My recent explorations of Elizabethan and Jacobean recusancy have re-awakened my interest in the life of my 12 x great grandfather, Magnus Fowle of Mayfield, Sussex. His daughter Agnes married Edward Byne of Burwash and they were my 11 x great grandparents. Magnus was the son of Gabriel Fowle of Southover, who was apparently the master of the Free Grammar School in Lewes. As I’ve noted before, Gabriel, who died in 1555 during the reign of Queen Mary, was a staunch Catholic whose will requested ‘x preistes yf they can be gott to celebrate & say masse for my soulle & all crysten soules’. As for Magnus, his own will of 1595 left money to Eleanor Ashburnham, a member of a famous recusant family, and my working theory is that he was a church papist: in other words, a Catholic sympathiser who outwardly conformed to the newly-protestant Church of England.

Countryside near Mayfield, Sussex (via

Countryside near Mayfield, Sussex (via

Returning to Magnus Fowle’s story, I’m keen to discover more about the family of his wife Alice, my 12 x great grandmother. According to Walter Renshaw’s history of the Byne family, Alice’s maiden name was Lucke, and she was the daughter of Richard Lucke of Mayfield. We certainly have evidence that Magnus’ wife was called Alice: a case in Chancery dated some time between 1558 and 1579 and concerning property in Mayfield, was said to be between ‘Magnus Fowle and Alice Fowle his wife’, as plaintiffs, and ‘Robert Holden and another’ as defendants. Renshaw cites this case as evidence that Alice was the daughter of Richard Lucke, and I’ve ordered a copy to verify this. Renshaw states that Richard Lucke died on 5th May 1593. The last will and testament of Richard Lucke of Wadhurst was proved on 25th May 1593. Perhaps this is the same person (Mayfield is only five miles from Wadhurst), but although I have now completed my transcription of the will, I can find no reference in it to either Alice or Magnus. Alice had probably died by this time (she was certainly no longer alive when Magnus Fowle made his own will two years later), but it’s surprising that there is no mention of Richard’s supposed son-in-law Magnus, or of his granddaughter Agnes Fowle, who would have been married (to my 11 x great grandfather Edward Byne) with children of her own by this date. The will mentions Richard Lucke’s brother Edward; his wife Joan; four sons: Richard, Thomas, John and Christopher; three unmarried daughters: Dorothy, Joan and Mary; and four married daughters: Margaret, the wife of John Barham, Elizabeth the wife of John Kingwood, Anne the wife of Thomas Stapley, and Katherine, whose husband’s name I am still trying to decipher. But not a hint of any connection to the Fowle family.

St Dunstan's church, Mayfield (via

St Dunstan’s church, Mayfield (via

Because of this lack of direct evidence, it’s too soon to claim Richard and Joan Lucke as my 13 x great grandparents. It’s possible that Renshaw made a mistake, and confused Richard Lucke of Wadhurst with another member of the Lucke family in nearby Mayfield. There was certainly a branch of the Luckes in that village: for example, I’ve found the will of John Lucke of Mayfield, who made his will in 1549. Like the will of Gabriel Fowle, this document shows clear signs of loyalty to the Catholic faith: John bequeaths his soul ‘to Almightie god our Lady saynt Mary and all the glorious company of heaven’. However, any hope that John Lucke had a son named Richard was dashed when I transcribed the will and discovered that he and his wife, another Joan, seem to have produced only daughters: the unmarried Christian; Isabel the wife of Richard Maynard; and possibly another (unnamed) daughter married to Thomas Newney. However, a certain ‘Richard Lukk’ was one of the witnesses to the will: it’s possible that this is Richard Lucke of Wadhurst who died in 1593, and that he was related to John Lucke of Mayfield in some way, even if he wasn’t his son.

There is another reference to the Lucke family in Renshaw’s history, in relation to the Bynes. Apparently John Byne, son of my 11 x great grandparents Edward Byne and Agnes Fowle, and younger brother of my 10 x great grandfather Stephen Byne, mentions two members of the Lucke family in his will of February 1615/16. John Byne leaves 6s 8d to ‘Ann Lucke my kinswoman’ and the same amount to Rose Lucke. I believe these were the daughters of Edward Lucke and his wife Agnes Howell of Mayfield, who were married there on 8th January 1581/2. According to one source, Anne Lucke and Rose Lucke were christened at Mayfield in 1587/8 and 1589/90 respectively, so would have been in their twenties (and presumably still unmarried) when John Byne mentioned them in his will. It’s possible that their father Edward was the brother of Richard Lucke of Wadhurst who is mentioned in the latter’s will of 1593. At least one source claims that Edward Lucke was born in Rotherfield, the son of Christopher Lucke, who died there on 14th July 1567. It may be significant that Richard Lucke of Wadhurst named one of his children Christopher. The same source quotes this additional information about Christopher:

Christopher Lucke died seised of the manor of Hawle and of a capital messuage and sixty acres of land, meadow, pasture and wood in Retherfeld held of Henry Nevill, Knight. Lord Abergavenny, as of his manor of Retherfeld in socage by fealty and rent of 12s and they are worth 40s yearly. And of a lane leading from the said capital messuage to Maynard’s Gate which is held of the same by fealty and a rent of 1d. He died 14th July 9 Eliz., and his son Edward Lucke is aged 6 years.

A certain ‘John Luke’ witnessed Magnus Fowle’s will in 1595. In the will of Nicholas Fowle, a cousin of Magnus, who died in 1600, John Luke of ‘Dargatte’ or Durgates in Wadhurst, was appointed as one of the guardians of an almshouse in Sparrows Green. He may have been one of the sons of Richard Lucke.

Clearly, more research is needed before I can establish with any certainty which, if any, of these members of the Lucke family were related to my 12 x great grandmother Alice Fowle.