In this post I want to summarise what we know about the immediate family of my newly-discovered 9 x great grandfather Magnus Byne (1615 – 1671), rector of Clayton-cum-Keymer. Once again, I am indebted to Walter Charles Renshaw’s incredibly detailed history of the Byne family of Sussex. Having access to Renshaw’s pioneering research, published a hundred years ago, means that I can extend this branch of my family tree back through the generations far more quickly and easily than would otherwise have been possible (even if does take away some of the thrill and unpredictability of the search). At the same time, the complexity of Renshaw’s history means that, in tracing your own particular family line, you have to pick a very careful and painstaking path through the details of his account.

Interior of St Bartholomew's church, Burwash

Interior of St Bartholomew’s church, Burwash (via geograph)

Magnus Byne was the son of Stephen Byne, who was himself the son of Edward and Agnes Byne and was baptised at Burwash, East Sussex, on 3rd July 1586. On 22nd January 1611/2* Stephen married Mary Maunser or Manser, daughter of John Maunser of Wadhurst (six or seven miles north of Burwash), who was the son of Robert Maunser of Highwood in that parish. I assume that the John Manser, an apothecary of East Smithfield, London, who was appointed by a later Stephen Byne – the brother of my 8 x great grandfather John – as overseer of his will, and who in turn appointed ‘my kinsman John Byne’ as overseer of his will – was a member of this family.

Various records describe Stephen Byne as a yeoman (a term used to describe a free man owning his own farm) of Burwash, where he also served as a churchwarden. Stephen and Mary Byne had five children that we know of, all born and baptised in Burwash. Elizabeth was christened on 22nd January 1613/3; Magnus (my 9 x great grandfather) was born in 1615; John was christened on 2nd May 1617; Mary on 30th July 1620; Edward on 2nd December 1623; and Stephen on 14th October 1632.

Stephen Byne made his will on 24th July 1660: I haven’t seen a copy, but some of its provisions are cited by Renshaw (pp.123-4). He was buried at Burwash on 22nd April 1664 and his will was proved by his youngest son Stephen on 1st May at Lewes.

Stephen’s daughter Elizabeth Byne – the elder sister of my ancestor Magnus – married Gregory Markwick of Wadhurst, gentleman, at Burwash on 14th August 1632. They had a daughter, also named Elizabeth, christened on 24th March 1638/9. Elizabeth senior died soon afterwards, presumably as a result of the birth, and was buried on 8th April at Burwash.

Magnus Byne’s younger brother John, born in 1617, married Elizabeth, widow of Simon Conye. John and Elizabeth Byne had five children: Stephen (1650), Mary (1651), John (1657, died 1659), Edward (1661) and Anne (buried in 1680). John Byne’s will, dated 20th April 1662, describes him as a yeoman of Burwash. His widow Elizabeth died in 1669.

Peterhouse, Cambridge in the 17th century (via

Peterhouse, Cambridge in the 17th century (via

Another of Magnus’ younger brothers, Edward, born in 1623, was, like him, a clergyman and also a Cambridge graduate. Edward matriculated at Peterhouse, Cambridge, in 1639, when he was described as ‘Londoniensis’ (of London). Renshaw speculates that he is the Edward Byne who was registered at Merchant Taylors School in 1632. He appears to have moved between Cambridge colleges, proceeding to the degree of B.A. at Trinity in 1644/5 and to that of M.A. at Caius in 1648. Edward Byne clearly shared his brother Magnus’ taste for religious controversy. According to Renshaw (quoting another source):

He was at first refused his M.A. degree because ‘being only B.A. contrary to the laudable custom of the University he preached in the town, and in his preaching delivered divers things derogatory to the Scriptures’.

(It would be fascinating to know exactly what those ‘derogatory’ things were: this was, of course, in the aftermath of the Civil War and shortly before the execution of King Charles, a time of great religious and political turmoil and experimentation). However, Renshaw informs us that Edward ‘made his submission’ in 1648 and became a fellow and president of Caius College, where he remained a fellow until 1652, having been morning lecturer there in 1645, registrar in 1646, and rhetoric praelector in 1649. In 1649 he was also minister of the Cathedral Church of Ely. In 1661 he was vicar of Pyworthy in Devon and from 1663 vicar of Linckinghorne in Cornwall.

Edward Byne married Martha, daughter of John Radford of Bermondsey, Citizen and Merchant Taylor, and his wife Joan. Edward and Martha Byne had six children: Edward who, according to the records of Exeter Cathedral, was born in the Close there on 26th October 1653, Martha, Mary, Francis, Henry and John. Edward Byne died on 6th February 1682/3 and his will was proved by his widow Martha on 7th June. His son Francis, who was born in 1665, attended Exeter College, Oxford, and became a clergyman like his father, serving as vicar of Linkinghorne from 1690 until his death in 1724.

Magnus Byne’s youngest brother, Stephen, who was born in 1632, remained in Burwash and is described variously as a yeoman and a ‘gentleman’. He married twice: his first wife was Ann, daughter of John Peckham of Framfield, who was buried at Burwash on 17th January 1667/8, and his second wife was Alice Heathfield, whom he married on 19th October 1678 at Maresfield. Stephen was churchwarden of Burwash (a position previously occupied by his father, Stephen Byne senior) from 1670-72. By his first wife Ann, Stephen junior had three children: Magnus, christened at Burwash on 11th April 1672; Ann, baptised there in 1674; and Mary. By his second wife Alice, Stephen had four more children: Alice, christened at Burwash in 1681; Stephen, baptised there on 14th February 1683/4; William; and John, christened at Burwash on 9th February 1689/90.

Stephen Byne was buried at Burwash on 17th October 1691 and his will was proved exactly a month later at Lewes by Alice, his widow.  Alice was buried at Burwash on 3rd June 1730.

In future posts, and continuing to use Renshaw as a guide, I will attempt to trace the Byne family back another generation, to the late 16th century and the reign of Elizabeth I.

(* In this post, as before, I have followed Renshaw’s practice of giving the old/new calendar dates as alternatives, where appropriate.)