Reflections on the will of John Harman of Lewes

In the previous post I shared my transcription of the will of John Harman, a merchant of Lewes in Sussex, who died in 1600. Harman was the husband of Agnes Fowle, sister of my 12 x great grandfather Magnus Fowle and daughter of my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle. In this post, I’ll be analysing what John Harman’s will tells us about him and his family.

Elizabethan merchant and family

Elizabethan merchant and family

The first thing the will tells us is that Agnes Harman née Fowle, the testator’s wife, must have predeceased him, since she is not mentioned. We also learn that John Harman had four surviving children: a son and three daughters. I assume that the son, John Harman the younger, was not yet of age, since one of his sisters, Mary, is appointed as executrix of the will. We discover that the three daughters were all married, and that all had children.

Mary Harman was married to Hamon Hardyman and they had four children: John, Edward, Elizabeth and Agnes. Hamon (or Hamond) Hardyman (or Hardiman) was a glover in Cliffe, near Lewes, and was almost certainly related to ‘Jerman Hardyman my Neighbour’ who witnessed John Harman’s will. In his will of 1595, Magnus Fowle had left ten shillings to ‘my cosen’ Hamon Hardyman: in fact, the latter was the husband of Magnus’ niece. In 1604 Hardyman was one of the sureties of the licence for the marriage of Magnus Fowle’s grandson, Magnus Byne, to Elizabeth Polhill. Hamon Hardyman died in 1617 and was buried, like his father-in-law John Harman, at All Saints Church, Lewes.

Agnes Harman, who had been christened at All Saints church on 20th April 1567, was married to Nicholas Bonwick, but their children are not named in the will. Bonwick is an old Lewes name, but I haven’t been able to find out anything further about Nicholas. However, I have come across a record of the marriage, on 18th January 1586, of ‘Nicholas Bonnycke’ and ‘Annys Harman’. Interestingly, it took place at the church of St Saviour, Southwark, which had previously belonged to the priory of St Mary Overy, with which the Fowle family was closely connected. My 9 x great grandparents Magnus and Anne Byne would be married in the same church in 1640.

The name of John Harman’s third daughter, who was married to John Smith, is not mentioned in the will. One source gives her name as Elizabeth, though I’ve found a record of the christening of Alice Harman, son of John, at All Saints church in Lewes, on 25th October 1562. The Smiths had two sons: Richard and Thomas.

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