My exploration of the life of Bartholomew Fowle, the last prior of St Mary Overy, Southwark, has thrown considerable light on his life but produced no conclusive evidence about his links to my own Fowle ancestors. I’ve discovered that Bartholomew lived until at least 1553 but whether he was, as some sources claim, the brother of my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle of Southover near Lewes remains unproven.

The home of Anne of Cleves: a surviving Tudor hours in Southover, Lewes

The home of Anne of Cleves: a surviving Tudor house in Southover, Lewes

Researching Bartholomew’s life demonstrated again the considerable uncertainty that surrounds the early generations of the Fowle family. I want to return to that early history at some point, but for now I’m focusing on those ancestors about whom I can write with more confidence. I’m fairly sure, for example, that Magnus Fowle of Mayfield, Sussex, who died in 1595, was my 12 x great grandfather. His only surviving daughter Agnes married Edward Byne of Burwash and they were my 11 x great grandparents. Nor do I have any doubts that Magnus was the son of Gabriel Fowle of Southover: Gabriel’s will of 1554 mentions a son named Magnus, a fairly uncommon name, and Magnus’ own will refers to properties in Ringmer and Glynde that were almost certainly inherited from Gabriel.

Like his supposed brother Bartholomew, Gabriel Fowle is an intriguing figure. If he was indeed the son of Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst, on the Kent-Sussex border, then at some point between his birth in about 1507 and 1529 at the very latest (i.e. by the time he was in his early twenties), Gabriel moved about thirty miles south-west to Lewes, where he would remain until his death in 1555 at the age of about 48. According to Walter Renshaw’s history of the Byne family, Gabriel’s will reveals that he was the master of the Free Grammar School in Lewes. Until now, I’ve had to take that claim on trust, since I could find no evidence in my own copy of Gabriel’s will to support it. However, having come across some transcribed extracts from the will online, I realised that two key sentences that I had been unable to decipher contained the vital clue. Armed with this information, I returned to the original will and decided to produce a new transcription.

Springtime at Southover Grange, Lewes (via

Springtime at Southover Grange, Lewes (via

The transcript below updates some of the details in the version I posted here, and I’ve highlighted the two key sentences in bold. A question mark [?] indicates uncertainty about a particular word or phrase, while [—] indicates a word that I was unable to decipher. I’ll have more to say about the will, and other new information that I’ve been able to unearth about Gabriel, in another post.

In the Name of god amen the 27th day of January a[nn]o d[omi]ni 1554 I Gabryell Fowlle off the p[ar]yshe of Southover next Lewes in the countye of Sussex within the dio[cese] of chychystre. hole of mynde & of good remembraunce thanks be to god do orday[n] & make this my Testam[en]t & Last wyll in man[ne]r & fforme ffollowynge. ffyrst I bequeath my soule to allmyghtie god and my bodye to be buryed within the churche yarde of the p[ar]yshe of Southover aforesayd Item I gyve to the hygh altare of Ryngmer xxd. Item I wyll x preistes yf they can be gott to celebrate & say masse for my sowlle & all crysten sowles, & to be honestly recompensed by my executor. It[em] I give my new graylle Imprynted to the churche of Ryngmer. Item I give my wrytten masse book to the church of Southover. I gyve John Harman my sonne in law my best gowen & my best Iacket. Item I do gyve to Jane Bryan my old servaunt that my housse & garden called pecketts in Southover, ffor terme of her lyff, & after her decease to remayne to my daughter agnes harman, & to her heires of her bodye lawfully begotten. Item I gyve to agnes harman my daughter that my peece of grounde callyd ffennes garden lying in the p[ar]yshe of Glynd together with one acre in the gores [?] in Glynde also, to her use for terme of her lyff, & after her death to remayne to Magnus Fowlle my sonne and to his heires of his bodye Lawfully begotten. I wyll my executor to bestowe at my buryall in monye amonge the poutrye of Ringmer, Lewes & Southover by thadvyse of my overseers xs. And as muche at my monethes mynd. Item I wyll all my Lands & Ten[emen]ts Lyenge & beyng in Southover otherwyse then granted to Jane Bryan as ys aforesayd, to John Harman and Agnes hys wyff & to the heires of theyr bodyes lawfully begotten, Provyded & allwayes excepted that the same John shall not clayme any further Sumes of monye nor monye worthe whiche I p[ro]mysed hym for the maryage of my daughter. So that yf the sayd John chaunce to clayme any further Sumes off monye as afore ys sayd, Then my exec[utor] to pay to the same John xx [—] in redye monye & then my sayd exec[utor] to enter to upon all the sayd Lands in these forme as ys aforesayd. Item I wyll my daughter agnes to have my iwells of sylver that ys a [—] with and a bande of sylver & gylte, [—] of my silver spones, her mothers best harness gyrdle, a payr of corall bedes gawdyd with sylver. Item I wyll all my moveable goods, unbequeathed (sauyd [?] books) to be equally devyded betwen my daughter agnes and my exec[utor], with thadvyse of my overseers & Edward Brown. Item I wyll that Jane Bryan my s[er] vaunt have one of my chestes at Ryngmer, with locke and key & a payr of potts [?]. Item I wyll all my Lands in Ryngmer & Glynde otherwyse than ys above specyfyed to Magnus Fowlle my sonne & to his heires of his bodye Lawfully begotten to gether with all suche tytle & ryght whiche I have or owght to have, or by any meanes in tyme to come may have, concerning my right and tytle in Sussex or in Kent, And if yt shall chance my sayd Sonne Magnus to dye without heires of his bodye Lawfully begotten, Then I wyll all my sayd lands & Ten[amen]ts ryyghts & [—] bothe within Kent & Sussex to remayne soly to my daughter Agnes & to her heires of her bodye Lawfully begotten, & yf she fortune to dye without heires of her Bodye Lawfully begotten. Then I wyll all my sayd Lands & [—] to be sold by my overseers, & the Summes of monye to be bestowed by my overseers upon almese howsses, high wayes & suche other other deads & workes of charytye and specyally toward the reparacions of the church of Ryngmer. Item I make my sonne Magnus Fowlle, my sole executor. And Dunstane Sawyer now vicar of Ryngmer & Nycholas Aptott of Ryngmer grene my overseers & the same Dunstane to have for hys labor my second best gown, & the same Nycholas to have an angell or xs of monye. Item I wyll that my overseers shall have full & perfect authoryty to take advyse of Lerned counsel, & to alter & change or otherwyse sett any clause or sentence which might be or ought to be more formally made in any thynge toward the performance of thys my Last wyll, So yt allways be & shalbe toward the strengthynge of the ryghts of my children. as my wyll ys. Item I gyve to all my godchyldren xyd apece. So yt be asked. Item I gyve to John Harman my daughters sonne, a cowe [?], & to Elizabeth Harman my daughters daughter a sylver spone. Item I wyll to be gyven amonge the scholers of the ffrye schole namely soche have been with me a quarter of a yere iijs iijd a peny a pece, as far as yt wyll serve as to pray for me. Item I wyll to John Cotmott the yonger, Andrewe baran Edward Pelham John Raynold & John ffeharbar for theyr dylygence about me vs amonge them, equally to be devyded & all theyse v to take advantage of theyr peny apece, yf ther be under xl scholers beside them. Item I give to Thomas Brown xxd. provided allway yt yf that fortune my sayd oversers to fayle at suche tyme as my land to be sold for Lacke of heires of my children as ys aforesaid, That then I wyll that the churchewardens of the paryshe of Ryngmer for that tyme beynge, shall have ffull power & pfect auctorytye with thadvyse of the other honest men of the p[ar]yshe to sell my sayd Lands & to bestowe the monye thereof, accordynge to the fforme of this my last wyll, as my sayd oversers shuld have done. Item I wyll a copye of my wyll to remayne in p[ar]chement [?] in the churche of Ryngmer, or some other safe keepyinge for the same entent [?] Item I wyll that yf yt shall fortune my oversers to take any payne in rydynge or goynge to se this my wyll fulfylld, they to be honestly recompensed by my exec[utor]. Item I wyll that my overseers shall see this my wyll p[ro]vyd & registered. To all this witnesseth Sr Andrewe Puggeslye. Wyllm Marle, James West, John ffortune, & John Revet [?] with other. S[ig]n[e]d. Jny. [—] echibit [?] Roxia [?] de Marsfield iy die augusti a[nn]o d[omi]ni 1555 [—] ad valore [—]