A couple of Manser wills

The other day I was lamenting the fact that we don’t seem to have wills for any of the older sons of my 12 x great grandfather, Robert Maunser of Hightown in Wadhurst, Sussex, who died in 1592. I’ve been trying to find out who inherited Hightown from Robert: whether it was the William Maunser mentioned in the established pedigrees, but mysteriously not named in Robert’s will, or one of the sons referred to in that will, namely Robert junior, Thomas or George? My understanding is that Robert’s two younger sons, my 11 x great grandfather John Manser and his younger brother Abraham, either inherited or acquired other properties in or near Wadhurst.

There are extant wills for both John and Abraham Manser and today I want to consider whether these documents  shed any light on the questions that still surround the Manser or Maunser pedigree, specifically in the closing years of the fifteenth century and the early decades of the seventeenth, coinciding with the last years of the reign of Elizabeth I.

St Peter and St Paul, Wadhurst

St Peter and St Paul, Wadhurst

Firstly, it’s worth reflecting on the evidence that these two men were, as I’ve been assuming, the sons of Robert Maunser of Hightown. Until recently my main source for the claim that John Manser was Robert’s son was Walter Renshaw’s history of the Byne family. On page 122 of that publication he states that on 22nd January 1611/2, Stephen Byne of Burwash married Mary, daughter of John Maunser of Wadhurst ‘who was a son of Robert Maunser of Hightown in that parish’. In a footnote, Renshaw refers to John’s will of December 1597, which certainly mentions a daughter named Mary. Until recently, there was no clear evidence linking John Manser, author of the 1597 will and father of Mary who married Stephen Byne, to Robert Maunser of Hightown. However, my recently revised transcription of John’s will and the discovery of Robert’s will have combined to change that situation. Having realised that the name of John’s brother-in-law, appointed as an overseer of his will, was William Snatt, and that the maiden name of John’s wife was therefore Jane Snatt, I noticed that the latter was also one of the witnesses to the will of Robert Maunser, probably because at the time she was engaged to be married to his son John. Taken together with other indirect evidence, this is enough to convince me that John Manser of Wadhurst, who died in 1598 and whose daughter Mary married Stephen Byne, was (as Renshaw claims) the son of Robert Maunser of Hightown.

When it comes to Abraham Manser, the connection is a little more difficult to prove. Once again, our starting-point is Renshaw, who states, in an appendix to his book about the Bynes, that the Abraham Manser who in December 1600 married Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of John Byne of Burwash, was ‘a son of Robert Manser of Hightown in Wadhurst’. Renshaw doesn’t mention the fact that John Byne’s youngest daughter, Anne, married another Manser: Christopher, the son of John Manser of Wadhurst, sister of Mary who married Stephen Byne, and (I believe) Abraham’s nephew. I want to return to Christopher Manser, his family, and his connection with the Bynes, on another occasion.

Renshaw mentions Abraham Manser’s will, dated 8th March 1626, with a codicil dated 11th April 1627, which I transcribed and analysed a year ago. Abraham’s will contains no definitive evidence linking him to Robert Maunser of Hightown. The only evidence appears to be circumstantial: we know that Robert had a son named Abraham, who is also mentioned in his brother John’s will, and whose dates would seem to fit with the person who married Elizabeth Byne in 1600 and made his will in 1626. More significantly, Abraham’s will reveals him to be the owner of the estate know as Wenbourne or Wenbans in Wadhurst, which we know to have been in the possession of the Maunsers of Hightown, certainly in the lifetime of my 13 x great grandfather Christopher Maunser who died in 1546, bequeathing the property to his widow Joan.

However, if the evidence connecting Abraham with Robert Maunser is inconclusive, then his will certainly contains strong suggestions of a link with the later Hightown Maunsers. Abraham appoints three men as ‘my faithful and trustie overseers’: ‘my beloved kinsmen Nicholas Manser of Wadhurst aforesaid Stephen Byne of Burwash and Henrie Gregorie of Lynton in Kent yeomen’. It’s difficult to tell from the original manuscript whether ‘kinsmen’ is singular or plural. If my speculations are correct, then my 10 x great grandfather Stephen Byne was certainly a relative of Abraham Manser’s: Stephen was married to Mary Manser, whom I believe to have been Abraham’s niece, while Abraham’s father-in-law John Byne was almost certainly related to Stephen, even if the precise nature of that relationship has yet to be established. As for Henry Gregorie, I’ve yet to discover anything significant about him. However, the reference to Nicholas Manser as a kinsman is highly significant. We read later in the will that Nicholas was not only a witness to the will but its ‘scriptor’ – i.e. its writer or scribe.

Wenbans, or Wenbourne, in 2008 (via wenbans.com.au/)

Wenbans, or Wenbourne, in 2008 (via wenbans.com.au/)

We know of five Nicholas Mansers who were alive in the first half of the seventeenth century. They were Nicholas Manser, owner of Hightown, who was probably born around 1590 and who died in 1653/4; his son Nicholas, who may have been born in about 1605 and might have married Martha Fuller in 1637; the first Nicholas Manser’s grandson, the son of his eldest son Thomas, who would inherit Hightown and die in 1674; another grandson, the son of Nicholas’ son Herbert, who would also become one of the later owners of Hightown; and Nicholas, the son of Christopher Manser, the latter being (I believe) the son of  my 11 x great grandfather John Manser, and therefore (if my theory is correct) the nephew of Abraham Manser.

We can dismiss the last Nicholas at once, since he and his father were both of Burwash, not Wadhurst: Nicholas would live at Mottynsden in Burwash. More importantly, I don’t think this particular Nicholas Manser would be born until about 1645. I believe that the Nicholas, son of Thomas Manser, who died in 1674 was still a young man when he died, and was probably not born before about 1650. Since Herbert Manser did not marry until 1643 then this can’t be his son Nicholas. That leaves the first Nicholas Manser of Hightown and his second son. However I don’t believe the younger Nicholas came of age until the early 1630s. In other words, when Abraham Manser wrote his will there would have been only one ‘Nicholas Manser of Wadhurst’ – and that was the owner of Hightown.

The fact that Nicholas acted as both overseer and scribe of Abraham’s will suggests a close familial relationship. If the established pedigrees are correct and Nicholas’ father (William?) was indeed a son of Robert Maunser of Hightown, then Abraham would have been his uncle. However, the fact that Abraham was Robert’s youngest son, and Nicholas his own father’s eldest child, would have meant that the two were quite close in age – only nine years separate their likely marriage dates – and perhaps more like cousins than uncle and nephew.

But Nicholas isn’t the only Manser mentioned in Abraham’s will. He bequeaths to his daughter Ellen ‘the whole proffitts and rents of all my landes lying in Maifield being nowe in the occupacion of Abraham Manser my kinsman’. Is this the same Abraham Manser who witnessed the codicil appended to the will? Or is that ‘Jun’ (for ‘Junior’) after his name? The other witnesses are John Manser and Robert Wenborne. I’m having some difficulty identifying these men. Abraham Manser might be one of the sons of Nicholas of Hightown, though as the fourth and youngest son I imagined he would still be a child at this time. Christopher Manser of Burwash had a son named Abraham, and an older son named John, but once again their birth dates are much too late. There was an Abraham Manser who was a miller in Wadhurst and died in 1656, but I have no clue as to his connection to the Mansers of Hightown.

When I originally transcribed Abraham Manser’s will, I believed that the John Manser who witnessed the codicil was his brother, my 11 x great grandfather. But that was before I discovered John’s will and realised that he had died in 1598. The only other John Manser that I know of is the person who features in the established pedigrees, where he is described as a younger brother of Nicholas of Hightown, as having married Mary Cole, daughter of Aston, an event that we know to have taken place in Lewes in 1614/5, and as being ‘of Southwark’. Perhaps he had a son named Abraham, but the Southwark location seems to make that unlikely.

Another possibility is that the Abraham Manser and/or John Manser who witnessed the codicil were sons of Robert, Thomas or George (the older brothers of Abraham Manser of Wenbourne) who are named in the will of their father, Robert Maunser of Hightown. This would make them (like Nicholas Manser of Hightown) nephews of Abraham’s: but again, because he was the youngest of Robert’s sons, they might have been quite close to him in age.  It’s extremely frustrating that we don’t have birth, marriage or burial records for Robert Maunser’s sons, or baptismal records for his grandchildren. There seems to be a gaping hole in the Wadhurst parish records…

Posted in Byne, Manser, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Another look at Nicholas Maunser of Hightown (died 1653)

In recent posts I’ve been revisiting the Maunser or Manser family of Hightown in Wadhurst, Sussex, in an attempt to clarify some puzzling aspects of their pedigree. My own connection to the family is as follows. Robert Maunser of Hightown, who died in 1592, was my 12 x great grandfather. His younger son, John Manser of Wadhurst, who died in 1598, had a daughter Mary who married Stephen Byne of Burwash: they were my 10 x great grandparents.

View towards Wadhurst Park (site of Hightown), via geograph

View towards Wadhurst Park (site of Hightown), via geograph

The established pedigrees of the Maunser family claim that Robert Maunser had an older son, William, who inherited Hightown. As I’ve noted in recent posts, the discovery of Robert’s will casts doubt on this, since there is no mention in it of a son named William. There may be a good reason why William was left out: the will bequeaths very little in the way of property and it’s possible the transfer of ownership of Hightown had already been dealt with elsewhere. An alternative explanation is that the pedigrees have got it wrong, and that Robert’s heir bore a different name: besides John, his will also mentions sons named Thomas, George and Abraham. Or both theories may be wrong, and there may be a missing generation in the Maunser pedigree which awaits discovery.

Whichever of these explanations turns out be correct, it seems fairly clear, as I noted in the previous post, that the next owner of Hightown after William (or whatever his name turns out to be) was Nicholas Maunser, who made his will in 1653. Not only that, but there is increasing evidence that Nicholas’ father (whether William or another Maunser) was married to a daughter (probably Mary) of Nicholas Fowle of Rotherfield, and indeed that he was probably named after him. (Nicholas Fowle was a descendant of his namesake, who was my 14 x great grandfather – since his great grand-daughter Agnes Fowle married Edward Byne, the father of Stephen Byne mentioned above.)  If Nicholas Fowle’s will of 1599 is to be believed, then Nicholas Maunser had two siblings, John and Mary, whose names match those in the accepted Maunser pedigrees.

Extrapolating backwards from Nicholas Maunser’s own will of 1653, we can hazard a guess at some key dates in his life, and this may offer some help in solving the mystery of his origins. The only definite dates we have for Nicholas’ own life are the day on which he made his will, 20th December 1653, and the date on which it was proved, 17th February 1653/4, in the third year of the Cromwellian Commonwealth, together with one or two dates attached to documents relating to land ownership to be found in the National Archives. However, by tracing the trajectories of the surviving children mentioned in his will, we can perhaps fill in some of the missing detail of Nicholas’ biography.

We know from his will that Nicholas had four surviving sons – Thomas, Nicholas, Herbert and Abraham, in that order – and two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary. We have a definite marriage date for the third son, Herbert, who married Sarah Haffenden in 1643. This means that he must have been born by the early 1620s, thus placing the birth dates of his two older brothers, Thomas and Nicholas, before that. From a document in the National Archives, we know that Thomas was already married to his wife, Susan, by 1646. Similarly, we know that Nicholas’ daughter Elizabeth must have married David Leader, a London mercer, by 1640, since their first child, David, was born in the following year. Recently I also came across a record of the marriage of Nicholas Maunser, junior, of Wadhurst, yeoman, to Martha Fuller of Mayfield, a widow, which took place in 1637.

All of this points to the Maunser children being born between about 1610 and the early 1620s, with perhaps the younger son Abraham being born after that date.  According to the established pedigrees, Nicholas married a woman named Elizabeth. However, at the time of writing his will in 1653 his wife’s name was Sarah: this was almost certainly a second marriage. If Nicholas is not the Nicholas Maunser who married Elizabeth Hepden in Rye in 1609, then I suggest his first marriage must have taken place at around this time, to fit with the likely birth dates of his children.

This means that Nicholas Maunser must have been born by 1590 and probably before. It would be helpful to know when Nicholas inherited Hightown from his father, whatever his name was. There are documents from 1646 and 1650 which describe him as ‘of Hightown’, but I suspect he took ownership at a much earlier date. Another document in the National Archives refers to a sale of property to Nicholas Maunser of Hightown in 1629 and claims that Nicholas ‘did fealty to the manor of Ittington’ in 1630. We know that Robert Maunser was ‘of Hightown’ when he made his will in 1592, so presumably his son would have inherited the property at that point, while Nicholas was still a child. Nicholas’ father (William?) must have died, and Nicholas come into his inheritance, either in the 1590s or in the early decades of the new century.

It’s frustrating that we don’t seem to have a will for ‘William’, or for any of the older sons of Robert Maunser. However, the wills of his two younger sons, John and Abraham, may offer more insights into the tangled branches of the Manser family tree, and I’ll be revisiting them in another post.

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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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The Maunsers/Mansers of Hightown: a new (and incomplete) pedigree

In an attempt to solve the mystery of the possible missing generations in the pedigree of the Manser/Maunser family of Hightown, Wadhurst, Sussex, I’ve drawn up a revised pedigree, based on what we now know (see below).

At first, I thought of dividing the chart into two sections – the early generations up to Robert Maunser who died in 1592, and then the later generations beginning with Nicholas Maunser (I) who died in 1653. However, when I began to put estimated dates on these different generations, another potential chronological gap opened up – between Christopher Maunser and Robert Maunser.

18th century map of area around Wadhurst, Sussex

18th century map of area around Wadhurst, Sussex

I’ve been assuming that the Robert who made his will in 1592 was the son of Christopher, mentioned in his will of 1545. However, since Christopher’s son Robert must have already been ‘of age’ – i.e. over twenty-one – when his father died, in order to be appointed as executor of his will (I assume this is the case, but am happy to be contradicted by others with greater historical and legal knowledge), then he would need to have been born in the early 1520s.

However, the Robert Maunser who made his will in 1592 seems not to have fathered his youngest child, Abraham, until about 1580, and his older sons in the decade or so before this. I’m basing this on the fact that, of those other sons, John seems still to have been unmarried in 1592, while of the others only one, the eldest, another Robert, seems to have had any children, so I assume they were also still quite young. Now, it’s possible that I’m wrong about this (it would be wonderful to find christening records for the sons of Robert Maunser) and these sons were all born much earlier – but if not, then we have a long gap, perhaps as much as twenty-five years, between the coming of age of Robert, son of Christopher Maunser, and the birth of the first of the next generation. In other words, plenty of time for another generation to be inserted in the pedigree.

For me, this is enough to put a question mark over whether the Robert Maunser who died in 1592 was in fact the son of Christopher Maunser. Could he have been his grandson? And if so, was it his father, Robert son of Christopher, who had another son named William (supposedly the father of Nicholas Maunser I)? Of course, this raises the question of why the Robert Maunser who died in 1592 described himself as ‘of Hightown’, if it was his brother who actually inherited the property. But perhaps there is a clue in the fact that Robert describes himself in his will as a ‘yeoman’, rather than a gentleman, and that the will does not actually bequeath Hightown, or much other property come to that, to any of his sons?

With all of this mind, I have divided my revised pedigree into three sections, since the connections between them are not at all certain. For the purposes of this exercise, I’m assuming that the first section is fairly reliable – though given the errors we’ve already found in the records of the heralds’ visitations, this might turn out to be a rash assumption.

Part A of the chart consists of the three earliest generations that we know about, Part B of Robert Maunser and his sons, and Part C of the later generations. Most of the dates are estimates,  though we have evidence for a few of them.

(A1)

Sir Robert Maunser of Hightown

Born about 1450

Married Margaret

Son Walter

(A2)

Walter Maunser of Hightown

Born about 1470

Son Christopher

(A3)

Christopher Maunser of Hightown

Born about 1490. Died 1546.

Married (i) Mildred Barham (ii) Joan

Children:

Robert – born early 1520s

Mildred – born 1520 – 30 – married Robert Wenborne

Elizabeth – born 1510-20 – married John Thorpe

Maryann – born after 1525

…..

(B1)

Robert Maunser of Hightown

Died 1592

Children:

Robert

Thomas – born 1570 – 80

George – born 1570 – 80

John – born about 1570 – married Jane Snatt in about 1593– died 1597

Abraham – born about 1580 – married Elizabeth Byne in 1600 – died 1627

(B2)

Robert Maunser – born by 1570 – had son Robert before 1592

…..

(C1)

Nicholas Maunser (I) of Hightown

Born by 1590 Died 1653

Married (i) Elizabeth – 1609? (ii) Sarah

Children:

Thomas – born 1610 – 20

Nicholas – born 1610 – 20

Herbert – born by early 1620s – married Sarah Haffenden in 1643

Abraham

Elizabeth – born by early 1620s – married David Leader before 1640

Mary – married Giles Watts

(C2)

Thomas Maunser of Hightown

Born 1610 – 20

Married Susan –  about 1640

Son:

Nicholas

(C3)

Nicholas Manser (II) of Hightown

Born about 1655?

Unmarried

Died 1674

(C4)

On the death of Nicholas Manser (II), ownership of Hightown passed to Nicholas Manser (III), son of Herbert (see above 1b).

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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?

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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 argus.co.uk)

Countryside near Wadhurst, Sussex (via argus.co.uk)

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.

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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 [???]

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