I’ve managed to push one of the branches of my maternal family tree back another generation. Three months ago, I discovered that my 7 x great grandmother Mary Greene née Byne, wife of London citizen and goldsmith Joseph Greene (1677 – 1737), was descended from the Byne family of Sussex. Mary’s father was London citizen and stationer John Byne (1651 – 1689), who was born in Clayton, Sussex, the son of Rev. Magnus Byne (1615 – 1671), rector of Clayton-cum-Keymer, and his first wife Anne (1611 – 1661).

However, until yesterday I hadn’t made much progress with the family of Mary Byne’s mother Alice. I knew that she survived her husband John by almost half a century, dying in 1738. From John’s will, I had an inkling that Alice’s maiden name might be Forrest. At first I was puzzled by the fact that he left money ‘to my honoured Mother Mrs. Anne Forrest Widdow’. However, following up a reference in Alice Byne’s will to property in Badsey, Worcestershire, I came across the 1699 will of William Forrest, a yeoman of that parish, which made me think that Anne Forrest might actually have been John Byne’s mother-in-law. William’s will makes bequests to Alice and her son John, describing Alice as his ‘cousin’; however, I’ve confirmed from other sources that she was actually his niece. Walter Renshaw’s history of the Byne family makes reference to a legal dispute between Alice and her son John concerning the Badsey property; I’ve now obtained copies of the original Chancery papers in which John describes William Forrest as his great uncle.

I’d been assuming that Alice’s origins were in Worcestershire, but then it occurred to me that it was more likely her husband John met her in London, when he moved there from Sussex, perhaps first as an apprentice, and then to set up in business himself. We know that John and Alice lived at Tower Hill, in the parish of St Botolph, Aldgate, so I focused my search on that part of the city. At the National Archives, I came across the will of Thomas Forrest, a haberdasher of St Botolph’s, who died in 1678. This seemed a likely bet, so I took a chance and purchased a copy online.

A haberdasher and his family (Henry Chorley of Preston), c.1680

A haberdasher and his family (Henry Chorley of Preston), c.1680

As soon as I began to browse the will, I knew that my gamble had paid off. About half way through the will was a reference to ‘my son in law John Bines [sic]’ and ‘my daughter Alice his wife and Anne their daughter’. The will also confirms that the name of Thomas’ wife was Anne, and that besides Alice they had a son, Thomas. Perhaps most interestingly, we learn that the Forrests lived at Little Tower Hill, the same address where John and Alice Byne could be found a decade later, and where their daughter Mary and her husband Joseph Greene would be living a quarter of a century after that. I had thought that Joseph and Mary might have inherited their house from John and Alice Byne, but now it seems that the latter could have been bequeathed it by Alice’s parents. Either that, or there was a small colony of Forrests, Bynes and Greenes, all living close to each other at Little Tower Hill at the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Tower Hill and Little Tower Hill, from Rocque's London map of 1746

Tower Hill and Little Tower Hill, from Rocque’s London map of 1746

It’s possible that Thomas and Anne Forrest are the couple who were married at the church of St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London on 18th June 1650. This Thomas Forrest was said to be of the parish of ‘St Buttolphs Aldersgate’, but that could be a mistake for ‘Aldgate’, while his bride was Anne Borrowes from the parish of St Andrew’s, Holborn. So far, I’ve had no luck in finding other records for Thomas and Anne Forrest and their family, either in London or Worcestershire, but it’s early days.

My transcription of the will of Thomas Forrest, my 9 x great grandfather, follows:

In the Name of God Amen The One and Twentyth day of december Anno Dei 1678 And in the Thirtyth yeare of the Raigne of our Soveraigne Lord Charles … by the grace of God King of England Scotland Frances and Ireland defender of the faith I Thomas Forrest Citizen and haberdasher of London being sick and weake in body but of good mind and memory praise be given to Almighty God & calling to mind the uncertainty of this life and how certaine wee are to dye yet the time of our death most uncertaine doe make and declare thys my last Will and testament in manner and forme following That is to say first and principally I bequeath my Soule into the hands of Almighty God my Creator hoping and assuredly believing by and through the meritts death and Passion of my onely Saviour and Redeemer Jesus Chirst to have full and free remission of all my sinnes and to see the Lord in the Land of the ever lyving And my Body I commit to the Earth to be decently buryed at the discretion of my Executors hereafter named And as for touching and concerning all such Estate as God in his infinite Goodness hath blessed mee withal in this life I doe give and bequeath the same as followeth Imprimis I doe give and bequeath unto my deare and well beloved wife Anne Forrest all my Estate right title interest and terme of yeares that I have of in and to the Messuage or Tenement Shopp and appurtenances thereunto belonging which I now have in situat and being upon or neere little Tower hill in the Parish of Saint Buttolphs Algate London together with the Lease thereupon granted And also all and every my Plate Linnen Bedding Pewter Glasse and other my household Goods whatsoever Item I doe give and bequeath unto my Sonn in Law John Bines and unto my daughter Alice his wife and Anne theire daughter the sume of Tenn Pounds of lawfull money of England towards buying of them mourning to weare in rememberance of mee Item I give and bequeath unto my sonn Thomas Forrest my fold sealed Ring The Rest and residue of all and singular my Goods Chattells debts ready money Lands Tenements and Estate whatsoever not before by mee given and bequeathed after my just debts and funeral charges shall be first paid and discharged I doe hereby wholy and soly give and bequeath the same and every part thereof unto my said loving wife Anne Forrest and unto my said sonn Thomas Forrest theire heires executors administrators and assignes forever to be equally parted and decided betweene them share and share alike And I do hereby make and ordeine my said wife Anne Forrest and my said sonn Thomas Forrest full and sole Executors of this my last Will and Testament desiring them to see this my Will performed according to my true meaning herein declared of which I make no doubt And I doe hereby revoke and make void all former Wills and Testaments by mee at any time heretofore made and this only to stand for and remaine as my only Will In witness whereof I have here unto sett my hand and seale the day and yeare first above written Tho: Forrest Sealed published and declared by the said Thomas Forrest to be his last Will and Testament in the presence of William Granger Joseph Coooke Snr – Andrew Haynes servant to the said Snr.