What can the will of my 11 x great grandmother, Agnes Byne née Fowle of Burwash, Sussex, who died in 1626, tell us about her family? We learn from Agnes’ will that she had four surviving sons from her marriage to Edward Byne, who had died in 1611: they were Magnus, William, Edward and Stephen. Renshaw’s history of the Byne family informs us that all four were christened at Burwash: Magnus on 4th November 1576; William on 28th October 1579; Edward on 21st May 1581; and Stephen on 3rd July 1586 (we also learn that Stephen, my 10 x great grandfather, was actually born at Mayfield, presumably in the house of his maternal grandparents, Magnus and Alice Fowle).

Old map of East Sussex

Old map of East Sussex

Renshaw adds that Edward and Agnes Byne had three other children: a son named John; an unbaptised daughter who was buried at Burwash on 14th August 1590; and another son named James, baptised at Burwash on 9th December 1593 and buried there on 20th December 1594. John Byne was christened on 6th April 1589. The reason he is not mentioned in his mother’s will is that he predeceased her, dying a bachelor and being buried at Burwash on 7th February 1615/6.

William Byne also remained a bachelor and died only two years after his mother Agnes, being buried at Burwash on 28th August 1628. Edward Byne the younger lived for a time at Framfield, where he was described in a surety to a marriage bond of 1609 as a yeoman. After his marriage to Dorothy Alchorne in 1615, Edward lived in Catsfield, where he died in 1647/8. Edward and Dorothy Byne had three daughters: Dorothy, Mary and Elizabeth.

Stephen Byne, my 10 x great grandfather, married Mary Manser, daughter of John Manser of Wadhurst, on 22nd January 1611/12. Christopher Manser, one of the witnesses to Agnes Byne’s will, was almost certainly Mary Manser’s brother – and therefore Stephen’s brother-in-law. As I’ve noted before, Christopher was married to Anne, daughter of John Byne of Burwash, whose precise relationship to my own Byne ancestors remains unclear. By the time that Agnes Byne wrote her will, her son Stephen had been married to Mary Manser for some thirteen years and, besides the daughter Elizabeth mentioned in the will, they had four other children, including my 9 x great grandfather – another Magnus Byne, who had been born in 1615.

Stephen Byne’s older brother Magnus, who was appointed co-executor with him of their mother Agnes’ will, was married three times. On 22nd June 1604 a marriage licence was granted at Lewes to Magnus Byne ‘gent’ and Elizabeth Polhill of Burwash. One of the sureties was Hamond Hardiman of Cliffe near Lewes: as I noted in a recent post, he was married to Mary, daughter of Lewes merchant John Harman and his wife Agnes Fowle, the sister of Magnus Fowle – Magnus Byne’s grandfather.

I assume that Elizabeth Polhill was related in some way to the family of that name who would later be linked with others in my Byne and Manser family trees. For example, Edward and John Polhill would both be named as witnesses to my 10 x great grandfather Stephen Byne’s will of 1664, while the 1674 will of Nicholas Manser of Hightown refers to Edward Polhill as a cousin. As I’ve noted before, Edward Polhill was almost certainly the eminent Puritan author of that name, and he and John were the sons of Thomas Polhill and his wife Faintnot – a popular Puritan Christian name. If, as seems likely, the Elizabeth Polhill who married Magnus Byne was a member of the same family, then their marriage is interesting in providing possible evidence of a shift from loyal Catholicism and recusant sympathies to Puritan evangelicalism in two generations. In this regard, it’s worth noting that, according to Agnes Byne’s will preamble of 1625, she hopes ‘assuredlie to be saved by and through the merritts and passion of my blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’, a familiar Calvinist aspiration.

On 2nd June 1606 Magnus and Elizabeth Byne had a daughter Elizabeth buried at Burwash. Just over a year later, on 28 July 1607, Magnus’ wife Elizabeth was also buried there. Renshaw mentions that Magnus owned property in the manor of Framfield, and when he remarried in 1608, he is described as being a ‘gent’ of Framfield. His second wife was Bathshua (another Puritan name?), daughter of Morgan Newington of Kingston Bowsey, where the wedding took place. In 1611 Magnus Byne, ‘gent’, was said to be a churchwarden in Framfield. Bathshua Byne would be buried there on 22nd July 1620.

On 17th June 1628 Magnus Byne married his third wife at Framfield. She was Elizabeth, the widow of Abraham Manser of Wenborne. Abraham was the brother of my 11 x great grandfather John Manser of Wadhurst –the father of Christopher and Mary Manser. An additional family connection is provided by the fact that Elizabeth’s maiden name was Byne: she was another daughter of the John Byne of Burwash whose daughter Anne was married to Christopher Manser.

Parish church of St Thomas a Becket, Framfield

Parish church of St Thomas a Becket, Framfield

Magnus Byne had four children: John; Agnes, who married John Bennett of Lewes in 1639; Magnus, who married Mary Durrant  in 1637; and Thomas. Magnus Byne of Framfield made his will on 7th May 1647 and was buried there on 13th May. He appointed his son Thomas the executor of his will and bequeathed him properties in Ringmer and Glynde: presumably these were the lands inherited via his mother Agnes from his grandfather Magnus Fowle, who in turn had inherited them from his father Gabriel.

I won’t trace the lives of Magnus Byne’s children here, except to note with interest that his son Magnus also had a son of the same name, who in December 1674 married Constance Osbaldiston of Framfield. She was the widow of John Osbaldiston, a gentleman and recusant who was buried at Alciston in 1699. Does this suggest that the dividing lines between Catholic and Protestant in my Byne and Fowle family trees continued to be rather blurred?