My ancestors and the Polhill family

In my explorations of the lives of my Sussex ancestors – and specifically the Byne, Ma(u)nser and Fowle families – the surname ‘Polhill’ has often featured. I thought it might be useful to summarise these connections – and to work out how the various members of the Polhill family are related to each other.

I’ve written recently about John Polhill who married Elizabeth Fowle, daughter of Nicholas Fowle of Wadhurst. Nicholas appointed his son-in-law John as one of the overseers of his will of 1599. John Polhill was born in about 1572 and probably married Elizabeth in the early 1590s. According to the pedigree included in William Berry’s Sussex genealogies, John was the son and heir of Thomas Polhill of Preston and his wife Margaret Chapman, and the grandson of another John Polhill, also of Preston. His great grandfather was John Polhill or Polley of Detling near Hollingbourne in Kent.

Etchingham parish church (via geograph)

Etchingham parish church (via geograph)

John Polhill died in 1611 at the age of about 39. His will mentions Thomas Scotson, who married Mary Maunser, the daughter of another of Nicholas Fowle’s daughters. Scotson’s own will of 1636 mentions ‘Edward Polhill, clerk’ who is almost certainly the second son of John and Elizabeth Polhill. Edward Polhill was rector of Etchingham and the owner of Buckland, in Lansdown, Kent. He married twice: first to Deborah, daughter of Robert Bankworth of Bow Lane, London, and secondly (as I noted in this post) to Jane, daughter of William Newton of Lewes, another of the beneficiaries of Thomas Scotson’s will. Edward Polhill died and was buried at Etchingham in 1654.

The first association between the Polhills and my Byne ancestors occurred in 1604, when Magnus Byne married Elizabeth Polhill of Burwash. Magnus was the son of my 11 x great grandparents Edward Byne and his wife Agnes Fowle (I trace my descent from another of their sons, Stephen), who was the daughter of Magnus Fowle of Mayfield, and the granddaughter of Gabriel Fowle of Southover, near Lewes, who in turn was an uncle of the Nicholas Fowle who made his will in 1599. I’ve been unable to discover the precise identity of Elizabeth Polhill, since neither she nor her marriage to Magnus Byne feature in the Polhill pedigree chart.

Elizabeth Byne née Polhill died in 1607, after only three years of marriage. In the following year Magnus married Bathshua Newington, daughter of Morgan Newington of Kingston Bowsey. Interestingly, two of Bathshua’s siblings married into the Hepden family, who would be linked with the Mansers, when Nicholas Manser of Hightown married Elizabeth Hepden in 1609. Thomas Newington married a Hepden whose first name is not given by Berry, and Sam Newington married Hopestill, daughter of Goddard Hepden of Burwash, and cousin to Elizabeth Hepden who married Nicholas Manser. Bathshua Byne née Newington died in 1620 and in 1628 Magnus Byne married for a third time, to Elizabeth Manser, widow of Abraham Manser of Wenbourne. Abraham was the youngest son of Robert Maunser of Hightown and Elizabeth (to complicate the tangled web of connections even more) was originally a Byne, the daughter of John Byne of Burwash.

In 1664 the will of my 10 x great grandfather Stephen Byne of Burwash, son of Edward Byne and Agnes Fowle, was witnessed by Edward and John Polhill. I found this information in the history of the Byne family by Walter Renshaw, who claims that Edward was born in 1617 and John in 1619, and that they were the sons of Thomas Polhill and his wife Faintnot Tycehurst. Renshaw also states that Edward was the noted Justice of the Peace and ‘author of some religious works’. This claim is echoed by a source forwarded to me by my fellow researcher Bill Green, headed ‘The Polhill, or Polley, and De Bokeland families’. Berry’s pedigree agrees with Renshaw that Edward Polhill ‘the author’ was born in 1617, but has him as the son of Robert Polhill, the youngest son of John and Elizabeth and the younger brother of Edward, rector of Etchingham.

However, all three are contradicted by at least two other sources claiming that Edward Polhill, the Puritan author, was actually the son of Edward Polhill the rector of Etchingham, and therefore the grandson of the John Polhill who married Elizabeth Fowle (see above). Yet another source provides confirmation of this, stating that ‘his father was a rector’. I’ve seen the will of Thomas Polhill dated 1637 and although it mentions his wife Faintnot, there is no reference to a son named Edward, nor for that matter to any other children.

edward polhill book cover

According to the third source mentioned above, the author Edward Polhill was actually born in 1622:

He entered Gray’s Inn on 16 June 1638–9, and was called to the bar, but he chiefly divided his time between the care of his family estates in Burwash, Sussex, where he was justice of the peace, and the compilation of religious tracts, somewhat Calvinistic in temper, but supporting the established church.

In 1674 an Edward Polhill, described as ‘my cosen’ by the testator, was one of the beneficiaries and witnesses of the will of the second Nicholas Manser of Hightown, grandson of the first Nicholas who married Elizabeth Hepden and died in 1653. At this stage, I’m not sure of the precise relationship between this Nicholas Manser and the Polhill family, nor am I sure whether this is the same person who witnessed Stephen Byne’s will ten years earlier. Most sources suggest that Edward Polhill the author died in about 1694, so this could well be him.

There are a number of other Edward Polhills in the family pedigree, so we must be cautious about identifying the person mentioned in these Byne and Manser wills with the Puritan author. For example, it’s possible that the Edward and John Polhill who witnessed Stephen Byne’s will were the sons of John Polhill of Preston who married Anne Gilbourne. This John Polhill was the son of John, the eldest son of the John Polhill who married Elizabeth Fowle.

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