I’ve begun to explore the Manser or Maunser family, trying to find a link between John Manser, the London apothecary and ‘kinsman’ of my 8 x great grandfather, stationer John Byne (1651 – 1689), and Mary Maunser of Sussex, who was John’s grandmother (the mother of Magnus Byne, rector of Clayton-cum-Keymer), and thus my 10 x great grandmother. In the previous post, I reported what I’ve managed to find out about John Manser’s immediate family, but I’m struggling to establish a reliable connection with the Manser or Maunser family of Sussex.

In this post, I want to look more closely at Mary Maunser. As I’ve noted before, she married Stephen Byne of Burwash, Sussex, on 22nd January 1611/2 in Wadhurst. According to Renshaw’s history of the Byne family, Mary was the daughter of John Manser or Maunser, a yeoman of Wadhurst who died in 1598. In his will dated 26th December 1597, he apparently ‘devised his lands in Burwash in default of issue of his son Christopher to his daughter Mary and her heirs.’  It seems reasonable to assume that, like her husband Stephen Byne, Mary was born some time in the mid-1580s.

Local map showing location of Hightown in Wadhurst Park, Sussex

Local map showing location of Hightown in Wadhurst Park, Sussex

Renshaw also informs us that Mary’s father John was a son of Robert Maunser of Hightown in the parish of Wadhurst. Alfred A. Wace, in his 1923 history of Wadhurst, describes Hightown as the ‘seat’ of the Maunser family since the fifteenth century. Apparently the family was ‘very numerous’ in Wadhurst and in the seventeenth century they were great iron masters.

According to a pedigree of the family, John Maunser was Robert’s second son. His eldest son was named William and he married Mary, daughter of Nicholas Fowle, Esq., of Rotherfield. We’ve come across the Fowle family before: Mary Maunser’s husband Stephen Byne was the son of Edward Byne and Agnes Fowle, the latter being the daughter of Magnus Fowle of Burwash, himself the grandson of a Nicholas Fowle, though I can’t be sure at this stage that it’s the same person. Rather unhelpfully, the pedigree has very few dates attached, and since the same Christian names recur regularly in the Maunser, Fowle and Byne families, there’s a need for care in jumping to premature conclusions.

Wadhurst Park, location of Hightown

Wadhurst Park, location of Hightown (via geograph)

The pedigree claims that Robert Maunser of Hightown, who I assume is Mary Maunser’s grandfather, married Joan, the daughter of a man by the name of Rootes, of Marshalls in Sussex. There is a contradiction here with Wace, who states that Robert married ‘a Fowle of Rotherfield’. Did he get confused with Robert’s son William, or did two successive generations of Maunsers marry into the Fowle family? Mace also writes that ‘the next holder [of Hightown] worked the Scragoak furnace’. Presumably he means Robert’s son William.

Both sources agree that Robert was the son of Christopher Maunser of Hightown. According to Wace, he died in 1545 and besides ‘Heightown’ owned properties called Riseden, Gregories and Wenborne. Wace says that Christopher ‘married a Barham’ (another prominent Sussex family) and the pedigree agrees, stating that his wife Mildred was the daughter of a man of that name from Wadhurst. Alongside Christopher’s name in the pedigree is the enigmatic ‘18th Henry VIII. 1526’, which a history of the Barham family helpfully glosses as meaning that he was alive in 1526, being the eighteenth year of that king’s reign.

Part of Richard Budgen's map of 1724, showing Wadhurst, Hightown and Scragoak

Part of Richard Budgen’s map of 1724, showing Wadhurst, Hightown and Scragoak

We can push the Maunser family tree back two more generations. Christopher was the son of Walter Maunser, ‘temp. (time of?) Henry VII’, according to the pedigree. He in turn was the elder son of Sir Robert Maunser and his wife Margaret. The legend accompanying Sir Robert’s name – ‘1483. Richard III’ – probably indicates that he was knighted by that controversial king in that year. Wace confirms that Robert lived at Hightown: the earliest association of the family with that property. Another source describes him as a ‘substantial landowner’.

If I’m on the right track here, then Sir Robert Maunser was my maternal 15 x great grandfather, making him not only my earliest confirmed ancestor, but also the first knight to appear in my family tree. I sometimes wonder what my Nan, Minnie Londors née Roe, the widow of a cemetery gardener, living in her tiny terraced house in East Ham, would have made of these illustrious ancestors, had she but known about them…