Since starting to research my 7 x great grandmother Mary Byne a week ago, I’ve discovered conclusive evidence that she was born in 1683, and that she was the daughter of London citizen and stationer John Byne (died 1689) and his wife Alice (died 1738). I’m also fairly certain that Mary’s father John was the brother of London citizen and upholder Stephen Byne (died 1675) and Southwark apothecary Magnus Byne. In this post, I want to review the evidence for John’s family connections, and for my theory that he and his siblings were born in the village of Clayton, Sussex.

Medieval wall paintings uncovered at the parish church of Clayton, Sussex

Medieval wall paintings uncovered at the parish church of Clayton, Sussex

The evidence connecting John and Stephen Byne is quite strong. Both men’s wills, written within fourteen years of each other, mention a brother named Magnus – a fairly uncommon name. Stephen’s will also bequeaths money to a brother named John. We know that both Stephen and John lived in the parish of St Botolph without Aldgate, and even more tellingly both gave their address as Tower Hill. On this basis, I’m prepared to proceed on the assumption that the two men were brothers, unless evidence emerges to the contrary.

Having established this connection, I want to move on to explore the theory that John, Stephen and Magnus were all born in the village of Clayton, Sussex, and that their father was another Magnus Byne. If we search at Ancestry for information about these three brothers’ births, then we find ourselves directed to records in the online database of English and Welsh Christening Records, 1503-1906. Here we discover that Stephen Byne was baptised at Clayton, Sussex on 3rd July 1647; John Byne on 11th March 1651; and Magnus Byne on 8th January 1664. All were said to be the sons of Magnus Byne.

These dates certainly match what we know of the three brothers from other sources. If Stephen was born in 1647, then he would have been 28 years old when he died, and we know that his wife Rebecca was born in 1648 and was herself 28 when she remarried a year after Stephen’s death. If John was born in 1651, then he would have been about 25 when his first daughter Alice was born in 1676, and 38 when he died in 1689. As for Magnus Byne junior: if he was born in 1664, he would have been a boy of ten or eleven when his older brother Stephen died, thus explaining the latter’s provision in his will of money for his upbringing and education. This birth date also fits with the information we have for Magnus Byne, apothecary, making him 25 years old when he married Jane Dakin in 1690.

The database of christening records informs us that Magnus Byne of Clayton had a number of other children besides Stephen, John and Magnus junior. These included Ann, christened on 18th June 1643; Edward, 28th October 1649; Anna, 7th January 1663; and Sarah, 22nd May 1666. The last-named is mentioned alongside her brother Magnus in Stephen Byne’s will, as another recipient of resources for her upbringing and education (she would have been nine years old at the time of Stephen’s death), thus providing a further link between the Bynes of London and Magnus Byne of Clayton.

All of this points towards Magnus Byne senior of Clayton being my 9 x great grandfather, and thus my earliest confirmed ancestor – which feels like a major breakthrough (I’ve struggled to get back beyond my 8 x great grandparents on other branches of my family tree). So what do we know about him?

Map of Sussex

Map of Sussex (click on image to open in new window, then click again to enlarge)

Any search for information about the Byne family in Sussex is made complicated by the fact that so many families in that county share the same surname. Not only that, but Christian names such as Magnus, Stephen and John recur with confusing frequency over time. I’d managed to find a few clues online, but my research has been helped greatly by my discovery yesterday evening of a book published privately in 1913 by one Walter Charles Renshaw, entitled Searches into the history of the family of Byne or Byne of Sussex. This volume is incredibly detailed and comprehensive, tracing as it does the interconnected Byne families of Sussex from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century, and it will take me some time to disentangle its many overlapping stories. For now, I’ll try to summarise what it tells us about Magnus Byne of Clayton and his immediate family.

According to Renshaw, Magnus Byne of Clayton was born in 1615 in Burwash, Sussex (about thirty miles east of Clayton), the son of another Stephen Byne, who was born there in 1586, and his wife Mary (if confirmed, they would be my 10 x great grandparents). Magnus had siblings named Elizabeth (born in 1612), John (1617), Mary (1620), Edward (1623) and Stephen (1632). The recurrence of some of these Christian names across the generations is further confirmation of the connection between this family and the Bynes of London.

Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Magnus Byne studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he gained the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1634. (Emmanuel has strong Puritan associations: my own grammar school, King Edward VI, Chelmsford, a firmly Protestant foundation, had a longstanding connection with the college, though I was actually a student at its near-neighbour, Downing.) Magnus was licensed as curate of Wadhurst (about five miles north of Burwash) on 9th December 1639: in the licence he is described as a Master of Arts. On 24th July 1640, when he would have been about 25 years old, Magnus was inducted to the rectory of Clayton-cum-Keymer.

According to Renshaw, Rev. Magnus Byne married twice. His first wife was Ann, born in Clayton in 1602, the daughter of another clergyman named William Wane and his wife Joan. Ann was the widow of John Batnor and of William Chowne, both of them former rectors of Clayton. She was buried at Clayton on 11th March 1661. Magnus’ second wife was Sarah Bartlett, a spinster and daughter of John Bartlett of St Faith’s in the City of London, citizen and stationer. The allegation for this second marriage, dated 23rd September 1662, describes Magnus Byne as a clergyman of Clayton, aged 42 and a widower, and it was to be solemnized at Lambeth or St Mary-le-Bow. Ann was buried at Clayton on 7th February 1669.

This means that, of the children of Magnus Byne listed above, Ann (christened in 1643), Stephen (1647), Edward (1649) and John (1651) must have been the children of his first wife Ann; while Anna (1663, probably named in memory of Magnus’ recently-deceased first wife), Magnus junior (1664) and Sarah (1666) were the children of his second wife Sarah.

However, this new information presents us with a slight problem. In his will of 1689, my 8 x great grandfather John Byne writes the following:

I give and bequeath unto my honoured Mother Mrs. Anne Forrest Widdow the sume of five pounds of lawfull mony of England to buy her mourning. 

If my speculations about his origins are correct, then John’s mother was certainly named Anne. However, if she was the first wife of Magnus Byne, then she would have been dead for 27 years by the time John composed his will. Indeed, John’s stepmother Sarah had also died 20 years previously. I wonder if he actually meant his mother-in-law – the mother of his wife Alice – and whether calling her his ‘honoured mother’ was a respectful, rather than strictly accurate description?

Notwithstanding this discrepancy, Walter Charles Renshaw seems convinced that the John Byne who married Alice and died in 1689 was, in fact, the son of Magnus Byne of Clayton. In the next post, I’ll explore what Renshaw’s book has to say about John and his siblings.