Yeomen and Kinsmen: a new blog about my Tudor and Stuart ancestors

My latest ‘spin-off’ history blog, Yeomen and Kinsmen, tells the story of my ancestors in Tudor and Stuart Sussex, beginning with my 12th great grandfather William Byne, a yeoman farmer in Burwash in the early 16th century, and ending with my 9th great grandfather Magnus Byne, a clergyman in Clayton about a hundred years later.

The story encompasses not only successive generations of the Byne family, but also the families with whom they were connected by marriage, and who are also part of my family tree. They include the Mansers, landowners and iron masters in Wadhurst, a few miles north of Burwash, and the Fowles, originally from Lamberhurst in Kent, who included monks and schoolmasters among their number.

The most significant change in people’s lives during this period was the transformation of the religious life of the country. When our story begins, England was still, as it had been for more than a thousand years, a Catholic country. By the time it ends, Catholicism had been effectively outlawed, the official state religion was Anglicanism, and an increasing array of Protestant sects had begun to rebel against the new orthodoxy. My ancestors saw the religion in which they, and countless generations before them, had been raised swept away under Henry VIII, and even more drastically so under his son Edward VI, then briefly restored during Mary’s brief reign, before the pendulum swung back again under her sister Elizabeth. The period ends with the nation tearing it apart in a Civil War, largely inspired by the religious disputes sparked off a century before when Henry VIII broke with Rome. I’m fascinated by my ancestors’ part in these spiritual and political conflicts, and one of my aims in this blog is to understand more fully the changing religious identities of my forebears.

I hope you’ll visit the website and follow the story as it unfolds.

Posted in Byne, Fowle, Lucke, Manser, Snatt, Wane | Leave a comment

A new year – and yet another new blog

bethnal-green-mile-end-old-town-1827

Part of Greenwood’s 1827 map of London, showing the area around Mile End Road where my maternal ancestors lived in the early decades of the nineteenth century

Happy New Year to all my readers and fellow family history researchers!

Having followed my mother’s family from their arrival in London in the middle of the seventeenth century, through to the end of the eighteenth century, on my Citizens and Cousins blog, I’ve now set up a new website in order to continue the story.

East End Lives tells the story of one family – my family – living in London in the nineteenth century. Please follow the blog on Twitter @eastendlives blog, ‘like’ its page on Facebook, and generally spread the word!

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Another new blog!

London from Southwark. Oil on wood. This is a view of London taken from Southwark in the mid-1600s before the Great Fire. It shows Southwark in the foreground, with the playhouses on the left-hand side and the cathedral in the centre. London Bridge spans the river and then the City of London itself is on the north bank of the Thames, shown as a huddle of crowded, narrow houses and church spires. The writer John Evelyn described London as 'this Glorious and Antient City…so full of Stink and Darknesse' in his Fumifugium of 1661. He went on to call the buildings 'such a Congestion of mishapen and extravagant Houses'. This 'congestion' of houses and industries belched out huge amounts of smoke into the atmosphere and created a massive fire risk. The Great Fire of London was an accident waiting to happen.

I just can’t help myself. I’ve created another new website, to share my family history research with a wider audience. Citizens and Cousins traces the story of my seventeenth- and eighteenth-century London ancestors, recounting the history of the city at this fascinating period through the lives of a network of relatives living cheek-by-jowl in the capital, but originally from Sussex, Worcestershire and elsewhere.

You can find the blog here.  Best to start with this page, which explains the background.

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A new blog

In the course of researching the history of the Robb family, I discovered a possible case of double bigamy among my early Victorian ancestors. I’ve created a new blog, The Bonds of Betrayal, where I plan to post updates on my investigation of this curious tale. I hope you’ll follow my research and find the story as intriguing as I do.

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New information about the Lucke family of Mayfield, Sussex

I’ve written before about my connection to the Lucke family, who were yeoman farmers in sixteenth-century Sussex. Alice Lucke, daughter of Richard Lucke of Mayfield, married Magnus Fowle, son of Gabriel Fowle of Southover, probably some time in the 1550s. They were my maternal 12 x great grandparents.

St Dunstan's church, Mayfield, Sussex

St Dunstan’s church, Mayfield, Sussex

Previously, I’d discovered that Alice had a sister named Elizabeth and an uncle (her father’s brother) named Thomas, who was a priest at Litlington and before that almost certainly an Augustinian canon at Michelham priory. I’m also fairly certain that Alice’s father Richard Lucke died in 1559, and that Richard’s son and heir Christopher died in 1570.

Now an email from Wendy Teeter, another researcher who is descended from the Luckes, has provided me with additional information about Alice’s family. Wendy has kindly sent me copies of two Lucke family wills that I wasn’t previously aware of, together with her transcriptions.

The first will was signed and sealed by ‘Joha’ (Johanna? Joan?) Lucke in August 1567, in the tenth year of the reign of Elizabeth I. The testator describes herself as the daughter of the late Richard Lucke of Mayfield, but declares that she is now living in the parish of Buxted. She bequeaths Alice Fowle, whom she describes as her sister, a portion of what had been left to her by her father, and also two sheets. ‘Joha’ also makes a bequest to Annys (Agnes) Fowle, described as the daughter of her brother-in-law Magnus Fowle. The remainder of her goods she bequeaths to Margaret Lucke, who is also appointed as sole executrix of the will, Magnus Fowle being given the role of overseer.

Part of the will of Joha. Lucke of Mayfield (1567)

Part of the will of Joha. Lucke of Mayfield (1567)

The second will was also drawn up in 1567, but obviously later in the year, since it describes ‘Joha’ Lucke as deceased. This will was made by the Margaret Lucke mentioned in the first will, and confirms that the two women were sisters. Margaret describes herself as a spinster, and presumably ‘Joha’ was too, since she also retained her father’s surname.

So these two wills expand our knowledge of the Lucke family, giving Richard Lucke two more daughters and my ancestor Alice Fowle née Lucke two additional sisters, both of whom were unmarried and both of whom predeceased her.

‘Joha’ Lucke’s will also provides possible confirmation of my theory that the Luckes, like the Fowles, retained their attachment to the traditional Catholic faith, if not openly as recusants, then surreptitiously as ‘church papists’. The preamble to the will of ‘Joha’ Lucke includes the words ‘I bequethe my Sowle into the tuition of the holy trinitie’. I’m fairly sure that ‘tuition’ is the word used here, though it seems an odd choice. Apparently bequeathing one’s soul to the Holy Trinity was common among Catholics, and Catholic sympathisers. Magnus Fowle’s will of 1595 includes this formula: ‘I give and wholie bequeathe my soule to Almightie god, the father, the sonne, and the holie ghoste, Three persones and one god’.

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The Mortimers of Huddersfield

On Tuesday I paid my first ever visit to Huddersfield, for a meeting at the university. It was a gloriously sunny day and I made sure to take photographs of some of the Yorkshire town’s imposing Georgian and Victorian architecture. One or two of the buildings were of particular interest to me, for family history reasons. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries Huddersfield was home to members of the Mortimer family, who form one branch of my maternal family tree. 

Huddersfield railway station

Huddersfield railway station, with a statue of the town’s most famous son, Harold Wilson © Martin Robb 2016

My link to the Mortimers is via my maternal 5 x great grandfather Joseph Holdsworth. Born near Halifax in about 1735, Joseph came south to a farm in South Weald, Essex, and married my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Collins née Gibson in Bermondsey in 1763.

Joseph Holdsworth was the son of John Holdsworth of Sowood House, Coley, to the north of Halifax, and Mary Mortimer, who were married in 1725. I haven’t been able to discover anything about John’s forebears, but we know that Mary was the daughter of clothier and wool stapler John Mortimer of Shelf (d. 1742) and his wife Judith Woodhead (1681 – 1740), who were thus my 7 x great grandparents. They had five other children: Richard, Martha, John, Sarah and William.

Parish church of St Peter, Huddersfield, where some of my Mortimer ancestors were christened, married and buried.

Parish church of St Peter, Huddersfield, where some of my Mortimer ancestors were christened, married and buried. © Martin Robb 2016

Of these, we know that my 7 x great uncle John Mortimer junior, who was born in 1711, was married to a woman named Mary and that they lived at Woodhouse, Fartown, near Huddersfield. John died in 1747, leaving two sons, Samuel, born in 1744, and another John, born in the year of his father’s death. Samuel and John were my first cousins, 7 times removed.

The George Hotel, Huddersfield

The George Hotel, Huddersfield © Martin Robb 2016

The younger son, John, married Susan Hanson and lived at Paddock near Huddersfield. He described himself as a ‘gentleman’ in his will of 1823, and he left a substantial amount of money in his will when he died. John’s brother Samuel was less fortunate. In 1769 he married Frances Murgatroyd, daughter of the landlord of the George Hotel (see above), a role which Samuel would eventually assume. Frances died just two years after their marriage, and three years after that, Samuel Mortimer filed for bankruptcy. Nothing is known of what became of Samuel after this, but I assume that he died before his brother John, who doesn’t mention him in his will.

Posted in Gibson, Holdsworth, Mortimer, Woodhead | 5 Comments

In search of Gregory Martin

In recent posts I’ve written about Thomas Lucke, the former Augustinian canon and precentor of Michelham Priory, Sussex, who was serving as a curate in the parish of Litlington at the time of his death in 1552. Thomas was the brother of my 13 x great grandfather Richard Lucke of Mayfield. Richard was the father of Alice Lucke who married Magnus Fowle. Magnus and Alice were my 12 x great grandparents, and it was their Chancery case about Thomas’ disputed will that provided me with vital information about the Lucke family.

Reference to Gregory Martyn in Thomas Lucke's will of 1551

Reference to Gregory Martyn in Thomas Lucke’s will of 1551

In his will, Thomas Lucke made a number of bequests to his niece Alice. One of them was as follows:

I wyll of that monye that ys in Gregorye Martynes hands of Mayghfelde xlv to the povertie there to be dystrybuted by my executor. And the Resydue of the monye in his hands, I wyll halfe to Alice Lucke: the other halffe I wyll equally betwene Thomasyn Lucke and Elizabeth Lucke, by the hands of my executor to theme to be delyvred.

Gregory Martyn (or Marten, or Martin) is the only name that occurs both in Thomas’ will of 1551, and in the will of John Lucke of Mayfield, composed two years earlier in 1549. I’m fairly certain that John was a relative of Thomas’, and may indeed have been another of his brothers.

Witnesses to the 1549 will of John Lucke

Witnesses to the 1549 will of John Lucke

The witnesses to John Lucke’s will are listed as follows:

Richard lukk John Mone Gregory mtty: John Wenborn wm penkherst with others

I’m almost certain that ‘mtty:’ is an abbreviation for ‘Martyn’ and that this is the same person who would be mentioned in Thomas Lucke’s will. However, my searches for Gregory Martyn in the contemporary records have proved frustrating. His name does not appear in the 1524-5 lay subsidy rolls for Mayfield or indeed for anywhere else in Sussex, though the names of Christopher, Laurence and Thomas Marten can be found in the Mayfield listing. Nor can I find a will for a Gregory Marten in the Sussex archives.

List of witnesses to the 1529 will of Robert Sawyer

List of witnesses to the 1529 will of Robert Sawyer

However, there is one solitary reference to a Gregory Martin in the records, and it’s an intriguing one. In 1529 Robert Sawyer of Mayfield made his will. The opening paragraph is in Latin and it culminates in a list of witnesses, which includes the name ‘Gregorio Marten’. The word that follows this name is difficult to read, but it could be ‘clico’, which might be an abbreviation for ‘clerico’. Indeed, the transcript by the Sussex Record Society translates the word as ‘clerk’: in other words, priest.

Is this the same person who would appear in the wills of John and Thomas Lucke some twenty years later, and was he really a priest? Unfortunately, I’ve found no trace of a Gregory Martin in the clergy records, but then they only begin in 1540. Could he have been a member of a religious order, rather than a secular priest? Then again, if the person mentioned in those later wills was a priest, why was he not described as such, given that Thomas Lucke doesn’t hesitate to append the word ‘clerke’ to the name of Richard Cressweller, one of the witnesses to his will? Had Gregory Martin ceased to serve as a priest by 1551, or is this a different person altogether?

Father Gregory Martin (via Wikipedia)

Father Gregory Martin (via Wikipedia)

Interestingly, my search online for traces of Gregory Martin led me to a very different person with the same name: the Catholic priest, scholar and author who was chiefly responsible for the Douai-Rheims translation of the Bible that first appeared in 1582. Although this Gregory Martin’s origins are largely obscure, it’s said that he was born at Maxfield, in the parish of Guestling near Winchelsea – also in Sussex. Indeed, an introductory chapter to Martin’s book Roma Sancta, by George Bruner Parks, includes the following speculation:

There was an older ‘Gregory Martin clerk’ at Maughfield or Mayfield in northeast Sussex in 1529 and again in 1551, and the unusual Christian name makes it almost certain that he (if he was one man) was related to our author. If so, this priest, though he is not listed at either university, must have influenced the younger man’s schooling and vocation.

The references here are to the wills of Robert Sawyer (1529) and Thomas Lucke (1551). One thing is certain: the Gregory Martin mentioned in Thomas Lucke’s will can’t be the priest and translator of the Bible, since the latter was probably born some time in 1540s and would have been still a child when Thomas died. We know that this Gregory Martin went up to the newly-founded St John’s College, Oxford, as one of its first students, in 1557, where he befriended and may have influenced the conversion of the future Catholic priest and martyr Edmund Campion. For a time Martin was a tutor in the household of the Duke of Norfolk, before the increasingly hostile atmosphere for Catholics under Elizabeth I prompted him to travel to the continent and join the English College at Douai. After a sojourn in Rome, he returned to the College at its new home in Rheims, where he worked on his translation of the New Testament, before dying of consumption soon after its publication.

Great Maxfield (via heritage-explorer.co.uk)

Great Maxfield (via heritage-explorer.co.uk)

As already noted, Father Gregory Martin was said to come from Guestling, near Winchelsea. In the lay subsidy rolls of 1524-5, there was a John Marten living in the parish and two William Martens. As for Maxfield, reputed to be the Marten family home, there is still a house in Guestling known as Great Maxfield. Apparently the property belonged to Battle Abbey until its dissolution in 1538. However, I’ve found no trace in the records of any association between Maxfield and the Martin family. At one stage, this made me doubt the sources that claimed Maxfield as Gregory’s home: I even wondered if somebody had once misread ‘Mayfield’ as ‘Maxfield’ and the misunderstanding had become accepted as fact. The earliest source I’ve found is an 1843 edition of A Defence of the Sincere and True Translations of the Holy Scriptures Into the English Tongue, Against the Cavils of Gregory Martin by the Puritan divine William Fulke, a contemporary of Martin’s.

On the other hand, if we could prove a connection, it might be further proof of the Catholic sympathies of my Lucke ancestors, especially if Gregory Martin of Mayfield turned out to be a (former?) priest. We know that Father Gregory Martin was a lifelong Catholic, rather than a convert,  so it’s certain that he was brought up as a Catholic. However, even if he turns out to have been born elsewhere in Sussex, and even if he was actually from Mayfield, we have no evidence to connect him with the Gregory Martin of Mayfield mentioned in the wills of John and Thomas Lucke. The fact that they shared a name, and an unusual one at that (I’ve found very few Gregorys in the contemporary Sussex records) suggests some kind of connection – but what?

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