William Byne: a timeline

It’s often helpful to estimate key dates for one’s ancestors, even if hard information is hard to come by, and to set these dates in the context of contemporary historical events. Doing this for my 13 x great grandfather, William Byne of Burwash (see below), makes it possible to see that he lived through the reigns of at least three monarchs and died soon after the accession of a fourth. William was born either just before or soon after the accession of Henry VIII, lived through the religious and political upheavals of Henry’s reign as a young man, was a middle-aged man with a family during the brief reigns of Edward and Mary, and witnessed the arrival on the throne of Elizabeth I shortly before his death.

William Byne: key dates

c. 1505-10       Birth

1509                 Henry VIII becomes king

c. 1525-30      Marriage to Joan

c.1530 –35     Birth of daughter Margery

1531                Henry VIII declares himself Supreme Head of Church of England

1536-40          Dissolution of the monasteries

1538                Leases ‘Witteres’

1547                Edward VI becomes king

1551                Marriage of daughter Margery to Godard Russell

1553                Mary Tudor becomes queen

1558                Elizabeth I becomes queen

1559                Death

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The brothers of William Byne of Burwash?

Yesterday I wrote about my 12 x great grandfather William Byne of Burwash, Sussex, who died in 1559 and who is, for now, my earliest definite Byne ancestor. My principal source of information about William is Walter Renshaw’s history of the Sussex Bynes. Although Renshaw has no definite evidence of William Byne’s origins, he suggests that he may have been related to other Bynes who can be found in and around Burwash at the same period.

Burwash parish church

Burwash parish church

I noted yesterday that William Byne appointed a certain John Byne as the overseer of his will. Renshaw speculates that this may have been the John Byne of Burwash who made his will on 27th November 1559 and who was buried two days later. The will does not mention William, but then the latter had himself died three months earlier. Like William, John Byne was a yeoman farmer. He too had a wife named Joan who survived him. John’s will also mentions four children: Symon, Henry, Richard and Joan.

Symon Byne, son of John, also married a woman named Joan. They had children named Richard and Margery. Symon died in 1560, not long after his father. Henry was married twice: first to someone named Margery and secondly, in 1577, to Elinor Cruttenden. He died in 1578. Henry Byne had a son named William and another son, probably named Henry. Richard Byne died in 1561. Joan was married twice, first to Godard Cruttenden and secondly, in 1576, to Thomas Barham.

John Byne’s will also mentions a brother named Richard, whom Renshaw identifies as the Richard Byne of Ticehurst whose wife was named Gillian and who had sons named Thomas and John and daughters named Margaret, Odiane and Anne. Richard made his will in 1574, leaving property at Witherden [Witherenden?]. His widow Gillian died in 1580/1.

It’s possible, though by no means proven, that my ancestor William Byne was the brother of John and Richard Byne. They were of the same generation, and there is a certain amount of name-sharing in their families: William and John both had sons named Symon; William and Richard both had daughters named Margery or Margaret.

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William Byne of Burwash (died 1559)

In the previous post I began to explore the early generations of the Byne family of Sussex. In this post I want to summarise what we know about my earliest confirmed Byne ancestor – my 12 x great grandfather William Byne of Burwash.

I’ve requested a copy of William’s will from the East Sussex Archives, but for now all of the information I have about him comes from Renshaw’s history of the Bynes. According to Renshaw, by a lease dated 19 November 1538, Thomas (Taylor), then Abbot of Robertsbridge, demised Witteres (Witherhurst?) tenement in Burwash to William Byne for twenty-one years from Lady Day 1539, for the yearly rent of 23s 4d.  Robertsbridge was a Cistercian Abbey, some five miles from Burwash. It was dissolved in 1538, but it’s not clear whether William Byne’s lease immediately predated or followed this event.

We learn from Renshaw that William was assessed on £10 in goods on 10 shillings to the Lay Subsidy levied in 1549 and 1551/2 in the Hundred of Hawksborough, which includes Burwash, and also in the Borough of Possingworth.  He bought land in Burwash from a certain J. Segar in 1550.

We know from his will of 16th April 1557 that William wife’s was named Joan and that they had five children: Edward, Symon, Anthony, Margery and Jane.

William Byne was buried at Burwash on 28th August 1559 and his will was proved on 14th April 1560. His wife Joan made her will on 20th May 1567 and was buried on 31st July 1575.

Witherhurst Farm, Burwash

Witherhurst Farm, Burwash

In his will William Byne left properties called ‘Upper Croft’, ‘Colth’ (?) and ‘Moyses’ variously to his three sons. (‘Moyses’ would be inherited by Edward Byne’s son Stephen, my 10 x great grandfather, who in turn left it to his daughter Mary). William appointed his wife Joan and Richard Barham to be executors of the will, and John Byne as overseer. The latter was probably the John Byne of Burwash who died just three months after William and who, Renshaw speculates, might have been his brother (a possibility I’ll explore in another post).

Renshaw informs us that Margery married Godard, or Godredus Russell of Salehurst in 1551, which means she must have been born by about 1535 at the latest. His daughter Jane married Henry Foster. His son Anthony married a woman named Joan and lived in Battle; he died in 1590. Symon Byne married Elinor Pudland and died in Burwash in 1608. Edward Byne, my 11 x great grandfather, married Agnes Fowle of Mayfield.

If we assume that William Byne was at least twenty-one years old, and probably somewhat older, when he leased land from the Abbot of Robertsbridge in 1538, then he must have been born by the middle of the first decade of the 16th century. And if his daughter Margery got married in 1551, then she must have been born by about 1535 at the latest, meaning that her parents were probably married by the early 1530s.

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Seven generations of the Byne family

I’ve been trying to discover more about the earlier generations of the Byne family of Sussex. A reminder: Mary Byne of the parish of St Botolph, Aldgate, married Stepney-born goldsmith Joseph Greene in 1701. They were my 7 x great grandparents. Mary was the daughter of Tower Hill stationer John Byne, who was born in Clayton, Sussex, in 1651, the son of the local rector, Magnus Byne. Magnus was born in Burwash, where his family had been yeoman farmers for at least three generations.

Countryside near Burwash (via bandbchurchhouse.co.uk)

Countryside near Burwash, Sussex (via bandbchurchhouse.co.uk)

Before going on to explore the origins of the Byne family in more detail, it might be useful to summarise what we know of this branch of my family tree, stretching back from Mary Byne to her great-great-great-grandfather William.


First generation

William Byne, b. 1520 (?), d. 1559


Second generation

William Byne married Joan. Their children were:

Anthony Byne

Jane Byne

Symon Byne

Margaret Byne

Edward Byne, b. 1550, d. 1611


Third generation

Edward Byne married Agnes Fowle. Their children were:

Magnus Byne, b. 1574

William Byne, b. 1576

Edward Byne, b. 1578

Stephen Byne, b. 1586, d. 1664

John Byne, b.1589, d.1615

James Byne, b. 1593, d. 1594


Fourth generation

Stephen Byne married Mary Manser in 1611 at Wadhurst. Their children were:

Elizabeth Byne, b. 1612, d. 1639

Magnus Byne, b. 1615, d. 1671

John Byne, , b. 1617

Mary Byne, b. 1620

Edward Byne, b. 1623, d. 1682

Stephen Byne, b. 1632


Fifth generation

Magnus Byne married firstly Anne Chowne née Wane in 1640 at St Saviour, Southwark. Their children were:

Mary Byne, b. 1641 Clayton, d. 1643

Ann Byne, b. 1643, d. 1662

Edward Byne, b. 1643

Stephen Byne, b. 1647, d. 1674

John Byne, b. 1651, d. 1689

Magnus Byne married secondly Sarah Bartlett in 1662. Their children were:

Ann Byne, b. 1663

Magnus Byne, b. 1664, d. 1743

Sarah Byne, b. 1666


Sixth generation

John Byne married Alice Forrest in 1675 (?) in London (?). Their children were:

Alice Byne, b. 1676, d. 1760

Ann Byne, b. 1677

John Byne, b. 1679, d. 1726

Ann Byne, b. 1682

Mary Byne , b. 1683

Thomas Byne, b. 1684, d. 1728

Magnus Byne , b. 1685, d. 1716


Seventh generation

Mary Byne married Joseph Greene in 1701 at All Hallows, Tower Hill.

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Revisiting the 1597 will of John Manser of Wadhurst

I’m grateful to my fellow researcher Ed Rydahl Taylor for encouraging me to revisit the will of my 11 x great grandfather John Manser of Wadhurst in Sussex. Ed wondered whether I had managed to decipher the names that I’d indicated by question marks in my original transcription of the will. At that time I only had a paper copy of the will, but I’ve now managed to scan it to my computer and enlarged the text sufficiently to read some of the previously illegible words.

Returning to the will, I realised that all the missing words in my transcription referred to the same person, whom John Manser named as joint overseer with his brother Abraham. Not only that, but I could now see that the missing person was described as John’s brother-in-law. Despite the increased legibility, I still struggled for a time to determine this man’s name. Could it be Smart? But if so, where was the ‘r’? And wasn’t that a double ‘t’ in the final reference to him? Eventually, after some searching in various Sussex records, I came to the conclusion that John Manser’s brother-in-law was, in fact, William Snatt – a surname that I hadn’t come across before.

(via muddlefamilies.info)

(via muddlefamilies.info)

It turns out that the Snatts were a family of yeoman farmers in Rotherfield, about eight miles west of Wadhurst. According to one pedigree, a William Snatt was born there in 1561, the son of John and Jane Snatt. We know from John Manser’s will that his wife was named Jane, and indeed William Snatt had a younger sister of that name, born in 1569. Of course, it’s possible that William Snatt married John Manser’s sister, but I’ve seen no evidence that John had a sister, so this is the more likely explanation. William Snatt died in 1637; there is no reference in his will to a sister named Jane Manser, but she might have predeceased him.

If my theory is correct, and the information in the Snatt pedigree is accurate, then it means that John Manser could not have married Jane Snatt before the mid 1580s, when she would have been in her teens. This fits with our existing knowledge of the family. Their daughter Mary Manser (my 10 x great grandmother) married Stephen Byne in 1611, so would need to have been born by the early 1590s (Stephen was born in 1586 so would have been 25 when they married). Mary Manser’s brother Christopher did not marry until 1621, so was probably still quite young when his father John died in 1598.

Jane Manser would only have been about 29 years old when her husband John died, leaving her with two children still at home. I’ve yet to find any record of a second marriage involving a Jane Manser or Maunser before the 1630s, by which time John’s widow would have been an old woman. Now that I’ve discovered the maiden name of my 11 x great grandmother, I shall be exploring the Snatt family further: after all, Jane’s parents, John and Jane Snatt of Rotherfield, who were married in about 1550, were my 12 x great grandparents.

My initial slowness in identifying William Snatt was due to a failure to believe the evidence of my own eyes and to accept that Snatt was a real surname. Something similar has until now prevented me from identifying another person mentioned in John Manser’s will. We learn from the will that ‘the Queenes most excellent maiesty’ had an ‘extent’ out of John’s lands in Burwash ‘of four pounds by the yeare’. John requires that ‘when the extent is quit payed and discharged to the queens maiesty’ and ‘when the Queenes Maiestye is satisfied’, then his overseers (his brother Abraham Manser and brother-in-law William Snatt) are to ‘pay and discharge…the sum of forty pounds’ owed to a gentleman in Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire. As for this person’s name, believing ‘Fawkner’ to be a mis-spelling, I had been looking, in vain, for a John Faulkner. Once again, it seems I should have trusted what was in front of me. For it appears that the Fawkners (sic) were another family with branches in both Sussex and Northamptonshire.

A man named John Fawkner made his will at Waldron, Sussex, a dozen miles or so south of Wadhurst, in 1589. He mentions two sons named John: ‘the younger’ and ‘the elder’. Could one of these be the John Fawkner of Higham Ferrers? John Fawkner senior was an iron master and a tenant of the Gage family – he leaves his best horse to ‘my good friend Mr Gage of Bentley’ – who were famous Catholic recusants. According to Michael Questier, Fawkner was involved with Gage in interrogating the suspected protestant ‘heretic’ Richard Woodman, who was later burnt at the stake in Lewes, during the reign of Queen Mary.

Mottynsden, Burwash

Mottynsden, Burwash

One of the most intriguing things about Fawkner’s will is his reference to his property Mottingsden or Mottynsden in Burwash, which he bequeaths to his son John ‘the younger’. Some decades later, this property would be in the hands of the Manser family. In his will of 1681 John Manser, the London apothecary who was a neighbour and second cousin of my 9 x great grandfather, Aldgate stationer John Byne, left Mottynsden to his son Abraham. We gather from the will that John’s late brother Nicholas also had an interest in the property. This means that Mottynsden must have been left to the brothers by their father, Christopher Manser. It was probably included in the ‘lands lying in Burwashe’ left to Christopher and his heirs by John Manser in 1597.

So Mottynsden must have passed from the ownership of John Fawkner ‘the younger’ to my ancestor John Manser some time between 1589 and 1597, unless of course Christopher Manser acquired it in some other way after his father’s death. This connection makes it more likely that the John Fawkner of Higham Ferrers named in John Manser’s will had some link with the Fawkners of Waldron.

I’ve been unable to discover any more about the reason for the ‘extent’ taken out by the Crown against John Manser, or about the nature of the agreement between John Manser and John Fawkner.

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Reflections on the 1545 will of Christopher Maunser

Yesterday I posted a transcription of the will of my 13 x great grandfather Christopher Maunser of Hightown, Wadhurst, in Sussex, who died in 1545/6. In this post, I’ll examine what the will can tell us about Christopher and his family.

Local map showing location of Hightown in Wadhurst Park, Sussex

Local map showing location of Hightown in Wadhurst Park, Sussex

We learn from the will that Christopher’s wife Joan was still alive when it was written. However, since we know from other sources that Christopher married Mildred Barham, Joan must have been his second wife. There’s evidence of the first marriage in the name of one of Christopher’s daughters, and it’s possible that all four of the children named in the will were the result of that marriage. The Barhams were an old Sussex family whose history overlaps with that of my ancestors at a number of points, but to date I haven’t been able to discover how Mildred fits into their family tree.

According to his will, Christopher Maunser had three daughters and one son. Mildred was already married to Robert Wenbourne, who seems to have been the son of John Wenbourne of Wadhurst. There is a link between this family and the ‘tenement’ called Wenborn or Wenbans which Christopher bequeaths to his wife Joan. This property would later pass to Christopher’s grandson Abraham Manser (brother of my 11 x great grandfather John).

Wenbans, or Wenbourne, in 2008 (via wenbans.com.au/)

Wenbans, or Wenbourne, in 2008 (via wenbans.com.au/)

Christopher’s daughter Maryan appears to have been unmarried at the time of her father’s death, while we gather that her sister Elizabeth was probably married to John Thorpe. I’ve tracked down Thorpe’s will – he died in 1552 – and it confirms that this was indeed the case. Not only that, but by the time John Thorpe died, he and Elizabeth had five children: Christopher, George, Edward, Mildred and ‘Betterys’ (Beatrice?). Mildred was not of age when her father died, while Christopher was old enough to be appointed executor, suggesting that his parents had been married for more than twenty years, which places Elizabeth Maunser’s probable date of birth some time in the 1510s. John Thorpe appoints ‘my brother Wenborne’ as overseer of his will: presumably this is his brother-in-law Robert, married to his wife’s sister Mildred. Although Thorpe does not mention his place of residence, his will was witnessed by  ‘John Bayly preste’, who in other records is said to be of the parish of Wadhurst.

Christopher Maunser’s own will is also witnessed by a priest – ‘Sr Thomas Hothe’ (see my note in an earlier post on the use of ‘sir’ as an honorific title for priests in medieval and Tudor times). I can’t find Hoth in the Anglican clergy records, but Hoth or Hoath was a common Sussex name and there was a family of that name in the Wadhurst area at this period. The same priest would witness the will of John Wenbourne, Robert Wenborne’s father, just over a year later.

As for the other people mentioned in Christopher’s will, William Barham, another of the witnesses, was no doubt a relative of his late wife Mildred, while George Darrell, appointed as the will’s overseer, was probably a member of the family that owned a number of properties in Sussex and Kent, including Scotney Castle in Lamberhurst, and later in the century would include some famous Catholic recusants among their number.


George Darrell may have been the person of that name who was Member of Parliament for East Grinstead and Lewes between 1547 and 1554. A Gray’s Inn lawyer, Darrell was the son of Thomas Darrell of Scotney Castle. His father, also a lawyer, was a legal adviser to Sir John Gage of West Firle, Sussex, a courtier and another prominent Catholic, whose patronage may have assisted George’s parliamentary career.


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The last will and testament of Christopher Maunser of Hightown (died 1545)

I’ve had a copy of the will of my ancestor Christopher Maunser, who died in 1545, in my possession for some time, but I’ve held back from transcribing it, mainly because of the difficulty of deciphering its sixteenth-century script. However, inspired by my recent success in decoding the 1554 will of Gabriel Fowle, and by my new interest in my Tudor forebears, I’ve finally managed to produce a reasonably complete version of Christopher’s testament. 

Wadhurst Park, site of Hightown (via morgenguard.com)

Wadhurst Park, site of Hightown (via morgenguard.com)

Christopher Maunser or Manser of Hightown in Wadhurst, Sussex, was the son of Walter Maunser, who was known to be alive during the reign of Henry VII, and he in turn was the son of Robert Maunser, who lived during the reign of (and some sources claim was knighted by) Richard III. Christopher’s son Robert, who is the main beneficiary of his father’s will, had three sons. One of these sons, John Manser of Wadhurst, was the father of Mary Manser who married Stephen Byne of Burwash: they were my 10 x great grandparents. This means that Christopher Maunser was my 13 x great grandfather.

In this post I’m sharing my transcription of Christopher’s will and in the next post I’ll discuss what it can tell us about him and his family. As with other wills, I’ve retained the original spelling and used question marks to indicate illegible or uncertain words.

In the name of God amen the yere of our lorde god a thousand five hundred forty and fyve the xxvth day of September I Chr[ist]opher Maunser of the paryshe of Wadhurst of a hole mynde and good memory make my wyll and testament as foloweth First I bequeathe my soul to allmyghtie god to our lady Saint Mary and to all the company of heven and my body to be buryed within the church yard of Wadhurst aforesayd. Item I will that Joane my wif shall have my tenement called Wenborn during her liff time Item I will oute (?) of  my tenement called heighton where I dwell and oute (all?) of Fysey (?) and grigories xlv by yere during her liff. Item I will that Joan my wif shall have my best (?) chamber if this whych wyth fyir (?) and f????  for going and comying for hir self and her mayde and with and and d??? for her and her mayde during my wiffe liff wythout any interruption or denyall. Item I will to Joane my wif two ???? to be kept upon the landes of heighton at her pleasure during her lif. Item I will that Joan my wif shall have my best bed withal manner of thynge to the bedd belonging. Item I will that Joan my wif shall have haulf my lynen stuff within my house. Item I will that she shall have the occupying of all manner of implimints and brasse pich??? With all other such things belonging to the house. So that she give yt to my sonne Roberts use and not to occupy it oute of my sayd house. Item I will to Thomas Manser sonne of Thomas Manser xld, Item I will to Elizabeth Par??? xid. Item I will to Edward Bradford ?? two y????  heifers (?). Item I will to Chamberlyn xid. Item I will to Elizabeth my daughter xli of lawfull mony of England to be payd to her or to John Thorpp wythin one year after my decease. Item I will to Maryan my daughter xli to be payd, wythyn two years after my decease. Item I will to Myldrede my daughter xli which I promised to Robert Wenborn when he maryed her to be payd wythyn one month after my decease. The residue of all my goodes unbequeathed I will and give to Robert my sonne whom I ordain and make my executor of this my last will and testament. Item I will that Robert my sonne shall have all my landes and tent(ament)s both free and ???? within the shire of Sussex to him and to his heires of his body lawfully bigoted, And for lack (?) of such ??? the sayd landes and tent(ament)s to remain to all my daughters indifferently to be shared amonge them. Item I will that Mr George Darrell (?) shalbe overseer of this my last will and he to have for his paynes xxd & xid witness ???? Thomas Hoth (?) preste William Barham Lawrence Clifton Drury (?) Parker.

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