Some doubts about my Fowle ancestors

My 11 x great grandmother Agnes Byne née Fowle of Burwash, Sussex, who died in 1626, was the only daughter of Magnus and Alice Fowle of Mayfield. Magnus Fowle was the son of Gabriel Fowle of Southover, Lewes, who was himself the son of Nicholas Fowle – my 14 x great grandfather.

Countryside near Mayfield, Sussex (via http://media.rightmove.co.uk)

Countryside near Mayfield, Sussex (via http://media.rightmove.co.uk)

I’ve been trying to find out more about Nicholas, and in doing so have begun to doubt some of my earlier assumptions about his origins. A number of sources claim that Nicholas was the son of Thomas Fowle of Lamberhurst, just across the county border in Kent. I had assumed this was the Thomas Fowle of Lamberhurst who made his will in 1525, which I transcribed and discussed in earlier posts. However, that will includes the following bequest:

First I will that my wife shall receyve yearly the profits of my landes  to sucour hir and hir children to the tyme and season that my sonne the which is my heire be xxi yere of age and then he to entre into his landes at that age with godds blessing and myn 

If the son referred to in this will is Nicholas, and he was not of age in 1525, then he must have been born some time after 1504. However, this doesn’t fit with what we know of Nicholas’ family: for example, a number of sources claim that his son Gabriel was born in about 1507. Some sources claim that Thomas Fowle, father of Nicholas, died in 1502, and not in 1525 as stated in the will that I discussed earlier. So perhaps the Thomas Fowle of Lamberhurst who died in 1525 wasn’t Nicholas’ father, but another man of the same name, perhaps from the same family?

Countryside near Lamberhurst (via geograph.co.uk)

Countryside near Lamberhurst (via geograph.co.uk)

According to one pedigree, the Thomas Fowle who was father to Nicholas was born in about 1450 and married Ellen, who was born at around the same time, in about 1475. Their son Nicholas is said to be have been born in about 1480 and to have married Joan Vince in about 1500. According to the same source, Nicholas and Joan had four sons: William, Gabriel, Bartholomew, and Robert.

However another source claims that the names of Nicholas and Joan Fowle’s children were in fact Gabriel, Christopher and John, and that in addition they had a daughter, name unknown. Furthermore, this source suggests that William Fowle, said to be the son of Nicholas, may actually have been his nephew and his ward, the son of his brother William.

So it would seem that the identity of my 15 x great grandfather is once again in doubt. He was probably named Thomas Fowle, but whether he was the person who made his will in 1525 seems doubtful. Some doubt also surrounds my 14 x great grandfather Nicholas, though he may be the person of that name who made a will in 1522.

As I was writing this post, I came across a very helpful article by William Green in the March 2012 issue of the Sussex Family Historian, which casts doubt on much of the information about the Fowle family currently available online. I’ll say more about the article, and its conclusions about Nicholas Fowle and his origins, in another post.

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