If you walk down the nave of the parish church in Worth, Kent you will find The Lady Chapel about half way along, on the right hand side. This was once known as the “Henderson Chapel”; there are plaques on the wall and a canopy on the ceiling commemorating several members of the family. Who were the Hendersons and what did they do?
The story starts with John Henderson of Middle Deal, born in 1759, and continues for three generations. John was a purser in the Royal Navy and had been awarded “prize” money following the capture of enemy ships, which was the custom at that time. In 1809/10 he invested some of those proceeds in land around Worth. He purchased two farms, Felderland and Upton (totalling approximately 270 acres) from Lord Cowper for £20,000 and added most of the land at Upton to Felderland and sold the remainder.
John Henderson of Middle Deal
He refurbished the farmhouse at Felderland and, instead of living there himself, he settled his son William to work the land on his behalf. During his lifetime, John gave the Upton land to William and, on his death in 1849, he left him most of Felderland. In the will, Worth is referred to by its old name of Word.
When he was twenty four, William married Elizabeth Friend the daughter of William and Sarah Friend from nearby Ash. The Friend family had land in lower Goodestone which the Hendersons farmed on their behalf for the next forty three years. William would have prospered initially because the years up to the end of the Napoleonic War saw high prices for agricultural produce. During this time their first two children, Sarah and John were born. But the years after 1815 became more difficult. Farming was to go through a major trough for twenty years and, on a more personal note, the parish records show that William and Elizabeth had at least two more sons, one in 1816 and another two years later, both of whom died within months of their birth.
Apart from farming William took a great interest in local affairs and was for some years Chairman of the Eastry Board of Guardians and a Commissioner of Sewers. He was a church warden for Worth parish and served on the parish council. He was also a Justice of the Peace for Kent at a time when deportation to Australia was a frequent punishment. In 1844 he handed the farming side over to his son, John, but continued to live in Felderland. The 1851 census has him and Elizabeth there with two unmarried servants (Harriet Smith and Fanny Lott both 24 years old). At the time his brother, Admiral George, was visiting him. He lived there until his death in the spring of 1861 and is buried in Worth churchyard. Elizabeth died eleven years later at the age of 86 and is buried with him.