In the last two posts I’ve been discussing the sons of my 11 x great grandfather, Edward Byne of Burwash, Sussex, who died in 1614. The only one of his sons that I’ve yet to write about is my 10 x great grandfather, Stephen, who is the focus of this post.

Stephen Byne was baptised on 3rd July 1586, in the twenty-seventh year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, at the parish church in Burwash, though he is said to have been born in nearby Mayfield. Since this was his mother Agnes Fowle’s home village, it’s possible that she returned there to give birth. We know that Stephen later lived in Burwash, though the will of his uncle Symon Byne, made in 1616, in which Stephen is appointed as one of the overseers, describes him as ‘of Mayfield’.

Countryside near Mayfield, Sussex (via

Countryside near Mayfield, Sussex (via

Stephen was the fourth of the five sons of Edward and Agnes Byne, born eleven years after their marriage. He had three older brothers – Magnus, William and Edward were ten, seven and five years older than Stephen respectively – and they would eventually be joined by another brother, John, born three years after Stephen.

On 22nd January 1611/2, in the ninth year of the reign of King James I, Stephen married Mary Maunser in the parish church at Wadhurst. He was twenty-six years old, but Mary’s exact age is unknown. She was the daughter of John Maunser or Manser, a younger son of Robert Maunser of Hightown, Wadhurst.

Stephen and Mary Byne had six children, all of them baptised in the parish church at Burwash. Elizabeth was baptised on 22nd January 1613/4; my 9 x great grandfather Magnus was born in 1615; John was baptised on 2nd May 1617; Mary on 30th July 1620; Edward on 2nd December 1623; and Stephen on 14th October 1632.

In January 1614, two years after Stephen’s marriage, his father Edward Byne died and was buried at Burwash. Although Edward’s will contains little information about the disposal of his property, we know that Stephen must have inherited Moyses farm in Burwash (which Edward had inherited in turn from his father William),  since he would later bequeath it to his daughter Mary. Two years later, in 1616, Stephen’s unmarried brother John died, leaving some of his property to Stephen.

Walter Renshaw’s history of the Byne family (pages 122-3) includes detailed information about Stephen Byne’s various land holdings and transactions. In a 1617 survey of the manor of Framfield, Stephen was said to hold the reversion expectant upon the death of his mother Agnes in some copyholds in the parish of Buxted. According to the rental book of the manor of Sharnden in Mayfield, in 1635 he held as freehold a messuage called Bardens, a barn and several parcels of land in Mayfield, containing approximately eighty acres, including Downescroft and Longfield, which had originally belonged to his maternal grandfather Magnus Fowle.

In April 1625, in the first year of the reign of King Charles I, Stephen’s mother Agnes Byne née Fowle made her will, in which she appointed Stephen and his older brother Magnus as join executors. Agnes died just over a year later. One of the witnesses to Agnes Byne’s will was Christopher Manser, who I believe was the brother of Stephen’s wife Mary, and thus the son of John Maunser or Manser of Wadhurst. My current theory is that this is the same Christopher Manser who, four years previously, had married Anne Byne, daughter of the John Byne whose precise connection to my ancestors’ family I’m still puzzling over. Anne’s sister Elizabeth had married Abraham Manser of Wenbourne, the younger brother of John Manser of Wadhurst and thus the uncle of both Christopher and Mary. Abraham Manser died in 1627 and a year later Stephen Byne’s older brother Magnus would marry his widow Elizabeth; it was his third marriage.

Burwash parish church

Burwash parish church

There is a record in the National Archives of a transaction that took place on 24th June 1630, by which Christopher Manser of Burwash, yeoman, and his wife Anne sold to Stephen Byne of Burwash, yeoman, for £200, the following properties:

8 pieces of land ‘Woodlandes and Highlandes’ ; 6 pieces S: lands of John French gent and lands of Thomas Glyd gent ‘Wiverherst’; N, W: a whapple way from Halton house to ‘William Cruttendens of the greene’; E: land of Herbert Lunsford gent. Other 2 pieces W: land of HL; N: whapple way as before; S: land of TG ‘Wiverherst’, E: lands of John Dawe of Burwash ‘Hickmans’

These properties, which had lately been occupied by the John Byne of Burwash mentioned above, had came to Anne Manser by partition of the property of her brother Thomas Byne in 1620. The witnesses to the transaction included Stephen’s brother Magnus Byne, and the latter’s son, Magnus junior.

In 1628 Stephen Byne’s unmarried brother William died and once again Stephen acted as co-executor with his brother Magnus. In 1635 the records show that Stephen was a churchwarden at Burwash.

On 14th August 1632 Stephen’s daughter Elizabeth married Gregory Markwick, ‘gent.’ of Wadhurst at Burwash. I understand that they had three children – Isaac, Judith and Elizabeth – before Elizabeth’s early death at the age of twenty-seven, perhaps in childbirth, in 1639. She was buried at Burwash and later the same year Gregory Markwick was married again, to Mary Hosmer, at Rotherfield. I assume that Stephen’s other daughter Mary did not marry, since he refers to her as ‘Mary Byne’ in his will of 1660, when she would have been forty years old.

Two of Stephen and Mary Byne’s sons, John and Stephen junior, followed in their father’s footsteps and became yeoman farmers. The other two sons, my 9 x great grandfather Magnus and his younger brother Edward, both studied at Cambridge and became clerics. I’m not sure how unusual it was for a yeoman farmer to have two sons who went into the Church – and whether this was a sign either of substantial wealth, enabling their father to pay for their education, or unusual devotion to the Church on their father’s part.

Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Emmanuel College, Cambridge

In 1631 Stephen’s second son Magnus entered Emmanuel College Cambridge, while in 1639 his fourth son Edward went up to Peterhouse. Renshaw suggests that Edward had previously been a pupil at Merchant Taylors School in London and it’s possible that Magnus also studied there. The year 1639 saw Magnus taking up a curacy at Wadhurst, while in the following year later he was appointed rector of Clayton-cum-Keymer, where he married Anne Chowne, the widow of two previous incumbents and the daughter of a third. As for Edward, I’ve written before of his controversial career at Cambridge, which coincided with the religious and political turbulence leading to the Civil War, in which Edward’s own partisanship for the Parliamentary cause and for Puritan doctrine seems clear. In 1652, in the second year of the Cromwellian Commonwealth, Edward married Martha Radford of Surrey.

In May 1647 Stephen Byne’s older brother Magnus died at Framfield; he appointed Stephen and the latter’s son Magnus as the overseers of his will. In December of the same year Stephen’s brother Edward made his will, appointing Stephen as one of the overseers.

Stephen Byne made his own will on 24th July 1660. It’s quite a brief document and the only land bequeathed is the farm at Moyses, said to consist of fourteen acres. Since Stephen’s wife Mary is mentioned in the will, we know that she survived her husband. The main beneficiary of the will seems to be Stephen Byne junior, who is appointed executor. The will was witnessed by Edward Polhill and John Polhill. In a recent post I speculated about the identities of these two men and their connection with other Polhills who are linked to my family history.

Stephen Byne was buried at Burwash on 22nd April 1664. He would have been about 78 years old.