Welcome – or farewell!

…depending on whether you’ve just landed on this site, or have come to the end of the story.

If you’ve just arrived, please start by reading the page About this blog. Then go to the first post in the series, which can be found here – and follow the story chronologically by working your way forward.

Alternatively, you can use the search box at the top of the page to look for particular people, families, places or events.

If you’ve come to the end of the story, you may want to read the next stage in the story of my ancestors, which can be found here.

Summing up: a brief family tree

To sum up the story told in this blog, here’s a brief family tree covering five generations and nearly two hundred years. My direct ancestors’ names are in bold.

William Byne of Burwash, Sussex (d. 1559) was one of three brothers. He married Joan and they had five children:


Edward (d. 1611)

Anthony (d. 1590)

Symon (d. 1616)



Edward Byne married Agnes Fowle (d. 1626)

Agnes was the daughter of Magnus Fowle of Mayfield (d.1595) and Alice Lucke

Magnus was the son of Gabriel Fowle of Southover (d.1555)

Gabriel was the son of Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst


Edward and Agnes Byne had six sons:

Magnus of Framfield (d. 1647)



Stephen (1586 – 1664)

John (1589 – 1615)

James (1593 – 1594)


Stephen Byne married Mary Manser

Mary was the daughter of John Manser of Wadhurst (d. 1598) and Jane Snatt (b. 1569)

John was the son of Robert Manser of Hightown, Wadhurst (d. 1592)

Robert was the son of Christopher Manser of Hightown (d. 1545)

Christopher was the son of Walter Manser of Hightown

Walter was the son of Sir Robert Manser of Hightown (alive in 1483)


Stephen and Mary Byne had six children:

Elizabeth (1614 – 1639)

Magnus (1615 – 1671)

John (b. 1617)

Mary (b. 1620)

Edward (1623 – 1682)

Stephen (b. 1632)


Magnus Byne married firstly Anne Bantnor, formerly Chowne, née Wane (1611 – 1662), the daughter of William Wane, and they had five children:

Mary (1641 – 1643)

Edward (b.1643)

Ann (1643 – 1662)

Stephen (1647 – 1674)

John (1651 – 1690)


Magnus Byne married secondly Sarah Bartlett, daughter of John Bartlett, and they had three children:

Anna (b.1663)

Magnus (b.1664)

Sarah (b. 1666)

And to bring the story up to date:

John Byne married Alice Forrest (d. 1738). Their daughter Mary Byne (1683 – 1765) married Joseph Greene (1677 – 1737), and their daughter Mary Greene (b. 1710) married John Gibson (1693 – 1763). Elizabeth Gibson (1733 – 1809), the daughter of John and Mary, was married twice: by her second husband Joseph Holdsworth (d. 1795), she had a son William Holdsworth (1771 – 1827) who married Lydia Evans (d. 1830). Their daughter Eliza Holdsworth (1801 – 1885) married Daniel Roe the elder (1800 – 1838). Their son Daniel Roe the younger (b. 1829) married Mary Ann Blanch (1827 – 1870), and they had a son Joseph Priestley Roe (1862 – 1947) who married Eliza Bailey (1863 – 1959). Joseph and Eliza’s daughter Minnie Louisa Roe (1902 – 1987) married George John Londors (1896- 1961) and their daughter Joyce Alma Londors (b. 1933) married Peter Ernest Robb (b.1933): they are my parents.


The children of Magnus Byne

My 9th great grandfather Magnus Byne (1615 – 1671), rector of Clayton-cum-Keymer in Sussex, fathered six children that we know of. By his first wife Anne he was father to Mary (1641), Edward and Ann (1643), Stephen (1647) and John (1651). By his second wife Sarah he was father to Anna (1663), Magnus (1664) and Sarah (1666).

Mary Byne died in 1643, at the age of two. Ann died in 1662, at the age of nineteen. I’m not sure what became of Anna. It seems likely that she did not survive to adulthood, since there is no mention of her in later wills. Sarah survived until at least 1674, when she would have been eight years old, since she is mentioned in the will of her older brother Stephen; but I can find no further trace of her.

20060623 Whatlington church 8

Parish church of St Mary Magdalene, Whatlington, Sussex (via whatlingtonintq7618.blogspot.co.uk)

Of Magnus’ four sons, only one remained in Sussex. According to Walter Renshaw’s history of the Byne family, Edward Byne was married twice. His first wife Bridget was the widow of Reuben Jeffery of Whatlington, near Battle. They were married in 1679 and had three children: Magnus (1680), Stephen (1683) and Edward (1684). Edward’s second wife was named Mary and they had four children: Elizabeth (1692), Henry (1695), John (1697), and Anne (1700).

Edward appears to have perpetuated the Byne family’s reputation for religious controversy. He was churchwarden at Whatlington, where he is said to have had ‘serious difficulties’ with the rector, John Dodderidge, to the extent of creating a disturbance during divine service and resorting to ‘rude speech and actions’, as well as taking away two of the church bells, as a result of which he was excommunicated. There was also the issue of non-payment of tithes, and it seems that litigation between Edward Byne and Dodderidge lingered on until 1704.

cropped-panlondon-1630 copy

London from Southwark (Anglo-Dutch School c. 1630)

As I relate on my Citizens and Cousins blog, Magnus Byne’s other three sons – Stephen, John and Magnus the younger – all moved to London and pursued diverse professions. Stephen Byne became an upholder, or upholsterer, at Tower Hill, marrying Rebecca, daughter of citizen and joiner Thomas Whiting, and having one child – Thomas – before Stephen’s early death in 1674, at the age of twenty-seven. His brother John Byne also lived and worked at Tower Hill, as a stationer. He married Alice Forrest, daughter of haberdasher Thomas Forrest and they had five children: Alice (1676), John (1679), Mary (1683), Magnus (1685) and Thomas (1686). John, who was my 8thgreat grandfather, died in 1690 at the age of forty-eight. Magnus Byne’s youngest son Magnus became an apothecary in Southwark, marrying Jane Dakin, daughter of cheesemonger Joseph Dakin, in 1690. Magnus and Jane had at least fifteen children, most of whom died in infancy, though their sons Joseph and George and daughter Elizabeth seem to have survived into adulthood. The date of Magnus’ death is uncertain.

Much more information about the London lives of Stephen, John and Magnus Byne, and their descendants, can be found at Citizens and Cousins: the story of one family in early modern London.

John Bartlett: a radical bookseller in seventeenth-century London

In the last post I wrote about my 9 x great grandfather Magnus Byne (1615 – 1671), rector of Clayton-cum-Keymer in Sussex, and his quarrel with the Quakers. I suggested that Magnus’ dislike of the sect was typical of Puritan clergymen of his time. Although we have no direct evidence of Magnus Byne’s Puritan leanings, there are a number of indirect factors pointing in that direction. One is the fact that his brother Edward, also a clergyman, was a Puritan activist. Another is that Magnus’s first wife Anne, my 9th great grandmother, was previously married to John Bantnor, his predecessor at Clayton. In 1605 Bantnor’s father, also named John, the rector of Westmeston, was presented in court ‘for that he doth not say the letany, nor ten commandments; neither does he in baptisme signe with the signe of the Crosse, but with the sign of the Covenant; neither doth he weare the surplice.’

Yet another piece of evidence is that Magnus’ second father-in-law was a radical Puritan bookseller. Magnus’ first wife Anne died in March 1662 (by today’s calendar), leaving Magnus with a daughter Anne, who would die a year later at the age of nineteen, and three sons, Stephen, Edward, and John, my 8th great grandfather. Six months after Anne’s death, Magnus Byne married for a second time. Walter Renshaw’s history of the Byne family tells us that Magnus’ second wife was Sarah Bartlett, daughter of John Bartlett, citizen and stationer of St Faith’s in the City of London. According to Renshaw, the allegation for the marriage was dated 23rd September 1662 and it was to be solemnized at Lambeth or St Mary-le-Bow.


17th century bookshop (via https://isomslist.files.wordpress.com)

I’ve yet to find a record of the marriage of Magnus and Sarah. There’s no mention of it in the parish register of St Mary, Lambeth for 1662, and the records of St Mary-le-Bow appear to be incomplete for this period. Nor have I found a record of Sarah’s birth or baptism. Indeed, despite the helpful information provided by Renshaw, I struggled at first to discover anything about her father John. However, after some creative searching online, I eventually managed to find out a good deal about John Bartlett, and it appears that he was a significant and controversial figure in the religious and political conflicts of early seventeenth-century England.

Renshaw tells us that John Bartlett took up his freedom of the Stationers’ Company on 26th July 1619. The term ‘stationer’ is slightly misleading: John was also a printer and bookseller. Indeed, a useful outline of his life and work appears in a dictionary of printers and booksellers who were active between the years 1641 and 1667. Apparently, on finishing his apprenticeship, John Bartlett opened a shop at the sign of the Gilt Cup in Goldsmiths’ Row, Cheapside, where he remained until 1637. In 1641 he had premises at St Austin’s Gate and in 1643-44 he was in the parish of St Faith’s. In 1655 Bartlett was in new buildings on the south side of St Paul’s, while two years later he had moved to St Paul’s Churchyard. A year after this, he could be found at the sign of the Gilt Cup in Westminster Hall.

William Laud

It would appear that John Bartlett published mostly sermons and other theological works, with a decidedly Puritan bias. In 1637, during the Personal Rule of Charles I, he was caught up in Archbishop William Laud’s persecution of religious dissidents and brought before Sir John Lambe ‘on a charge of having given William Prynne’s servant some of the writings of Dr Bastwick and Mr Burton to be copied’. Another source claims that Bartlett was tried in the Court of High Commission on two charges: the first for trading in ‘schismatical’ books, including works by William Prynne, John Bastwick and Henry Burton, all of them Puritan propagandists, and the second ‘for receiving the Scottish news and causing severall copies to be written thereof’. ‘Scottish news’ refers to the Covenanters’ campaign against the King’s religious laws, a struggle that aroused a good deal of support among English religious radicals (see this post).

William Prynne

The same wave of persecution that swept up John Bartlett dealt harshly with the authors that he published: the three mentioned above were convicted of seditious libel and had their ears cut off and their cheeks branded. Perhaps Bartlett was fortunate to escape with the punishment that was meted out to him. He was ordered to shut up his shop, and when he did not immediately comply, he was imprisoned in the Compter or local prison in Wood Street in the City of London for three months, ‘until he had entered into bond of £100 not to use his trade in Cheapside, to quit his house within six months, and not to let it to anyone but a goldsmith under a penalty of £600.’ Apparently he was later brought before the Privy Council on the Archbishop’s warrant and sent to the Fleet Prison for six months.

John Pym

John Bartlett fared better in later years, when the Puritan cause was in the ascendant. In 1641 the ‘Long Parliament’, led by John Pym, passed a bill of attainder against one of King Charles’ closest advisers, Thomas Wentworth, Earl Of Strafford, a process that ended in the latter’s execution on 12th May. On the previous day, this order was published:

It is this day ordered in ye Comons House of parliament that mr hollis give order tht the Argumt it made in Wesminster hall touching matter of Law in the case of the Earle of Strafford, And that Pym give the like order that his speeches at the beginning & ending of ye tryall of the said Earle of Strafford be likewise printed  And ye printer before he disperse any copies is to bring a copie of ye case to mr Sollicitor & Mr Pym & a copie of mr hollis’s Argument & Mr Pyms Speeches … And order is to be taken that the speech which is printed … under mr Glynnes name may be suppressed, & the printer punished.  And ye Mr and wardens of ye Company of Stationers are required to attend the house to imploy their best Endeavors accordingly.

The order is signed ‘H. Elsing’: Henry Elsing was Clerk of the Commons. There is a note beneath indicating that ‘Hollis’ (probably Denzil Holles) appointed ‘John Bartlett Stationer and none else’ to print his ‘Argument’.

Later that same year, under Pym’s leadership, Parliament published what became known as the Grand Remonstrance, a list of its grievances against the King. This was one of the key events precipitating the Civil War that broke out in the following year. Once again, and probably on account of his religious sympathies, John Bartlett seems to have been Parliament’s printer of choice for this important text. A parliamentary record for 9th July 1649 includes the following: 

Ordered, That the Committee of Revenue be required and authorized forthwith to pay unto John Bartlett, Citizen and Stationer of London, Twenty-five Pounds, for Twenty thousand Remonstrances, of the Second of May 1642, printed for the Service of the State: And that the Acquittance of the said John Bartlett shall be a sufficient Discharge for the same to the said Committee. 

Bartlett petitioned Parliament again in September 1653, in the time of Cromwell’s Commonwealth, this time for compensation of losses suffered due to his imprisonment under Charles I (emphasis added):

Relief of Creditors.

Mr. Anlaby reports further Amendments to the Bill for Relief of Creditors and poor Prisoners: Which were twice read: And several of the said Amendments were put to the Question; and agreed.

Resolved, That the Allowance for the Commissioners for London be Two-Pence in the Pound.- 

The humble Petition of John Bartlett, Citizen and Stationer of London, was this Day read.-

A Clause was tendered to this Bill, in these Words: viz. “And it is Enacted, That all Persons that lie in Prison, or that have done any Wrong by Colour of ShipMoney or by Order of the Council Board, in the Time of the late King, whatever there hath been recovered, that their Lands and Estates shall be liable to satisfy the Persons wronged, with all Damage and Costs, although the same, or any Part thereof, hath been conveyed away to their Children, or any others, since the Wrongs done: Which was twice read.

According to the dictionary of booksellers and printers cited earlier, John had a son, John Bartlett the younger, who followed him into the bookselling trade and who also had a stall at Westminster Hall in 1657, though perhaps this was jointly managed for a time by father and son. John Bartlett senior seems to have died some time between 1657 and 1660, so he would have been dead for a few years when his daughter Sarah married Magnus Byne in 1662.

Parliament in the 17th century

Magnus must have been fully aware of his father-in-law’s religious activities, and one can’t imagine him marrying into the family unless he shared John Bartlett’s opinions to some degree. So this new information goes some way to confirming my suspicion that my Sussex ancestors were Puritan sympathisers and almost certainly supporters of Parliament’s cause in the Civil War.

In the last post I suggested that Magnus Byne may have met his second wife Sarah through the London printing and bookselling contacts that he made in the course of publishing his book attacking the Quakers. But there’s another possibility. Although I have yet to find any definite records for Sarah or her father in the Sussex parish registers, there is a concentration of Bartlett baptisms at this period in Burwash, where Magnus was born, and even closer to home in Keymer, the village that was paired with Clayton as part of the parish of which he was rector. Perhaps John Bartlett was born in Sussex but made his way to London as a young apprentice. This would anticipate the path trodden by at least two of Magnus Byne’s own sons. It seems highly likely that my 8th great grandfather John Byne, who also became a London citizen and stationer, gained his introduction to that trade, if not from his controversial step-grandfather, then perhaps from his son, John Bartlett the younger, perhaps as his apprentice.

‘The scornful Quakers answered and their railing reply refuted’

In the last post I summarised what I’ve been able to discover about the unusual life of  Anne Byne, the first wife of my 9thgreat grandfather Magnus Byne. Magnus was rector of Clayton-cum-Keymer in Sussex during the years of the Civil War and Cromwell’s Commonwealth.

It was in the 1650s, during the Commonwealth period, that Magnus Byne achieved a degree of fame – or notoriety, depending on your point of view. In 1656 he published a book attacking the Quakers, who were then a new and fast-growing dissenting sect. The Scornfull Quakers answered and their railing Reply refuted by the meanest of the Lord’s servants Magnus Byne was printed in London ‘by William Bentley for Andrew Crook at the sign of the green Dragon in Paul’s Church-yard’. In the same year that he printed Magnus’ book, William Bentley was involved in a case concerning his right to print Bibles, which he claimed were ‘being for the fairnesse of the print, and truth of the Editions generally approved of to be the best that ever were printed’. According to one source, Bentley ‘enjoyed the favour of the interregnum government’ and specialised in political and religious works, ‘printing very few texts of imaginative literature’. As for Andrew Crooke, he has been described as ‘one of the leading publishers of his day’, issuing significant texts of English Renaissance drama and producing important editions of works by Ben Jonson and Sir Thomas Browne.

The cover of Magnus Byne’s book

Magnus Byne’s diatribe seems to have been prompted by a personal encounter with two Quakers, Thomas Lawcock and Thomas Lawson. As Magnus states in his preface:

I had some dealing by conference and by questions and answers and replies on both sides. As concerning their questions propounded to me in writing I gave them but a brief answer not minding to make anything public unto the world knowing mine inability to come forth in print in the midst of such a variety of judgements abroad yet receiving a reply from Lawson full of lying and railings and evil surmisings I was pressed in my spirit to give some satisfaction unto my friends.

The book is composed in question-and-answer form and contains a good deal of personal invective, as well as intricate theological argument. In his opening address ‘To the Reader’, Magnus Byne encourages his conrtemporaries to be ‘sober and quiet in spirit’ and practise ‘moderation’, and to beware of ‘men abused by the old Dragon’ (i.e. the Devil) who ‘seek to make void the Law of God’. He continues:

And among all the vanities which I have seen under the Sun, take heed of the two foolish, blind, mad, generations of Ranters and Quakers: The former of which I have seen the Lord scatter, and appear in great wrath to consume, rebuking the evil Spirit in them, and laying them open to their shame among their enemies: The latter of these I have had some dealings with, and finde them more furious and raging than all that have gone before them; and notwithstanding all their shew of holinesse, wisdom, humility, temperance; yet, by a little dealing with them, I finde nothing but impurity, folly, pride, madnesse, even to admiration and wonder, in all their doting questions, fowl mouthed answers, vain janglings, railing accusations, even as if Satan had left all others, and brought all his power along with him, to fill their hearts and tongues with all manner of blasphemies and evil speakings against all others, but their own deluded party.

Magnus tells the following story concerning the visit of the Quaker Thomas Lawcock to his own part of the country:

Take one passage of a great Prophet of their own, one Tho. Law-Cock, who, meeting at one Goodman Matthews house neare me, was called aside by the woman of the house, of good report, but almost turned a Quaker; to whom the woman in kindnesse said, Sir, will you eat something which I have provided? The Quaker replied, What shall I eat with Devils and Dogs? and pointing to a Dog, There’s thy Companion, thy fellow-creature, of the same nature with thy self, (saith the Quaker) and shall I eat with thee a Devil, a Dog? And was not this a good argument at the first meeting to perswade the woman to be a Quaker? And when the woman began to reply something to excuse her great sin of asking this man of God (as he calls himself) to eat, he opens his box again, and calls her Whore and Harlot; and was not this another good argument to perswade her?

Byne then proceeds to a theological dispute with Lawson, based on arguments that the latter put forward at ‘one meeting with some Baptists’, which Magnus obviously attended, since he continues:

Further, at the same meeting, when I was present, and beginning to lay upon his folly, (the Quaker exhorting to meeknesses and silence, and the like, but presently falling a railing, cursing, and roaring against Priests and hirelings) I asked him in patience how the speeches could hang together, we must be meek, calm, quiet, but he must roar and rage?

In reply, Lawcock railed against Magnus, calling him ‘a beast, and the like’ and ‘a belly-god’ and speaking ‘against the priesthood’. Byne then moves on to another Quaker, Thomas Lawson, arguing that the latter contradicted the teaching of his companion Lawcock: ‘Here’s no harmony you see amongst Quakers, but Quaker against Quaker, one against another’. Magnus reports that the two Quakers ‘propounded to me in writing’ a number of questions, to which he provided brief answers, ‘yet receiving a reply from Lawson, full of lying and railings, and evil surmisings, I was pressed in my spirit to give some satisfaction unto my friends of these mens folly and madnesse, as also of mine own experiences in the dealings of God with me, so far as concerns the matter in hand’. Hence the book that follows, whose arcane theological arguments I won’t attempt to summarise here.

An early Quaker meeting in London (via Wikipedia)

Thomas Lawson was a former clergyman and noted botanist who gave up his living after hearing George Fox preach and joined the Quakers. We know that he and Lawcock were among the preachers who first brought Quakerism to Sussex in 1655, and that the latter was gaoled in Horsham in the same year after causing a disturbance in church and describing the vicar as the Antichrist. Magnus Byne’s publication prompted Lawson to write a reply, also published in 1656, the shorter version of whose title is The Lip of Truth opened against a Dawber with untempered Morter, A few words against a book written by Magnus Byne, Priest in the county of Sussex…   This book was printed for Giles Calvert (a prominent radical bookseller who sold many Quaker tracts, despite not being one of their number) ‘to be sold at the Black Spread-Eagle at the west end of Pauls.’ None other than George Fox, the Quakers’ founder, also responded to Byne’s accusations in his 1659 publication, The Great Mystery of the Great Whore unfolded, and AntiChrist’s kingdom revealed unto destruction.

With historical hindsight, mainstream Puritan intolerance and persecution of Quakers, which particularly in the colonies of New England often took a violent and punitive form, is difficult to comprehend. However, to Puritans, whether Anglican or Congregationalists, Quakers were quite simply heretics. What’s more, they were by no means the mild-mannered pacifists of modern Quakerism: Magnus Byne’s account of the Quakers’ disruptive and often violent tactics is echoed in other contemporary accounts.

It may have been through his contacts in the publishing world that Magnus Byne met his second wife, Sarah Bartlett, the daughter of a radical London bookseller. He married Sarah in September 1662, his first wife Anne having passed away in March of that year. Magnus and Sarah would have three children together – Jane in 1663, Magnus in 1664 and Sarah in 1666 – before Sarah’s death in 1669/70. Magnus himself would die in the following year and was buried at Clayton on 3rdMarch 1670/1.

In the next post, I’ll have more to say about the life and controversial career of Sarah’s father – and Magnus’ father-in-law – John Bartlett.

Anne Byne: scenes from a clerical life

The title of George Eliot’s novel– slightly adapted in my heading – seems singularly appropriate to the life of my 9th great grandmother Anne Byne, the first wife of  Magnus Byne. Her life story is noteworthy, not because of anything she actually achieved, but because of its peculiar circumstances. To put it in a nutshell: Anne spent all fifty years of her life at the rectory of Clayton-cum-Keymer in Sussex, first as the daughter of one rector, and then as the wife of no fewer than three of his successors.


The village of Clayton, Sussex

Anne’s life coincided with a period of dramatic change in English history. Born in 1611, in the eighth year of the reign of James I, the year in which the Authorised Version of the Bible was published and Shakespeare’s The Tempest and The Winter’s Tale were first performed, Anne was a young woman when Charles I was king, brought up her children during the tumult of the Civil War, and died a year after the Restoration of the monarchy. 

Birth and background

Anne was the daughter of William Wane, who was already rector of Clayton when she was born, and his wife Joan. William Wane was born at Westerham, Kent in 1561, in the third year of the reign of Elizabeth I. He was ordained deacon on 28th May 1598 and priest on 24th June in the same year. Having served briefly as the curate of Wivelsfield, Sussex, he was appointed rector of Clayton-cum-Keymer. In his history of the Byne family, Walter Renshaw writes that William Wane was instituted to the rectory at Clayton on 9th December 1601, ‘on the presentation of Queen Elizabeth “ratione defectus liberatione Thomae Whiting generosi”‘, and inducted on 1st January 1601/2. He continues:

Some difficulty connected with the title to the advowson existed at this time, as on 25th November, 1601, Sir Edward Michelborne wrote to Sir Robert Cecil stating that he claimed the patronage. In 1603, however, Sir Edward was returned as being the patron. Thomas Whiting was closely related to Sir Edward Michelborne.

Edward Michelborne of Clayton (c.1562 – 1609) was a soldier, adventurer and Member of Parliament who was implicated in the the Earl of Essex’s rebellion of 1601. However, this note by Renshaw is particularly interesting to me because of the other name mentioned: Thomas Whiting. It may be mere coincidence, but this was also the name of the father-in-law of Stephen Byne, Magnus and Anne Byne’s eldest son, who would hold the advowson for Clayton for a time after his father’s death. Thomas Whiting was a London citizen and joiner who helped to prepare pageants for the Lord Mayor’s show in 1659, 1660 and 1662, and in 1661 worked on the entertainments for the coronation of Charles II. He also played a part in the rebuilding of the church of St Edmund the King, Lombard Street, and in the design of Brewers’ Hall, both of which replaced buildings destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.

Anne Wane was christened at Clayton, presumably by her father, on 2nd March 1611. I haven’t found evidence of any other children born to William and Joan Wane. According to one source, in 1606/7, William ‘was in trouble with the Court on account of his relations with a woman named Ellenor Poulter’, though the exact nature of those ‘relations’ and its impact on his family and his position remains unknown. He died in 1626, in the second year of the reign of Charles I, and was buried at Clayton on 22nd September. I don’t know when Anne’s mother Joan died, but I have reason to believe that she predeceased her husband.

First husband 

In the early decades of the seventeenth century, the advowson for Clayton-cum-Keymer passed through a number of hands before being purchased by John Batnor, the puritanical and possibly deranged rector of Westmeston, just a few miles to the east of Clayton. In his will of 1624 Batnor entrusted the adowson to four people, including ‘my unnaturall and undutifull sonne’ Richard, and stated his wish that the post of rector should be conferred on his son-in-law Henry Cooper, the husband of his daughter Joan. However, this hardly reflected any confidence in Cooper, whom Batnor commanded ‘upon danger of a curse from God to continue incumbent of the said living […] sincerely preaching the sacred word of God without any fantasticall conceits or divelish brethings’. Batnor’s will went on to abuse his other sons, noting that John, the eldest of them, ‘on 15th July, 1623, cursed me with a bitter curse calling me hellhound and challenging mee to be worse than the divell for the divell loved his own’. One can only speculate as to what life in the Batnor household must have been like.

clayton church interior

Interior of Clayton parish church, Sussex (via englishbuildings.blogspot.

Renshaw informs us that, on John Batnor senior’s death in 1626, the probate was revoked by sentence: ‘it is in charity to be hoped on the grounds of the testator’s insanity’. The result was that the advowson of Clayton devolved upon John Batnor junior, who took up the post in September 1626, arriving in the parish just six days after William Wane’s funeral. The younger John Batnor had been born in Westmeston in 1595/6, became a deacon in 1618, and was ordained as a priest on 18th December 1625.

On 9th July 1628, a little under two years after his arrival in Clayton, John Bantor married Anne Wane. He was about thirty years old at the time, though she would have been only seventeen. It’s possible that John Bantnor found the orphaned Anne living in the rectory when he arrived, and took responsibility for her, marrying her when she reached an appropriate age.

I’ve found christening records for two children born to John and Anne Bantnor. A daughter named Anne was baptised at Clayton on 17th May 1631, while a son named Thomas was christened there in 1635. John Batnor died in 1638 when he was about 42 years old. Anne would have been about 27 at the time.

Second husband

The next incumbent of Clayton was William Chowne, who was instituted as rector on 17th July 1638. He was the eldest surviving son of Thomas Chowne Esquire of Alfreston and his wife Rachel Campion, and grandson of Sir George Chowne, who had been the Member of Parliament for Rochester in 1593. Rachel was the daughter of William Campion of Camberwell and the sister of Sir William Campion, the Royalist leader who would be killed during the Siege of Colchester in 1648. Some sources suggest that William Chowne was the person of that name who went up to Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1625 and was later a fellow of St John’s College.

Sir William Campion (via Colchester and Ipswich Museums)

Four months to the day after his arrival in Clayton, on 17th October 1638, William married the widowed Anne Bantnor née Wane. Perhaps, like his predecessor, he found Anne living in Clayton rectory on his arrival there, possibly with two young children (we know that her son Thomas, at least, survived to adulthood), and felt moved to take them under his wing.

I’ve found a baptismal record for a William Chowne, born to William and Anne and christened at Clayton on 5th October 1639. Sources tell us that this child died in infancy, though he was still alive when his father William made his will in May 1640, since a number of properties were bequeathed to him and his mother Anne. William Chowne senior was buried at Clayton on 10th June 1640, just two years after his arrival in the parish, leaving Anne a widow for the second time. 

Third husband

Six weeks later, a new rector arrived in Clayton, fresh from his curacy in Wadhurst. This was Magnus Byne, my 9th great grandfather, and destined to become Anne’s third husband. Magnus was inducted to the rectory of Clayton-cum-Keymer on 24th July 1640. He was 25 years old, four years younger than Anne. On 12th August 1640, ‘Magnus Bines’ (sic) and Anne Chowne were married at the church of St Saviour, Southwark.

I’m intrigued by this choice of location. There seems to be a longstanding association with Southwark on the part of both the Byne and Manser families (Magnus Byne’s mother Mary was born a Manser). Magnus’ youngest son, also named Magnus, would later live in the borough, close to the Marshalsea (and thus to St Saviour’s), working as an apothecary. John Manser, the second son of William Manser of Hightown, was said to be ‘of Southwark’ at the time of the Visitation of Sussex in 1633-4.

But the connection with Southwark, and particularly with its parish church, goes back further than that. Magnus Byne’s grandfather, Edward Byne of Burwash, married Agnes, the daughter of Magnus Fowle of Mayfield. As I’ve written before, Magnus was the son of Gabriel Fowle of Southover, Lewes, who died in 1559. One of Gabriel’s brothers was said to be Bartholomew Fowle, the last prior of St Mary Overy, Southwark, which he was forced to surrender at the Dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. The priory church would later become the parish church of St Saviour, and later the Anglican cathedral of Southwark.


Magnus and Anne Byne had five children together over the next decade or so, coinciding with the period of the Civil War. Despite the Royalist connections of Anne’s previous husband, there seems little doubt that the Byne family, like most of the people of Sussex, were supporters of the Parliamentary faction (though, of course, many families had divided loyalties during the war). As we’ve seen, Magnus Byne’s brother Edward, also an Anglican minister, was a notorious Puritan controversialist when he was at Cambridge in the 1640s, and after Anne’s death, Magnus would marry the daughter of another prominent Puritan (to be discussed in a future post).

Magnus and Anne Byne’s daughter Mary was baptised at Clayton on 29th July 1641 but died in infancy and was buried there on 26th August 1643; their daughter Ann was baptised there on 18th January 1643 but died at the age of twenty in 1662/3; their son Stephen was born in 1649; Edward was next, though the exact date of his birth is unknown; and John (my 8th great grandfather) was baptised on 11th March 1651/2.


Anne Byne died at the age of 50 and was buried at Clayton on 11th March 1661/2, a little less than a year after the Restoration of the monarchy under Charles II. There may have been an epidemic or outbreak of plague in the area at the time, since Thomas Bantnor, Anne’s son from her first marriage, was buried at Clayton three days later; he was 26 years old. In his will Thomas named his half-sister Ann Byne as his executrix, but she died a year after him, being buried on 7th February 1662/3; she was nineteen years old.


What are we to make of the strange circumstances of Anne Wane’s life? The fact that she was married to three successive rectors of Clayton seems to be evidence that, before the modern era, women were regarded as a superior kind of property. When John Bantnor, William Chowne and Magnus Byne each in turn became rector of Clayton, it appears that Anne literally ‘came with the territory’, and marrying her was almost a condition of their appointment.

Nor, it seems, was this a unique case. Adrian Tinniswood’s book about the Verneys, a prominent seventeenth-century family, includes the story of the newly-appointed rector of a Buckinghamshire parish, who was unable to take possession of the rectory because the former incumbent’s widow refused to move out. After protracted but unsuccessful negotiations, he solved the problem by marrying her. Did something similar happen in the case of my ancestor Anne Wane? And does that mean that none of her marriages, including her last marriage to my 9th great grandfather Magnus Byne, were for ‘love’? Or does Anne’s story emphasise the futility of trying to impose modern notions on people living in very different times?

It’s frustrating that we don’t have access to my 9th great grandmother’s side of the story. Did she insist on remaining in the rectory when her father, and then her first two husbands died, like the woman from Buckinghamshire mentioned above? Perhaps the marriages were actually her idea, a way of securing a home for herself and her children, rather than something that was imposed on her? There’s no way we can ever know.

Magnus Byne: a life in turbulent times

In the last post I wrote about Edward Byne, one of two sons of my 10thgreat grandparents, Stephen Byne and Mary Manser,  to serve as Anglican clergymen. The other was my 9th great grandfather Magnus Byne. Unlike Edward, whose peripatetic career would take him from Cambridge to Surrey and Devon, Magnus spent the whole of his clerical career in his home county of Sussex, and most of it in one rural parish.

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Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in the 17th century (via en.wikipedia.org)

Magnus was born in Burwash, Sussex, in 1615, in the twelfth year of the reign of King James I and the last year of the life of William Shakespeare. He was the second of the Stephen and Mary Byne’s six children, and their eldest son. While Magnus was still a child, the Mayflower sailed to the New World and Charles I succeeded his father as king.

On 31st June 1631, when he was sixteen years old, Magnus Byne was admitted as a student at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, a foundation known for its Puritan leanings. However, as far as we know, Magnus’ time at Cambridge was not marked by the kind of controversy that surrounded his younger brother Edward, who would arrive in the city eight years later. Magnus graduated as a Bachelor of Arts in 1634 and proceeded to the degree of M.A. in 1638.

St_John_the_Baptist's_Church,_Clayton,_West_Sussex_-_Churchyard_and_South_Side copy

Parish church of St John the Baptist, Clayton, Sussex (via en.wikipedia.org)

Magnus Byne was licensed to the curacy of Wadhurst, a few miles to the north of Burwash, on 9th December 1639, at the age of twenty-four. Just seven months later, on 24th July 1640, he was inducted to the rectory of Clayton-cum-Keymer, some thirty miles to the west. Later that year, King Charles was forced to recall Parliament as the result of a Scottish invasion, and in the following year there was insurrection in Ulster and the first stirrings of civil war in England.

In the Middle Ages the parish of Clayton-cum-Keymer had been closely connected with the Priory of St Pancras in Lewes, which held the advowson, and the parish church of St John the Baptist, Clayton is famous for its medieval wall paintings, the work of the Priory’s monks, which were uncovered in the nineteenth century.

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Medieval wall painting in Clayton parish church (photography by Michael Garlick via geograph.org.uk)

Magnus’ predecessor as rector of Clayton-cum-Keymer was William Chowne, another graduate of Emmanuel College, who had died in June 1640. Curiously, on arriving in Clayton, Magnus inherited not only William’s position, but also his wife, Ann, whom he married less than a month after taking up his post. Even more remarkably, Ann was the widow of not one but two rectors of Clayton, and the daughter of a third, and had spent her entire life in the rectory. In an odd way, it could be said that she came with the property.

So remarkable is Ann’s life story, at least to modern sensibilities, that I’ll devote the next post to telling it, before proceeding with her husband Magnus’ biography.

Edward Byne, Puritan minister

In the last post I wrote about John Byne and Stephen Byne the younger, two of the sons of my 10thgreat grandparents Stephen and Mary Byne, both of whom remained in rural Sussex and maintained the family tradition by earning their living as yeoman farmers. However, the Bynes were sufficiently wealthy – and sufficiently devout – to send two other sons to Cambridge to study for the Anglican priesthood. One of them was my 9thgreat grandfather Magnus Byne, who will be the subject of the next post. The other was his younger brother Edward, whose biography sheds some light on the religious affiliations of the Bynes, and on the turbulent times in which they lived.

Edward Byne was admitted to Peterhouse, Cambridge, on 5th June 1639. One source claims that he was eighteen years old at the time, but this contradicts the information we have about his christening at Burwash on 2nd December 1623, which suggests he would actually have been sixteen. (His older brother Magnus had been of a similar age when he entered Emmanuel College eight years earlier.) Renshaw’s history of the Byne family states that Edward was described at the time as ‘Londoniensis’, i.e. of London, and speculates that this might be because he had been at school there. Renshaw suggests that he might be the ‘Edward Bynes’ registered at Merchant Taylors’ School in 1629, or the ‘Edward Bines’ found there in 1632. We know that the Byne family had an association with Merchant Taylors: Edward’s brother Magnus would send at least one of his own sons there, and two of his grandsons would attend the school in the 1690s.

Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

Edward Byne arrived in Cambridge three years before the outbreak of the Civil War and his career at the University reflects the religious and political upheavals of the period. Although he began his studies at Peterhouse, at some point Edward migrated to Trinity College, where he gained his bachelor’s degree in 1644. He would eventually proceed to a Master’s degree at a third college, Gonville and Caius, but for a time he was refused this award because, according to a source quoted by Renshaw, ‘being only B.A. contrary to the laudable custom of the University he preached in the town, and in his preaching delivered divers things derogatory to the Scriptures’.

The precise nature of those ‘divers things’ remains unclear, but we can infer from other sources that Edward Byne’s sympathies were most definitely Puritan. Although Cambridge University had previously been largely royalist in its sympathies, with a vocal minority of Puritan fellows, the Civil War brought about a fundamental change. According to one source:

In January 1644 a parliamentary ordinance entrusted the regulation of the University to [the Earl of] Manchester, who was to appoint a committee to eject those deemed unfit for their places, and to sequester their goods. He was also to take special care to enforce the Covenant. This inquisition resulted in a large number of ejections, and almost all the colleges suffered severely. […] The colleges which suffered most heavily were Peterhouse, Pembroke, Queens’, Jesus, St. John’s, and Trinity, where all or most of the fellows were turned out, and most of the others lost a considerable number […] The vacant places were filled by men approved by the Westminster Assembly of Divines and appointed by Manchester. No one, it was decreed, was to be admitted to an office in a college without a certificate that he had taken the Covenant.

The Covenant – otherwise known as the Solemn League and Covenant – was the law proclaiming the religious union of England and Scotland under a Presbyterian system of church government. It was ratified by Parliament in August 1643:

In January 1644, the Army of the Covenant marched into England against the Royalists. Parliament decreed that the Covenant was to be taken by every Englishman over the age of eighteen. Although no penalty was specified, the names of those who refused to sign were to be certified to Parliament. Signing the Covenant became a prerequisite for holding any command or office under Parliament.

Edward Byne obviously had no difficulties with signing the Covenant, since at about this time he was ‘intruded’ as a fellow of Caius. The process of intrusion was the means by which religiously-approved appointees were imposed on a parish or other institution. Edward was also a ‘morning lecturer’ at the college in 1645 – a title that itself betrays his Puritan leanings, since these were posts that emphasised the pre-eminence of preaching over ritual. In 1646 he was appointed college registrar and in 1649 he was the rhetoric praelector. Meanwhile, Manchester’s committee continued to eject ‘scandalous’ fellows who refused to sign the Covenant and who were also thought to be guilty of other ‘misdemeanours’. Finally, in 1649, following the execution of the King, the President of Caius, Thomas Batchcroft, a committed royalist, was himself expelled, and it fell to Edward Byne to deliver the order. Moreover, it was Edward who initially took Batchcroft’s place as college president, even though he was a recent graduate. As one source puts it, ‘this would naturally cause much friction and annoyance in college.’

list of Cambridge alumni has Edward Byne as a fellow of Caius until 1652, though Renshaw claims that from 1649 he was (also?) a minister of the Cathedral Church at Ely, ‘in respect of which he received by way of augmentation or stipend for three months up to 25 December, 1649, the sum of £30 under orders of the Plundered Ministers’ Committee’.

Renshaw omits to mention a number of Edward Byne’s clerical appointments. Apparently he was rector of Shere in Surrey in 1651. According to Renshaw, Edward married Martha, only child of John Radford or Redford of Bermondsey, Citizen and Merchant Taylor, and his wife Joan. I’d failed to find anyone by this name in the Bermondsey area, but there was a John Redford living in Shere in the 1620s who seems to fit the bill, though I’ve yet to find a record of Martha’s birth. It’s possible that Redford moved to Bermondsey later. It’s impossible to determine whether Edward met Martha Redford as a result of his appointment to Shere, or whether the appointment came about due to a prior connection with the family. According to some sources, Edward and Martha were married in 1652.

Parish church, Pyworthy, Devon

The list of Cambridge graduates notes that Edward Byne moved to the rectory of Upton Pyne, near Exeter in Devon in 1655, remaining there until 1660, before moving about fifty miles westwards to Pyworthy. It seems that a minister by the name of John Kellond was expelled from Pyworthy in about 1651, to be succeeded by another by the name of Legate, followed by a certain Michael Taylor. The latter was himself ejected at the time of the Restoration, since he would not conform under the Act of Uniformity. According to an admittedly partisan source:

Mr Kellond it seems, did not return to this Living but resign’d it to Mr Edward Byne, of whom there is a very indifferent Character given […] viz. that he never administered the Sacrament during the whole Time of his Abode at Upton Pyne. And that he gave up the Living to Mr. Hall, on the Restoration; and immediately after became Rector of Pyworthy; how honestly is another Question.

The implication of this account is that Edward Byne was one of those who ‘conform’d for Benefices’ at the Restoration. This rather undermines the impression of Edward as a principled upholder of evangelical purity, and suggests rather that he bent with the prevailing wind. Alternatively, it could just be that his opinions had mellowed with age, and the accusation cited above might have been motivated by understandable resentment and disappointment on the part of those who were ejected. It’s also unclear whether his failure to administer the sacrament (i.e. holy communion) at Upton Pyne was out of a principled Puritan hostility to the notion of sacraments – or the result of straightforward laziness.

Whatever the truth of the matter, the Bynes remained at Pyworthy. From 1663 Edward was also vicar of Linkinhorne, across the county border in Cornwall, though whether he retained the benefice of Pyworthy simultaneously is unclear. Renshaw notes that, in 1674, ‘having become infirm’ he arranged for William Herring to serve as curate at Linkinhorne, an arrangement that continued until Edward’s death on 6th February 1683.

Edward and Martha Byne had six children, all of them apparently born in Devon. They were Edward junior, born on 26 October 1653 in the Cathedral Close in Exeter; Martha; Mary; Francis, born in 1665; Henry; and John. In his will Edward Byne devised the advowson (the right to appoint an incumbent) of Linkinhorne to his son Francis. He also bequeathed property in ‘Well Alley in Wapping’ to his wife Martha for the maintenance of Francis at university, and afterwards to his daughter Martha, whose married name was Gliddon. Edward’s widow Martha made her own will in 1687, which included bequests of land in the parish of St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey, which I assume was inherited from her father John Redford. The theory that Edward Byne was a lazy or lax clergyman receives some support from a clause in Martha’s will that exonerates her executors from any costs or damages for or by reason or meanes of any dilapidations permitted and suffered by the said Edward Byne my late Husband to be done and committed in and upon the Viccarage House of Linkinghorne in the County of Cornwall’.

Francis Byne followed his father into the Church. He graduated from Exeter College, Oxford, in 1688, and became vicar of Linkinhorne in 1690, in which post he remained until his death in 1724.

Two sons of Stephen and Mary Byne

My 10th great grandparents Stephen Byne and Mary Manser of Burwash, Sussex, had six children –  two daughters and four sons – all of them born in the later years of the reign of King James I or the early years of the reign of his ill-fated son Charles. As mentioned in an earlier post, one of their daughters, Elizabeth, who was born in 1613, married Gregory Markwick but died at the age of 26, while their other daughter Mary, who was born in 1620, seems to have remained unmarried. Remarkably, for a family of yeoman farmers, two of their sons, my 9thgreat grandfather Magnus (1615 – 1671) and his brother Edward (1623 – 1682), studied at Cambridge and entered the Church. Their lives will be the subject of later posts.


Countryside near Burwash (via bandbchurchouse.co.uk)

Stephen and Mary Byne had two other two sons, John and Stephen the younger, both of whom followed in their father’s (and indeed their grandfather’s and great grandfather’s) footsteps and became yeoman fathers. My principal source for what follows is Walter Renshaw’s history of the Byne family.

John Byne, who was baptised at Burwash on 2nd May 1617, was Stephen and Mary’s third son. He married Elizabeth, the widow of Simon Coney of Burwash. Renshaw deduces this from a Chancery suit in which John and his wife Elizabeth were plaintiffs and John Polhill of Tunbridge and John Coney were defendants.

Simon Coney died in 1648 and his widow Elizabeth’s marriage to John Byne seems to have taken place shortly after this date, when John would already have been in his thirties. The Coneys were another old Sussex family whose lives intertwined with those of my ancestors in a number of ways. For example, Simon was probably a close relative of Mark Coney, who married Ellen or Helen Byne, sister of the Anne Byne who married Christopher Manser (see previous post), and of Elizabeth, the third wife of Magnus Byne of Framfield, the brother of Stephen Byne.

John and Elizabeth Byne had five children: Stephen, baptised at Burwash on 14th April 1650; Mary, baptised there on 28th December 1651; John Byne, christened on 24th April 1657 and buried on 15th September 1659; Edward Byne, baptised on 12th September 1661; and Anne, buried there on 15th May 1680.

John Byne made his will on 20th April 1662, leaving a property in Burwash called Woodlands to his son Stephen, and another called Herrings Mead, which he had inherited from his uncle William, to his son Edward. He directed that his executors should sell his houses in Burwash Town ‘and use the money arising thereby for the educating and bringing up of my two daughters Mary and Anne.’ John appointed his brother Stephen as his executor and the will was proved at Lewes on 5th May 1662, which means that John predeceased his father, Stephen Byne senior, by two years. His widow Elizabeth was buried at Burwash on 15th February 1689.


Burwash churchyard

Stephen Byne the younger, the fifth son of Stephen and Mary Byne, was also a yeoman of Burwash and was married twice. His first marriage was to Ann Peckham, daughter of John Peckham of Framfield. She was buried at Burwash on 17th January 1678. Stephen’s second wife, whom he married on 19th October 1678 at Maresfield, was Alice Heathfield of Burwash. Like his father before him, Stephen was a churchwarden at Burwash, in the years 1670-72.

By his first wife Ann, Stephen Byne had three children: Magnus, baptised at Burwash on 11th April 1672; Anne, baptised there in 1674; and Mary. By his second wife Alice, Stephen had four children: Alice, baptised at Burwash in 1681 and buried there on 10th February 1734; Stephen, baptised on 14th February 1684; William; and John, baptised on 9th February 1690.

Stephen Byne the younger made his will on 14th October 1691, directing that all his lands, both copyhold and freehold, should be sold, and requesting his loving friends John Polhill and Stephen Coney (see above), both of Burwash, to aid and assist in the sale. Stephen left sums of money to his children and to his wife Alice, whom he appointed as executrix of his will. Stephen Byne was buried at Burwash on 17th November 1691.

‘When the Queenes Maiestye is satisfied’: John Manser of Wadhurst (d.1598)

In the previous post I wrote about the early generations of the Manser or Maunser family of Hightown, Wadhurst, in Sussex. My 10thgreat grandfather Stephen Byne of Burwash married into this family in 1612, when he took as his wife Mary Manser, daughter of John Manser of Wadhurst, a younger son of Robert Manser of Hightown. Our knowledge of the earliest generations of the Manser family is heavily dependant on the pedigree to be found in the record of the Heralds’ Visitation of Sussex. Since we have no other independent sources, we have to assume that this information is accurate. However, when we move on to later generations, for which there are alternative sources, relying on the heralds becomes more problematic.

For example, both extant versions of the pedigree are clear that the son and heir of my 13thgreat grandfather Christopher Manser was Robert Manser, and that he married Joan Rootes of Marshalls, which I think was in Uckfield. However, Wace’s 1923 history of Wadhurst claims that Robert married ‘a Fowle of Rotherfield’. The Rotherfield Fowles were related to my own Fowle ancestors, who were originally from Lamberhurst.

Then again, one version of the heralds’ pedigree, reproduced in Walter Berry’s edition of 1830, gives Robert two surviving sons: William, the eldest, who inherited Hightown and married Mary Fowle, daughter of Nicholas Fowle of Rotherfield, and John, my 11th great grandfather. Another account of the Heralds’ visitations, published in 1905, states that William Manser’s wife Mary was in fact the daughter of Thomas Hobden of ‘Burrish’ (Burwash); that John Manser lived in Southwark and married Mary Cole; and that Robert Manser also had a daughter Mary who married Thomas Scotson. However, I believe that this version of the pedigree mistakenly transposes information from the next generation: John Manser of Southwark and Mary Manser who married Thomas Scotson were (as Berry has it) the children of William Manser of Hightown, not his siblings. My fellow researcher Bill Green also believes that, if William did indeed marry Mary Fowle (and not Mary Hobden), then she was the daughter of Anthony Fowle, not Nicholas.

Countryside near Wadhurst, Sussex (via argus.co.uk)

This confusing picture is made all the more bewildering by the information to be gleaned from the 1592 will of Robert Manser of Hightown, for a copy of which I’m grateful to another fellow researcher, Ed Rydahl Taylor. In his will Robert identifies himself clearly as ‘of Hightown’, confirming that he was indeed the son and heir of Christopher Manser, who in his will of 1545 bequeathed ‘all my landes and tenements’ to his son Robert. At the time that he made his will, Robert apparently had five surviving sons: Robert, Thomas, George, John and Abraham. There is no mention of a son named William. We also learn that Robert Manser junior had a son of his own, also named Robert, who was not yet of age. Besides his sons, the only other witness to Robert’s will was Jane Snatt. We know that this was the maiden name of the wife of Robert’s son John Manser of Wadhurst (the father of Mary, who married Stephen Byne), which suggests that they were not yet married in 1592, though perhaps they were already engaged.

Despite his absence from Robert Manser’s will, it would appear that his eldest son William did indeed inherit Hightown and that he had three children: Nicholas, who was his son and heir, and who married Elizabeth Hepden in Rye in 1609; John, who was of Southwark and who married Mary, daughter of Benjamin Cole of Aston in Lewes in 1615; and Mary who married Thomas Scotson in 1604.

My ancestor John Manser of Wadhurst appears to have been the second youngest son of Robert Manser of Hightown, with his younger brother Abraham the last to be born. John was probably born in about 1570 and married Jane Snatt in the early 1590s. The Snatts were a family of yeoman farmers in Rotherfield, about eight miles west of Wadhurst. According to one pedigree, a William Snatt was born there in 1561, the son of John and Jane Snatt. His younger sister Jane was born in 1569. William Snatt died in 1637; there is no reference in his will to a sister named Jane Manser, but she may have predeceased him.

John and Jane Manser’s daughter Mary married Stephen Byne in 1611, so would need to have been born by the early 1590s. Mary’s brother Christopher did not marry until 1621, so was probably still quite young when his father John died in 1598. John Manser of Wadhurst made his will on 26thDecember 1597. It was proved in the Peculiar Court of South Malling on 27thApril 1598, ‘in the fortieth yeare of the raigne of our soveraigne Lady Elizabeth’. We learn from the will that ‘the Queenes most excellent maiesty’ had an ‘extent’ – a writ giving a creditor temporary ownership of a debtor’s property – out of John Manser’s lands in Burwash ‘of four pounds by the yeare’. John decrees that ‘when the extent is quit payed and discharged to the queens maiesty’ and ‘when the Queenes Maiestye is satisfied’, then his overseers – his brother Abraham Manser and brother-in-law William Snatt – are to ‘pay and discharge…the sum of forty pounds’ owed to John Fawkner of Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire.

It appears that the Fawkners were a family with branches in both Sussex and Northamptonshire. A man named John Fawkner made his will at Waldron, Sussex, a dozen miles or so south of Wadhurst, in 1589. He mentions two sons named John: ‘the younger’ and ‘the elder’. Could one of these be the John Fawkner of Higham Ferrers? John Fawkner senior was an iron master and a tenant of the Gage family – he left his best horse to ‘my good friend Mr Gage of Bentley’ – who were prominent Catholic recusants. According to Michael Questier, Fawkner was involved with Gage in interrogating the suspected protestant ‘heretic’ Richard Woodman, who was burnt at the stake in Lewes during the reign of Queen Mary.


Mottynsden today (via rightmove.co.uk)

One of the most intriguing things about Fawkner’s will is his reference to his property Mottingsden or Mottynsden in Burwash, which he bequeaths to his son John ‘the younger’. Some decades later, this property would be in the hands of the Manser family. In his will of 1681 John Manser, the London apothecary who was a neighbour and second cousin of my 9th great grandfather, Aldgate stationer John Byne, left Mottynsden to his son Abraham. We gather from the will that John Manser’s late brother Nicholas also had an interest in the property. This means that Mottynsden must have been left to the brothers by their father, Christopher Manser, the son of John Manser of Wadhurst. It was probably included in the ‘lands lying in Burwashe’ left to Christopher and his heirs by John Manser in 1597.

So Mottynsden must have passed from the ownership of John Fawkner the younger to my ancestor John Manser some time between 1589 and 1597, unless of course Christopher Manser acquired it in some other way after his father’s death. This connection makes it more likely that the John Fawkner of Higham Ferrers named in John Manser’s will had some link with the Fawkners of Waldron. I’ve been unable to discover any more about the reason for the ‘extent’ taken out by the Crown against John Manser, or about the nature of the agreement between John Manser and John Fawkner. The only other Crown extent that I’ve come across from this period relates to fines imposed or recusancy, such as those taken out against the Ashburnham family, with whom my ancestor Magnus Fowle seems to have been connected in some way. On the other hand, a later ancestor of mine, my 6th great grandfather John Gibson, had an extent taken out against him by the Crown as a result of his conviction for fraud.

The marriage of John Manser and Jane Snatt must have lasted just a few years – just long enough to give birth to their children Mary and Christopher – before John’s early death in 1597. Jane Manser would only have been about 29 years old when her husband died, leaving her with two young children still at home, though I’ve yet to find any record of a second marriage. As already noted, one of those children – Mary – would marry Stephen Byne in 1612, and they were my 10thgreat grandparents. The other – Christopher – also married into the Byne family. His wife Anne, whom he married in 1621, was the daughter of a certain John Byne, whose precise relationship with my own Byne ancestors I’ve yet to determine. A document of 1630 describes a land transaction between Christopher and his wife Anne on the one hand, and their brother-in-law Stephen Byne, concerning property bequeathed to Anne by her late brother Thomas.

As for the children of Christopher and Anne Manser, the information we have about their children is gathered from a number of sources and may be of varying reliability. Apparently their daughter Mary was baptised at Burwash on 4th December 1625. I believe their son John was born in the early 1630s; Jane was baptised at Burwash on 29th June 1645; Anne was probably born shortly before or after this, as was their son Nicholas; Deborah may have been baptised at Burwash on 29th October 1648; and Abraham may have been born in about 1650.  As already mentioned, John Manser would move to London, where he worked as an apothecary, while his brother Nicholas appears to have lived at Mottynsden.