My 11th great grandfather, Edward Byne, a yeoman farmer in sixteenth-century Sussex, married my 11th great grandmother Agnes Fowle at Burwash in October 1575. Agnes was the only daughter, and indeed the only surviving child of Magnus Fowle and his wife Alice Lucke, who lived in the village of Mayfield, about nine miles north-west of Burwash. I’ll write about Alice and the Lucke family, and also discuss the life of Magnus Fowle, in later posts. But in this post, I want to summarise what we know about Magnus’ family of origin: the Fowles of Kent and Sussex. In doing so, I’m indebted to the pioneering work of my fellow researcher Bill Green in tracing the early history of the family.

Tower of St Mary’s church and treetops, Lamberhurst, Kent (via

Magnus was the son of schoolmaster Gabriel Fowle of Southover, near Lewes, who in turn was the son of Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst, a village on the border of Sussex and Kent. As I noted in the last post, my ancestor Edward Byne had some dealings with Lamberhurst’s most famous family: the recusant Darrells of Scotney Castle. There are records of the Fowle family in this area, and further into Kent, going back to the early fifteenth century, though making definite connections with my Fowle ancestors in Lamberhurst is difficult. What seems reasonably certain is that Gabriel Fowle, the father of Magnus and grandfather of Agnes who married Edward Byne, was the son of Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst who made his will in 1522/3, in the sixth year of the reign of Henry VIII.

Circumstantial evidence points to Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst being the son of William Fowle who made his will in 1487, in the second year of the reign of Henry VII, since that will mentions a son named Nicholas and there are a number of other points of connection between the two men. One of those connecting threads concerns the Pattenden (or Patenden or Patynden) family. For example, one of the witnesses to Nicholas Fowle’s will was a certain Walter Pattenden. He seems to have been the son of William Partynden of Bendenden, a village about ten miles to the east of Lamberhurst, with whom Nicholas Fowle had dealings in 1493, as reported in this record held at East Sussex Record Office: 

William Haler of Brenchley, Kent, to Alisaunder Culpeper, esq, Harry Darrell, gent, Nicholas Fowle, John Foule of Lamberhurst, Kent, and William Patynden, the younger, of Benenden, Kent  

Half of 2 messuages, 3 gardens, 15 pieces of land called Kyngewodys and Dungates in Lamberhurst 

Note the reference in this record to Harry or Henry Darrell of Scotney Castle, who was mentioned in the previous post in relation to a property transaction involving his sister, Helen Pelham, and my ancestor Edward Byne.

One of the witnesses to the 1487 will of William Fowle was Jacobus or James Pattyenden, who would make his own will a year later. William Patynden, the father of the Walter Patynden who witnessed Nicholas Fowle’s will, made his will in 1507. Interestingly, he ordained five marks to the marriage of Joan Fowle, daughter of Nicholas Fowle. As Bill Green notes, this suggests a marital tie between the two families, and it’s possible (though not yet proven) that Nicholas Fowle’s wife was born a Pattenden. The fact that Nicholas fails to mention a daughter in his will of 1523 need not concern us: she may have died in the intervening sixteen years.

The ruins of Combwell Priory, Kent (via

Further work needs to be done to establish the precise relationships between Walter, William, James and the other Pattendens for whom there are records. In the meantime, I came across an intriguing reference in the will of James Patynden, which might hint at another kind of connection between the Pattendens and the Fowles. James Patynden makes bequests to Thomas Pattenden, prior of Combwell, and the same man, ‘Sir Thomas Patenden Prior of Combewell’, is a witness to the will.

The Augustinian priory of St Mary Magdalen, Combwell, was five miles from Lamberhurst and about ten miles from Benenden. Thomas Pattenden was prior there from about 1480 until his death in 1513. In the year before his death, the priory was subject to a visitation by William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury. The account in the Victoria County History does not reflect very well on Thomas:

Archbishop Warham made a visitation of the priory in 1512. Thomas Patenden had been prior for thirty-two years, and there were six other canons, who stated in their evidence that the infirmary was in great need of repairs and nobody attended to the sick, who had to lie in the dormitory. They had not enough food and drink or clothing, the prior never rendered any accounts, and there was no teacher of grammar. The manors of Benenden and Thornham needed great repairs. John Lanny said that the prior and convent laid him under a debt of £40 in an obligation without any condition to two outsiders, now remaining in the hands of the minister of Mottenden, and arranged that the house should not be indebted by this. The prior said that the obligation was cancelled, and was ordered to show it to the archbishop; and he was also ordered to make a proper account and inventory, to make sufficient repairs to the infirmary before All Saints and to correct the other points mentioned. 

Thomas Pattenden’s successor as prior was a certain Thomas Vyncent. My ancestor Gabriel Fowle, son of Nicholas, would be involved in a Chancery case involving Hugh Vyncent in the late 1530s or early 1540s: were the two men related? Thomas Vyncent had the misfortune to be prior when Combwell was suppressed in 1536, though he was able to retire with an annual pension of £10. The site and possessions were granted in 1537 to Thomas Culpeper: perhaps a relative of the Alexander Culpeper with whom Nicholas Fowle had dealings in 1493? After Thomas Culpeper’s attainder (on what grounds is not made clear), Combwell passed in 1542 to Sir John Gage ‘in tail male’ . Gage, who lived at West Firle near Lewes, was the father-in-law of the Henry Darrell mentioned earlier. He held a number of important offices at court during the reigns of Henry VII and VIII and bore the train for Queen Mary at her marriage to Philip of Spain. Ironically, perhaps, given that he benefited from the dissolution of at least one monastery, he was a loyal Catholic and his descendants were noted recusants during Elizabeth’s reign.

Priory of St Mary Overy, Southwark, by Wenceslas Hollar

This connection with the Augustinian Canons is something that the Pattenden and Fowle families (and also the Lucke family, into which Magnus Fowle married) appear to have had in common. As we shall see, some sources claim that Bartholomew Fowle, the last prior of St Mary Overy in Southwark, was the brother of my ancestor Gabriel Fowle. Before moving to Southwark, Bartholomew had been a canon at Leeds Priory in Kent, with which Combwell seems to have had reciprocal ties, at least historically, as in this further extract from the above account: 

The prior of Combwell was visitor with the prior of Leeds of the Augustinian houses in the dioceses of Canterbury and Rochester in 1311 and 1317; and in 1353 the priory of Combwell was visited by the priors of Leeds and Tonbridge. 

In his will of 1522/3, my 14th great grandfather Nicholas Fowle appointed his wife Elizabeth and his son Gabriel as his executors. The will also makes reference to two other sons, Thomas and John, who both seem to have been older than Gabriel.

It should be noted that the information in Nicholas Fowle’s will contradicts other sources, including the pedigree in the record of the Heralds’ Visitations of Sussex. The latter source claims that Nicholas was the son of Thomas and Ellen Fowle, that his wife’s name was Joan and not Elizabeth, and that besides Gabriel, his other sons were William Fowle of Riverhall in Wadhurst, Bartholomew Fowle, the prior of Southwark, and Robert Fowle of Carshalton, Surrey.

Fowle family pedigree, from ‘The Visitations of the County of Sussex’ (via

Since the information in this pedigree chart about Nicholas’ marriage and his parentage appears to be inaccurate, there is good reason to be cautious about other aspects. However, we know for fact that, as set out here, Gabriel Fowle had a son named Magnus and that the latter had a daughter who married a man from Burwash, even if he was a Byne, and not a ‘Bird’, as stated here. And we know that there was a connection of some kind between the Fowles of Lamberhurst and those of Riverhall in nearby Wadhurst, who will feature in later posts.

As for the question of whether Bartholomew Fowle, the last prior of St Mary Overy,  Southwark, was one of my ancestors, I’ll explore that in the next few posts.