(Note: the will transcription included in this post was updated on 3rd March 2014)

Mary Manser or Maunser of Wadhurst in Sussex was my 10 x great grandmother. In 1611 she married Stephen Byne of Burwash. Their son, Rev. Magnus Byne (1615 – 1671), and his first wife Anne, had a son named John (1651 – 1689) who became a stationer in London. His daughter Mary Byne (born 1683) married goldsmith Joseph Greene (1677 – 1737); their daughter Mary (1710 – 1790) married coal factor John Gibson (1699 – 1763), and their daughter Elizabeth, who married Joseph Holdsworth, was my 5 x great grandmother.

Parish church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Wadhurst

Parish church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Wadhurst

According to Walter Renshaw’s history of the Byne family, Mary Manser was the daughter of John Manser, a yeoman of Wadhurst, and he in turn was one of the sons of Robert Manser of Hightown in that parish. Robert had two other sons: William, his heir, and Abraham, who I believe inherited the estate of Wenbourne or Wenbans. 

John Manser of Wadhurst, my 11 x great grandfather, made his will on 26th December 1597. It was proved in the Peculiar Court of South Malling on 27th April 1598. I’ve managed to obtain a copy of the will from the East Sussex Record Office and my transcription can be found below. John made his will ‘in the fortieth yeare of the raigne of our soveraigne Lady Elizabeth’ and makes repeated reference to the Queen, mainly because the Crown appears (for reasons that are unknown) to have taken out an ‘extent’ – a writ giving a creditor temporary ownership of a debtor’s property – against him. (A century and a half later, the Crown would take out an extent against my 6 x great grandfather John Gibson, coal factor.)

'The Ermine Portrait' of Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hilliard

‘The Ermine Portrait’ of Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hilliard

This is the first Elizabethan will that I’ve analysed, and it’s quite something to realise that, when it was written, most of Shakespeare’s major plays were still unwritten and America not yet colonised.  John’s will confirms that, besides his daughter Mary, he also had a son named Christopher, and a brother named Abraham. We also learn that his wife’s name was Jane. In my transcription, I’ve used question marks to indicate illegible or unclear words and letters, since John uses Roman numerals, so ‘xxx’ means ‘thirty’, rather than representing a missing word. As always, I’ve kept to the original spelling, including John’s idiosyncratic rendering of his own Christian name.

In the name of god amen the xxvith day of December in the fortieth yeare of the raigne of our soveraigne Lady Elizabeth by the grace of god of England France & Ireland Queene defender of the faith. I Jhon Manser of wadhurst in the county of Sussex yeoman being sick of body but of good remembrance, thanks be to almightie god, do make and ordaine this my present testament concerning my last will in manner & forme following, First I commend my soule unto almighty god & my body to be buried in the earth when it shall please god to call me to his mercy. Item I give to the poore people of wadhurst xxx to be paid to them by my executrix hereafter named within a convenient time after my decease given that whereas the Queenes most excellent maiesty hath an extent out of my lands in Burwash of four pounds by the yeare, I will that my executrix shall deliver unto Abraham Manser my brother and William Snatt my brother in law the sum of fiftye pounds and they with the profit of the same shall consent and pay the rent to the Queenes maiesty during the terme of yeares yet to come & unexpired of the extent, and when the extent is quit payed and discharged to the queens maiesty, I will they shall pay & discharge Jhon Fawkner of higham ferris in the countye of Norths the sum of forty pounds which I owe him when the Queenes Maiestye is satisfied & when the said Jhon Fawkner hath bought out the quit ?? from the Queenes Maiesty as he is bound to do. Item I give all my lands lying in Burwashe to my sonn Christofer and to the heires of his body lawfully begotten and for want of such issue, I give it to my daughter Mary & to the heires of her body lawfully begotten and for want of such issue I give the said lands to my brother Abraham Manser and to his heires for ever. Item I give to my daughter Mary lx pounds of lawfull mony of England, to be paid her at her age of one & twenty yeares, or at her daye of marriage which shall first happen, & I will that the mony shall within one yeare next after my decease be delivered unto Abraham Manser and William Snatt, and they to put it out to increase, and at her age of one and twenty yeares or her day of marriage to pay it unto her with the profit thereof and bequeath unto Jane my wife, whome I make my sole executrix of this my last will and testament and I apoint Abraham Manser & William Snatt the overseers of this my last will and testament and I give to each of them x shillings a peece and their charges borne about the proving of this my will inventoryes and such affaires pertaining to this business.

Witnesses to this will Abraham Manser William Snatt and the marke of Jhon Manser.