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For some years now, Steven Baldock has been researching his family connections and publishing his findings on the website: Baldock Fagg family.

He recently made contact regarding William ‘the supposed smuggler in his family’ and kindly sent one of the most valuable pieces of information we could ask for: The Last Will dated 31st October 1812 giving elaborate details of William’s estates, accumulated wealth and how this should be shared among family and other relations. (William died in the December.)

The value of Last Wills and Testaments cannot be overestimated. They not only provide an audit of what assets have been accumulated by an individual, they also give valuable insights into family affairs and relationships.

Steven has spent some considerable time transcribing the Will and chasing the family ancestry across one of the most complex family trees in Kent. The Baldock heritage is complicated by that tradition of sons and daughters being given the names of their grandfathers, fathers, uncles and aunts which can easily lead to compounding individual profiles. Also, the Baldock name probably covers a number of unrelated families from different counties.

(Baldock is a well-established old Kent name. The vicar of Reculver in 1594 was thus called, and the name was represented in Aylesford at the end of the 17th century. During the last century there were memorials to the Baldock family in Denham Church, and a hundred years later there were Baldocks in Canterbury; the name is also represented in Notts and Baldock is a parish in Herts named after Robert de Baldak.)

A true gentleman of Kent

William Baldock died one of the richest men in England with a portfolio of properties stretching across Kent and surrounding counties. We’ve taken the properties mentioned as bequests in the Will dated October 1812 and mapped them onto Google. Here you can see how far his property portfolio stretched and how conveniently it traces the routes of the Seasalter Smuggling Company, landing cargoes at Seasalter then making their way to London:

(Click on any marker to read details of the bequest and the beneficiary. If you have additional information concerning any of these properties and their history please make contact.)

In a rare newspaper mention, he is described as ‘that grand old gentleman of Petham’ which begs the question, what were the reasons for choosing a small village such as Petham for retirement?

Gentleman of Petham, brewery owner, race-horse owner, entrepreneur

Gentleman of Petham, brewery owner, race-horse owner, entrepreneur

Another question concerns his role as the inheritor and main architect of the Seasalter Smuggling Company. How did he operate and manage it? We can see from details of his life and the trustees of his will that he mixed with influential men. To what extent did these powerful men know about the fraternity of free traders? Another key question is his connection with Dr Isaac Rutton and what that might have been? It is a valuable free-trade network that William is offered by Dr Isaac Rutton’s two sons on the death of their father. Why him and what did they gain from the handover?

These are some of the questions that have emerged and thanks to a recent series of emails from Steven Baldock and the Will itself we have some valuable insights about the family and its connections. (For anyone interested in old Kentish family names his blog provides some intriguing insights and useful historical notes.)