Magnus Byne (1615 – 1671): a life in turbulent times

In 1615, in the twelfth year of the reign of King James I and in the last year of the life of William Shakespeare, my 9 x great grandfather Magnus Byne was born, in the village of Burwash, Sussex.* He was the son of Stephen Byne, a yeoman, and his wife Mary. While Magnus was still a child, Sir Walter Ralegh was beheaded, the ‘Mayflower’ sailed to the New World and Charles I succeeded his father as king.

Parish church of St Bartholomew, Burwash

Parish church of St Bartholomew, Burwash (via geograph)

On 31 June 1631, when he was sixteen years old, Magnus Byne was admitted as a student at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Two years before, King Charles had dissolved Parliament and it would not meet for another eleven years. Magnus graduated as a Bachelor of Arts in 1634 and proceeded to the degree of M.A. in 1638.

Magnus was licensed to the curacy of Wadhurst, a few miles north of Burwash, on 9th December 1639, at the age of 24. Just seven months later, on 24th July 1640, he was inducted to the rectory of Clayton-cum-Keymer, some thirty miles to the west. Later that year, King Charles was forced to recall Parliament as the result of a Scottish invasion, and in the following year there was insurrection in Ulster and the first stirrings of civil war in England.

St Peter and St Paul, Wadhurst

St Peter and St Paul, Wadhurst (via flickr)

Soon after taking up the post of rector of Clayton, Magnus Byne married his first wife, Ann. Christened at Clayton on 2nd March 1602, she was the daughter of William Wane, another clergyman, and his wife Joan. William, born at Westerham, Kent, in 1561, was ordained deacon on 28th May 1598 and priest on 24th June in the same year. After serving as curate of Wivelsham, Sussex, he was inducted on 1st January 1601 to the rectory of Clayton-cum-Keymer. In 1606 and 1607 he was apparently ‘in trouble in the Court on account of his relations with a woman named Ellenor Poulter’ (Renshaw, p. 126, footnote). He was buried at Clayton on 10th June 1640.

As well as being the daughter of a former rector of Clayton, Ann had previously been married to the two incumbents who immediately preceded Magnus. On 9th July 1628 she married John Bantnor, who died ten years later and was buried at Clayton on 29th June 1638. He was succeeded as rector by William Chowne, who married Ann Bantnor, widow, on 17th October 1638. William died less than two years later and was buried on 10th June 1640.

Interior of Clayton parish church (via englishbuildings.blogspot.com)

Interior of Clayton parish church (via englishbuildings.blogspot.
com)

I don’t have a date for Magnus Byne’s marriage to Ann, but it must have followed shortly after his arrival in Clayton, since the couple’s first child was born in July 1641. From our perspective, it seems an odd state of affairs: it’s almost as though Magnus inherited Ann with the rectory. We can only assume it was a marriage of convenience, rather than love: Ann would have been 40 years old when she married Magnus, who was only about 25 at the time.

Despite her age, Ann would have five children with Magnus, all of them born in one of the most turbulent decades in English history. In 1642 civil war broke out in earnest and continued until the royalist surrender in 1646, followed by the execution of the King in 1649. Mary Byne was born in 1641 but died two years later; Ann was born in 1643 and died in 1662, at the age of nineteen. Renshaw gives Stephen Byne’s year of birth as 1649 but this must be a mistake, since we have a christening record from 1647. In fact it was another son, Edward, who was baptised in 1649. Ann Byne’s last-born child was my 8 x great grandfather John, christened on 11th March 1651, the year in which the second civil war broke out, culminating in the Battle of Worcester and the flight of Charles II.

The early childhood of my 8 x great grandfather John Byne would have been spent under the Commonwealth of Oliver Cromwell, which lasted until the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660. It was during this period, in 1656, that Magnus Byne published his famous attack on the Quakers (see previous post). His wife Ann died in the first year of the reign of Charles II and was buried at Clayton on 11th March 1661 (1662 by modern reckoning). In September 1662 Magnus married his second wife Sarah Bartlett, spinster, the daughter of John Bartlett of St Faith’s in the City of London, Citizen and Stationer. (I wonder if the latter was instrumental in John Byne’s decision to follow the same occupation, also in London?) Magnus and Sarah had three children together: Jane in 1663, Magnus in 1664 and Sarah in 1666.

Magnus Byne’s second wife Sarah was buried at Clayton on 7 February 1669/70. Magnus himself died in 1670/1 and was buried at Clayton on 3rd March. He would have been 56 years old when he died. Letters of administration of his effects were granted at Lewes to his son Stephen on 6th March.

Graves in churchyard at St John the Baptist, Clayton (via geograph)

Graves in churchyard at St John the Baptist, Clayton (via geograph)

When Magnus died, his eldest son Stephen was 24 years old and living at Tower Hill, London, where he worked as an upholsterer. He was recently married to his wife Rebecca. My 7 x great grandfather John Byne would have been 20 years old, probably also living at Tower Hill by this time and working as a stationer, though he would not marry his wife Alice for another five years. Edward Byne was 22  and also unmarried, while Magnus was only seven and Sarah five. There is no mention of Jane in her brother Stephen’s will of 1674, so I assume she did not survive.

Having laid out the basic facts and events of Magnus Byne’s life, my next post will explore his origins and family history.

(* In this, as in the last few posts, I am indebted to Walter Charles Renshaw’s exhaustive history of the Byne family of Sussex.)

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