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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