Kenny Story

Chapter Four

Jennings and Cuming Connections

by Grahame and Rosslyn Thom


The 1880 edition of Burke’s Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland has an entry on page 180 for Jennings of Hartwell.  What follows is based on that entry together with entries from the International Genealogical Index.

Martha Jennings who first married William Cuming and later William Kenny, was born on 15 October 1748 and baptised on 16 November 1748 at St John’s Church, Smith Square, Westminster, London, the daughter of Robert Jennings and Mary Ford.  This church was built in 1728 by Thomas Archer and still stands today but is now a concert hall.

Robert (born about 1707) and Mary possibly had twelve children

Mary Jennings        baptised 13 December 1736, at St Andrew Undershaft Church, London, and married Thomas Pearce,
nephew of the Bishop of Rochester, in October 1758 at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster, London.
Her father was described as the Deputy Auditor of His Majesty’s Exchequer.

Christian Jennings   baptised 3 April 1739, St Luke’s Church, Chelsea, London

Elizabeth Jennings   born 18 June 1741, baptised 13 July 1741, St John’s Church, Smith Square, Westminster, London,
died unmarried after 1779

Grace Jennings        born 28 June 1743, baptised 25 July 1743, St John’s Church, Smith Square, Westminster, London,
married William Hughes Vernon

Thomas Jennings    born 5 October 1744, baptised 31 October 1744, St John’s Church, Smith Square, Westminster, London,
a Captain in Lord Loudon’s Regiment, died young and unmarried

Anne Jennings        born 6 July 1746, baptised 27 July 1746, St John’s Church, Smith Square, Westminster, London,
married her cousin Charles Gibbes

Martha Jennings      born 15 October 1748. baptised 16 November 1748, St John’s Church, Smith Square, Westminster, London,
first married William Cuming (see below) of the Inner Temple, on 17 October 1776 at St John’s Church, Westminster.
At the time of this wedding her father was living at Cowley Street, Westminster. Martha married second to William Kenny

Robert Jennings      born 10 June 1750, baptised 13 July 1750, St John’s Church, Smith Square, Westminster, London,
took his father’s position when he died, married Miss Wheeler

John Jennings          born 5 December 1751, baptised 4 January 1752, St John’s Church, Smith Square, Westminster, London,
a Captain in the 30th Regiment, died young and unmarried

Frances Jennings     born 10 October 1754, baptised 8 November 1754, St John’s Church, Smith Square, Westminster, London,
married her cousin Captain Anthony Gibbes RN, on 5 February 1784 at St James, Westminster, London

Frank Jennings        who died young

Lucy Jennings         who married John Inge (see Chapter 6)

Robert Jennings and the descendants of his father Thomas, received the following grant of arms by the College of Arms, London, on 24 December 1760.

Arms – Ermine, three pole axes erect, azure, on a chief go, three bendlets, argent. (ermine = black spots on white, azure = blue, argent = white)

Crest – A demi-dragon, ermine, the wings elevated and erased, gules, holding a pole axe, as in the arms. (gules = red)

Motto – Il buon tempo verra (the good times will come)

Burke’s states that Robert had been appointed by his godfather Sir Robert Walpole, as Deputy Auditor of the Exchequer.  Sir Robert was Prime Minister from 1721 to February 1742 and died in 1745.  As can be seen later, Burke is incorrect and its likely that Robert was appointed because of the patronage of Sir Robert, to a lower position in the Exchequer prior to 1842.  The alternative was to purchase a position in the Civil Service.  At some time Robert became Chief Clerk and in October 1755 he was appointed Deputy Auditor by the Earl of Lincoln, Auditor of the Exchequer.

The Exchequer (or Treasury) at that time administered the Government’s financial affairs and included a Court that heard cases relating to financial matters.   The role of the auditor and deputy was to ensure that all transactions were legal and properly accounted for.  It would seem that the position of auditor was filled by a very senior member of the establishment and that the day to day responsibility was left in the hands of the deputy auditor.   The responsibilities of this position changed during the 1700’s.  The deputy auditor received most of his income by way of fees rather than salary.

The Civil Service was subject to scrutiny by the Parliament and in 1779 Parliament required each department to table an account of itself with the House of Commons.  These reports were later printed in the Parliamentary Register for 1782 and in relation to Robert, the report about the Exchequer dated 20 November 1780 revealed :-

Page 440 – The Exchequer

A list of the Auditor’s Clerks, with their yearly allowance, fees and gratuities, from Michaelmas 1779, to Michaelmas 1780. (includes 6 senior staff and 19 others)

Mr Jennings                                                                  pounds

Clerk of the issues                                                  20.00.0
For keeping the detinuae book                             100.00.0
Fees and allowances, as per lift given the
Commifsioners                                                     185.18.6
Gratuities from divers and perfons                         20.00.0    336.8.6

Paid to Mr Paddy (a lower staff member)               20.00.0
Land tax, and 6d duty                                             11.15.0    31.15.0

Remains                                                                                 304.13.6

Page 443

To the auditor’s firft clerk, now Robert Jennings, Efq,
for his extraordinary fervice, performed in the office
of the auditor of the receipt of his Majesty’s Exchequer,
on his allowance of 100l per ann.                                                  100.00.0

It is reasonable to assume that the first clerk had a local title of Deputy Auditor.   To receive over £400 per annum was clearly an indication that Robert was a senior civil servant, probably, as the auditor was not a civil servant, equivalent of the head of a department today.

As Robert senior was aged 72 years when he died in 1779 the Robert Jennings in the above Report was clearly Robert junior.  In July 1804, before the Old Bailey Court, Robert Aslett, a cashier of the Bank of England, was tried on the charge of embezzlement , in that he had “run away” with a number of Exchequer bills valued at many pounds.  The case against him was based on nominated bills and the council for defence was able to prove that the bills had not been signed according to law.  In other words Robert Jennings of the Exchequer had in the past been authorised by the Auditor to sign Exchequer Bills, but in relation to the Bills now before the Court, they were invalid because at the time, due to an oversight, Robert Jennings was not authorised to sign such Bills.  This resulted in the prisoner being found not guilty.

But Robert Aslett was again brought before the Court on 14 September 1804 on 18 charges.  The previous issue was overcome on the basis that the bills were not specifically Exchequer Bills.  This argument won the case and Aslett was found guilty and sentenced to death, although the decision was “respited”.  This means it was referred to another panel of judges and the decision may have been changed.

Robert senior, “of the Exchequer, Esquire” made a codicil to his will on 7 June 1779 and died soon after aged 72 years and was buried at Westminster Abbey.  He was described in his will as being of the Parish of St John the Evangelist, Westminster.  Probate was granted in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 9 September 1779 to his son Robert and his son-in-law Charles Gibbes as executors of his will.

Robert’s lengthy will is a good reflection of his position in life and his wealth as it sets out in detail bequests of significant sums to various people.

To his wife Mary all the household goods and furniture
To his sons Thomas and Robert equally all their father’s clothes
To his executors in trust to sell, his four properties at Hammersmith, Lambeth and Fulham (two) in order to provide for the following legacies
To his wife Mary £500
To his son Robert £550
To his daughter Christian £550
To his daughter Elizabeth £550
To his daughter Frances £550
To his daughter Lucy £550
To his son Thomas £50, less than the others as Robert had purchased his commission in the army
To his daughter Mary Pearce, widow of Thomas Pearce £50
To his brother Colonel John Jennings £100
To the father-in-law of daughter Mary, William Pearce 20 guineas
To his niece Mrs Ann Gibbes £20
To his niece Mrs Ann Jennings £20
To Mrs Sarah Langwith £20
To Mrs Grace Eastridge £20
To Mrs Jane Dunbar £20
To his executors £50 each in consideration of their task

Any remainder to be equally divided between son Robert, daughters Mary, Christian, Elizabeth, Frances, Lucy, Grace wife of William Hughes Vernon, Ann wife of Charles Gibbes and Martha wife of William Cumming (sic).

Robert’s will dated 17 December 1776 was witnessed by John Hughson, James Fisher and John Inge.  Robert’s codicil made on 7 June 1779 provided an additional £30 to his nieces Mrs Ann Gibbes and Mrs Ann Jennings, and to Mrs Sarah Langwith, Mrs Grace Eastridge and Mrs Jane Dunbar, and provided for his son Captain Thomas Jennings to be included in the division of the remainder.  Robert also stated that if William Pearce provided in his will a sum equal to that in his will to his daughter-in-law Mary Pearce, then Robert’s specific benefit is revoked, and if William Pearce provided to Mary Pearce a sum greater than Mary’s share of the remainder, then that provision is also revoked.  Witnesses were John Coghlan, William Griffiths and John Inge.

For some reason, on 8 November 1779, the Court recognised that Robert’s estate included annuities issued in 1762 and valued at £300 at 4% per annum.  The total of the specific legacies is £3820 which, using the UK National Archives currency converter, is about $A500,000 today (2015) although the four inner London properties are likely to be valued much in excess of that amount today.

We have not been able to find out anything about Robert’s wife, Mary Ford.

Robert’s parents were Thomas Jennings and Christian Chamberlain; Robert had brothers John and William, a Lieutenant Colonel in the 62nd Regiment.  Thomas and Christian lived at Curteen Hall, Hartwell, Northampton.  Burke’s states that Thomas “was the reputed illegitimate son of the unfortunate Duke of Monmouth, by a daughter of Sir John Jennings, whose family had been long attached to the court of King Charles.  Mr Jennings m(arried) Miss Chamberlayne (sic), a lady of ancient descent and large fortune, by whom he had a very numerous issue, who subsequently intermarried with the families of Lister, Gibbes, Hippesly, the Husseys of Scotney Castle and the Bracebridges.”

Christian, the daughter of Henry and Susan Chamberlain, was baptised on 8 April 1660 at St Stephen’s Church, Norwich, Norfolk.  The Chamberlains were a prominent family of Norfolk over many generations and lived at Hingham, Upton, Wymondham and Norwich.  A branch of the family left England in 1638 and settled in Hingham, Plymouth, Massachusetts.

John Jennings, the son of Sir John Jennings and Anne Brounker, married Alice Spencer, the daughter of Sir Richard Spencer of Hertfordshire.  He was made High Sheriff of Hertfordshire in 1626 and from 1628 to his death in 1642 represented St Albans in Parliament.  He was made a Knight of the Bath at the Coronation of Charles I on 1 February 1625.  It is said that Sir John and Lady Alice had over 20 children.  Being an MP, Sir John had an apartment at Whitehall and after his death in 1642, Lady Alice and her children remained in London.  This choice was probably assisted by their son Richard also being the member for St Albans.  Richard’s daughter Sarah became the wife of the first Duke of Marlborough and ancestors of Sir Winston Churchill.

Therefore it is possible that one of the many daughters of Sir John and Lady Alice Jennings had an affair with the Duke of Monmouth who was born on 9 April 1649 in Rotterdam, Netherlands, the illegitimate son of Charles II and Lucy Walter.  The Duke was made Captain General of the Army at the age of 21 years and gained a reputation as one of Britain’s finest generals.  On his father’s death in 1685 Monmouth led an attempt to take the throne from his uncle James II.  He declared himself King on 20 June 1685 at Taunton and lead his army into battle against the Duke of Marlborough at Sedgemoor on 6 July 1685 and was soundly defeated and later captured in Dorset.  The Duke was executed at the Tower on 15 July 1685.

In the 13th century, St John’s Hospital, London, was granted an estate at Hartwell, Northampton.  In the 16th century these lands came into the possession of Richard Wake of Hartwell.  In 1656 the estate was said to consist of a capital messuage, several closes of pasture and 81 acres in common fields, together with a cottage and seven closes totalling 71 acres in Hartwell.  Subsequently the estate was owned by Sir William Wake and in 1687 he sold the estate, by then heavily mortgaged, to Thomas Jennings of Forest Gate, Buckinghamshire.  In 1717 Thomas and his wife Christian sold the estate to the Earl of Halifax.


On 17 October 1776 the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser reported that “This morning was married, at St John’s, Westminster, by the Reverend Mr Winstanley, William Cuming, Esq; of the Inner Temple, to Miss Martha Jennings, daughter of Robert Jennings, Esq., of Cowley Street, Westminster.  They were married by licence issued on 4 October 1776.

William was a member of a wealthy family with connections to the Hon East India Company.  He was born in 1743 in London, the son of George Cuming and Susanna Dunn.  In 1759 he is recorded as being a writer with the Hon East India Company.  This was probably the start of his career with the Company,  He was first employed as a writer; the lowest of four classes of civil servants with his role being to copy documents and carry out book keeping.

William’s father, George became a Director of the East India Company in 1764, and served in that role till 1767, then again 1769 to 1772, 1773 to 1776, 1779 and 1785 until he died on 9 November 1787 at his home in New Broad Street, London.  George’s father William was a merchant in Edinburgh and died in 1758.

William junior made a will on 11 February 1775 at Fort St George, Madras.  It would seem that William had become wealthy and some time after making his will he returned to London possibly with the intention of finding a bride.  On 15 October 1776 he entered into a written obligation to pay Robert Jennings of Cowley Street, Westminster and his father George Cuming £8000 to share equally, with the obligation that they hold in trust £4000 in order to support to his intended wife Martha Jennings with the income from such sum, if William died after his marriage . After he married Martha on 17 October 1776, he made a new will on 29 December 1776.

This will states that all of his estate will be held in trust by Robert Jennings and George Cuming for the benefit of his wife Martha during her lifetime, then on her death, to be divided equally between their children.  If they have no children then his estate is to be given to his sister Mary. He also states he has equal affection for his brother George of Canton, China, and his sister Mary of New Broad Street, London.  The will does not appoint any person as executor and the witnesses were Robert Jennings junior and Charles Gibbes, a son-in-law of Robert Jennings senior.  It is likely that these legal steps were taken at the request of the Jennings family, as William and Martha were to live in India.

Robert Jennings senior died in London in 1779 and his son-in-law William Cuming died on 2 February 1781 (another document states the year as 1780) and he had no children.  The Gentleman’s Magazine states William was a “chief of a factory in the East Indies” when he died.   It is likely he died in Fort St George, Madras.

Martha then married William Kenny on 29 August 1781 in Madras and had their first two children there in 1782 (Anne) and 1783 (Eyre Evans) .

One could imagine that in those days it would have been very difficult to be closely involved in the administration of a deceased estate when part of the estate was in England and those involved lived in India.  It is likely that the appointment of George Cuming of London as executor of his son William’s will, on 4 May 1784, was of concern to Martha and her husband William Kenny, for they then took legal action.  It is difficult to fully understand this action from the documents found but the intent is clear in that the Kennys took action against the late William Cuming and the late Robert Jennings, in the Court of Chancery in London to protect their interest in William Cuming’s estate because of the 1776 obligation and will.

The Court of Chancery was separate from courts of law which were based on formal causes of action, in that decisions were made according to equity or fairness rather than according to the strict letter of the law.  Within the Court of Chancery, was the Six Clerks Office where suitors could be represented by one of the Clerks.  This is where Martha and William Kenny lodged papers taking action to resolve the complicated situation regarding William Cuming’s obligation and will.  Papers were lodged by interested parties and the Clerk would then seek a decision by a judge of the Court of Chancery on the face of the papers.

The Kenny papers reveal that in addition to Martha and William Kenny being involved, a David Marsh, a Major in the Army of Reading, Berkshire, was appointed as guardian to represent the interests of their children Anne and Eyre Evans Kenny.  Also, somehow, Eyre Evans Crowe, an uncle of William Kenny was involved.  Eyre Evans Crowe was the brother of William’s mother Eliza Crowe.

The documents indicate that many thousands of pounds were involved.  Without seeing the decisions, it appears their action was successful as Martha became the executor of her deceased husband’s will.  This role would have continued until her death in 1819.

In 1792 or earlier it would seem that Martha as executor of William Cuming’s will took some kind of legal action to claim about £222.  It could be that she took this action to remind the Cuming family of her continuing role.  This is assumed because William’s brother George Cuming, of Canton, China, lodged a plea through the Six Clerks Office in the Court of Chancery seeking intervention against Martha.  This relates to a bond worth £666/13/4 left by William Cuming senior, merchant of Edinburgh, in trust, with the income earned to go to his son George and daughter-in-law Susan during their lifetime, and after their demise the bond’s value to be divided equally to George and Susan’s three children, William, George and Mary.  It is likely that the action taken by George Cuming was successful as Susan Cuming, his mother, was still alive in 1792, and therefore still a beneficiary of the income earned by the bond.

When Martha died she was living in Holland Street, Kensington, London and passed away on 8 March 1819 aged 71 years.  She was buried in the nearby St Mary Abbott Church, Kensington, on 15 March 1819.

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Chapter Five

Eyre Evans Kenny