The Manser family and Mottynsden Manor, Burwash

The will of John Manser, the London apothecary who died in 1681 and who was related to my Byne ancestors, tells us a good deal about his family origins. We learn from his will that John had brothers named Nicholas and Abraham, and sisters named Ann and Deborah, whose married names were Frith and Barber respectively. I’ve already confirmed that Deborah Manser was born in Burwash, Sussex, in 1648 and in 1671 married William Barber, with whom she had five children. On 4th February 1666, Ann Manser married Thomas Frith at St James, Duke’s Place, London, though I’ve yet to find a record of their son John’s birth.

Orchard and oast houses in Burwash, Sussex

Orchard and oast houses in Burwash, Sussex

John Manser’s will provides confirmation, if it were needed, that he belonged to the Manser or Maunser family of Burwash. There are a number of references in the will to the estate of ‘Mottensden’: John bequeaths ‘unto my sonne Abraham Manser All my right and title of that house and Land called Mottensden in the parish of Burwash in the County of Sussex and to the heires of his Body lawfully begotten forever’. It becomes clear that John’s brother Nicholas also has an interest in the same property, since certain bequests relating to it can only come to fruition after the latter’s death.

Finding out more about ‘Mottensden’ has been made difficult by the many alternative spellings for the place: these include Mottingsden,  Mottynsden and Mottingden. Eventually I managed to find a draft contract for a tenancy relating to this property,  dated January 1694, in the National Archives. It reads as follows:

Elizabeth Manser of Burwash, widow of Nicholas Manser, with John Hickes the elder of Burwash, butcher. EM’s life interest in the moiety of Mottingsden Farm in Burwash, late NM deceased, where she lives. JH purchased the reversion and the other moiety from NM’s nephew and heir Abraham Manser of London. EM may occupy the messuage and adjoining gardens, orchards, closes and green for life, and JH shall pasture two milch-cows for her on the land convenient to the messuage, pay her an annuity of £2 10s for life and pay all except militia and Parliamentary taxes; if EM leaves the messuage, JH to pay her an annuity of £12 10s for life; EM may run her hogs and geese on the land after harvest and have the benefit of gratten and acorns 1 Jan; JH he will store for her as much cordwood (at 7s for a 14-foot cord) and faggots at 5s a hundred as she shall require. JH may occupy the barn and land; JH to repair the messuage and fences, except those between the orchards and the land occupied by Stephen Batchellor. 

Given that this document is dated only thirteen years after John Manser’s death, it seems fairly clear that the Nicholas Manser mentioned must be John’s brother. It appears that Mottingsden was his and Elizabeth’s family home. Nicholas’ ‘nephew and heir Abraham Manser of London’ must be John’s son: presumably Nicholas and Elizabeth had no surviving children of their own.

Mottynsden 1

Mottynsden Manor, Burwash, Sussex

Further searches have turned up details of Mottynsden, as it is now known. It appears that the property still exists, and in fact is a Grade II listed building, located in Spring Lane, Burwash. Mottynsden Manor is described as a timber-framed building, dating from the seventeenth century or earlier, ‘refaced with stucco on ground floor and tile-hung above with the trace of an overhang between.’ Consisting of two storeys, the house has a ‘steeply-pitched hipped tiled roof’. Coincidentally, it appears that Mottynsden, with its outbuildings, swimming pool and ten acres of land overlooking beautiful countryside, is currently for sale. (This is now the third Grade II listed building associated with my maternal ancestors that I’ve come across.) It’s quite something to find a house in which my ancestors lived still standing – and occupied.

Mottynsden 3

Another view of Mottynsden Manor house

I’m still not quite sure of the link between John Manser and his Burwash relations, on the one hand, and the Maunsers of Hightown, Wadhurst, whom I wrote about in an earlier post, on the other. I’m sure that there must be a connection, if only because the same Christian names – Nicholas, Abraham, John – recur with bewildering frequency in both families (or branches of the same family). As always, more research will be needed to tease out the precise relationships between the different generations of Mansers and Maunsers.

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