Reflections on the will of Nicholas Fowle of Wadhurst

In the previous post I reproduced my transcription of the last will and testament of Nicholas Fowle of Wadhurst, Sussex, who died in 1600. In this post I want to discuss what the will can tell us about Nicholas and his family.

Riverhall, Wadhurst, home of the Fowle family, in the 18th century, via

Riverhall, Wadhurst, home of the Fowle family, in the 18th century, via

Nicholas was the son of William Fowle of Rotherfield, who died in 1567, and his wife Margaret Godeyne. William was probably the ward of another Nicholas Fowle, who died in Lamberhurst, Kent, in about 1522, and who was my 14 x great grandfather (I’m descended from Nicholas senior’s son Gabriel Fowle of Southover, Lewes, via his son Magnus). Nicholas Fowle junior married Eleanor Isted some time in the 1550s. I’m particularly interested in Nicholas because I believe that one of his daughters married William (?) Maunser, the son and heir of another of my ancestors, my 12 x great grandfather Robert Maunser of Hightown. The Fowle and Maunser (or Manser) lines come together in my family tree in a later generation, in 1611, when Mary Maunser, daughter of Robert’s younger son John, married Stephen Byne of Burwash, son of Edward Byne and his wife Agnes Fowle, daughter of Magnus. Stephen and Mary Byne were my 10 x great grandparents.

The confirmation that one of Nicholas Fowle’s daughters did indeed marry a Maunser comes in a memorandum towards the end of his will, in which Nicholas declares that he has already ‘payde unto Mary Maunser my daughters daughter fiftye poundes of good English money, and John Maunser her brother Tenne poundes’. The accepted pedigrees of the Maunser family claim that William Maunser of Hightown married Mary, the daughter of Nicholas Fowle and that two of their children were named John and Mary. The former is supposed to have married Mary, daughter of Benjamin Cole of Aston, near Lewes, in 1614, and to have lived in Southwark; while the latter is said to have married Thomas Scotson of Malling, also near Lewes, in 1604. Why Nicholas Fowle’s will fails to mention his daughter’s eldest son Nicholas, who would inherit Hightown and who was evidently named after his grandfather, remains a mystery.

Almshouses, Sparrows Green, Wadhurst

Almshouses, Sparrows Green, Wadhurst

Besides this vital nugget of evidence for the Fowle-Maunser connection, Nicholas Fowle’s extensive will is also a mine of useful information about the Fowle family generally. As my fellow researcher Bill Green commented on reading my transcription, Nicholas’ wealth and his generosity to a large family are impressive. Bill points out that, in its bequest of almshouses at Sparrows Green, the will marks the inauguration of what was to become the Fowle Charity, which would continue until the nineteenth century when it was amalgamated with a number of other Wadhurst parish charities.

The beneficiaries of Nicholas Fowle’s will include a number of his siblings. ‘My brother Anthonye’ is the Anthony Fowle who married Margery Shurlock in 1553 and lived in Rotherfield. Nicholas’ will also makes frequent reference to his brother’s son, also named Anthony, as well as to his brother’s daughters.

‘My sister Farmer’ (or Fermor) refers to Nicholas’ sister Elizabeth who in 1540 married Alexander Fermor of Welches, Sussex, from a family who would be created baronets a century or so later. Their grandson, another Alexander, would be imprisoned in Lewes during the Civil War because of his support for the King. Interestingly, Alexander junior is said to have married a daughter of Anthony Fowle of Rotherfield, the brother of Nicholas.

‘My sister Stapley’ refers to Barbara Fowle who married John Stapley in 1561. John belonged to the Rotherfield branch of the Stapley family. He may have been a relative of the Puritan politician Anthony Stapley of Framfield, who was one of the commissioners who sat in judgement on King Charles I and signed his death warrant.

‘My Syster Markwicke’ refers to Dorothy Fowle who married Thomas Markwick of Wadhurst, one of the three men given responsibility by Nicholas for the ‘litle house’ in Sparrows Green to be reserved for the poor. Thomas Markwick would make his own will in 1611.

Not mentioned in Nicholas’ will is his sister Amy, who married Nicholas Burges, son of Nicholas and Joan Burges of Brook House, Rotherfield. Apparently Nicholas Burges’ older brother John married Silvester, daughter of Alexander Fermor (senior?) of Welches. Nicholas Burges junior died in 1586 while his wife Amy was buried in 1606.

I haven’t been able to trace ‘my sister Sommer’ mentioned in Nicholas Fowle’s will. Perhaps she was Suzanne, wife of the Humphrey Sommer of Heathfield who made his will in 1598? Humphrey was the local schoolmaster and is mentioned by the historian Nicholas Tyacke in his discussion of Puritan name-giving in Elizabethan Sussex, since in 1588 Sommer gave his daughter the distinctive name ‘Flee-sin’. (Tyacke’s book also mentions Goddard or ‘Godward’ Hepden of Burwash, the uncle of Elizabeth Hepden the wife of Nicholas Maunser of Hightown, who christened his children with equally memorable ‘godly’ names.) Bill Green suggests that ‘my sister Sommer’ might actually have been a sister of Nicholas Fowle’s wife Elizabeth.

I was finding it difficult to establish the identities the other two men associated with Sparrows Green – John Barham and John Luke of Lucke – though their surnames are familiar enough in my family tree. However, Bill Green identifies John Barham as the husband of Nicholas’ wife’s sister Alice (she is mentioned later in the will). I wonder if John Lucke was a relative of Agnes Lucke of Mayfield who married Nicholas’ cousin, my 12 x great grandfather Magnus Fowle?

Nicholas Fowle makes various bequests to his children and grandchildren. We know that he had only one surviving son, William, who was born in 1568. Another child of that name had been born in 1568 but died in infancy, a son named Nicholas had died in 1587, and another son named Thomas, who was born in 1569, also seems not to have survived. Besides ‘my only son’ William, Nicholas Fowle’s will also makes reference to ‘my six daughters’, of whom only two are named, and then only indirectly via their husbands.

Nicholas’ daughter Elizabeth Fowle married John Polhill of Frenches in Burwash. He was the son of John Polhill of Preston in Shoreham, Kent. Among the children of John and Elizabeth Polhill were John; Edward, who became rector of Etchingham; Nicholas; and Robert, who lived in Burwash and was (I think) the father of the famous Puritan author Edward Polhill (see this post). John Polhill died in 1611, his will mentioning his brother-in-law, William Fowle. Two years later his son John made a will in which he referred to his uncle William Fowle, to whom he left his hawk. Interestingly, John the younger also made a bequest to Thomas Scotson, who is almost certainly the person who married Mary Maunser, granddaughter of Nicholas Fowle.

Nicholas’ daughter Dorothy married John Dunmoll of Wadhurst. According to Mandy Willard, he was the son of Thomas Dunmoll of Eynsford, Kent. John and Dorothy Dunmoll had at least five children. Apparently John made a will in 1624/5 which mentions his brother-in-law William Fowle.

Nicholas’ son and heir William Fowle married Elizabeth Pankhurst and lived in Frant. Nicholas’ will mentions five of William’s children: Nicholas, Dorothy, Eleanor, Frances, and Elizabeth. According to Bill Green, another son and daughter would be born after Nicholas’ death.

William Fowle of Frant made his will in 1634. I find it curious that neither his will, nor that of his brother-in-law John Polhill, make any reference to the Maunser family. I haven’t seen John Dunmoll’s will, so I don’t know if any Maunsers make an appearance there. Perhaps we can conclude from this, and from the absence of a Maunser son-in-law from Nicholas Fowle’s will, that William Maunser of Hightown (if that was indeed his name) had died before 1599.

Posted in Barham, Byne, Fowle, Hepden, Lucke, Manser, Polhill | Leave a comment

The will of Nicholas Fowle of Wadhurst (died 1600)

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that the will of Nicholas Fowle of Wadhurst in Sussex, who died in 1600, contained proof of a connection between the Fowle and Maunser or Manser families (I’m descended from both families on my mother’s side). I’ve now found the will via Ancestry and transcribed it. Nicholas Fowle does indeed refer to John and Mary Maunser, the children of his (unnamed) daughter, thus lending substance to the claim, in Berry’s pedigree, that Mary Fowle, daughter of Nicholas, married a Maunser of Hightown, Wadhurst. The pedigree states that Mary’s husband was called William, but as I’ve noted in recent posts, there is some doubt as to whether this was in fact the name of the person who inherited Hightown from my 12 x great grandfather Robert Maunser. The reference to the Maunser grandchildren is contained in a memorandum (highlighted below) at the end of the will, but I’m reproducing my transcript of the whole will here, for the record. I’ll discuss what it can tell us about the Fowle family, and their links with other Sussex families to be found in my own family tree (not just the Maunsers, but also the Barhams, Polhills and Luckes) on another occasion:

In the name of god Amen the fower and twentith daye of the monethe of October in the yere of our Lorde God One Thousand Five hundred fourescore and Nynteene, and in the One and Fourtieth yeare of the reigne of our Sovereigne Ladie Elizabeth by the grace of God Queene of Englande Fraunce and Irelande defender of the faithe. I Nicholas Fowle of Wadhurst in the Countye of Sussex Gent beinge at the tyme of the making of this my will in reasonable good healthe of bodye and of verye good and perfect remembraunce (thanks therefore be given to almighty God) notwithstandinge aged and thereby put in mynde of my last ende, and that all fleshe is grasse, and that as the grasse once cast downe must needs wither: for man shall have an ende and change this, And the tyme beinge altogether uncertaine, and willing to sett in order those transitory possessions which god hath made me Stuarde of here in this world that noe contencon after my decease arise aboute the same Therefore I doe ordeine and make this my present Testament and last will in manner and forme following,  And firste and principallie I give comende and bequeathe my soule beinge the principall parte of Man) into the handes of Almighty God who gave it trusting by an assured faithe which I have in the promises of God and in the merits of the deathe and passion of my Lorde Jesus Christ my alone Saviour and Redemer his deare and onely sonne that the same shall be presented pure before the throne of his Majestie, And my bodie to the Earthe from where it came, to be buried in the Churche or Churchyarde of the Parishe of Retherfeilde in the saide Countye of Sussex, in sure and certaine hope of resurrection ioyfull to life immortall where and at whiche tyme I will there shall be a Sermon or godlie exhortation to admonish the hearers of a godly life, And that as I have played my parte in goinge before soe sure all they in tyme shall doe the like, Item I will that the Preacher thereof shall have xjs vijd lawfull money, Item I will to be distributed amonge the poore resorting to my buryall at the tyme thereof five poundes, Item I will and give towardes the reparations of the Churche of Wadhurst aforesaid fouretie shillinges, Item I will to be distributed amongst the poore people of Wadhurst aforesaide fouretye shillinges. Item I will to be distributed amongest the poore people of Frante Twentie Shillinges, All whiche I will shall be distributed within one whole yeare nexte after my decease, Item I give to Helen the wife of George Collin Twentye shillinges, Item I give to the daughters of my brother Anthonye Tenne Shillinges a peece to be paide to them within two yeares nexte after my decease, Item I give to the children of my Sister Farmer Tenne shillinges a peece, to be paide to them within Two yeares next after my decease, Item I give to the children of my Sister Staples tenne shillinges a peece, to be paide to their father to their use within two yeres nexte after my deceasse, Item I give to the children of my sister Sommer Tenne shillinges a peece, to be paide unto them within two yeres next after my deceasse, Item I give and bequeathe to every of my six daughters fouretie poundes a peece, to be paide to them and every of them within three yeres next after my decease, Item I give and bequeathe to my Syster Markwicke five poundes of lawfull money, And likewise to her children equallie between them other five poundes of lawfull money to be paide unto them within two yeres next after my decease, Item I give and bequeathe to the children of my six daughters to every childe that shall be borne before the tyme of paymente Tenne shillinges, to be paide to every of my saide daughters to the use of their saide children within two yeres next after my decease, And also to every of the children of my sonne William Fowle whiche shall be likewise borne before the tyme of payment to be paide within the tyme aforesaide other tenne shillinges a peece, Item I give and bequeathe to my loving kinsman Anthonie Fowle the somme of One hundred poundes of lawfull money to be paide unto him within two whole yeres next after my decease, Item I give and bequeathe unto my brother Thomas Markwicke, to John Barham of Butte and to John Luke of Dargatte and to their heires for ever one litle house and a garden with the appurtenants situate lienge and beinge in Wadhurst aforesaide at Sparrowes greene on the East side of the waye leading from Sparrowes greene to Corsley Wood, To hould to them their heires and assignes, to the entente use and meaninge that they their heires and assignes shall from tyme to tyme at all tymes hereafter for ever suffer some poore pson or psons inhabitants of the saide parish of Wadhurst at their or some of their election and appoyntmt to inhhabite and dwell in the same and to take the proffite thereof from tyme to tyme for ever, And I will that Jane Peter shall be the first of the saide poore during her life, And my will is that the sayde Thomas Markwicke John Barham and John Lucke their heires and assignes to the use of the saide poore pson or psons that shall from tyme to tyme inhabit and be places in the saide litle house shall have fower loades of wood yerelie for every for their spendinge in the saide house to be taken in Frankham and the landes of me the saide Nicholas called ould Shoosmithes in Wadhurst aforesaide, At the assignement of the owners of the same landes for the tyme beinge for ever, upon reasonable notice or request thereof from tyme to tyme to be made, And I will that if the same shall not be assigned, Or if the saide poore pson or psons, or the said Thomas Markwicke John Barham and John Lucke or anie of them of the heires of assignes of the saide Thomas John and John or of the survivor of them, to the use of the saide poore pson or psons shall not be allowed and assigned by the owner or owners of the same landes for the tyme beinge, whereout the saide fower loades of woode should be had upon request made as aforesaide of the same fower loades of wood yerelie according to the tenor of this my will and meaning then and so often it shall be lawfull for the saide Thomas Markwicke John Barham and John Lucke their heires and assignes, To the use and behoof of the same poore pson and psons from tyme to tyme beinge for ever as often as all suche the saide fower loades of woode shall not be appoynted accordine to the tenor of this my will to enter in and upon my saide landes called Frankham and ould Shoosmyths and into every or any parte or pcell thereof and there to distreine and the distresses or distresse there had and taken lawfullie from theire to beare leade drive and carie awaye and the same to detaine withe hould and keepe untill the same woode soe beinge behind and not allowed and assigned as aforesaide shall be unto the saide poore pson and psons assigned and by them and every of them maye be had taken and enjoyed according to the true meaning of this my will, Item I will and give to every of my godchildren twelve pence a peece, to be paide to them and every of them when they shall demande the same, Item wheras I have given anie Legacie or Legacies before or after in this my will unto anie beinge not of lawfull age at the time of the receipt thereof to make an acquitance for the same and have nott appoynted anie to receive the same to his or their use my will and meaning is that they and everie of them shall be paide at suche tyme and tymes as by this my will is limited and they or anie and everie of them shall be paide before two honest credible psons at the least, whiche credible psons shall subscribe unto the receipt thereof accordinglie, and then the same subscription shall stande for a sufficient acquitance for the same legacie and legacies soe received, and myne executor his executors and assignes shall be soe acquited by virtue of this my will, Item I make ordeyne and appoynte myne onelie sonne William Fowle of Wadhurst aforesaide gent my sole and onely executor of this my will and testament, Unto whom my debts and legacies beinge truelie paide and my funeralle decently and orderlie performed, I whollie fullie and with good effecte intente and purpose give and bequeathe all and singular my goodes debts Leases and chattells whatsoever, And I doe request and appoint my welbeloved frende Thomas Aynscombe gent my kinsman Anthonie Fowle gent and my sonnes in Lawe John Polhill and John Dunmoll gent to be overseers of this my will, to whom I give as a token and remembrance of my love and goodwill fouretie shillinges a peece to make either of them a ringe of gould, This is the last will of me the saide Nicholas Fowle made the daie and yeare above written concerninge the devise and disposicion of all and singuler my messuages landes tenements and hereditaments whatsoever, as well frehoulde, as coppyoulde, Excepte the saide Litle house at Sparrowes greene aforesaide, And first, I give and bequeathe unto my sonne William Fowle All those my landes and tennements called Frankham And all that my capitall messuage or tenement wherein I nowe dwell called Ryverhall withal edifices buildinges barnes stables dovehouses mylls orchardes gardens casements proffits wayes waters fredomes commodities and appurtenants to the same messauges or either of them belonginge or in anie wise apperteyninge, And one parcel of lande commonlie called Wyldbrome conteyninge by estimacon fourteen acres, certaine landes called Cornebrome conteyninge by estymacon fiftene acres, one pcell of lande called Bromefeilde conteyninge by estimacon Tenne acres, certaine landes called Hygate brome and greene woodes of the yarde of Crowherst conteyninge by estimacon five and thirtie acres, And one pcell of lande called the Strake late Richard Olives adionynge to Cornebrome conteyninge by estimacon Eight acres, And all and singuler my landes tennements meadowes pastures woodes and hereditaments pcell of the yarde of Arleighe conteyninge in all by estimacon Two hundred and twelve acres more or lesse, Also one messuage or tennemente and all landes tennements and hereditaments to the same belonging sometime Thomas Hygate now in the occupacon of me the saide Nicholas or my sonne William Fowle and of George Collyn, And also one water cornemyll with th’appurtenances and all landes tennements waters fredomes and appurtenances to the same belonging and whiche now are in the tenure and occupacon of Edward Chapman And also all and every commons waters streames fishinges commodities and appurtenances to the premisses and all everie or anie of the same belonginge or in anie wise apperteyninge, All whiche premisses are situate lyenge and beinge in the Parishes of Wadhurst aforesaide, and of Grante and Retherfeilde in the saide Countie of Sussex, To have and to hould all the saide capitall messuage called Ryverhall and all and everie other the saide messuages landes tennements and hereditaments withal and evrye the saide wayes waters fishinges commodities and appurtenances afore specified unto my said sonne William Fowle and to the heires males of his bodie lawfullie befotten, or hereafter to be begotten, And if the saide William my sonne happen to dye without suche heires: Then I will all and every the saide messuages landes tennements and hereditaments unto the saide William before devised shall remaine unto my loving Cosen Anthonie Fowle my brothers sonne and to the heires males of his bodie lawfullie begotten or to be begotten And for defaulte of such heires the same to remaine unto the right heires of me the said Nichollas Fowle for ever, Provided allwayes and upon this condicon That he the said William my sonne shall within two yeares next after my decease, or if he dye then his heires shall within two yeares after their full age at or upon the request of my saide Cosen Anthonie Fowle and his heires and at the costs and charges of the saide Anthony Fowle and his heires, as wll for the fine or fines due to the Lorde or Lordes of the Mannors, And also for the heireyte [?] due thereupon and all other charges whatsoever in due forme of lawe surrender into the seaverall Lordes handes of the seaverall Mannors of Retherfeild Frant, and of the Parsonage according to the seaverall customes of the saide Mannors all and singuler the copyhould messuages landes and Tennements of my said sone William whiche are houlden of the saide Lordes or anie of them, to the uses hereafter mentioned, That is to saie, To the use of himself and of the heires males of his Body lawfully begotten, And for defaulte of such heires, To the use of my saide lovinge Cosen Anthonie Fowle and the heires males of the bodie of the saide Anthonie lawfully begotten or to be befotten, And for defaulte of suche heires, To the onelie use and behoof of the saide William my sonne and of his right heires, And I doe further will and devise that if the saide Anthonie Fowle and his heires doe request my saide sonne Willaim beinge of full age of One and Twentie yeres to make suche surrender and doe beare and discharge the said William and his heires of all dutyes an demandes due upon the saide surrender and touching the same as is aforeasaide: That then if my saide sonne William shall nott make surrender of all and every the saide coppyholde messuages landes and tennements to the seaverall uses aforesaide accordinge to my true meaninges before expressed, Or if the saide William my sonne happen to dye without heirs male of his bodie lawfullie begotten: That then all and everye my messuages and hereditaments withe their appurtenances before by this my present Testament and last will unto the saide William my sonne devised shall presently remaine unto the saide Anthonie Fowle and to the heires males of his bodie lawfully begotten, or to be begotten, And if the saide Anthonie happen to dye without heires male of his bodie lawfullie begotten or to be begotten: Then I will all and singuler the saide messuages landes tennements and hereditaments withal and sunguler their appurtenances shall whollie remayne unto the right heires of me the saide Nicholas forever, Provided allwayes and upon condicons That if the saide William my sonne or his heires fayle in makinge of the [???]] aforesaide or yf the said William my sonne happen to dye without heires male of his bodie lawfullie begotten or to be begotten whereby the saide messuages landes and tennements with their appurtenances shall come remayne or be unto the saide Anthony Fowle or to his heires male of his body lawfully begotten, yf afterwardes videlicet within three yeres then nexte after the saide Anthony Fowle his heires executors admynistrators or assignes or one of them shall not well and truelye satisfye contente and paye all and every suche somme and sommes of money as are heareafter presently mentioned, That is to saye, to every of my six daughters or as many of them as shall be then lyvinge, the somme of Two hundred poundes a peece of lawfull money, That is to saye, Two yeres, the somme of Six hundred poundes to be equallie devided between them, And if anie of them be deceased then the porcon or portions of her or them soe decased to be payde to the childe or children of her or them soe deceased equallye betwne And That if anie of them soe deceased shall have noe children: Then her or their portion soe deceased shall remayne and equallie be devided between the survivor or survivors of them, or if my sonne William Fowle or his heires doe make such surrenders of his coppyhould landes as is aforesaide, And after dye without yssue male of his bodie, whereby the saide coppyhould landes doe come to the saide Anthony Fowle or the heires males of his bodye lawfullye befotten, yf afterwardes vizt. within one yeare the nexte after such dyenge withoute heyer male, The sayde Anthony Fowle his heires executors or admynistrators shall nott well and truly paye, or cause to be payde unto each of the daughters of my sayde sonne Willm. Fowle nowe borne, That is to saye, Elizabeth, Dorothie, Fraunce (Frances?), and Hellen, and to as may other the daughters of the sayde William my sonne as hereafter shall be borne, One hundred poundes a peece, of lawfully money of Englande, And if anie of them be deceased: Then the portion or portions of her or them soe deceased to be payde to the survivor or survivors of them, Or if the sayde Anthony Fowle or his heires shall at any tyme or tymes afterwardes attempte or goe about to make or graunte, or suffer to be made gotten or graunted, any greater estate or estates of or in the premisses or anie parcel thereof to any bodye or bodyes pollitique or corporate whatsoever, or unto any pson or psons whatsoever, Then suche as a Tennaunte in Tayle maye doe by virtue of the Statute made in the One and Thirtiethe yere of Kinge Henry the Eight, That then it shall and maye be lawfull for the heires females of my saide sonne William Fowle into all and singuler the saide messuages landes and tennements unto the sayde Anthony devised as aforesaide, and into every parte and parcel thereof whollie to enter, and the same and every of the same concerninge which suche further devise shall be had shall hould to them and their heires for ever, And the saide Anthonie his heires and assignes and all and every other pson and psons whatsoever from thence to expel putt out and remove [?], Anie thinge in this my present Testament and last will conteined to the contrary in anie wyse nothwithstandinge, Item I give and devise unto Anthonie Fowle and his heires One Annuytye or yearly Rente of One hundred poundes of good and lawfull money of England, To be yssuing and goinge and yerelye to yssue and goe out of all and singuler my messuages landes and Tennements to the sayde William Fowel devised as aforesayde, At Two usuall feasts or Tearmes of the yeare, That is to saye, at the feastes of the Annunciation of the blessed Virgin Marye, and of Saynt Michael Th’archangell by equal portions to be payde, And if yt happen the sayde yerely Rente to be behind and unpayde in parte or in all at anie of the saide feastes of paymente wherein the same is lymitted to be payde: Then I will that soe often and from tyme to tyme at all tymes afterwardes it shall and maye be lawfull to and for the sayde Anthony his heyers and assignes to enter into all and singuler the sayde messuages landes and Tennements unto the sayde William my sonner devised, And there to distreyne and the distresse or distresses there so taken from thence to beare leade dryve and carrye away impounde deteyne and keepe untill the sayde Annuitye togeather with th’acruages [?] thereof if anie be shall be unto the sayde Anthonie his heires or assignes fullie satisfied contented or payde, The firste payemente of the saide Annuytye to begyn at the same feaste or the feastes aforesaid which shall nexte happen after that the sayde William Fowle or the heyers male of his bodye lawfully begotten or to be begotten shall attempt to make or to suffer or procure anie act to be made for the other, barringe defeating and utterlye destroyenge of the remaynder or remaynders lymytted to the sayde Anthony Fowle and to the heyres males of his bodie as is aforesayde of the sayde messuages landes or Tennements before mentioned to be unto the sayde William Fowle devised, And my will and meaning is further hereby declared to be that the sayde Annuyty shall nott be payde unto the saide Anthony Fowle his heyers or assigned untill the sayde Willm Fowle or the heires male of his body lawfully begotten or hereafter to be begotten shall attempt or goe aboute to make or to suffer anie act to be made for the utter barringe defeatinge and destroyenge of the Remaynder or remaineders lymyted to the saide Anthonie Fowle and to the heires males of his body as afore mentioned Item I do further will and devyse unto the saide William Fowle and his heires all other my messuages landes and tennements and hereditaments whatsoever in the sayde Countye of Sussex or els where within the Realme of England, To houlde to the saide William Fowle my son his heires and assignes forever, And Lastly I doe hereby revoke all other wills by me heretofore made, And do publish declare and allowe onelie this to be my true and last will, And in further testimony thereof I have unto every leaf or sheete hereof subscribed my name, And unto the last leaf or sheete thereof subscribed my name and sett to my Seale in the presence of the psons hereafter named, that is to saye of John Dunmoll John Carpenter Walter Hendley, [???] Read and acknowledged by the abovesayd Nicholas Fowle the Nine and Twentieth daye of October in the yeare of our Lorde God One Thousand five hundred fourescore and Nyntene to be his last and true will withe the interlineation of the words between the third and foureth last lynes of the eighth leafe of this will videlt. (the females of my sayde sonne William Fowle) and worde (myne) there striken out by and with the consent of the sayde Nicholas Fowle in the presence of John Dunmoll William Maynerd Will Hosmer and of me Nicholas Harper writer hereof, Know all men by these presente That I Nicholas Fowle of Wadhurst have payde unto Mary Maunser my daughters daughter fiftye poundes of good English money, and John Maunser her brother Tenne poundes, and William Maynerd fower poundes and to Mary Selyard [?] fouretye shillinges, and to Margaret Curde Twenty shillinges, and Jane Potter fourety shillinges, and to Alyce Barham Twenty shillinges, and goodwife Collyn Tenne shillinges, and to John Grombridge and William Norton Twenty shillinges and for suche money as shall buy Eleaven black gownes more And the residue of the hundred poundes that remayneth I give to my sonne Willm Fowle, whiche hundred poundes my mynde is that shall be mayde when my sonne Dunmoll hathe received it of Richard Polhill by a bonde whiche I made over to him in trust to bestow at my appoyntmente so this I have caused to be written and sett my hande unto the Thirtieth of October One Thousand Fyve hundred Nyentye Nyne, Further I give unto Nicholas Polhill my daughters sonne Eight poundes, To be payde half yerelye out of George Collyns farme, The tyme to begyn at our Ladye day last One Thousand five hundred Nynetye Nyne. Nicholas Fowle By me John Polhill John Carpenter. Memorandum that I Nicholas Fowle have since the making of my will appoynted my sonne William that he burye me at Wadhurst..

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The children of Nicholas Maunser of Hightown

Nicholas Maunser or Manser of Hightown, in Wadhurst, Sussex, who died in 1653, had six children – four sons and two daughters – who survived him. I’m not sure how many of these were with his first wife Elizabeth Hepden and how many (if any at all) with his second wife Sarah. Although we don’t have definite dates for the births or baptisms of these children, we do know the order at least of his sons’ births from Nicholas’ will and we can make estimates based on later marriage dates.

Nicholas Maunser’s eldest son and heir was named Thomas. I estimate that he was born early in the second decade of the seventeenth century – the 1610s. In his will of 1653, Nicholas bequeaths Thomas ‘all that my capitall messuage or tenement called Aightowne…together with a water mill there belonging allsoe withal woods under woods lands tenements and hereditaments used enjoyed as part and member thereof’. Nicholas Maunser’s ‘eldest son and heir Thomas Maunser and his wife Susan’ are mentioned in a document of 1646 held in the National Archives. Thomas and Susan Maunser had one son that we know of – Nicholas – who inherited Hightown after his father’s death and died young and unmarried, making his own will in 1674. His mother Susan appears to have survived him.

The second son of the first Nicholas Maunser of Hightown was another Nicholas. He was probably born by about 1615. His father’s will mentions and confirms a ‘former will’ in which this son was bequeathed ‘all my houses lands tenements and hereditaments lyeinge and beinge in Battell in Sussex wth all and singular there appurtenents’. It’s possible that Nicholas is the person of that name who married Martha Fuller at Mayfield in December 1637. We know that he lived in Battle and had a son named Francis, who became a cleric. Francis Maunser, the son of Nicholas Maunser of Battle, Sussex, matriculated at Trinity College, Oxford, on 17th December 1663 when he was 18 years old, suggesting that he was born in about 1645. He proceeded to the degree of BA in 1667, and was ordained deacon in September 1668 and priest in March 1672. Francis was mentioned in the 1674 will of his first cousin, Nicholas, son of Thomas (see above).

High Street, Battle, today, via

High Street, Battle, today, via

Nicholas Maunser bequeathed his third son Herbert ‘all those lands tenements and hereditaments lyeinge and beinge in Burrish [i.e.Burwash]…called Godshale’. This property, rendered in other records as Goodsoal or Gutsole, had been bought by Nicholas from one Robert Thatcher, but at one time had belonged to various members of the Hepden family.

Herbert was probably born some time around 1620. He married Sarah Haffenden at the church of All Saints, Lewes on 19th December 1643. Sarah was the daughter of John Haffenden, a clothier originally from Tenterden, Kent, but later living in Heathfield and Brightling, Sussex. Herbert and Sarah Maunser had three children that I know of: Nicholas, christened in Chiddingley in 1644; Elizabeth, born in 1646; and Constance (it’s possible the latter was named after Herbert’s aunt, his mother Elizabeth’s sister Constance Hepden). Herbert’s son Nicholas was bequeathed the ownership of Hightown together with all its associated lands in Wadhurst in the 1674 will of his cousin Nicholas, son of his uncle Thomas, thus becoming the third Nicholas Manser or Maunser to be master of Hightown.

It seems that this Nicholas also died young and certainly before 1688, when ownership of Hightown passed to his sister Constance, who had married William Crouch in 1673. As I wrote in an earlier post:

They had a daughter, also named Constance, who married a clerk named Mr Wall. By the time William Crouch wrote his will in 1702 (he died in 1706), the Walls already had a daughter, yet another Constance, since she is named as a beneficiary of the will. Constance Wall married Joseph Weller of The Castle in Dallington in 1717. Constance Weller retained ownership of Hightown until her death in 1761, when it passed to her brother-in-law John Newington of Wadhurst.

The fourth son of Nicholas Maunser of Hightown was named Abraham. He may have been born as late as the early 1630s. In his father’s will of 1653 he is left ‘all those my lands situate lyeinge and beinge in the p[ar]ish of Burrish [Burwash] in the County of Sussex….called or knowne by the name of Withers’. Could this be the ‘Witteres’ leased by my 12 x great grandfather William Byne of Burwash from the Abbot of Robertsbridge in 1538?

Oast House at Goodsoal Farm, Burwash (via

Oast House at Goodsoal Farm, Burwash (via

Apparently this property, lying to the north of Goodsoal, is identical with today’s Ponts Farm in Burwash. In the early 18th century it was owned by Giles Watts, clearly a descendant of his namesake who married Abraham Manser’s sister (see below).

It’s possible that Abraham is the person of that name who married Eleanor Burgess at Wadhurst in 1654. We know that by 1674 he had two young sons, Abraham and Thomas, who were left money in the will of their cousin, the second Nicholas Manser of Hightown.

The first Nicholas Maunser of Hightown had two daughters. His daughter Elizabeth, who was perhaps born in the early 1620s, married David Leader of London, whom Nicholas would appoint as one of the overseers of his will of 1653. In that same will Nicholas bequeaths ‘my daughter Leader six paire of sheetes three paire of fyne sheetes and three paire of coarser sheetes’. David and Elizabeth Leader must have been married by about 1640, since on 21st September 1641 their son David was christened at St Olave Jewry in the City of London – a church that would be destroyed in the Great Fire twenty-five years later and then rebuilt. Another son named Nicholas was baptised there in July 1643, a daughter Deborah in August 1647 and another daughter Elizabeth in February 1650. The latter was buried at the same church ten years later, in December 1660. On 18th April 1662 ‘Mr David Leader’ was buried there. A Richard Leader was married at St Olave in 1657, suggesting a family connection to the parish. He may be the merchant of that name who made his will in 1692 before departing on a voyage, and the same man seems to have had links with the American colonies. There’s also a suggestion that Richard Leader came originally from Sussex or Kent, so it may be that David Leader was of the same family, thus explaining how he came to meet Elizabeth Manser. The Leaders would have been living in the City of London at around the same time as my 8 x great grandfather John Byne, his brother Stephen, and their second cousin John Manser, all of whom were related to Elizabeth Manser.

St Olave Old Jewry (between Ironmonger Lane and 'Old Jury') on Rocque's London map of 1746

St Olave Old Jewry (between Ironmonger Lane and ‘Old Jury’) on Rocque’s London map of 1746

In his will of 1653 Nicholas Maunser gives to ‘Giles Watts my sonn in lawe one dozen pieces of pewter’. According to Berry’s pedigree, Nicholas’ youngest daughter was called Mary, though I haven’t found any independent confirmation of her marriage to Giles Watts. In his will of 1674, Nicholas’ grandson – the second Nicholas Manser of Hightown – left money to his cousins Robert and Mary Watts. Frustratingly, Robert is described as ‘son of my Aunt ——- Wats’, with a gap where the Christian name should be. He may be the Giles Watts, mercer, of Battle who made his will in 1658: however, the name of that person’s wife was Ann. His eldest son was also named Giles, he had another son named Robert, and daughters Elizabeth, Mary, Alice and Ann. Interestingly his daughter Elizabeth married a certain John Manser, about whose relationship to the Mansers of Hightown I’m unsure. The 1686 will of Giles Watts the younger makes his brother Robert Watts and John Manser (who now has three sons – Giles, John and Thomas) joint executors. The same will describes Mary as his half-sister, so it’s possible that his father, Giles Watts the elder, was married twice. A Giles Watts married Ann Pilcher at Brightling in 1654, just four years before the first Giles made his will. Perhaps he had previously been married to Mary Watts?

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Nicholas Maunser and Elizabeth Hepden

I’ve discovered some new information about Nicholas Maunser or Manser of Hightown, Wadhurst, Sussex, whose life I’ve been exploring in the hope of solving some of the mysteries that surround my Manser ancestors.  According to the pedigree of the Maunser family in Berry’s account of the heralds’ visitations, Nicholas Maunser married a woman named Elizabeth ‘daughter of Thomas…..of Burwash’. I recently found a reference to a marriage between Nicholas Maunser and Elizabeth Hepden which took place in Rye on 21st September 1609. Searching for records of the Hepdens of Burwash, I came across the will of John Hepden who died in 1628. In his will, John Hepden bequeaths sums of money to Thomas, Nicholas, Herbert, Abraham, Elizabeth and Mary, the children of ‘my brother in lawe Nichollas Manser’. Nicholas Manser junior he describes as ‘my godson’. None of the children seem yet to have reached the age of twenty-one. John Hepden also mentions his sister Elizabeth Manser. Nicholas Manser senior is appointed as one of the executors of the will.

Countryside near Burwash (via

Countryside near Burwash (via

Having made this discovery, I searched for more information about the Hepdens of Burwash and came across a pedigree of the family at the website of a one-name study. This confirmed that Elizabeth and her brother John were among the children of Thomas and Mary Hepden of Burwash. Apparently Elizabeth was born in 1592, which would mean she was seventeen when she married Nicholas Maunser. Another Hepden sibling was named Herbert: was this the inspiration for Nicholas and Elizabeth giving their third son that name?

One of Elizabeth’s uncles, Goddard Hepden, appears to have given his children resoundingly Puritan names – Goodgift, Hopestill, Fearnot, Thankfull – thus giving a clue as to the religious sympathies of the Hepdens.

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A couple of Manser wills

The other day I was lamenting the fact that we don’t seem to have wills for any of the older sons of my 12 x great grandfather, Robert Maunser of Hightown in Wadhurst, Sussex, who died in 1592. I’ve been trying to find out who inherited Hightown from Robert: whether it was the William Maunser mentioned in the established pedigrees, but mysteriously not named in Robert’s will, or one of the sons referred to in that will, namely Robert junior, Thomas or George? My understanding is that Robert’s two younger sons, my 11 x great grandfather John Manser and his younger brother Abraham, either inherited or acquired other properties in or near Wadhurst.

There are extant wills for both John and Abraham Manser and today I want to consider whether these documents  shed any light on the questions that still surround the Manser or Maunser pedigree, specifically in the closing years of the fifteenth century and the early decades of the seventeenth, coinciding with the last years of the reign of Elizabeth I.

St Peter and St Paul, Wadhurst

St Peter and St Paul, Wadhurst

Firstly, it’s worth reflecting on the evidence that these two men were, as I’ve been assuming, the sons of Robert Maunser of Hightown. Until recently my main source for the claim that John Manser was Robert’s son was Walter Renshaw’s history of the Byne family. On page 122 of that publication he states that on 22nd January 1611/2, Stephen Byne of Burwash married Mary, daughter of John Maunser of Wadhurst ‘who was a son of Robert Maunser of Hightown in that parish’. In a footnote, Renshaw refers to John’s will of December 1597, which certainly mentions a daughter named Mary. Until recently, there was no clear evidence linking John Manser, author of the 1597 will and father of Mary who married Stephen Byne, to Robert Maunser of Hightown. However, my recently revised transcription of John’s will and the discovery of Robert’s will have combined to change that situation. Having realised that the name of John’s brother-in-law, appointed as an overseer of his will, was William Snatt, and that the maiden name of John’s wife was therefore Jane Snatt, I noticed that the latter was also one of the witnesses to the will of Robert Maunser, probably because at the time she was engaged to be married to his son John. Taken together with other indirect evidence, this is enough to convince me that John Manser of Wadhurst, who died in 1598 and whose daughter Mary married Stephen Byne, was (as Renshaw claims) the son of Robert Maunser of Hightown.

When it comes to Abraham Manser, the connection is a little more difficult to prove. Once again, our starting-point is Renshaw, who states, in an appendix to his book about the Bynes, that the Abraham Manser who in December 1600 married Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of John Byne of Burwash, was ‘a son of Robert Manser of Hightown in Wadhurst’. Renshaw doesn’t mention the fact that John Byne’s youngest daughter, Anne, married another Manser: Christopher, the son of John Manser of Wadhurst, sister of Mary who married Stephen Byne, and (I believe) Abraham’s nephew. I want to return to Christopher Manser, his family, and his connection with the Bynes, on another occasion.

Renshaw mentions Abraham Manser’s will, dated 8th March 1626, with a codicil dated 11th April 1627, which I transcribed and analysed a year ago. Abraham’s will contains no definitive evidence linking him to Robert Maunser of Hightown. The only evidence appears to be circumstantial: we know that Robert had a son named Abraham, who is also mentioned in his brother John’s will, and whose dates would seem to fit with the person who married Elizabeth Byne in 1600 and made his will in 1626. More significantly, Abraham’s will reveals him to be the owner of the estate know as Wenbourne or Wenbans in Wadhurst, which we know to have been in the possession of the Maunsers of Hightown, certainly in the lifetime of my 13 x great grandfather Christopher Maunser who died in 1546, bequeathing the property to his widow Joan.

However, if the evidence connecting Abraham with Robert Maunser is inconclusive, then his will certainly contains strong suggestions of a link with the later Hightown Maunsers. Abraham appoints three men as ‘my faithful and trustie overseers’: ‘my beloved kinsmen Nicholas Manser of Wadhurst aforesaid Stephen Byne of Burwash and Henrie Gregorie of Lynton in Kent yeomen’. It’s difficult to tell from the original manuscript whether ‘kinsmen’ is singular or plural. If my speculations are correct, then my 10 x great grandfather Stephen Byne was certainly a relative of Abraham Manser’s: Stephen was married to Mary Manser, whom I believe to have been Abraham’s niece, while Abraham’s father-in-law John Byne was almost certainly related to Stephen, even if the precise nature of that relationship has yet to be established. As for Henry Gregorie, I’ve yet to discover anything significant about him. However, the reference to Nicholas Manser as a kinsman is highly significant. We read later in the will that Nicholas was not only a witness to the will but its ‘scriptor’ – i.e. its writer or scribe.

Wenbans, or Wenbourne, in 2008 (via

Wenbans, or Wenbourne, in 2008 (via

We know of five Nicholas Mansers who were alive in the first half of the seventeenth century. They were Nicholas Manser, owner of Hightown, who was probably born around 1590 and who died in 1653/4; his son Nicholas, who may have been born in about 1605 and might have married Martha Fuller in 1637; the first Nicholas Manser’s grandson, the son of his eldest son Thomas, who would inherit Hightown and die in 1674; another grandson, the son of Nicholas’ son Herbert, who would also become one of the later owners of Hightown; and Nicholas, the son of Christopher Manser, the latter being (I believe) the son of  my 11 x great grandfather John Manser, and therefore (if my theory is correct) the nephew of Abraham Manser.

We can dismiss the last Nicholas at once, since he and his father were both of Burwash, not Wadhurst: Nicholas would live at Mottynsden in Burwash. More importantly, I don’t think this particular Nicholas Manser would be born until about 1645. I believe that the Nicholas, son of Thomas Manser, who died in 1674 was still a young man when he died, and was probably not born before about 1650. Since Herbert Manser did not marry until 1643 then this can’t be his son Nicholas. That leaves the first Nicholas Manser of Hightown and his second son. However I don’t believe the younger Nicholas came of age until the early 1630s. In other words, when Abraham Manser wrote his will there would have been only one ‘Nicholas Manser of Wadhurst’ – and that was the owner of Hightown.

The fact that Nicholas acted as both overseer and scribe of Abraham’s will suggests a close familial relationship. If the established pedigrees are correct and Nicholas’ father (William?) was indeed a son of Robert Maunser of Hightown, then Abraham would have been his uncle. However, the fact that Abraham was Robert’s youngest son, and Nicholas his own father’s eldest child, would have meant that the two were quite close in age – only nine years separate their likely marriage dates – and perhaps more like cousins than uncle and nephew.

But Nicholas isn’t the only Manser mentioned in Abraham’s will. He bequeaths to his daughter Ellen ‘the whole proffitts and rents of all my landes lying in Maifield being nowe in the occupacion of Abraham Manser my kinsman’. Is this the same Abraham Manser who witnessed the codicil appended to the will? Or is that ‘Jun’ (for ‘Junior’) after his name? The other witnesses are John Manser and Robert Wenborne. I’m having some difficulty identifying these men. Abraham Manser might be one of the sons of Nicholas of Hightown, though as the fourth and youngest son I imagined he would still be a child at this time. Christopher Manser of Burwash had a son named Abraham, and an older son named John, but once again their birth dates are much too late. There was an Abraham Manser who was a miller in Wadhurst and died in 1656, but I have no clue as to his connection to the Mansers of Hightown.

When I originally transcribed Abraham Manser’s will, I believed that the John Manser who witnessed the codicil was his brother, my 11 x great grandfather. But that was before I discovered John’s will and realised that he had died in 1598. The only other John Manser that I know of is the person who features in the established pedigrees, where he is described as a younger brother of Nicholas of Hightown, as having married Mary Cole, daughter of Aston, an event that we know to have taken place in Lewes in 1614/5, and as being ‘of Southwark’. Perhaps he had a son named Abraham, but the Southwark location seems to make that unlikely.

Another possibility is that the Abraham Manser and/or John Manser who witnessed the codicil were sons of Robert, Thomas or George (the older brothers of Abraham Manser of Wenbourne) who are named in the will of their father, Robert Maunser of Hightown. This would make them (like Nicholas Manser of Hightown) nephews of Abraham’s: but again, because he was the youngest of Robert’s sons, they might have been quite close to him in age.  It’s extremely frustrating that we don’t have birth, marriage or burial records for Robert Maunser’s sons, or baptismal records for his grandchildren. There seems to be a gaping hole in the Wadhurst parish records…

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Another look at Nicholas Maunser of Hightown (died 1653)

In recent posts I’ve been revisiting the Maunser or Manser family of Hightown in Wadhurst, Sussex, in an attempt to clarify some puzzling aspects of their pedigree. My own connection to the family is as follows. Robert Maunser of Hightown, who died in 1592, was my 12 x great grandfather. His younger son, John Manser of Wadhurst, who died in 1598, had a daughter Mary who married Stephen Byne of Burwash: they were my 10 x great grandparents.

View towards Wadhurst Park (site of Hightown), via geograph

View towards Wadhurst Park (site of Hightown), via geograph

The established pedigrees of the Maunser family claim that Robert Maunser had an older son, William, who inherited Hightown. As I’ve noted in recent posts, the discovery of Robert’s will casts doubt on this, since there is no mention in it of a son named William. There may be a good reason why William was left out: the will bequeaths very little in the way of property and it’s possible the transfer of ownership of Hightown had already been dealt with elsewhere. An alternative explanation is that the pedigrees have got it wrong, and that Robert’s heir bore a different name: besides John, his will also mentions sons named Thomas, George and Abraham. Or both theories may be wrong, and there may be a missing generation in the Maunser pedigree which awaits discovery.

Whichever of these explanations turns out be correct, it seems fairly clear, as I noted in the previous post, that the next owner of Hightown after William (or whatever his name turns out to be) was Nicholas Maunser, who made his will in 1653. Not only that, but there is increasing evidence that Nicholas’ father (whether William or another Maunser) was married to a daughter (probably Mary) of Nicholas Fowle of Rotherfield, and indeed that he was probably named after him. (Nicholas Fowle was a descendant of his namesake, who was my 14 x great grandfather – since his great grand-daughter Agnes Fowle married Edward Byne, the father of Stephen Byne mentioned above.)  If Nicholas Fowle’s will of 1599 is to be believed, then Nicholas Maunser had two siblings, John and Mary, whose names match those in the accepted Maunser pedigrees.

Extrapolating backwards from Nicholas Maunser’s own will of 1653, we can hazard a guess at some key dates in his life, and this may offer some help in solving the mystery of his origins. The only definite dates we have for Nicholas’ own life are the day on which he made his will, 20th December 1653, and the date on which it was proved, 17th February 1653/4, in the third year of the Cromwellian Commonwealth, together with one or two dates attached to documents relating to land ownership to be found in the National Archives. However, by tracing the trajectories of the surviving children mentioned in his will, we can perhaps fill in some of the missing detail of Nicholas’ biography.

We know from his will that Nicholas had four surviving sons – Thomas, Nicholas, Herbert and Abraham, in that order – and two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary. We have a definite marriage date for the third son, Herbert, who married Sarah Haffenden in 1643. This means that he must have been born by the early 1620s, thus placing the birth dates of his two older brothers, Thomas and Nicholas, before that. From a document in the National Archives, we know that Thomas was already married to his wife, Susan, by 1646. Similarly, we know that Nicholas’ daughter Elizabeth must have married David Leader, a London mercer, by 1640, since their first child, David, was born in the following year. Recently I also came across a record of the marriage of Nicholas Maunser, junior, of Wadhurst, yeoman, to Martha Fuller of Mayfield, a widow, which took place in 1637.

All of this points to the Maunser children being born between about 1610 and the early 1620s, with perhaps the younger son Abraham being born after that date.  According to the established pedigrees, Nicholas married a woman named Elizabeth. However, at the time of writing his will in 1653 his wife’s name was Sarah: this was almost certainly a second marriage. If Nicholas is not the Nicholas Maunser who married Elizabeth Hepden in Rye in 1609, then I suggest his first marriage must have taken place at around this time, to fit with the likely birth dates of his children.

This means that Nicholas Maunser must have been born by 1590 and probably before. It would be helpful to know when Nicholas inherited Hightown from his father, whatever his name was. There are documents from 1646 and 1650 which describe him as ‘of Hightown’, but I suspect he took ownership at a much earlier date. Another document in the National Archives refers to a sale of property to Nicholas Maunser of Hightown in 1629 and claims that Nicholas ‘did fealty to the manor of Ittington’ in 1630. We know that Robert Maunser was ‘of Hightown’ when he made his will in 1592, so presumably his son would have inherited the property at that point, while Nicholas was still a child. Nicholas’ father (William?) must have died, and Nicholas come into his inheritance, either in the 1590s or in the early decades of the new century.

It’s frustrating that we don’t seem to have a will for ‘William’, or for any of the older sons of Robert Maunser. However, the wills of his two younger sons, John and Abraham, may offer more insights into the tangled branches of the Manser family tree, and I’ll be revisiting them in another post.

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The Manser – Fowle connection

In the last few posts I’ve been reviewing the information contained in the will of Robert Maunser of Hightown, Wadhurst, Sussex, who died in 1592, and its implications for our knowledge of the Maunser or Manser family. The accepted pedigrees for the family claim that Robert, who was the son of Christopher Maunser of Hightown, had a son and heir named William. However, there is no mention of a son with this name in Robert’s will, and instead we learn that his sons were named Robert, Thomas, George, John and Abraham.

According to those pedigrees, William Maunser of Hightown had three children: Nicholas, his son and heir; John, who was ‘of Southwark’ and married Mary Cole, daughter of Benjamin Cole of Aston, near Lewes; and Mary, who married Thomas Scotson of Malling, Sussex. It seems likely that Nicholas is the Nicholas Maunser of Hightown who made his will in 1653.

The pedigree in William Berry’s 1830 account of the heralds’ visitations claims that William Maunser, father of Nicholas, John and Mary, married Mary, daughter of Nicholas Fowle of Rotherfield. This is contradicted by Wace, in his history of Wadhurst, who states that it was Robert Maunser, son of Christopher, who married ‘a Fowle of Rotherfield’.

Parish church of St Denys, Rotherfield (via wikimedia)

Parish church of St Denys, Rotherfield (via wikimedia)

Recently I came across an entry on Mandy Willard’s family history site that may help to untangle some of these confusions. Mandy has seen a copy of the will of Nicholas Fowle who died in 1599. Nicholas, who was probably born in about 1522, was the eldest son of William Fowle and Margaret Godyne. William, who was born in about 1505, is often assumed to be the son of an earlier Nicholas Fowle, my 14 x great grandfather, but – as I’ve written before – my fellow researcher Bill Green believes that he was probably the biological son of yet another William Fowle, and that following the latter’s death he became the ward of his cousin Nicholas.

William Fowle married Margaret Godyne in about 1521 and they had six children, of whom Nicholas was the eldest. In about 1555 Nicholas married Elizabeth Isted of Moat Farm, Mayfield. According to Mandy Willard, they had the following children, all baptised in Frant:

Nicholas, who died in 1587

Elizabeth, who married John Polhill

William, born in 1560 but died in infancy

Dorothy, who married John Dunmoll of Wadhurst

William, born in 1568

Thomas, born in 1569

In addition, Mandy states that Nicholas’ will of 1599 makes reference to four other daughters, all of whom are unnamed. Of particular interest to us is the mention of ‘Mary Mannser his daughter’s daughter and John Mannser his daughter’s son’ (‘Mannser’ is probably a mis-transcription for ‘Maunser’). This seems to confirm that a daughter of Nicholas Fowle, perhaps named Mary, married a member of the Maunser family.

Parish church of St Alban, Frant

Parish church of St Alban, Frant

If Nicholas’ unnamed daughter was born some time between 1555 and 1575, then she would have got married some time between 1570 and 1590 – certainly by 1599 she would need to have been married long enough to give birth to two children. This makes it unlikely that she married the Robert Maunser who died in 1592, not least because his own will does not mention a daughter named Mary.

On the other hand, it’s possible that the John and Mary Maunser mentioned in Nicholas Fowle’s will were the individuals with those names who are purported to be the children of William Maunser of Hightown in Berry’s pedigree. Of course, this raises the question of why Nicholas Fowle’s didn’t mention their older sibling, Nicholas Maunser, but perhaps he believed this grandson was already well looked after, being the heir to Hightown? At the same time, Nicholas Maunser’s Christian name strongly suggests a link with the Fowles, and that he was named after his maternal grandfather.

This theory certainly fits with what we know of Nicholas, John and Mary Maunser. Mary married Thomas Scotson in 1604, Nicholas probably married his first wife Elizabeth in 1609, and John married Mary Cole in 1614. This means that the three Maunser siblings were probably born some time between 1585 and 1595, making it perfectly possible that their mother was Mary (?), the daughter of the Nicholas Fowle of Rotherfield who died in 1599.

But was their father really William Maunser of Hightown and if so, how was he related to Robert Maunser who died in 1592? Whoever it was that married Mary Fowle, he was probably born some time around the 1560s. This would fit with him being one of the sons of Robert Maunser, but that raises the question of why he and his family are not mentioned in Robert’s will. Of Robert’s sons, only one, another Robert, is said to have a son of his own by 1592 – yet another Robert, who was still under twenty-one.

Is it possible that Nicholas, John and Mary Maunser were the children of one of Robert Maunser’s other sons – Thomas or George, for example? Should we read anything into the fact that Nicholas Maunser would name his own son and heir Thomas? Or that his grandson, the second Nicholas Maunser of Hightown, refers in his will of 1674 to ‘my cousin’ Nicholas Manser, son of Christopher Manser? Christopher Manser of Burwash was the son of my 11 x great grandfather John Manser of Wadhurst, one of the younger sons of Robert Maunser of Hightown.

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