Some new notes on Magnus Byne (1615 – 1671)

While I wait for some recently-ordered documents to arrive, my attention has turned away temporarily from my sixteenth-century Fowle ancestors and back to their descendants in seventeenth-century Sussex, and in particular to my 9 x great grandfather Magnus Byne (1615 – 1671), who was the rector of Clayton-cum-Keymer. Magnus Byne was the son of Stephen Byne and Mary Manser, the grandson of Edward Byne and Agnes Fowle, the great grandson of Magnus Fowle and his wife Alice Lucke, and the great great grandson of Gabriel Fowle.

Parish church of St John the Baptist, Clayton, Sussex

Parish church of St John the Baptist, Clayton, Sussex

Yesterday I thought I’d found a new source that independently verified some of the information about Magnus Byne that, until then, I’d only seen in Walter Renshaw’s history of the Byne family. The source was a chapter on ‘The Manor of Keymer’ in a 1911 collection published by the Sussex Archaeological Society. However, on closer investigation, it turned out that the chapter was written by none other than Walter Renshaw himself, who was apparently chairman of the society’s council.

Nevertheless, the chapter contains some interesting snippets of information which have added somewhat to my understanding of Magnus Byne’s life and times. For example, it reminded me of the close ties between Clayton and Lewes Priory. The priory held the advowson for the parish until its dissolution in 1537. Not only that, but its famous medieval wall paintings, uncovered in the nineteenth century, were the work of monks from the priory.

Medieval wall paintings uncovered at the parish church of Clayton, Sussex

Medieval wall paintings uncovered at the parish church of Clayton, Sussex

Was it simple coincidence that Magnus Byne became rector of a church with historical ties to Lewes, where his great-great-grandfather (and my 13 x great grandfather) Gabriel Fowle had been master of the free grammar school a hundred years before?

After the dissolution of Lewes Priory, the advowson of Clayton-cum-Keymer came into the possession of Thomas Cromwell, the agent of its destruction, before passing to Edward Knight of Clayton. Renshaw’s chapter lists the three rectors who served the parish in the second half of the sixteenth century. The last of these, John Farley, ‘seems to have been somewhat negligent in his duties, as he forgot to preach for two consecutive years’.

Farley’s successor was William Wane, who was my 10 x great grandfather, since it was his daughter Anne who would marry Magnus Byne and become the mother of my 8 x great grandfather John Byne. Before coming to Clayton, William Wane had been curate at Wivelsfield, twelve miles away. He married Joan Kemp, widow of Thomas Kemp of Albourne, just five miles from Clayton.

Renshaw writes that William Wane was instituted to the rectory at Clayton on 9th December 1601, ‘on the presentation of Queen Elizabeth “ratione defectus liberatione Thomae Whiting generosi”’, and inducted on 1st January 1601/2. He continues:

Some difficulty connected with the title to the advowson existed at this time, as on 25th November, 1601, Sir Edward Michelborne wrote to Sir Robert Cecil stating that he claimed the patronage. In 1603, however, Sir Edward was returned as being the patron. Thomas Whiting was closely related to Sir Edward Michelborne.

Edward Michelborne of Clayton (c.1562 – 1609) was a soldier, adventurer and Member of Parliament who was implicated in the the Earl of Essex’s rebellion of 1601. However, this note by Renshaw is particularly interesting to me because of the other name mentioned: Thomas Whiting. It may be mere coincidence, but this was also the name of the father-in-law of Stephen Byne, Magnus Byne’s eldest son, who would hold the advowson for Clayton for a time after his father’s death. Thomas Whiting, was a London citizen and joiner, and a neighbour both of Stephen, a citizen and upholsterer, and his brother John, a citizen and stationer.

The coronation of King Charles II

The coronation of King Charles II

Is there a connection between the two Thomas Whitings: was Stephen Byne’s father-in-law the son of the man who was once the patron of his father’s parish? And does this suggest that the Whitings of London, like their neighbours the Bynes, had their roots in Sussex? I haven’t been able to answer this question yet, but in hunting for information, I’ve discovered more about Thomas Whiting. As a master joiner, he helped to prepare pageants for the Lord Mayor’s show in 1659, 1660 and 1662, and in 1661 he worked on the entertainments for the coronation of Charles II. He also played a part in the rebuilding of the church of St Edmund the King, Lombard Street, and in the design of Brewers’ Hall. Thomas was obviously a wealthy man: in 1676 he donated an organ to the church of St Botolph, Aldgate, which was installed in the early years of the eighteenth century and is still apparently in situ, having recently been restored.

In the early decades of the seventeenth century, the advowson for Clayton-cum-Keymer passed through a number of hands before being purchased by John Batnor, the puritanically-inclined and possibly deranged rector of Westmeston, just a few miles to the east of Clayton. In his will of 1624 Batnor entrusted the adowson to four people, including ‘my unnaturall and undutifull sonne’ Richard, and stated his wish that the post of rector should be conferred on his son-in-law Henry Cooper, the husband of his daughter Joan. However, this hardly reflected any confidence in Cooper, whom Batnor commanded ‘upon danger of a curse from God to continue incumbent of the said living […] sincerely preaching the sacred word of God without any fantasticall conceits or divelish brethings’. Batnor’s will went on to abuse his other sons, noting that John, the eldest of them, ‘on 15th July, 1623, cursed me with a bitter curse calling me hellhound and challenging mee to be worse than the divell for the divell loved his own’. One can only speculate what life in the Batnor household must have been like.

Renshaw informs us that, on John Batnor senior’s death in 1626, the probate was revoked by sentence: ‘it is in charity to be hoped on the grounds of the testator’s insanity’. The result was that the advowson of Clayton devolved upon John Batnor junior, who took up the post in September 1626. As I’ve noted before, John Bantnor became the first of the clerical husbands of Anne Wane, daughter of his predecessor, when he married her at Clayton in July 1628.

After John Batnor’s death in 1638 he was followed as rector of Clayton by William Chowne, who became Anne’s second husband. Chowne only lived for two years after his arrival at Clayton, and was succeeded in July 1640 by Magnus Byne, who became Anne’s third husband in the following March. Magnus and Anne would have five children together, the youngest being my 8 x great grandfather John, before Anne’s death in March 1661/2. As I noted in my earlier post about Anne, she had spent her whole life at Clayton rectory, being born there as the daughter of one incumbent, and having subequently married three others.

Printing in the 17th century

Printing in the 17th century

Renshaw’s chapter reminds us that Magnus Byne’s second wife was Sarah Bartlett, ‘daughter of John Bartlett of St Faith’s, in the City of London, citizen and stationer’. I’ve written before about John Bartlett’s puritan sympathies and his publication of works of religious propaganda during the 1630s and 1640s. In 1656, eight years before his marriage to Sarah Bartlett, Magnus Byne had published a book of his own, with the resonant title, The Scornful Quakers answered, and their railing reply refutedI wonder if it was through his contacts with London publishers that Magnus met John Bartlett and thus his daughter?

Renshaw notes that Magnus’ diatribe against the Quakers, was printed, not by John Bartlett, but ‘by William Bentley, for Andrew Crook, at the sign of the Green Dragon, in St Paul’s Churchyard. (In 1655 John Bartlett was himself at the sign of the Gilt Cup ‘in the new buildings on the South side of Pauls, neer St Austin’s-Gate’, and in 1657 he would be ‘at the Golden Cup in Pauls Church Yard over against the Drapers’).

The cover of Magnus Byne's book

The cover of Magnus Byne’s book

In the same year, 1656, that he printed Magnus Byne’s book, William Bentley was involved in a case concerning his right to print Bibles, which he claimed were ‘being for the fairnesse of the print, and truth of the Editions generally approved of to be the best that ever were printed’. According to one source, Bentley ‘enjoyed the favour of the interregnum government’ and (rather like John Bartlett) specialised in political and religious works, ‘printing very few texts of imaginative literature’. As for Andrew Crooke, he has been described as ‘one of the leading publishers of his day’, issuing significant texts of English Renaissance drama and producing important editions of works by Ben Jonson and Sir Thomas Browne.

I can’t help thinking that it was through one of these London publishing contacts – whether John Bartlett himself, or William Bentley or Andrew Crooke – that Magnus Byne arranged for his own son, John, my 8 x great grandfather, to be apprenticed as a stationer, probably some time in the late 1660s.

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