Yesterday I reviewed what we know about the immediate family of my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle of Southover near Lewes in Sussex, who died in 1555. It’s almost certain that Gabriel’s father was the Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst who died in 1523, that his mother’s name was Elizabeth, and that he had older brothers named Thomas and John.

Lamberhurst parish church and treetops (via

Lamberhurst parish church and treetops (via

It also seems quite likely that Gabriel’s paternal grandfather was William Fowle of Lamberhurst who made his will in 1487, since the latter mentions a son named Nicholas, and there are other points of connection between the two men. (I’m grateful to my fellow researcher Bill Green for pointing me in the direction of William Fowle, and for other information about William and Nicholas reported in this post.) One of those points of connection concerns the Patynden, Patenden or Pattenden family. For example, one of the witnesses to Nicholas Fowle’s will was a certain Walter Pattenden. Walter seems to have been the son of William Patynden of Benenden, with whom Nicholas Fowle had dealings in 1493, as reported in this record held at East Sussex Record Office:

William Haler of Brenchley, Kent, to Alisaunder Culpeper, esq, Harry Darrell, gent, Nicholas Fowle, John Foule of Lamberhurst, Kent, and William Patynden, the younger, of Benenden, Kent 

Half of 2 messuages, 3 gardens, 15 pieces of land called Kyngewodys and Dungates in Lamberhurst

Refers to indenture of even date. Recites that William Hogekyn of Lamberhurst, now deceased, bought from David Gyffray of the same, deceased, land called Mydremedys in Lamberhurst for £20. WH paid £12 but died intestate leaving £8 unpaid. WH left issue William, Agnes and Elizabeth under age. Jane, widow of WH married John Chowry, who with Alisaunder Culpeper and Harry Darrell arranged that the lands should be saved for the children of WH. William Haler, as feoffee of William Hogekyn paid £8 by mortgaging the above premises to Nicholas Fowle. William Hogekyn, the younger, is to repay £8 at age 21.

One of the witnesses to the will of William Fowle in 1487 was Jacobus or James ‘Pattyenden’, who would make his own will a year later. William Patynden, the father of the Walter Pattenden who witnessed Nicholas Fowle’s will, made his will in 1507. Interestingly, he ordained five marks to the marriage of Joan Fowle, daughter of Nicholas Fowle. As Bill Green comments, this seems to indicate a familial tie between the two families, and it’s possible (though not yet proven) that Nicholas Fowle’s wife was born a Pattenden. The fact that Nicholas fails to mention a daughter in his will of 1523 need not concern us: she may have died in the intervening sixteen years.

Parish church of St George, Benenden

Parish church of St George, Benenden

Further work needs to be done to establish the precise relationships between Walter, William, James and the other Patyndens for whom there are records. In the meantime, I came across an intriguing reference in the will of James Patynden, which might hint at another kind of connection between the Patyndens and the Fowles. James Patynden makes bequests to Thomas Pattenden, prior of Combwell, and the same man, ‘Sir Thomas Patenden Prior of Combewell’ is a witness to the will, together with ‘Sir William Dalton Vicar of Lamberherst’, and a certain John Shendefeld. This Thomas Patenden seems not to be identical with James’ son Thomas who is mentioned elsewhere in the will, and it’s more likely he was James’ contemporary, perhaps his brother?

Combwell Priory in 1809 (see footnote)

Combwell Priory in 1809 via (see footnote)

The priory of St Mary Magdalen, Combwell, was just five miles from Lamberhurst and about ten miles from Benenden. Like St Mary Overy in Southwark, and Leeds Priory, eighteen miles away in northern Kent, Combwell was a foundation of Augustinian or Austin canons. Thomas Patenden was prior there from about 1480 to his death in 1513. In the year before his death, the priory was subject to a visitation by William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury. The account in the Victoria County History does not reflect very well on Thomas Patenden:

Archbishop Warham made a visitation of the priory in 1512. Thomas Patenden had been prior for thirty-two years, and there were six other canons, who stated in their evidence that the infirmary was in great need of repairs and nobody attended to the sick, who had to lie in the dormitory. They had not enough food and drink or clothing, the prior never rendered any accounts, and there was no teacher of grammar. The manors of Benenden and Thornham needed great repairs. John Lanny said that the prior and convent laid him under a debt of £40 in an obligation without any condition to two outsiders, now remaining in the hands of the minister of Mottenden, and arranged that the house should not be indebted by this. The prior said that the obligation was cancelled, and was ordered to show it to the archbishop; and he was also ordered to make a proper account and inventory, to make sufficient repairs to the infirmary before All Saints and to correct the other points mentioned. 

Interestingly, Thomas Patenden’s successor as prior was a certain Thomas Vyncent. Gabriel Fowle would be involved in a Chancery case involving Hugh Vyncent in the late 1530s or early 1540s (see my last post): were the two men related? Even more speculatively, some sources claim that Nicholas Fowle’s (first?) wife was Joan Vince: might this have been a misreading of Vincent or Vyncent? Thomas Vyncent had the misfortune to be prior when Combwell was suppressed in 1536, though he was able to retire with an annual pension of £10. The site and possessions were granted in 1537 to Thomas Culpeper – perhaps a relative of the Alexander Culpeper with whom Nicholas Fowle had dealings in 1493? After Thomas Culpeper’s attainder (on what grounds is not made clear), Combwell passed in 1542 to Sir John Gage ‘in tail male’. Gage, who lived at West Firle near Lewes, held a number of important offices at court during the reigns of Henry VII and VIII and bore the train for Queen Mary at her marriage to Philip of Spain. Ironically, perhaps, given that he benefited from the dissolution of at least one monastery, he was a loyal Catholic and his descendants were noted recusants during Elizabeth’s reign.

Augustinian canon (via

Augustinian canon (via

So the Pattendens’ experience parallels in some ways that of their Fowle neighbours and possible relations. They too had a family member who was prior of a community of Austin canons: Bartholomew Fowle, the last prior of St Mary Overy, who had previously been at Leeds priory, with which Combwell seems to have had reciprocal ties, at least historically, as in this further extract from the above account:

The prior of Combwell was visitor with the prior of Leeds of the Augustinian houses in the dioceses of Canterbury and Rochester in 1311 and 1317 (fn. 21); and in 1353 the priory of Combwell was visited by the priors of Leeds and Tonbridge.

However, I think it’s fair to say that the visitations at Southwark did not produce the same kind of critical report as at Combwell. On the contrary, Bartholomew Fowle seems to have been an advocate of stricter observance of the monastic rule, as reflected in this account:

An important chapter of the canons regular of St. Austin was held in their chapter-house, Leicester, on Monday, 16 June, 1518, when one hundred and seventy joined in the procession, of whom thirty-six were prelati or heads of houses. As night came on they adjourned till Tuesday morning at seven, and when they again assembled, the prior of Southwark, with every outward demonstration of trouble and sorrow, appealed for a stricter and verbal observance of their rule. His manner and address excited much stir, but he was replied to by many, particularly by the prior of Merton. On the first day of this chapter a letter had been read from Cardinal Wolsey observing with regret that so few men of that religion applied themselves to study. On Wednesday, the concluding day of the chapter, Henry VIII and his then queen were received into the order. 

The ‘then queen’ was Katharine of Aragon, whose ‘divorce’ from Henry fifteen years later would precipitate England’s schism from Rome, and indirectly lead to the suppression of the monasteries and the surrender in 1539, by Bartholomew Fowle, of St Mary Overy to the agents of Thomas Cromwell. Bartholomew was granted a pension of £100 and a house within the close at Southwark where Robert Michell, the previous prior, was living.

It remains to be seen whether there is any significance in the fact that both the Fowles and the Patyndens had such close ties to the same religious order.

(Footnote: The picture of Combwell Abbey featured in this post was the work of the artist Paul Amsinck who was, I believe, a relative – perhaps the son – of the London-based German merchant of that name, to whom was apprenticed John Godfrey Schwartz, who in 1780 would marry Frances Collins, the daughter of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Collins née Gibson and later Holdsworth. The picture was engraved by Letitia Byrne.)


In writing this post, I had of course forgotten yet another possible Augustinian link in my family history. Only a couple of weeks ago, I speculated that Thomas Lucke, curate at Litlington in Sussex, and the uncle of my 12 x great grandmother Alice Fowle née Lucke, may have been the person of that name who was a canon at the Augustinian priory at Michelham until its dissolution in 1537.