William Whitehead (Whytehead) – (Abt. 1747-1812) and Mary Bassenden

William Whitehead or Whytehead as he was also recorded was born into eighteenth century England about 1747 (educated guess).  I will be thrilled when I get the right dates.  At the time I am writing this I’m not 100% sure of his parentage. He was born pre-civil registration. Each local parish had the responsibility of registering its baptisms (not births), marriage and burials (again, not deaths).  The primary religion in England at the time was the Church of England and if your records were not there then it might have been that you were of a non conforming faith keeping their own records.  So you were a non-conformist a dissenter even! Being a Catholic was almost tantamount to being considered traitorous in England.  Disadvantages could include social and employment isolation for a ‘papist’.   These were tumultuous times in British history.  The Jacobite risings of 1688 to 1746 culminating in the devastating battle of Culloden were predominantly over religion and who should be in power.  The Catholics wanted their house of Stuart returned to ruling power in Scotland and for Scotland to be independent of British rule. Similarly the English Protestants  had no intention of this coming to pass. The risings stirred the people from Ireland across Scotland and England.  It was into this culture of fervent patriotism (regardless of where you stood on the argument) that young William was born.

From his index of record of death, William was born and definitely lived and died in the little rural village, Westwell in Kent.  It remains a small village to this day. Westwell is located in the Ashford district of Kent. The same area that William and Mary’s son would continue to live in.  On the 28th November 1767 he married Mary Bassenden in Westwell.  On their marriage records they are recorded as William Whytehead and on some records as Mary Baperden. I have recently found William Whitehead’s being born in Kent in 1734 and 1747 and to me these are looking a bit more likely date-wise but I’m still not sure of the facts yet.

Their children are recorded in the parish records as  William Whytehead b. 1770, Stephen Whytehead b. 1772,  and James Whytehead b. 1775.  A daughter Lucy was born in 1778 but her mothers name is given as Elizabeth, so whether something had happened to Mary? There is a Mary Whitehead who dies in Kent in 1777. So if this does happen to our Mary the time lines up right. The spelling has changed by this stage to Whitehead, or they got a change of Minister filling out the parish records.

Around this same time, Sir Frederick Morton Eden wrote in ‘The state of the poor; or, an history of the labouring classes in England, that the people of Westwell in 1795 were living on a diet consisting mainly of milk, bread, potatoes, tea and cheese.  Very little meat if any was eaten, little beer and no butter.  On the 20th September 1812  William’s death was recorded in Westwell Kent with him recorded as a Whitehead.


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