Some Pre-American Balches

From Genealogy of the Balch Families in America pages v - x. By Galusha B. Balch M.D. Published by Eben Putnam Salem, Massachusetts. Yonkers New York. 1897. Transcribed by Charles V. Balch 1997.

The earliest glimpse we have of the Balch family in Somerset is afforded in a tax roll of that shire made in 1327, the firs year of Edward III., the hero of Crecy, the father of the ;Black Prince, who there began his brilliant military career. It was toward the end of his reign that law pleading in England were firs permitted. The tax roll in which the Balches are inscribed in Latin and is thus headed: "Collecta XX me domino Ewardo teria, post conquestem Regi Angile concesse facta, per Johannnem de Clyvenon et Jonhannem de Erle, anno domini Regis primo."

The list includes all those in the county, worth 10 shillings or more, and among them are Willelmo Balch, Thrubbewelle, iiii s., Willelmo Balch, Purye, xii d., Roberto Ballch , Manerium de Wryngton, iii s., and others.

A gap of 168 years intervenes before we find the next mention of a Balch. In May, 1495, three years after the discovery of America by Columbus, Richard Balch died in Farnham, Surrey. He made his will in Latin on the 12th of that month, and it was proved in the prerogative court of Canterburry on the 27th. He diects his body to be buried in the ancient chapel of the blessed virgin Mary, within the parish church of St. Andrew of Farnham, next the body of his father. He leaves to Matilda, relict of William Balche, a tenement in which is living for the term of her life, and after her death to Nicholas Balche, son of the said William and Matilda. Other legatees are his wife Isabella, his daughter Florence [wife of Henry] Quynby, and John and Margaret Balch, children of William Balch before mentioned. In this document the name is spelled both with and without the "e."

There is nothing to connect the interesting family group thus faintly outlined with any earlier or later Balches in the West of England.

It will be observed that this was in the days when England was still Catholic, the authority of the Roman Pontiff was acknowledged, and ecclesiastical institutions were liberally endowed with lands.

I the declaration of the rental and possession of the chantries, colleges and free chapel in the county of Somerset, [Land Revenue Records, val. 97], is the numeration of those in the deanery of Crewkerne, was included, in 1528, the chantry of St. Katherine, within the parish church at Ilminster, founded by John Wadham, "esquire." There was no monastic establishment at Ilminster, but the manor belonged at the Abbey of Muchelney. The manor of Ilmister [the church of the river Ile] with the whole place., was given by Ina, King of the West Saxons, to the abbey of Muchelney, founded by King Athelstan in 939.

In 1528 its land and possessions wer "leased to farm for divers years and given for the fee or stipend of three chaplains or priests [John Rippe, Thomas Thorne and William Webbe] celebrating in the Ilminster parish church.

Among the tenants of these lands were a John and George Balche. The lease from the abbot reads in part as follows:

"All those messuges, lands, tenements, meadow pasture and feed, with their appurtenanecs, in the tithing of Winterhaye, in the parish of Ilmister, called Modies tenement , bi John Sherbourne, abbot, formerly of the monastery of Muchelney aforesaid, and the convent of the same place, leased to form to Henry Dawbeny, Kt., lord de Dambeny, Thomas Speke, Hugh Paulet, Nicholas Wadham, Jr., esquire, John Pool, Thomas Michell, John Battyn, clerk , John Bonvyle, John Balche, George Balche, John Chyke, his son, Thomas Hawker, John Barfote, John Radbere, clerk, by deed of the same abbot an convent, given in their chapter house, under the seal of the convent aforesaid, the third day of November, 1528"

This John and George may have been, and probably were sons of the William Balche who figures next in our chonology as being "of Higham"! Somerset, who died on the 20th of March, 1533, and as appears by the "inquisitio post mortem" taken at wells I is Somerset on the 8th of November, 1534, in the 25th year of the reign of Henry WIII. [the year in which popery was abolished in England], was a person who had acquired a large amount of landed property in the county. Hew was regarded as the founder of a family, and his name heads the family tree recorded in the Somerset visitation of 1623.

The inquisitio post mortem or escheat, was instituted to enquire, at the death of any man of fortune, the value of is estate, the tenure by which it was holden, and who was the heir, and of what age, thereby to ascertain the value of the "premier seizin," or the "wardship and livery" accruing to the king thereupon. The court of wards and liveries, which was instituted in the reign of Henry VIII., was abolished, with other feudal customs, on the restoration of Charles II. Some idea of the contempt into which the practice had fallen may perhaps be gathered from the fact that the word cheat is derived from eshceat.

The inquisition into the affairs of William Balche of Higham – which may have been the locality now known as High Ham – and which was conducted with a view, if possible, putting money into the coffers of the bluff King Hal, by Thomas Horner as escheator, states that William, at the time of his death was "Seized of 200 acres of pasture, 100 ,acres of Arable and 40 acres of meadow and 30 acres of woodland’ with the appurtenances, etc., in East Coker, etc. Held of Sir William Courtenaye, Knight, as the of his manor of East Coker, and the said William Balche died so seized after whose death the said pasture and land and meadow and wood with appurtenances, etc.; descend to John Balche as son and heir of the said William. And the said William was seized of one messuage, 20 acres of land, meadow and pasture, with its appurtenances, I Witencomb, in the county of Somerset, etc.; held of Robert Pike, as of his manor of Pykkeseighe, etc., also of the moiety of a messuage, 20 acres pasture, with its appurtenances, in Aldon, and 20 acres in Fydington, next Stokegursey, etc., held of Sir William Tarrant, as of his manor of Fydington, etc. all of which descended to John Balche, as above. The jurors found the said William Balche died 20 March, 24th of Henry VIII., and John Balch is the son and heir of said William , and is 36 years of age and more.

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