for security unto the said John Covett engaged for the payment of the said sum of twenty pounds.”

Richard was elected Mayor of Dorchester in 1647. In the following year the Civil War ended and Oliver Cromwell, on the 26th of December, decided to push through the trial of Charles I.

On the 30th of January, 1649, Charles was executed.

Oliver Cromwell never had the slightest doubt that the decision to put the King to death for war guilt was the right one. He told the General council of Officers at Whitehall in March, 1643 “God hath brought the war to an issue and given you great fruit of that war, to wit – the execution of exemplary justice upon the prime leader of all this quarrel.”

Richard Blachford died in 1652, the monarchy was re-established in 1660, and by 1681 the Blachford influence in Dorchester was apparently at an end. An address to King Charles II, in August of that year, contained over three hundred names of Dorchester people, and there was not a Blachford among them.

The Blachford Family of Dorchester is mentioned in the book Fire from Heaven: Life in an English Town in the Seventeenth Century (Paperback) by David Underdown

Synopsis of the book:Two hundred years before Hardy disguised it as Casterbridge, Dorchester was a typical English county town, of middling size and unremarkable achievements. But on 6 August 1613 much of it was destroyed in a great conflagration, which its inhabitants regarded as a 'fire from heaven', the catalyst for the events described in this book. Over the next twenty years, a time of increasing political and religious turmoil all over Europe, Dorchester became the most religiously radical town in the kingdom. The tolerant, paternalist Elizabethan town oligarchy was quickly replaced by a group of men who had a vision of a godly community in which power was to be exercised according to religious commitment rather than wealth or rank. One of this book's most remarkable achievements is the re-creation, with an intimacy unique for an English community so distant from our own, of the lives of those who do not make it into history books. We glimpse the ordinary men and women of the town drinking and swearing, fornicating and repenting, triumphing over their neighbours or languishing in prison, striving to live up to the new ideals of their community or rejecting them with bitter anger and mocking laughter. In it subtle exploration of human motives and aspirations, in its brilliant and detailed reconstruction, this book shows how much of the past we can recover when in the hands of a master historian.