My 9 x great grandfather, Magnus Byne (1615-1671), was the rector of Clayton-cum-Keymer in Sussex, and the author of a famous diatribe against the Quakers. Magnus was the father of London citizen and stationer John Byne (my 8 x great grandfather), and the grandfather of Mary Byne who married goldsmith Joseph Greene (my 7 x great grandparents).

Magnus Byne was the second child, and the eldest son, of Stephen Byne, a yeoman of Burwash, Sussex, and his wife Mary Manser or Maunser. He studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, before embarking on a clerical career, firstly as a curate in Wadhurst (the home of his mother’s family), and then as rector at Clayton where he remained until his death at the age of 56. Of Magnus’ younger brothers, two – John and Stephen – remained in Burwash and followed in their father’s footsteps as yeomen farmers. However, another brother, Edward, took a similar route to Magnus, studying at Cambridge and then entering the Church. I’ve written about Edward Byne briefly before, but in this post I want to provide a fuller account of his life, and in doing so to shed further light on the religious affiliations of the Byne family, and on the turbulent times in which they lived.

Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge

Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge

Edward Byne was admitted to Peterhouse, Cambridge, on 5th June 1639. One source claims that he was 18 years old at the time, but this contradicts the information we have about his christening at Burwash on 2nd December 1623, which suggests he would actually have been 16. (His older brother Magnus had been of a similar age when he entered Emmanuel College six years earlier.) Renshaw’s history of the Byne family states that Edward was described at the time as ‘Londoniensis’, i.e. of London, and speculates that this was because he had been at school there. Renshaw suggests that he might be the ‘Edward Bynes’ registered at Merchant Taylors’ School in 1629, or the ‘Edward Bines’ found there in 1632. We know that the Byne family had an association with Merchant Taylors: Magnus Byne sent at least one of his own sons there, and two of his grandsons would attend the school in the 1690s.

Edward Byne arrived in Cambridge three years before the outbreak of the Civil War and his career at the University reflects the religious and political turbulence of the times. Although he began his studies at Peterhouse, Edward migrated to Trinity College, where he gained his bachelor’s degree in 1644. He would eventually proceed to a Master’s degree at a third college, Gonville and Caius, but for a time he was refused this award because, according to a source quoted by Renshaw, ‘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’.

The precise nature of those ‘divers things’ remains unclear, but we can infer from other sources that Edward Byne’s sympathies were most definitely Puritan. Although Cambridge University had previously been largely royalist in its sympathies, with a vocal minority of Puritan fellows, the Civil War and the advance of the Parliamentary cause brought about a fundamental change. According to one source:

In January 1644 a parliamentary ordinance entrusted the regulation of the University to [the Earl of] Manchester, who was to appoint a committee to eject those deemed unfit for their places, and to sequester their goods. He was also to take special care to enforce the Covenant. This inquisition resulted in a large number of ejections, and almost all the colleges suffered severely. […] The colleges which suffered most heavily were Peterhouse, Pembroke, Queens’, Jesus, St. John’s, and Trinity, where all or most of the fellows were turned out, and most of the others lost a considerable number […]The vacant places were filled by men approved by the Westminster Assembly of Divines and appointed by Manchester. No one, it was decreed, was to be admitted to an office in a college without a certificate that he had taken the Covenant. 

The Covenant – otherwise known as the Solemn League and Covenant – was the religious union of England and Scotland under a Presbyterian system of church government. It was ratified by Parliament in August 1643 :

In January 1644, the Army of the Covenant marched into England against the Royalists. Parliament decreed that the Covenant was to be taken by every Englishman over the age of eighteen. Although no penalty was specified, the names of those who refused to sign were to be certified to Parliament. Signing the Covenant became a prerequisite for holding any command or office under Parliament. 


Edward Byne obviously had no difficulties with signing the Covenant, since at about this time he was ‘intruded’ as a fellow of Caius. The process of intrusion was the means by which religiously-approved appointees were imposed on a parish or other institution. Edward was also a ‘morning lecturer’ at the college in 1645 – a title that itself betrays his Puritan leanings, since these were posts that emphasised the pre-eminence of preaching over ritual. In 1646 he was appointed college registrar and in 1649 he was the rhetoric praelector. Meanwhile, Manchester’s committee continued to eject ‘scandalous’ fellows who refused to sign the Covenant and who were also thought to be guilty of other ‘misdemeanours’. Finally, in 1649, following the execution of the King, the President of Caius, Thomas Batchcroft, a committed royalist, was himself expelled, and it fell to Edward Byne to deliver the order for this. Moreover, it was Edward who initially took Batchcroft’s place as college president, even though he was only a recent graduate. As one source puts it, ‘this would naturally cause much friction and annoyance in college.’

A list of Cambridge alumni has Edward Byne as a fellow of Caius until 1652, though Renshaw claims that from 1649 he was (also?) a minister of the Cathedral Church at Ely, ‘in respect of which he received by way of augmentation or stipend for three months up to 25 December, 1649, the sum of £30 under orders of the Plundered Ministers’ Committee’.

Renshaw omits to mention some of Edward Byne’s clerical appointments. Apparently he was rector of Shere in Surrey in 1651. According to Renshaw, Edward married Martha, only child of John Radford or Redford of Bermondsey, Citizen and Merchant Taylor, and his wife Joan. I’d failed to find anyone by this name in the Bermondsey area, but there was a John Redford living in Shere in the 1620s who seems to fit the bill, though I’ve yet to find a record of Martha’s birth. It’s possible that Redford moved to Bermondsey later. It’s impossible to determine whether Edward met Martha Redford as a result of his appointment to Shere, or whether the appointment came about due to a prior connection with the family. According to some sources, Edward and Martha were married in 1652.

Parish church, Pyworthy, Devon

Parish church, Pyworthy, Devon

The listing of Cambridge graduates notes that Edward Byne moved to the rectory of Upton Pyne, near Exeter in Devon in 1655, remaining there until 1660, before moving about fifty miles westwards to Pyworthy. It seems that a minister by the name of John Kellond was expelled from Pyworthy in about 1651, to be succeeded by another by the name of Legate, followed by a certain Michael Taylor. The latter was himself ejected at the time of the Restoration, since he would not conform under the Act of Uniformity (see this post). According to an admittedly partisan source:

Mr Kellond it seems, did not return to this Living but resign’d it to Mr Edward Byne, of whom there is a very indifferent Character given […] viz. that he never administered the Sacrament during the whole Time of his Abode at Upton Pyne. And that he gave up the Living to Mr. Hall, on the Restoration; and immediately after became Rector of Pyworthy; how honestly is another Question.

The implication of this account is that Edward Byne was one of those who ‘conform’d for Benefices’ at the Restoration. Whatever the truth of the matter, the Bynes remained at Pyworthy. Edward was also vicar of Linkinhorne, across the county border in Cornwall, from 1663, though whether he retained the benefice of Pyworthy simultaneously is unclear. Renshaw notes that, in 1674, ‘having become infirm’ he arranged for William Herring to serve as curate at Linkinhorne, an arrangement that continued until Edward’s death on 6th February 1683.

Edward and Martha Byne had six children, all of them apparently born in Devon. They were Edward junior, born on 26 October 1653 in the Cathedral Close in Exeter; Martha; Mary; Francis, born in 1665; Henry; and John. In his will Edward Byne devised the advowson (the right to appoint an incumbent) of Linkinhorne to his son Francis. He also bequeathed property in ‘Well Alley in Wapping’ to his wife Martha for the maintenance of Francis at university, and afterwards to his daughter Martha, whose married name was Gliddon. Edward’s widow Martha made her own will in 1687, which included bequests of land in the parish of St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey, which I assume was inherited from her father John Redford.

Francis Byne followed his father into the Church. He graduated from Exeter College, Oxford, in 1688, and became vicar of Linkinhorne in 1690, in which post he remained until his death in 1724.