Yesterday I posted a transcription of the last will and testament of Alice Byne, my newly-discovered 8 x great grandmother. When Alice wrote her will in 1733, George II was in the seventh year of his reign and Robert Walpole was Britain’s prime minister. In this post, I want to discuss what light Alice Byne’s will can shine on her own life and on the lives of her relatives.
We learn that in 1733, when Alice wrote her will, she was still living in the parish of St Botolph, Aldgate – most likely in the family home at Tower Hill where she and her late husband John had been living in the 1670s and 1680s.
In addition, we learn that Alice owned property in a number of other locations. She held freehold property in Distaff Lane, and also in the parishes of St Margaret Moses, Friday Street, and St Nicholas Cole Abbey. We’ve come across the Distaff Lane property before. When Alice’s granddaughter Mary Gibson – widow of John Gibson and daughter of Joseph Greene and Mary Byne – wrote her will in 1788, she mentioned ‘all that my messuage or tenement and premises with the appurts used as a sugar house and situate in Little Distaff Lane London’, so presumably she was the eventual inheritor of this part of Alice’s estate. (Little) Distaff Lane ran south from Cannon Street (see map below). The same property is also mentioned in the will of Mary Gibson’s unmarried daughter Sarah, written in 1789. The property obviously continued to pass down through the Gibson family, since it is referred to in the 1826 will of Mary Catherine Gibson (widow of Bowes John Gibson, Mary Gibson’s son – and Alice Byne’s great grandson), who writes of ‘having purchased my son William Henry’s and my daughter Elizabeth’s shares in the freehold premises in Distaff Lane’.
As for Alice’s other London properties, St Margaret Moses was a parish in the City of London (though the actual church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and not rebuilt) and Friday Street runs parallel to Distaff Lane. The church of St Nicholas Cole Abbey was also destroyed in the Great Fire but rebuilt and stands in what is now Queen Victoria Street, just south of Distaff Lane. As can be seen from John Rocque’s map (published only eight years after Alice Byne’s death), all of these properties were in the heart of the City of London, close to St Paul’s (see map above).
Alice also owned what she describes as ‘all that my meadow’ in the village of Badsey in Worcestershire ‘which I purchased of Elizabeth Badsey and Richard Badsey her Son’. Badsey is about two miles east of Evesham. Apparently there have always been people in the village whose surname is the same as the name of the village. There were a number of people with the names Elizabeth and Richard living in the area at this time. At this stage I’m not sure whether this means that Alice had a family connection to Badsey (for now, her origins remain obscure) or whether it simply reflects a business transaction.
What can we infer from Alice’s will about her family’s circumstances in 1733? We know that she and her late husband John had five children who were still living at the time of the latter’s death: John, Alice, Mary, Magnus and Thomas. However, only the two daughters are mentioned in the will: Mary (my 7 x great grandmother) who was married to Joseph Green, and Alice, the widow of Thomas Bouts. This suggests that John, Magnus and Thomas were no longer alive, but further research will be necessary to confirm this.
Alice’s will confirms what we already know about the family of her daughter Mary (my 6 x great grandmother). In 1733 she had been married to Joseph Green for twenty-two years, but by this date only their daughter Mary was still living. In 1729 Mary had married John Gibson. The three Gibson daughters mentioned in the will – Mary, Jane and Elizabeth – would have been very young at this date. The youngest of them, Elizabeth, my 5 x great grandmother, was christened on 17th May 1733, only three months before Alice wrote her will.
As for Alice Byne’s other surviving daughter Alice, she had married Thomas Bouts in 1733. I’ve found a record for the christening at St Botolph’s in 1708 of ‘Tho Boote’, son of Thomas and Alice of Tower Hill, but so far no trace of Anne’s baptism (it’s probably hidden behind one of the variant spellings of Bouts, which are almost as many and diverse as those for Byne). I’ve found land tax records for Thomas Bouts in various parts of London, including Portsoken, which is a district in the eastern part of the city, near Aldgate. In 1710, a Thomas Bouts was included under the heading ‘weavers’ in an electoral register of London liverymen. To date, I’ve found no record of Thomas’ death. However, we know that his widow Alice would die in 1760 and be buried at St Botolph’s on 20th April: the parish register describes her as being ‘of St Olave Southwark’, so this may indicate where she lived in her old age and provide a clue to the whereabouts of her daughter Anne.
As I’ve learned from examining other seventeenth- and eighteenth-century wills, the word ‘cousin’ can cover a multitude of relations and is no guide to the exact connection with a testator. I assume that ‘my Cousin Elizabeth Byne Spinster’ was a relative of Alice’s late husband John, perhaps his sister, but confirmation will have to wait on further investigation of the Byne family tree. ‘My Cousin Anne Payton Widow’ could be any one of a number of people living in London and elsewhere at this time, and once again further research will be needed to establish her identity and precise relationship to Alice Byne. As for ‘my Cousin Jemima Rix (Wife of Leonard Rix of Bow Lane London Barber)’, I’ve discovered that, on 16th September 1722 John, son of ‘Leonard and Gemima Rix’ was christened at the church of St Mary le Bow. Someone by the name of Leonard Rix is listed as a Stationers’ Company apprentice in London at this period: although the person mentioned in Alice Byne’s will was supposedly a barber (perhaps a barber-surgeon?), the fact that John Byne was a stationer points to a possible link. ‘My Cousin Alice Elliot otherwise Burroughs’ was obviously a significant figure in Alice Byne’s life, since she receives not only a weekly payment of two shillings from the latter’s estate, but also ‘the Sum of Ten pounds ….to cloath her in a decent manner’. However, more information is needed before I can be sure of this person’s identity or her relationship to Alice Byne. Finally ‘my Cousin Richard Boulton the Elder’ is perhaps the person of that name who is listed as paying land tax in the parish of St Botolph Aldgate in 1741 and 1742, but once again there are a number of people with the same name and further investigation would be needed before determining which one was Alice Byne’s relation.