My recent explorations of the Byne and Manser families of Sussex began with the discovery that the maiden name of my 7 x great grandmother, the wife of London citizen and goldsmith Joseph Greene (1677 – 1738), was Mary Byne. Born in 1683, Mary was the daughter of Sussex-born London citizen and stationer John Byne and his wife Alice. Besides Mary, John and Alice had four other children who survived to adulthood: John, Alice, Magnus and Thomas.

John Byne senior died in 1689 at the age of about thirty-eight years, while his widow Alice would live for another forty-one years, dying in 1738. Alice’s maiden name seems to have been Forest. Her husband John’s will bequeaths ‘the sume of five pounds of lawfull mony of England to buy her mourning’ to ‘my honoured Mother Mrs. Anne Forrest Widdow’. However, I’m fairly certain that Anne was John Byne’s mother-in-law, rather than his mother. In his will of 23rd June 1698, William Forrest, a yeoman of Badsey in Worcestershire, left money and property to Alice Byne and her children. Although William describes Alice as a cousin, other sources suggest that William was actually Alice’s uncle, almost certainly her father’s brother.

Parish church of St James, Badsey, Worcestershire

Parish church of St James, Badsey, Worcestershire

In his history of the Byne family, Walter Charles Renshaw mentions a case in Chancery in 1716-7, which set my 8 x great grandmother Alice Byne against her own son John, described as a mariner. John’s case against his widowed mother was that her uncle William Forrest had in his will left all his lands in Badsey to Alice for life ‘with remainder to her son John Byne in fee’, bequeathing his estate personally between them. John’s complaint was that his mother had felled and converted to her own use a large amount of timber on this land. I’ve requested a copy of the Chancery documents from the National Archives and hope they will shed some light on Alice’s family background.

Renshaw concludes that the remainder of John Byne in this property at Badsey must have been sold at some point, since in his will dated 25th March 1728 and proved on 17th April in the same year, a certain John Bodington of Stepney, a London citizen and apothecary, ‘made a devise of his reversion in freehold lands at Badsey expectant on the death of Alice Byne’ (Renshaw, page 152). In a footnote, Renshaw mentions that John Bodington ‘appointed Joseph Greene of London, goldsmith, one of his executors, and gave a legacy of £10 for mourning to Mary Greene his wife.’ Renshaw adds: ‘Probably these are the persons of those names mentioned in Alice Byne’s will’. They certainly are. Renshaw seems unaware that Mary Greene’s maiden name was Byne and that she was the daughter of Alice Byne and her husband John, though this should have been clear from Alice’s will, which refers to Joseph as her son-in-law.

The case of John Bodington is intriguing. Why did he name my 7 x great grandfather Joseph Greene as an executor of his will? And how did he come to have an interest in Alice Byne’s property in Badsey? Did he know Joseph because of a connection with Alice and her family, or vice versa? And then there is the Stepney connection, which immediately made me sit up and take notice, for of course Joseph Greene was born in Stepney, the son of Ratcliffe mariner Captain William Greene. I’ve now obtained a copy of John Bodington’s will and discovered that he actually lived in the hamlet of Ratcliffe, where Joseph was born and lived as a child. Since Bodington describes Joseph as a ‘friend’, it is at least possible that they were neighbours when they were children.

1615 map showing St Dunstan's church, Stepney

1615 map showing St Dunstan’s church, Stepney

I’ve started to identify entries in the parish register at St Dunstan’s, Stepney, where he was buried, that appear to refer to John Bodington, apothecary. Intriguingly, I’ve also found the record of a marriage at the same church, on 31st January 1638 between John Bodington, a barber-surgeon, and a Margaret Greene. Was this the later John Bodington’s father, the similarity in their occupations confirming the link between them? And was Margaret a relative of my ancestor Joseph Greene, possibly explaining the connection between the two men?

I plan to begin my search for answers to these questions by examining the will of John Bodington, apothecary. It’s one of the longest, most detailed, and certainly most unusual wills that I’ve come across. Watch this space.