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The Henn Family of Paradise, County Clare, Ireland
Part 1: The Early Lineage

Where did the Henn family spring from? The ‘Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland’ by Sir Bernard Burke, Ulster King of Arms, 1868 (reproduced as an Appendix to Professor T.R. Henn’s ‘Five Arches’) states that:

“The family of Henn, one of English origin, has been settled in the County Clare for nearly two centuries. The name was originally Hene, subsequently Henne, and lastly, about the year 1865, the final ‘e’ was dropped, leaving the name as it is spelt at the present day. Henry Hene, a distinguished Englishman, was Lord Chief Baron of Ireland, in the reign of Charles II and James II and a Commissioner of Forfeited Estates for the Counties of Clare and Galway.

The Lord Chief Baron was descended from the English line as ancient as any of which there are authentic records. The name is to be found in the ‘Doomsday Book’, vol. 1, p.28. Title ‘Subsexe XIII. Tena Willide Braisse in Birbece hynd Rodulf ten de Willo Hene’, and to this family belonged a baronetcy, now extinct, created by James I, anno 1642.

Henry Hene, Lord Chief Baron of the Irish Court of Exchequer, is stated to have been nephew to Sir Henry Hene, the 1st Baronet, being the son of his elder brother William, who was himself the eldest son of Hene Esq of Barking in Surrey.”

At my first attempt (some years ago) to construct a Henn “family tree” I was mystified by this reference to Barking in Surrey since I was unable to discover any place by that name in that county. The puzzle was solved by chance when Jeanne Law (godmother to our daughter Frances), then living in Dorking in Surrey, happened to mention that Henns featured prominently in the 16th and 17th Century local records of that place. Were they, she asked, our relations? When I replied that our family was reputed to have come from Barking in Surrey but that I did not know where this was, she exclaimed that the old name for Dorking was Darking. I then realized that at some point, perhaps due to a simple typographical error, Darking had become Barking.

“On her behalf Vivien Ettlinger, a member of the Dorking and Leith Hill District Preservation Society, ten undertook some research, stating in a preliminary letter:

It would appear that [the Henn family] turned up in Dorking sometime in the middle of the 16th Century. There is no indication of where they came from or what their line of business was; as far as Dorking is concerned it may just have been property investment. Obviously whatever it was successful as William the Elder gradually acquired some of the prime property around the town centre and his sons were able to assume the status of Gentlement, Henry even going on to a knighthood.”

In a further letter dated 1st May, 1986 she wrote:

“I have now gleaned the following information on the Henn family from Manning & Bray’s ‘History of Surrey’, published in 1804 and not guaranteed for accuracy although fairly reliable, and partly from ‘Surrey Archaeological Collections’.

According to Manning & Bray the Henn (or Hene) family came from Wales [Note: there is a suspicion that the family arrived in Wales from Brittany] and settled in Dorking, probably in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603). William died in 1618 aged 86. His son, Henry, described in ‘Heralds’ Visitation Book for Berkshire’ in 1665 as aged 88 of Foljambe Park, Wingfield, was created a baronet by Charles I in 1642. He was succeeded in the title by his son, said to be aged 33 in 1665, who married the daughter of Sir John Corbet and had several sons, one of whom, Henry, predeceased him and was buried in Dorking in 1689 aged 37. The second Sir Henry died in 1705 and was succeeded by his grandson, Henry’s son Richard, who inherited some land in Dorking which he sold in 1710 and died without male issue, the title becoming extinct. In ‘Surrey Archaeological Collections’, Vol. LX, page 58 there is a reference to the death of Henry Henn in a Court Roll for the Manor of Ockham in Surrey, dated 1663, and it is remarked that the family’s connection with Ockham ceased about 1750.

On the evidence that I have so far I have constructed a selected family tree incorporating the members of the family who may be relevant to the Irish descent. You will see that the rather conservative choice of Christian names can be confusing, although it is interesting to see how the same ones repeated again and again in the later family tree. They appear to be a long-lived but infertile lot!”

Vivien Ettlinger supported the above information with a large scale map of Land Ownership in Dorking in 1649 (not reproduced here), which shows that at that period a considerable number of properties in the town were owned by Henns. She also noted that in the 17th Century there were other Henns living in the neighbouring villages of Wotton and Abinger but that they had no obvious connection with the Henns of Dorking.

In so far as the earlier generations are concerned, I have constructed the Henn Family tree on the basis of the foregoing, taking as the starting point (and referred to as the 1st Generation) the “William of Dorking”, born about 1532, who married Anne Birch and died in 1618, aged about 86. Apparently there is no record of any Henns resident in Dorking in 1664 (the year of the Hearth Tax) so that, notwithstanding that one or more Henns may then still have owned some property in the town, presumably their children (the 2nd Generation) had moved elsewhere (for example, Henry, the 1st Baronet, to Foljambe Park, Wingfield, Berkshire). I surmise that it was the William of this 2nd Generation (married to Marye Graye in 1597), who moved with his wife and children to Ireland sometime before 1664 as part of the plantation of Charles II (1649-1685), thus becoming what were known as ‘the new English’ (Protestants) (as distinct from ‘the Old English’ (Catholics), who were the island’s earlier English colonists). And thus, I suggest, were the Henns of Dorking first established in Ireland. However, since the Paradise estate was not granted to the grandson Richard by the Earl of Thomond until 1685, it is not possible to say for certain whereabouts in Ireland the family resided until then (although it may be noted that William and Marye’s son Henry was appointed Lord Chief Baron of the Court of the Exchequer in Ireland by Charles II in 1679.

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Part 2