In the previous post I shared my transcription of the will of Thomas Scotson of South Malling, Sussex, who died in 1636. I’m interested in Thomas because he was married to Mary Maunser, the daughter of William and Mary Maunser of Hightown, Wadhurst, and thus the granddaughter of my 12 x great grandfather Robert Maunser and the niece of my 11 x great grandfather John Manser. In this post I want to explore what Thomas Scotson’s will can tell us about his family.
First of all, we learn that Thomas’ wife Mary Scotson née Maunser was still alive in 1635, when he made his will. We also discover that Thomas and Mary had six children who survived them. Thomas’ will mentions his eldest son John, his second son Thomas, and his youngest son, Edward. He also refers to Jane, his oldest daughter, and two other daughters, Sarah and Mary. I’ve found independent evidence of the baptisms of Edward and Sarah, which took place in 1616 and 1619 respectively, at the parish church of Ringmer which, like South Malling, was on the eastern outskirts of Lewes (my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle and his son Magnus, relatives of Mary Maunser’s maternal grandfather Nicholas Fowle, also owned property in Ringmer.) The parish records also reveal that Thomas and Mary Scotson buried a daughter named Anne at Ringmer church in 1626.
Thomas Scotson’s youngest son Edward worked as an apothecary in Lewes. It seems likely that his father Thomas, who was licensed to practice medicine in 1604 (see previous post) may have followed the same profession, since his will bequeaths all of the wares in his shop and warehouse to Edward. Edward Scotson’s will of 1656 suggests that he remained unmarried. He appoints his elder brother John as his executor and leaves his property to ‘my loveing friend Robert Monk of Lewes’ and ‘William Coby of Southover neare Lewes’. Robert Monk had also been one of the witnesses to Edward’s father’s will, while Roger and John Coby were key beneficiaries of that will. I haven’t been able to find out much about the Monk or Coby families, though the surnames occur in a number of Sussex pedigrees, and according to one source William Coby of Southover was an attorney.
Roger Coby ‘gent’ is mentioned a number of times in Thomas Scotson’s will, together with Edward Polhill, ‘clerk’, and William Hay ‘gent’, as having some kind of responsibility for Thomas’ property in the village of Laughton. William Hay may have been the person of that name who was born in Little Horsted in 1594, or alternatively his uncle who lived in Salehurst. Both feature in a pedigree of the Hay family, which would later spawn a succession of members of Parliament and other Sussex dignitaries.
Edward Polhill was the rector of Etchingham and son of John Polhill of Burwash and his wife Elizabeth, who was the daughter of Nicholas Fowle and thus the aunt of Thomas Scotson’s wife Mary. Edward Polhill married Jane Newton, daughter of William Newton of Lewes, who is probably the person of that name mentioned later in Thomas Scotson’s will, though he also had a son with the same name. Edward and Jane Polhill’s son, another Edward Polhill, was a justice of the peace in Burwash, and a famous Puritan author. William Newton, who lived at Southover Grange, was himself a significant Puritan layman who held public office in Lewes during the Civil War (and, interestingly, he was the step-grandfather of the Sussex-born diarist John Evelyn, who remembered him as ‘a learned and most religious gentleman’.)
There is a clue as to Thomas Scotson’s own family background in his appointment of another noted Puritan, ‘my loving brother’ Benjamin Pickering, clerk, as one of the overseers of his will. Pickering is almost certainly the famous minister of that name, the rector of East Hoathly and self-proclaimed ‘Minister of the Gospell’ (in his will of 1653, which also mentions William Coby) who would be appointed in 1644 to the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, to whom he preached his sermon ‘A firebrand Pluckt out of the Burning’ (Another member of the Assembly was William Greenhill of Stepney, about whom I wrote here.) Presumably, given the difference in surname, Pickering was Scotson’s brother-in-law, rather than his blood brother. The only marriage record I’ve been able to find for him refers to a marriage in Burwash in 1620 to an Elizabeth Carpenter, and there is a reference in Pickering’s will to a Richard Carpenter. Perhaps there is a connection with the John Carpenter, ‘gent’, mentioned elsewhere in Thomas Scotson’s will? (Some time in the 1640s or 1650s, a John Carpenter was involved in a lawsuit concerning the estate of the late Edmund Colvill of Catsfield, with Edward Byne. The latter might have been the older brother, or the son, of my 10 x great grandfather Stephen Byne of Burwash.) However, according to Pickering’s will, his ‘relict’ and executrix was Frances Pickering, so perhaps he married twice and his second wife was a sister of Thomas Scotson’s?