Revisiting the later generations of the Manser family of Hightown

The will of Robert Maunser of Hightown, Wadhurst, who died in 1592, casts doubt on the accepted pedigrees of the Maunser or Manser family. In his will, Robert mentions five sons: Robert, Thomas, George, John and Abraham. According to the pedigree in William Berry’s record of the heralds’ visitations,  Robert Maunser had only two sons: William and John.

Part of the pedigree of the Maunser family

Part of the pedigree of the Maunser family

By contrast, the next two generations in Berry’s pedigree chart appear to be accurate. He claims that William Maunser had three children: Nicholas, John and Mary. Nicholas is said to have had five children: Thomas, Nicholas, Herbert, Elizabeth and Mary. Much of this is confirmed by the will of Nicholas Maunser of Hightown who died in 1653, which I transcribed here and discussed here.

In his will, Nicholas refers to his wife Sarah: this seems to contradict Berry, who claims he married a woman named Elizabeth, but Sarah might be a second wife. Nicholas also refers to a brother named John, reflecting the information given by Berry. He leaves Hightown to his eldest son, Thomas; he bequeaths property in Battle to his son Nicholas; his son Herbert inherits Godsale or Guttsol in Burwash; and Abraham is to receive ‘Withers’ in Burwash. We also infer from the will that Nicholas’ daughter Elizabeth was married to David Leader and his other daughter Mary to Giles Watts.

Wadhurst Hall - built on the site of Hightown

Wadhurst Hall – built on the site of Hightown

The information in Nicholas’ will is complemented by the last will and testament of his grandson Nicholas, son of his eldest son Thomas, who inherited Hightown from his father and died in 1674, as well as by other archival sources. We also know from this later will that yet another Nicholas Maunser, son of Herbert Maunser, eventually inherited Hightown.

From the information in these sources, we can estimate the birth dates of the children of the first Nicholas Maunser of Hightown, and thus his own likely date of birth. If Nicholas’ eldest son Thomas already had a son in 1653, then he must have been born by about 1630 at the latest. However, we also know that the second son, Nicholas, had a son named Francis (who would become a cleric) in about 1645, so he must have been born by the early 1620s. Furthermore, we know that the third son, Herbert, married Sarah Haffenden in Lewes in 1643, so he must have been by the early 1620s, thus pushing his elder brothers’ birth dates further back. Of the two daughters, we know that Elizabeth’s marriage to David Leader must have taken place before 1641, when one of their children was born.

If Nicholas Maunser’s children were all born by the early 1620s or thereabouts, this makes it likely (though not proven) that the marriage of Nicholas Maunser and Elizabeth Hepden that took place in Rye in 1609 refers to him. And if that is so, then Nicholas must surely have been born by 1590. If we then assume that the information in the pedigree chart about his siblings is accurate, then John Maunser who married Mary Cole in 1614/5 must have been born by the mid 1590s, and Mary Maunser who married Thomas Scotson in 1604 would need to have been born by about 1590 at the very latest.

This prompts the question of why there is no reference to Nicholas or either of his supposed siblings in the 1592 will of Robert Maunser? And why do the pedigrees of both the Maunser and Fowle families agree not only that Nicholas’ father was William Maunser of Hightown, but that his mother was Mary, daughter of Nicholas Fowle of Rotherfield? Certainly Nicholas’ own Christian name – and the fact that it was then passed on in the family – seems to hint at a Fowle connection.

Is it possible that there is a missing generation of the Manser family in the existing pedigrees?

Posted in Fowle, Manser | Leave a comment

Reflections on the 1592 will of Robert Maunser of Hightown

The 1592 will of Robert Maunser of Hightown, in Wadhurst, Sussex, a transcription of which I reproduced in my last post, challenges much of the received information about him and his family. So what do we learn from the will?

Countryside near Wadhurst, Sussex (via

Countryside near Wadhurst, Sussex (via

In the will Robert identifies himself clearly as ‘of Hightown’, so he is certainly a descendant, and in all probability the son and heir of Christopher Maunser who died in 1546. (In his will of 1545, Christopher bequeathed ‘all my landes and tenements’ to his son Robert.) At the time he made his will, Robert had five surviving sons: Robert, Thomas, George, John and Abraham. We also learn that Robert Maunser junior had a son of his own, also named Robert, who was not yet of age.

Besides his sons, the only other witness to Robert’s will is Jane Snatt. We know that this was the maiden name of John Ma(u)nser’s wife, so it suggests they were not yet married, though perhaps engaged to be. If this is the case, then it revises my notion of when John and Jane were married and when their children were born. For example, if they married soon after the death of Robert, then their children, Mary and Christopher, must have been born between 1592 and John’s death in 1598, and their married life would have been even shorter than I’d previously imagined. This would certainly fit with Mary’s marriage to Stephen Byne in 1611 and Christopher’s to Anne Byne in about 1621. It would also make sense in terms of Jane Snatt’s birth date in 1569.

If Robert Maunser was, as seem likely, the son of Christopher Maunser, then the information in his will contradicts the accepted pedigree of the Maunser family. According to William Berry, Robert Maunser of Hightown, son of Christopher Maunser who died in 1546, married Joan Rootes and had two sons: William, who married Mary, daughter of Nicholas Fowle of Rotherfield, and John. The same pedigree claims that William Maunser had three sons: Nicholas, who inherited Hightown and was married to Elizabeth (this could be the marriage between Nicholas Maunser and Elizabeth Hepden that took place in 1609 in Rye); John, who was of Southwark and married to Mary, daughter of Benjamin Cole of Aston (their wedding was in Lewes in 1614/5); and Mary who married Thomas Scotson (they were married in 1604).

This suggests that Nicholas, John and Mary Maunser were probably born in the 1590s. However, none of them is mentioned in Robert Maunser’s will, and nor is their supposed father William. At present, I don’t have an explanation for this discrepancy, but solving the mystery is going to mean revisiting the later generations of the Ma(u)nser family, and perhaps overturning some more of my earlier assumptions.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The 1592 will of Robert Maunser of Hightown, Wadhurst

Yesterday I summarised what we know about the early generations of the Manser or Maunser family of Wadhurst, Sussex. A quick recap: Sir Robert Maunser, who lived at Hightown during the reign of Richard III, had a son and heir named Walter, who in turn had a son and heir called Christopher. In his will of 1545, Christopher Maunser named his son Robert as his executor.

Part of Richard Budgen's map of 1724, showing Wadhurst and Hightown

Part of Richard Budgen’s map of 1724, showing Wadhurst and Hightown

According to William Berry’s Sussex pedigrees, Robert Maunser (my 12 x great grandfather) married Joan Rootes of Marshalls and they had two sons: William, who inherited Hightown, and John. We already know that this pedigree is incomplete, since it fails to mention a third son, Abraham, who is mentioned in John Manser’s will of 1597. However, I’ve now transcribed Robert Maunser’s will of 1592 (thanks again to Ed Rydahl Taylor for sharing his copy) and it contradicts the pedigree to be found in Berry’s account and in other sources. There is no mention of a son named William, and instead we learn that Robert’s son and heir was yet another Robert, and that his other sons were Thomas, George, John and Abraham. The fact that Robert senior describes himself as ‘of Hightown’ confirms that this is, indeed, Christopher Maunser’s son, while the references to John and Abraham, and the fact that one of the witnesses to the will is Jane Snatt, either the fiancée or the mother-in-law of John (see this post), connects him to the later generations of the family. 

I’ll have more to say about Robert Maunser’s will in another post, but for now, here is my transcription:

In the name of god Amen the xxvth daie of August in the xxxvth year of the Reigne of our sovereign Ladie Elizabeth by the grace of god Queene of England France & Irland Defender of the faith. I Robt Maunser the elder of Hightowne in the p[ar]ysh of Wadherst in the countie of Sussex yeoman beinge sicke in bodie, but of good & p[er]fect memorie (god be thanked for yt) do make and ordeyne this my last Will and Testament in manner and forme following. First I bequeath my soule into the hands of almyghtie god my maker, trusting to have full p[ar]don and forgyveness of all my Synnes thoroughe the merritts of Jesus Christ my only Saviour and my bodie to be buryed when it shall pleas god to take me to his me[???]. Item I will that my Executor hereafter named shall bestowe money amongst the poor at my Buriall at his discretion Item I gyve & bequeath unto my sonne Robt Maunser tenne pounds of lawfull money of England, Item I gyve and bequeath unto my sonne Thomas Maunser tenne pounds of lawfull money of England to be paide unto him or his assignes within one year next after my decease, Item I gyve & bequeath unto my sonne George Maunser tenne pounds of lawfull money of England  to be paide unto him or his assignes within one year yeare after my decease, Item I gyve and bequeath unto my sonne John Maunser tenne pounds of lawfull money of England to be paide to him or his assignes within one yeare next after my decease  Item I gyve & bequeath unto my sonne Abraham Maunser tenne pounds of lawfull money of England to be paide to him or his assignes within one yeare next after my decease, Item [??] I gyve & bequeath unto Robt Maunser sonne of my said sonne Robt Maunser tenne pounds of lawfull money of England to be paide to him at his age of xxi yeares The residue of all my goods and chattels money & household stuff after my debts and funeral expenses and legacies and thoer charges about the execution of this my will beinge [???] & discharged I gyve and bequeath unto my saide sonnes Robt, Thomas, George, John & Abraham to be equallie divided amongst them, And I do make & ordayne my saide sonne Robt Maunser to be the sole and only Executor of this my last Will & testament And I gyve and bequeath unto my sonne George Maunser & his heires & assignes for ever[?] (by the licence [?} of the Lord) all my copihold lande called W[??]dreed conteyninge by estimation [?] three acres lyinge & beinge in Maighfield in the saide countie of Sussex.

Witnesses to this Will Thomas Maunser, Abraham Maunser, George Maunser, John Maunser, Jane Snatt and Thomas Ballarde.

Syned [?] Robti Maunser [???]

Posted in Manser, Snatt, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Revisiting the early generations of the Manser family of Wadhurst

My fellow researcher Bill Green has been investigating the connections between the Manser (or Maunser) and Fowle families of Sussex in the 16th century, and this has inspired me to revisit the earlier Manser generations. What do we know for certain about my ancestors, the Mansers of Wadhurst?

Wadhurst Park, location of Hightown

Wadhurst Park, location of Hightown

According to one source, the property known as Hightown in Wadhurst was first mentioned in a subsidy roll of 1295, though it’s unclear who the owners were at this time. However, the same source notes that, two centuries later, in 1483, Hightown was the home of Sir Robert Maunser, ‘a substantial landowner’ – and my 15 x great grandfather. It is with this person that the Ma(u)nser lineage in William Berry’s Sussex pedigrees (based on the Heralds’ visitations) begins. According to this document, Sir Robert was alive in 1483, during the time of Richard III (whose brief reign lasted from 1483-85). It seems likely that he was born in the 1450s.

Apparently Sir Robert Maunser and his wife Margaret had two sons, Walter and John. The latter died during his father’s lifetime, but not before fathering a son named Thomas, who is said to have lived at Uckfield, about seventeen miles from Wadhurst. He in turn had a son, also named Thomas. In 1570, a property later known as Bridge Cottage in Uckfield was said to be occupied by Thomas Maunser, grandson or great grandson of Sir Robert Maunser. This is almost certainly the ‘Thomas Manser sonne of Thomas Manser’ who was left money in the 1545 will of my 13 x great grandfather Christopher Manser: Thomas the younger would have been Christopher’s second cousin. Interestingly, in 1584 the same property was in the possession of Arthur Langworth of Buxted – almost certainly the person of that name referred to dismissively in the 1595 will of my ancestor Magnus Fowle.

Sir Robert Maunser’s eldest son, Walter Maunser of Hightown, my 14 x great grandfather, was said to have been alive during the reign of Henry VII (i.e. between 1485 and 1509). He was probably born some time in the 1470s. The name of his wife is unknown, and the only child of his that we know about is his heir, Christopher Manser. Christopher, who was alive during the reign of Henry VIII, married Mildred Barham and, secondly, a woman named Joan. His will of 1545 mentions these children:

- Robert, who was already of age when his father died, so was probably born around 1525.

- Mildred, who was already married to Robert Wenborne in 1545, so was probably born 1520-25.

- Elizabeth, who was already married to John Thorpe when her father died and had five children by the time her husband died in 1552, so was probably married in the 1530s and born in the 1510s.

- Maryan, unmarried when her father wrote his will, so perhaps born after 1530.

All of this points to Christopher Manser having been born some time in the 1490s.

According to Berry, Robert Manser, my 12 x great grandfather, who inherited Hightown from his father Christopher, married Joan Rootes of Marshalls (which I think was in Uckfield), though Wace’s 1923 history of Wadhurst claims that he married ‘a Fowle of Rotherfield’. Berry’s pedigree gives Robert two surviving sons: William, the eldest, who inherited Hightown and married Mary Fowle, daughter of Nicholas Fowle of Rotherfield, and John, my 11 x great grandfather.

Another account of the Heralds’ visitations, published in 1905, states that William Manser’s wife Mary was in fact the daughter of Thomas Hobden of ‘Burrish’ (Burwash); that John Manser lived in Southwark and married Mary Cole; and that Robert Manser also had a daughter Mary who married Thomas Scotson. However, I believe that this version of the pedigree mistakenly transposes information from the next generation: John Manser of Southwark and Mary Manser who married Thomas Scotson were (as Berry has it) the children of William Manser of Hightown, not his siblings. Bill Green also believes that, if William did indeed marry Mary Fowle (and not Mary Hobden), then she was the daughter of Anthony Fowle, not Nicholas.

This confusing picture has been made all the more bewildering by the information to be gleaned from the 1592 will of Robert Manser of Hightown, which I saw today for the first time. Another fellow researcher, Ed Rydahl Taylor, has kindly sent me a copy of the document, which I’m in the process of transcribing. From what I’ve seen so far, it challenges much of the received information about Robert and his family. I’ll say more in another post.

Posted in Fowle, Manser | Leave a comment

The children of William and Joan Byne of Burwash

My 12 x great grandparents, William and Joan Byne of Burwash, Sussex, had five children who survived to adulthood.

Margaret or Margery Byne was probably the eldest, as she seems to have married first. She married Goddard Russell of Salehurst in 1551. According to her brother Anthony’s will she had a son named Thomas and was still alive in 1590.

Edward Byne, my 11 x great grandfather, married Agnes Fowle, only daughter of Magnus Fowle of Mayfield. I’ve just found their marriage in the database of Sussex marriages: it took place in Mayfield on 24th October 1575, which is a couple of years later than I had previously thought.

Anthony Byne married Joan and lived in Battle. According to Anthony’s will, they had a son named Edward. Anthony Byne died in 1590.

Symon Byne married Elinor Pudland  on 25th October 1574 at Burwash. Elinor was the daughter of Richard Pudland of Heathfield, who died in 1577. Symon and Elinor had the following children: Edward (born and died in 1584), William (born 1586/7), John (born 1589, died 1590), Thomas (born 1590), Joan (apparently non compos mentis, died 1625), and another John. Elinor died in 1608 and Symon in 1616. Richard Pudland also had a daughter named Denis or Dionysia who married Symon’s cousin, John Byne (the son of his uncle Richard Byne).

Jane Byne married Henry Foster. She was still living in 1590.

Posted in Byne, Fowle | Leave a comment

William Byne: a timeline

It’s often helpful to estimate key dates for one’s ancestors, even if hard information is hard to come by, and to set these dates in the context of contemporary historical events. Doing this for my 13 x great grandfather, William Byne of Burwash (see below), makes it possible to see that he lived through the reigns of at least three monarchs and died soon after the accession of a fourth. William was born either just before or soon after the accession of Henry VIII, lived through the religious and political upheavals of Henry’s reign as a young man, was a middle-aged man with a family during the brief reigns of Edward and Mary, and witnessed the arrival on the throne of Elizabeth I shortly before his death.

William Byne: key dates

c. 1505-10       Birth

1509                 Henry VIII becomes king

c. 1525-30      Marriage to Joan

c.1530 –35     Birth of daughter Margery

1531                Henry VIII declares himself Supreme Head of Church of England

1536-40          Dissolution of the monasteries

1538                Leases ‘Witteres’

1547                Edward VI becomes king

1551                Marriage of daughter Margery to Godard Russell

1553                Mary Tudor becomes queen

1558                Elizabeth I becomes queen

1559                Death

Posted in Byne | Leave a comment

The brothers of William Byne of Burwash?

Yesterday I wrote about my 12 x great grandfather William Byne of Burwash, Sussex, who died in 1559 and who is, for now, my earliest definite Byne ancestor. My principal source of information about William is Walter Renshaw’s history of the Sussex Bynes. Although Renshaw has no definite evidence of William Byne’s origins, he suggests that he may have been related to other Bynes who can be found in and around Burwash at the same period.

Burwash parish church

Burwash parish church

I noted yesterday that William Byne appointed a certain John Byne as the overseer of his will. Renshaw speculates that this may have been the John Byne of Burwash who made his will on 27th November 1559 and who was buried two days later. The will does not mention William, but then the latter had himself died three months earlier. Like William, John Byne was a yeoman farmer. He too had a wife named Joan who survived him. John’s will also mentions four children: Symon, Henry, Richard and Joan.

Symon Byne, son of John, also married a woman named Joan. They had children named Richard and Margery. Symon died in 1560, not long after his father. Henry was married twice: first to someone named Margery and secondly, in 1577, to Elinor Cruttenden. He died in 1578. Henry Byne had a son named William and another son, probably named Henry. Richard Byne died in 1561. Joan was married twice, first to Godard Cruttenden and secondly, in 1576, to Thomas Barham.

John Byne’s will also mentions a brother named Richard, whom Renshaw identifies as the Richard Byne of Ticehurst whose wife was named Gillian and who had sons named Thomas and John and daughters named Margaret, Odiane and Anne. Richard made his will in 1574, leaving property at Witherden [Witherenden?]. His widow Gillian died in 1580/1.

It’s possible, though by no means proven, that my ancestor William Byne was the brother of John and Richard Byne. They were of the same generation, and there is a certain amount of name-sharing in their families: William and John both had sons named Symon; William and Richard both had daughters named Margery or Margaret.

Posted in Byne | Leave a comment