Who was John Byne of Wadhurst?

In the last two posts I’ve been exploring the life of John Byne of Wadhurst, Sussex, who died in 1614. This person was obviously related in some ways to my known Byne ancestors, but his precise connection to the Byne family remains unclear.

John Byne’s eldest child, Elizabeth, was baptised at Burwash, about six miles south of Wadhurst, in October 1582. We can therefore deduce that John must have been married by early 1582 at the latest. Since I believe it was usual at this period for men to marry in their early to mid twenties, it seems likely that John Byne was born in the late 1550s or early 1560s.

Graves in Burwash churchyard

Graves in Burwash churchyard

In his history of the Byne family, Walter Renshaw concludes that John Byne was born in 1555, since he identifies him with the John Byne of Burwash, yeoman, aged forty-nine, who was a witness to the boundaries of the parish in May 1604. Moreover, and seemingly on the basis of John’s reference in his will to ‘lands, tenements and hereditaments’ in Penhurst (about six miles south of Burwash), Renshaw suggests that may be the ‘John at Byne’ of Penhurst against whom proceedings in the Archdeaconry Court were taken in July 1585 (Renshaw, page 194).

Whatever the truth or otherwise of these specific claims, it seems likely that John Byne was born sometime between 1555 and 1565, probably in Burwash. As I noted in the previous post, all of John’s seven children (born between 1582 and about 1603) were baptised at the parish church in Burwash, leading me to believe that he moved to Wadhurst quite late in life, perhaps to live with his daughter Elizabeth and her husband Abraham Manser, and probably after the death of his wife.

We can conclude that John Byne was of the same generation as (though probably slightly younger than) my 11 x great grandfather Edward Byne, who was born in 1550 (and who died in the same year as John Byne), the son of William Byne of Burwash. Richard Byne of Ticehurst, who I believe was William’s brother, had a son named John, who married Dionysia Pudland on 10th July 1569. A number of websites and family histories confidently claim that this was, in fact, the John Byne of Wadhurst who died in 1614. However, as I mentioned in an earlier post, Renshaw quotes from the will of this John Byne, which was proved by his widow Dionysia, and it seems clear that he died in 1579 and that he only had one child who survived him, a daughter named Mary.

Countryside near Wadhurst (via morgenguard.com)

Countryside near Wadhurst (via morgenguard.com)

The only other John Bynes that we know of don’t fit the likely dates for John Byne of Wadhurst. The earliest of them is the other likely brother of William and Richard, the John Byne who died at Burwash in 1559. Another was the John Byne who was the son of Thomas Byne, himself another of the sons of Richard Byne of Ticehurst. However, this John was born in 1576, married Susan Ticehurst in 1602, and made his will in 1630.

My 11 x great grandfather Edward Byne had a brother Symon who in 1574 married Elinor Pudland, sister of the Dionysia Pudland who had married his cousin John in 1569. Symon had a son John who was born in 1589 but died in 1590, and another son with the same name. We don’t have any further information about this John Byne, but he must have been born after 1590, so he would be much too young to be the person we’re looking for.

So the search for information about the origins of John Byne of Wadhurst goes on. However, we can be fairly certain that he was related in some way to my Byne ancestors. Renshaw suggests that he may be the ‘John Byne of Burwash Towne’ described as ‘my Couzen’ by my 11 x great grandfather Edward Byne, in his will of 1611. Edward appointed this John Byne as one of the two ‘trusty supervisors and Overseers’ of his will (the other being his brother Symon) and he also seems to have been of its witnesses. Edward Byne’s son, my 10 x great grandfather Stephen Byne, was described as a ‘cousin’ by Henry Goldsmith, husband of John Byne’s daughter Faintnot, when he made his will in 1634; he appointed Stephen as one of its overseers. As mentioned in the previous post, in 1630, in the fifth year of the reign of King Charles I, Stephen purchased a substantial amount of land from another of John Byne’s daughter, Anne – land which she had received when her late brother Thomas’ property was partitioned in 1620.

Anne was, of course, Stephen’s sister-in-law, having married Christopher Manser, brother of Stephen’s wife Mary. The transaction was witnessed by Stephen’s older brother Magnus Byne and his son, Magnus junior. Two years before this transaction took place, Magnus senior had married Anne’s older sister Elizabeth, who (to complicate things further) was the widow of Abraham Manser, who was in turn the uncle of Christopher and Mary Manser. These multiple intermarryings may simply reflect the realities of a small rural community, or they may be an indication of existing bonds of kinship between different branches of the Byne family.

Tower Hill in the late 17th century

Tower Hill in the late 17th century

Some forty-four years after this transaction occurred, and in the very different circumstances of Restoration London, another Stephen Byne made his will and appointed ‘my cosen John Manser’ as one of its overseers. This Stephen, a citizen and upholder or upholsterer of Tower Hill, was the son of another Magnus Byne, rector of Clayton-cum-Keymer in Sussex, and the grandson of Stephen Byne of Burwash. Seven years later, in 1681, the same John Manser would appoint ‘my kinsman Mr John Byne of Tower Hill’ as one of the overseers of his own will. This John Byne, a citizen and stationer, was Stephen’s brother, and my 8 x great grandfather. John Manser, who worked as an apothecary in nearby East Smithfield, was the son of Christopher Manser of Burwash and his wife Anne Byne, the youngest daughter of John Byne of Wadhurst. John Manser was certainly entitled to call John and Stephen Byne of Tower Hill his kinsmen, and to be described by them as a ‘cousin’ (using the term in its loosest, seventeenth-century sense), because his father Christopher was the sister of their grandmother Mary Byne née Manser. But it seems more than possible that he was their kinsman twice over, if his mother Anne Manser née Byne was related in some way to their grandfather Stephen Byne of Burwash.

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One Response to Who was John Byne of Wadhurst?

  1. Brenden Ashton says:

    Hi there, I am descended from John Byne (c.1555-1614) of Burwash through his daughter Helen (or Ellen) who married Mark Coney in 1603. I too have wondered how John Byne fits into the larger Byne family but haven’t been able to make much progress. I discovered a marriage that fits quite well. A John Byne married a Helen Ticehurst at Brightling in 1578. This fits well with his probable year of birth in 1555 and also with the name of his daughter Helen born in 1585. Further to this I discovered a baptism for a Helen Ticehurst at Brightling in 1563. This would have made her only 15 when she married John Byne but she did have her last child Anne in 1605 so she would have been 42 at that stage. I haven’t looked into this family for years so would be interested in any leads you might have. Kind regards, Brenden

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