The Manser family’s habit of using the same Christian names in each generation can be rather confusing. I’ve already written about two men with the name Abraham Manser or Maunser, both of them apothecaries living in London (though almost certainly with family roots in Sussex) in the second half of the seventeenth century. Today I’m writing about another Abraham, who lived about half a century earlier. He was the younger brother of my 11 x great grandfather John Manser of Wadhurst in Sussex, who died in 1598, and the uncle of my 10 x great grandmother Mary Manser who married Stephen Byne of Burwash in 1611.

1825 map showing Wenbourne in relation to Wadhurst

1825 map showing Wenbourne in relation to Wadhurst (via

This Abraham Manser seems to have been the youngest son of Robert Manser of Hightown, Wadhurst. Robert’s eldest son William inherited Hightown, while his younger sons John (my 11 x great grandfather) and Abraham were bequeathed other properties in the Wadhurst area. Abraham lived at Wenbournes or Wenbans, which is described by one source as follows:

In a still secluded valley about a mile and a half South from the Parish Church of Wadhurst, Sussex, lies a small estate known today as “Wenbans” and formerly marked on the ordnance survey maps as “Wenbon’s Farm”, and …..variously as Waneburne or Wenb(o) (u) rn (e). 

Of approximately 90 acres, a little more or less, with the farmhouse standing at the crest of the hill at the Northern edge of the estate it has fields sloping down to the banks of a stream once dammed for a “Hammer Pond” (for the forge) which is a tributory of the Rother. 

Whether any part of the existing buildings formed part of the “tenement ” referred to in the 15th century court rolls is not known, but in the last century in a bedroom on the first floor at the West end of the house , under many layers of wallpaper, was found a surface of hardened yellow clay scoured with regular pattern as if a pronged rake or comb. It consisted of four or five curved rays or spokes, springing equidistantly from a common centre, each ray composed of parallel ending about 2 feet from the centre in a roughly curled whorl. This feature and solid oak beams indicate considerable antiquity. 

The property is mentioned in the will of my 13 x great grandfather Christopher Maunser of Hightown, who died in 1545. Christopher wills that ‘my wife Joan shall have my tenement called Wenborn during her life term’ (Joan was his second wife, his first being Mildred Barham). In more recent times, the house was used in the 1930s as a secret retreat by the Prince of Wales – the future, ill-starred Edward VIII.

Abraham Manser was probably born some time around 1580. He married Elizabeth Byne, daughter of John Byne of Burwash, on 27th December 1600, in Burwash. As I noted in an earlier post, it’s still unclear where John fits into the Byne family tree, but he was certainly a close relative (perhaps a cousin?) of my 10 x great grandfather Stephen Byne of Burwash. Abraham and Elizabeth had three daughters – Mary, Ellen or Helen, and Elizabeth.

Wenbans, or Wenbourne, in 2008 (via

Wenbans, or Wenbourne, in 2008 (via

The source quoted earlier suggests that it was Abraham who built the east wing of the house at Wenbourne, since it was certainly constructed in the early seventeenth century. Apparently, beneath of one of ‘fine clusters of brick chimneys’ is a fireplace with the initials ‘A.M.E.M.’ on one upper corner and the date ‘1612’ on the other. This touching detail seems to reflect the closeness of the relationship between Abraham and Elizabeth, whom he describes in his will as ‘my most deere and loving wife…with whom being coupled in the honorable estate of wedlock I have lived togeather nowe manie yeares, in the feare of the Lord’.

The opening lines of Abraham Manser's will

The opening lines of Abraham Manser’s will

According to Renshaw’s history of the Byne family, Abraham acted as executor of his father-in-law John Byne’s will in 1614. He made his own will on 8th March 1626, adding a codicil on 11th April 1627, and it was proved on 31st May in the same year. After his death, Abraham’s widow Elizabeth remarried, her second husband being Magnus Byne of Framfield, and they were married there on 17th June 1628. Magnus was one of the sons of my 11 x great grandfather Edward Byne of Burwash, and thus a brother of my 10 x great grandfather Stephen Byne. As such he was certainly a relative of Elizabeth’s – perhaps a cousin – but I can’t be sure of their precise relationship.

My transcription of Abraham Manser’s will follows, and I’ll have more to say about it in another post. As usual, I’ve tried to retain the original spelling and punctuation, indicating uncertainties with a (?) and illegible words by ‘xxxx’.

In the name of God Amen the eight daie of March in the yeare of our Lord god 1626. I Abraham Manser of Wenbournes in the parish of Wadhurst in the countie of Sussex yeoman being sicke in bodie but of good and xxxxx memorie (god be praised therefore) doe make and ordaine this my last will and testament in manner and forme following First I bequeath my soule to Almightie god my maker and creator, trusting assuredlie through the onelie merritts of Jesus Christ my onelie Saviour and Redeemer to have free and absolute remission of all my sinnes, and to be made partaker of his eternal glorie with all the companie of his heavenlie Angells and blessed Saints in heaven for ever And my bodie to buried in the churchyard of Wadhurst after the manner of Christian buriall Item I give to the poore people of the said parish of Wadhurst fortie shillinges to be distributed amongst them on the daie of my burial by my executrix or her assignes. Item I make Elizabeth my beloved wief sole executrix of this my soule last will and testament And hereby I doe cleerlie and absolutlie revoake all my former wills and testaments whatsoever, And I make my beloved kinsmen Nicholas Manser of Wadhurst aforesaid Stephen Byne of Burwash and Henrie Gregorie of Lynton in Kent yeomen my faithfull and trustie overseers to this my last will and testament Item I give to the said Elizabeth my most deere and loving wife (with whom being coupled in the honorable estate of wedlock I have lived togeather nowe manie yeares, in the feare of the Lord by this my will and testamt the whole profits and rents of all my landes lying in Maifield being nowe in the xxxx of Abraham Manser my kinsman during her natural lief. And after her decease to my daughter Ellen and to her heires forever. Item I give unto my wife all my moveable goodes and store (?) of corne, grayne, haye cattell and the like togeather with all my money plate and household stuffe whatsoever (excepting all such money and other moveable goodes as I shall afterwardes in this my last will and testament otherwise bequeath and dispose of for and towardes the good Christian and godlie educacon and bringing upp of all my children in the feare of the Lord in Christian (?) religion and in all good nurture maintenance and literature will all thinges necessarie to meate drinke and apparel and the like until such times as they and everie of them shall come to yeares and everie their severall xxxx to either of them by me hereafter given in this my present will. Item I further give unto my wief all the rents and profits of this my coppihould land wherein I nowe dwell called Wenbornes lyinge in Wadhurst aforesaide for and towardes her better maintenance and the bringing upp of our children as before until my daughter Marie attaine to the full age of Nyneteene yeares. Item I give all the said coppihould tenement and landes by this my last will to my foresaide daughter Marie and to her heires according to a xxxxxxxx to that xxxx by me already passed to the xxx of this my will to be admitted as heire at the next court after m death But her mother to receive the rents and proffitts thereof till she come to the foresaid age of Nyneteene and then she the said Marie fullie to inioye it, to her and to her heires and her owne Item I also give unto my said daughter Marie the Lease of all the woodes growing upon this my tenement called Wenbournes or hereafter to growe during the whole terme of the Lease, which I nowe hould and latelie sined for with Thomas Pelham knight and Barronnett Lord as of his Manor of Bevilham to her and to her heires alsoe, absolutlie being an appurtenant and necessarilie belonging to the said tenement which I have given unto her and before, Item I further give unto my said daughter Marie theis peeces and parcells of household stuffe hereafter named, that is to saie, a long xxxx table, with the fraime to it standing in the parlour there, And also some ioyned stooles belonging to the said table, Also one greate ioyned xxxx, standing in the xxxx chamber, one ioyned Beddstead standing in the parlour chamber, And also the longe table standing in the hall togeather with the fraime, and two ioyned forms, nowe belonging to the same. Item I give unto Ellen my second daughter by this my last will, the xxxx xxxx of all my landes lying in Maiefield nowe in the xxxx of Abraham Manser or his assignes which xxxx xxxx my will and mynde is that she shall receive imediatlie after my death. But not to receive the rents and proffitts thereof till after the death of my foresaid wife her mother as before, Item I further give to this my daughter Ellen, two hundred poundes of good and lawfull money of England, which my will is shall by myne executrix be assigned or paid over unto my forenamed overseers within three monethes next coming after my death, All which some of two hundred poundes my will is that my said overseers shall putt to the best proffitt they maie xxxx for my said child taking therefore sufficient securitie for the same as they shall thinke fit. All which some of two hundred poundes togeather with all such use thereof by them for xxxx received they shall paie unto my said daughter at her full age of one and twentie yeares, or the daie of her marriage whether shall first happen. Item I give and bequeath unto Elizabeth my third daughter, the some of three hundred poundes of like lawfull money of England to be paid assigned or sett over by my forenamed executrix unto my overseers alsoe within the terme of three monethes likewise, All which some my mynde and will is that they shall likewise put out to the best profit they cann, And the said some of three hundred poundes togeather with all such profits thereof arising they shall paie unto my said daughter Elizabeth when she cometh to the full age of one and twentie yeares, or on the daie of her marriage whether shall first happen. Provided allwaies that if anie one or two of my said daughters shall happen to dye without heires of her or their bodies lawfullie begotten, that is one soe dye without heires, My mynde and will is that the other two survyvinge shall equallie divide the porcon of her so dyinge whether it be landes of goodes or both. And alsoe if two of them likewise happen to dye that then the other survivinge shall fullie have take and inioye all the said porcons aswell of landes as of goodes to her and her heires freelie and absolutely for ever. Provided likewise that it is my true intent and meaning that everie out of my said overseers shall of our all and everie the proffitts of either of the said two somes of money to my said two daughters before given, deduct take hould and xxxx to themselves all such expenses and charges as they or either of them shall anie waie alie out about anie travaile busines or necessarie matter belonging to anie of the said some or somes of money or the use or proffitts of the same, or about anie other busines concerning this my will the proving of it, or about any other thing or matter contained therein. Provided also furthermore and my full mynde and will is that if anie of my said three overseers should happen to die before all the money in his hands xxxxx his remained (?) be unto my said child or children fullie satisfied and paid according to this my xxxx will as before. That then my other two overseers surviving xxxx with the assistance of my forenamed executrix shall call the heires executors and administrators of the other overseer soe dying to an xxxxx for all such money or proffitts of the same, as was in the hands of my said overseer at the time of his death And that they shall demand and xxxx in the lawe if anie part thereof be soe detayned or denied. And shall deduct to themselves the charges in lawe of all such xxxx out of the xxxx proffitts of all and everie the money before named. And the said money soe received and provided shall take into their owne hands and dispose of it as is before expressed. Provided lastlie that if any question or doubt shall arise amonge my said children, or anie other clayminge anie benefit by this my last will, that the onlie expressed (?) determinacon and judgement thereof shalbe determined from time to time to the best and plainest of my mynde, and according to the litterall sense & meaning of this my last will in everie behalf by my three overseers forenamed or by anie two of them. In witness whereof I have to this my xxxx last will and testament subscribed my name and sett to my seale to everie sheete thereof the daie and yeare first above written. Abraham Manser. Sealed and published in the presence of George Hasselden, the marke of Christopher Cruttall Junior Nicho: Manser scriptor. A Codicill annexed to the last will and testament of the me the said Abraham Manser the  Eleventh daie of Aprill in the third yeare of the raigne of our soveraigne Lord Charles by the grace of god of England Scotland France and Ireland kinge, defender of the faith as followeth, vidlt. Imprimis whereas I the said Abraham Manser have purchased of John Lynt (?) of Lynton als Lytington in the countie of Kent tanner by indenture bearing date the tenth day of Aprill last past before the date hereof eight peeces or parcells of land situate in Lynton also Lyntington aforesaid to the onelie use of me the said Abraham my heires and assigned for the consideracon of two hundred and fowerteene poundes as in and by the said indenture maie appear under a certaine promise or condicon therein expressed for the redempcon thereof notwithstanding unto the said John Lynt and his heires And for the plaine manifestacon hereof my further mynde and will is, that my said overseers shall have full power and authoritie to all intents and purposes whatsoever if the said landes shall happen to be forfeited to me and my heires. And hereby I will and give unto them the said landes soe falling or forfeited full power and Authoritie to bargaine sell and conveye the same to anie person or persons whatsoever his or their heires or assignes for ever in as large a manner as my self and my heires maie might or could have donne if their xxxx had never beene, and all such some and somes of money thereof made in sale or otherwise, My mynde and will is shalbe for and towardes the payment of the some of two hundred poundes given unto my said daughter Ellen, And my mynde and will further is that if anie other some or somes of money shalbe lent by me the said Abraham upon the Mortgage of my other landes before my death or after my death by my overseers, Then that all such some or somes of money whatsoever or such landes so xxxx for them as maie heareafter become forfeit to me or my heires, that my overseers or one or two of them surviving shall have full power to Bargaine and sell the same to anie person or persons whatsoever their heires and assignes, as for the landes situat in Lynton als Lyntington is expressed. And lastlie alsoe my mynde and will is that if anie some or somes of money shalbe given expended or laid out by anie meanes by reason of the tenure of all or anie my landes of the lord or lords thereof in what sort soever My mynde and will is that the same shalbe allowed unto them equallie out of my said childrens porcons untill the proffitts of their severall porcons shall raise (?) the same againe equallie In witness whereof I the said Abraham Manser have hereunto put my hand and seale the daie and yeare in this xxxx codicill first above menconed Abraham Manser Sealed and delivered in the prce of Abraham Manser xxxx, John Manser Robert Wenborne.