The family of Stephen Byne (1647 – 1675)

In the last post I reviewed what we know about Magnus Byne junior, a Southwark apothecary at the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the younger brother of my 8 x great grandfather, London stationer John Byne. In this post I want to revisit another of John’s brothers, Stephen, an upholder or upholsterer who, like John, lived at Tower Hill in the City of London.

Tower Hill in the late 17th century

Tower Hill

Like his brothers, Stephen Byne was born in Clayton, Sussex, the son of the local rector, Magnus Byne senior. Stephen was Magnus’ third and eldest surviving child from his first marriage to Anne Chowne née Wane. He was christened in the parish church on 3rd July 1647, a year after the end of the Civil War. His mother Anne died in 1661, when Stephen was fourteen, and his father Magnus ten years later in 1671, the year after the monarchy was restored.  Stephen’s inheritance from his father included Flottingdean Farm in Wadhurst, Sussex, as well as the advowson, or right to nominate clergy, for the parish of Clayton-cum-Keymer. The latter he sold, for £370, to Edward Blaker, a Sussex landowner and member of Parliament.

By the time of his father’s death, Stephen Byne was already being described in legal documents as a ‘citizen and upholder of London’. I assume that he had moved to London some time in his early teens to take up an apprenticeship, though I haven’t been able to find a record of this. It’s also likely that Stephen’s younger brother John and his younger half-siblings, Magnus and Sarah, moved to London with him, or arrived soon afterwards. John must have been served his own apprenticeship some time in the late 1660s. As for Magnus and Sarah, they would have been seven and four years old respectively when their father died. Since Stephen’s will of 1674 assigns their guardianship to his father-in-law, we must assume that he himself acted as their legal guardian until his death.

Part of the parish of St Botolph, Aldgate, with Houndsdith to north and Tower Hill to south, from Rocque's 1746 map

Part of the parish of St Botolph, Aldgate, with Houndsdith to north and Tower Hill to south, from Rocque’s 1746 map

Stephen Byne must have married his wife, Rebecca Whiting, by 1673 at the very latest, but I’ve yet to find a record of the event. Born in Houndsditch in 1648 and christened at the church of St Botolph, Aldgate, Rebecca was the daughter of London citizen and joiner Thomas Whiting, by his first wife Frances. The latter had previously been married to John Bigrave, by whom she had a number of children. Rebecca Whiting had three sisters –Isabella (born in 1647), Dorcas and Mary (though the latter might have been her step-sister: see below) – and a brother named Thomas.

On 2nd March 1669, Isabella Whiting married Edward Davis, a grocer from the parish of St Catherine Coleman, at the church of St George, Southwark. Edward was 26 and although the marriage licence states that Isabella was ‘about 22’, it also notes that she was married ‘with consent of her father’. Edward and Isabella had two daughters, Isabella and Rebecca. Dorcas Whiting was married to John Mercer and they had children named William and Elizabeth. Mary Whiting’s husband was Robert Kember, a joiner (perhaps an apprentice of her father’s?). The Kembers had two children, Rebecca and Mary.

As for Stephen and Rebecca Byne, I’ve found evidence in the parish records of only one child from their marriage. On 7th May 1674, ‘Thomas Bine son to Stephen Bine Tower Hill’ was buried at St Botolph’s church. Thomas must have died soon after he was born, since Stephen Byne’s will, written only four months earlier in February 1674, makes no mention of him. On the other hand, Walter Renshaw, in his history of the Sussex Bynes, suggests that Stephen and Rebecca Byne had two children, also named Stephen and Rebecca. Apparently the latter was buried at Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, in 1687, while the former was a yeoman farmer in the same place. However, I can find no evidence to support this claim. Stephen Byne’s extensive will fails to mention any children, nor does he leave any property in the Hurstpierpoint area that might have led to his offspring moving there. Then there is the fact that Stephen’s widow Rebecca remained in London after his death in 1675 (he was buried at St Botolph’s on 11th March) and married again just over a year later. Rebecca’s second husband was Joseph Edwards, a grocer from the parish of St Saviour’s, Southwark, who, like her, was twenty-eight years old. The wedding took place on 9th November 1676 at Christ Church in Blackfriars Bridge Road.

Rebecca’s mother Frances Whiting had died three months earlier; she was buried at St Botolph’s, Aldgate, on 10th August 1676. Rebecca’s father Thomas married again a year later, on 27th September 1677, to Elizabeth Plumer, at the church of St Katharine by the Tower.

17th century joiner's tools (via pfollansbee.files.wordpress.com)

17th century joiner’s tools (via pfollansbee.files.wordpress.com)

The following year, 1678, saw the death of Robert Kember, husband of Rebecca’s sister Mary. He made his will on 23rd January and it was proved in March. It is from this document that we know that Robert’s daughters, Rebecca and Mary, survived him. The will also mentions a son-in-law, Herbert Higgins. I’m still trying to work out the exact identity of this person, but this is what I’ve discovered so far. On 28th January 1661, Herbert Higgins, a twenty-five-year-old joiner from the parish of St Botolph’s, Bishopsgate, had married Mary Bigrave, a twenty-three-year-old spinster from the parish of St Botolph’s, Aldgate, with the consent of her mother, Frances Whiting ‘alias Bigrave’, wife of Thomas Whiting, joiner. In other words, Mary Bigrave was Frances’ daughter from her first marriage. Herbert Higgins died in 1666 and his will mentions a son named Herbert, who presumably is the person named in Robert Kember’s will. Is it possible that Robert’s wife Mary was actually the widow of Herbert Higgins senior, and that ‘son-in-law’ actually means stepson?

Thomas Whiting died in 1679 and was buried on 24th November at St Botolph’s, Aldgate. I’ll perhaps have more to say about his will, and what it tells us about his family, in another post. To date, I’ve found no further records for Stephen Byne’s widow Rebecca and her second husband, Joseph Edwards – apart from the record of a 1679 court case concerning property in Southwark, in which the couple were plaintiffs and Elizabeth Whiting (presumably Thomas’ widow) was one of the defendants.

Update: 3rd September 2013

I’ve now found confirmation that Mary, the wife of Robert Kember, was previously married to Herbert Higgins senior, and was therefore the daughter of Frances Whiting by her first marriage to John Bigrave. On Christmas Eve 1673, a marriage licence was issued to Robert Kember and Mary Higgins. This would, of course, explain why Robert regarded Herbert junior, the product of his wife’s first marriage, as his ‘son-in-law’ – i.e. stepson.

Since writing the above post, I’ve also found evidence that another of Thomas Whiting’s daughters – Dorcas, who married John Mercer – might actually have been his step-daughter. I’d been unable to find a christening record for a Dorcas Whiting, but I’ve discovered that Thomas’ wife Frances had a daughter with that Christian name by her first husband John Bigrave. Dorcas Bigrave was baptised at St Botolph, Aldgate on 23rd December 1638. The Bigraves also had a daughter Sarah christened at St Botolph’s on 22nd November 1637, but she was buried there in the following January. They had two further daughters: Frances, who was born in 1643 and died in 1646, and another Sarah, buried in 1645.

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