Some notes on the will of Edward Byne of Burwash

The last will and testament of my 11 x great grandfather Edward Byne of Burwash, signed and sealed in December 1611, includes some interesting information about him and his family.

Parish church of St Bartholomew, Burwash

Parish church of St Bartholomew, Burwash

Although will preambles should not be taken as an entirely reliable guide to the testator’s religious affiliation, it’s worth noting that Edward’s is fairly neutral and certainly doesn’t reflect the Calvinism of some of his descendants. He simply commends his soul ‘into the hands of Allmighty God my maker and redeemer and my Body to the earth when yt shall please him’. I plan to return to the shifting religious loyalties of my Sussex ancestors in another post.

Edward bequeaths ‘tenn shillings of lawfull English money’ to his brother Symon Byne. Symon, whose wife Elinor had died in 1608, would outlive Edward by just two years, dying in 1616. One of Edward’s sons, Stephen, my 10 x great grandfather, acted as an overseer of his uncle’s will and another son, Magnus, would be a witness. Edward Byne’s other brother Anthony had died in 1591.

Edward Byne makes bequests to his five sons – Magnus, John, William, Edward and Stephen. They are to inherit certain items of furniture which I assume are from Edward’s house in Burwash, though his son Edward junior is given items from his father’s house in ‘Chatfield’ – i.e. Catsfield. The sons also receive gifts of money, as do two grandchildren, John and Agnes, the children of Edward’s eldest son Magnus. As I noted in an earlier post, Magnus had already been married twice at the time of his father’s death: first to Elizabeth Polhill, and then to Bathshua Newington. At this stage, I’m not sure which of these wives was the mother of John and Agnes: I’ll explore Magnus Byne’s life and family in a separate post.

Edward also bequeaths money to a number of godchildren. Of these, Edward Byne was probably the son of his late brother Anthony Byne of Battle, of whose will Edward Byne of Burwash had been co-executor twenty years earlier. Thomas Byne may have been another nephew, the son of Edward’s other brother Symon, born in 1590.

Countryside near Wadhurst (via

Countryside near Wadhurst (via

I’m grateful to my fellow researcher Ed Rydahl Taylor for the information that another godson, Edward Cruttoll, was probably the son of William Cruttoll of Wadhurst, who died in 1616. Edward Cruttoll would make his own will in 1653. At this stage, it’s not possible to determine the precise relationship between the Cruttolls and the Byne family, though we know that another William Cruttoll would marry Ellen or Helen Manser, daughter of Abraham Manser of Wenbourne and his wife Elizabeth Byne, in 1636, while a Christopher Cruttoll witnessed Abraham’s will of 1627. (To complicate the picture further: after Abraham’s death, Elizabeth would marry Magnus Byne, son of Edward, thus becoming his third wife.)

As for ‘Edward Morphen my godsonne’, the International Genealogical Index suggests that he may have been the son of William Morfin of Mayfield and that he may have been baptised there on 8th October 1598. His father is probably the person referred to in the 1595 will of Edward Byne’s father-in-law Magnus Fowle as ‘my Brother William Morffyn’ and appointed as one of the overseers of that will. Presumably he was the husband of ‘my sister Morfyn’ also mentioned by Magnus: ‘I give to my sister Morfyn Tenne shillings and to her children Twentie shillings’. I’ve been able to find no further information about the Morfyns or Morphens of Mayfield, my only clue being the reference to a John Murfin in the Recusant Rolls for 1592-3.

Countryside near Mayfield, Sussex (via

Countryside near Mayfield, Sussex (via

There are two witnesses to Edward Byne’s will. One is David Foster, who I assume was a relative (perhaps a son?) of Edward’s sister Jane who married Henry Foster. The other is John Byne, who is probably the person referred to elsewhere as ‘my Couzen John Byne of Burwash Towne’ and appointed as joint overseer together with Edward’s brother Symon. Renshaw, in his history of the Byne family, suggests that John may be the person of that name who was the father of the Elizabeth Byne who married Abraham Manser, and later Magnus Byne, and whose identity and connection to the other Bynes of Burwash is unclear. I plan to explore this mystery at a later date, but for now, I suggest that there might be at least two other candidates for the John Byne mentioned in Edward Byne’s will.

Renshaw himself notes that Edward’s brother Simon had two sons named John, one who died in infancy in 1590, and a second whose date of birth is not given, but who would obviously have been after 1590, meaning that he might have been twenty years old or so when Edward made his will. Perhaps a stronger candidate is the John Byne who was born in 1576, the son of Edward’s cousin Thomas Byne, himself the son of Richard Byne of Ticehurst. This person was apparently a churchwarden in Burwash in 1609 and 1611, where Edward himself had served in the same capacity some years earlier. The first of these John Bynes would have been Edward’s nephew, the other his second cousin, but we know that the word ‘cousin’ was often used very loosely in wills of the time, to cover any number of family relationships.

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