The family background of Gabriel Fowle

In this post I want to summarise briefly what we know about the family background of my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle of Southover, Lewes, in Sussex, who died in 1555. I’m indebted to William Green of Spokane, Washington, USA, whose article in the Sussex Family Historian enabled me to find my way through the fog of conflicting accounts of the Fowle family available online, and who has been generous in sharing the fruits of his research with me.

Lamberhurst in 1912

Lamberhurst in 1912

Gabriel Fowle was born in about 1507, almost certainly in Lamberhurst, on the Kent-Sussex border, the third and youngest son of Nicholas Fowle and his wife Elizabeth. Gabriel’s older brothers were Thomas and John: not Bartholomew and Robert, as mistakenly stated in a number of pedigrees circulating online. It’s possible that Thomas is the person of that name who died in 1525 and asked to be buried in St Margaret’s church, Southwark, and who is almost certainly not my 15 x great grandfather, as I speculated in an earlier post.

Nicholas Fowle made his will in March 1522/3 and seems to have died soon afterwards. Bill Green suggests that Nicholas Fowle was born in about 1468 and might have been the son of William Fowle who died in about 1490, who had another son named John.

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Analysing the will of Gabriel Fowle of Southover (c.1507 – 1555)

In the last post I shared my transcription of the will of my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle of Southover, Lewes, who died in 1555. In this post I want to explore what Gabriel’s will can tell us about his life and times.

Gabriel Fowle made his will on 27th January 1554. The fact that it seems to have been proved on 17th August 1555 suggests that the first date was probably ‘old style’ – when the year began on 25th March – and that the date of the will was in what we would consider 1555 – i.e. the same year that Gabriel died.

The home of Anne of Cleves in Lewes: an example of a Tudor house

The home of Anne of Cleves in Lewes: an example of a Tudor house

At the time of his death, Gabriel had two adult children. His daughter Agnes was married to John Harman and they had two children, John and Elizabeth. Even if these children were still infants, it means that Agnes was probably at least in her early twenties at this time, so would have been born some time around 1530. As for Gabriel’s son Magnus, he is made executor of the will, so I assume he was of age, i.e. over twenty-one, and was therefore also born by the early 1530s at the latest. The fact that Magnus’ wife Alice and his daughter Agnes are not mentioned in the will suggests that he was not yet married when his father died. Similarly, the absence of any reference to Gabriel’s wife, and the fact that he leaves items belonging to her to his daughter Agnes leads one to conclude that she must have died before him.

If Gabriel’s two surviving children were born in the early 1530s, then he was probably married at around that time, meaning that he must have been born by about 1510. This fits with the approximate date of 1507 given for his birth in a number of online sources, though I’m not sure if there is any documentary evidence for that estimate.

This means that Gabriel Fowle was born either in the last years of the reign of Henry VI or in the early years of the reign of his son, Henry VIII. During Gabriel’s childhood and youth England was still a Catholic country, and there is evidence both from Gabriel’s will and from other documentation that the Fowles remained loyal to the traditional faith. When the crisis surrounding Henry’s divorce from Catharine of Aragon occurred in the early 1530s, with such explosive consequences for the future of the nation, Gabriel would have been a young man, probably (as we have seen) married with a young family. The precise connection between Gabriel and Bartholomew Fowle, the last prior of St Mary Overy, Southwark, is still not clear, but one imagines that, for family reasons if nothing else, Gabriel would have been profoundly out of sympathy with the dissolution of the monasteries and the other events set in train by the King during that momentous decade.

Queen Mary (died 1558)

Queen Mary (died 1558)

By the time Henry VIII died in 1549 and Edward VI came to the throne, Gabriel Fowle was a middle-aged man. Edward’s reign, though brief, would have been a difficult time for the Fowle family, as the Catholic Mass was now made illegal and the Protestant prayerbook imposed on parish churches. Then, in 1553, two years before Gabriel’s death, Mary Tudor became queen and England reverted to Catholicism. Although Mary’s reign, and the restoration of the old faith, was also brief (Mary died in 1558), there would have been no inkling of this in January 1554/5, when Gabriel made his will. Hence his openness and confidence in leaving his ‘written masse book’ to his local parish church in Southover, Lewes and in bequeathing money for the upkeep of the high altar in Ringmer church. Gabriel’s traditional Catholic faith is shown in his request for ten priests to ‘say masse for my soulle & all crysten soules’, though there is perhaps a sense that times have changed in the qualifying phrase, ‘yf they can be gott’.  (As I’ve noted before, the infamous burning of Protestant ‘heretics’ took place in Lewes, as in other locations, in the very year of Gabriel Fowle’s death, but we have no way of knowing what he thought of this aspect of Queen Mary’s religious restoration.)

One priest in whom Gabriel clearly had faith was Dunstan Sawyer, the vicar of Ringmer, the village to the east of Lewes where he owned land, who is appointed as one of the overseers of the will. Sawyer was the incumbent at the church of St Mary the Virgin, Ringmer, from 1544, in the closing years of Henry VIII’s reign, until he resigned in 1555, the year of Gabriel Fowle’s death. During those ten years Dunstan Sawyer would have had to negotiate a bewildering series of liturgical and theological changes of direction, hiding away or selling off images and ornaments during Edward’s reign and reinstalling them under Mary, rather like Christopher Trychay, the vicar of Morebath in Eamon Duffy’s revealing study of a west-country parish during this period. We don’t know why Sawyer resigned, or what his religious opinions were, but Gabriel Fowle’s trust in him surely means that he was of the traditionalist rather than the reforming party. Interesting, Sawyer’s replacement at Ringmer, Andrew Puggesley (he would serve there until his death in 1560) was one of the witnesses to Gabriel’s will. At the time the will was made, Puggesley was still curate at St. Michael’s, Southover, which had been without a rector since 1551.

View of the church of St Michael, Lewes (via

View of the church of St Michael, Lewes (via

I haven’t been able to find out anything about Nicholas Aptoff or Aptoft of Ringmer Green, the other overseer appointed by Gabriel, though in the fourteenth century someone of that name was mentioned in a transaction concerning lands in Ringmer and Glynde, and a seventeenth-century document refers to a property in Ringmer ‘called Potters, formerly of Nicholas Aptoff, gent., dec’d’ .

As far as the other people mentioned in the will are concerned, I wonder if John Fitzherbert was related to the Henry Fitzherbert who would witness the will of Gabriel Fowle’s son-in-law, John Harman, half a century later? A few years after Gabriel’s death, a certain John Aptofte, executor of the will of Henry Fitzherbert of Ringmer, would be named as the defendant in a court case. As for Edward Pelham, he probably belonged to the noted Lewes family of that name, who owned property in the parish of St Michael. I’ve yet to find any trace in the records of Jane Bryan, the ‘old servant’ to whom Gabriel was so generous in his will.

There is no clue in his will, as far as I can see (unless it’s in some of the names I’ve yet to trace), as to Gabriel Fowle’s supposed position as master of the Free Grammar School in Lewes. The only source I have for this information so far is Renshaw’s book on the Byne family, which makes no reference to any contemporary evidence. For now, perhaps the only point in favour of this theory is that it would explain why Gabriel, whose family owned lands on the borders of Kent and Sussex, should be living in Southover, where the school was situated.

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The will of Gabriel Fowle (died 1555)

Gabriel Fowle of Southover, Lewes, in Sussex, who died in 1555, was my 13 x great grandfather. His only son Magnus Fowle of Mayfield (died 1595) married Alice Lucke, and their only daughter Agnes Fowle married Edward Byne of Burwash. Edward and Agnes Byne’s son Stephen married Mary Manser of Wadhurst and their son Magnus Byne (1615- 1671), rector of Clayton-cum-Keymer, was my 9 x great grandfather. Magnus Byne’s son John (1651 – 1689) moved to London where he worked as a stationer: his daughter Mary married goldsmith Joseph Greene (1677 – 1737), and they were my 7 x great grandparents.

I’ve written briefly before about Gabriel Fowle, but most of my information has been secondhand and I’ve been hampered by not having direct access to his will. However, I’ve now acquired a copy from the East Sussex Record Office and have made a first attempt at transcribing it. I found the will’s sixteenth-century script difficult to decipher, and its frequent use of abbreviations only made things worse. So the transcript that follows includes a number of omissions (represented by questions marks – ??) and guesses (followed by a question mark in brackets), some of which will probably turn out to be inaccurate. Nevertheless, the main outline is more or less clear, and in another post I’ll analyse what the will can tell us about Gabriel, his family and his associates.

In the Name of god amen the 27th day of January a[nn]o die 1554 I Gabryell Fowlle off the p[ar]yshe of Southover near Lewes in the countye of Sussex within the dio[cese] of chychystre. hole of mynde & of good remembrance thanks be to god do orday[n] & make this my Testament & Last wyll in man[ne]r & forme followynge. Fyrst I bequeath my soule to Allmyghtie god and my bodye to be buryed within the churchyard of the p[ar]yshe of Southover aforesaid Item I gyve to the high altare of Ryngmer xxd. Item I wyll x preistes yf they can be gott to celebrate & say masse for my soulle & all crysten soules, & to be honestly recompensed by my executor. It[em] I give my new graylle [?] Imprynted [?] to the churche of Ryngmer. Item I give my written masse book to the church of Southover. I gyve John Harman my sonne in law my best gown & my best jacket. Item I do gyve to Jane Bryan my old servant (?) that my house & garden called pakette in Southover, For 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 called Fenner (?) garden lying in the p[ar]yshe of Glynd together with one acre in the gares (?) 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 advyse of my overseers xs. And as maye (?) at my monethse mynd. Item I wyll all my Lands & Ten[amen]ts lyenge & beyng in Southover otherwise than granted to Jane Bryan as ys aforesaid, to John Harman and Agnes hys wyff & to the heires of thayr bodyes lawfully begotten, Provyded & allwayes excepted that the same John shall not clayme any further sumes of monye nor monye withe (?) whiche I promysed (?) hym  for the maryage of my daughter. So that yf the sayd John chance (?) 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 pay (?) all the sayd Lands in these (?) forme as ys aforesaid. Item I wyll my daughter Agnes to have my jewells of sylver that ys a ???  and a bande of sylver and gylte ?? of my silver spoones, her mothers best harness (?) gyrdle, a payr of corall bedes gawdyd (?) with sylver. Item I wyll all my moveable goods, unbequeathed sav??d books to be equally devyded between my daughter Agnes and my exec[utor] ; with advyse of my overseers & Edward Brown. Item I wyll that Jane Bryan my servant (?) have one of my hostes (?) at Ryngmer, with locke and key & a payr of potts (?). Item I wyll all my Lands in Ryngmer & Glynde otherwise than ys above specyfyed to Magnus Fowlle my sonne & to his heires of his bodye Lawfully begotten together with all suche tytle & ryght whiche I have or ryght 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 the wh??t  heires of his bodye Lawfully begotten, Then I wyll all my sayd lands & Ten[amen]ts ???? & ???? to ??? bothe within Kent & Sussex to remayne soly to my daughter Agnes & to her heires of her bodye Lawfully begotten, & yf she fortune (?) to the wh??t heires of her Bodye Lawfully begotten. Then I wyll all my sayd Lands & ren???s to be sold by my overseers, & the summes of monye to be bestowed by my overseers upon almost ????,  ??? wayrs & these (?) other deads & worts(?) of ???? and specyally toward the separacion (?) of the church of Ryngmer. Item I make my sonne Magnus Fowlle, my sole executor. And Dunstane Sawyer now vicar of Ryngmer & Nycholas Aptoff of Ryngmer grene overseers & the same Dunstane to have for hys labor my second best gown, & the same Nycholas to have an angell or ?? 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 ??? 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 se??lers of the fyve se??le namely so?? as to pray for me. Item I wyll to John Colmott (?) the young[er], Andrewe Bara(t?), Edward Pelham John Raynolds & John Feharbar (Fitzherbert?] for theyr dylygence about me ?? amonge ???, equally to be decyded  & att theyse so to take advantage of theyr peny apece, yf ther be landes el ???less beside them. Item I give to Thomas Brown  xxd. Provided allway yf yt shall fortune my sayd oversere to fayle at suche tyme as my land to be sold for lacke of heires of my children as ys aforesaid, That ??? I wyll that the churchwardens with advyse of the other honest men of the p[ar]yshe to sell my sayd Lande & to bestowe the monye thereof accordynge to the forme of this my last wyll, as my sayd oversers should have done. Item I wyll a copye of my wyll to remayne in p???? in the churche of Ryngmer, or some other safe keepyinge for the same entent (?) Item I wyll that yf yt shall fortune my oversesr 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 psyd & registered. To all this witnesses I Andrewe Puggeslye.  Wyllm Marle, James West, John Fortune, & John Rivet (?), with other. Cma. Jny. ??? egibit Gloria de Marsfeld 17 die augusti a[nn]o die 1555 ?? ?? ad ?????

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Some doubts about my Fowle ancestors

My 11 x great grandmother Agnes Byne née Fowle of Burwash, Sussex, who died in 1626, was the only daughter of Magnus and Alice Fowle of Mayfield. Magnus Fowle was the son of Gabriel Fowle of Southover, Lewes, who was himself the son of Nicholas Fowle – my 14 x great grandfather.

Countryside near Mayfield, Sussex (via

Countryside near Mayfield, Sussex (via

I’ve been trying to find out more about Nicholas, and in doing so have begun to doubt some of my earlier assumptions about his origins. A number of sources claim that Nicholas was the son of Thomas Fowle of Lamberhurst, just across the county border in Kent. I had assumed this was the Thomas Fowle of Lamberhurst who made his will in 1525, which I transcribed and discussed in earlier posts. However, that will includes the following bequest:

First I will that my wife shall receyve yearly the profits of my landes  to sucour hir and hir children to the tyme and season that my sonne the which is my heire be xxi yere of age and then he to entre into his landes at that age with godds blessing and myn 

If the son referred to in this will is Nicholas, and he was not of age in 1525, then he must have been born some time after 1504. However, this doesn’t fit with what we know of Nicholas’ family: for example, a number of sources claim that his son Gabriel was born in about 1507. Some sources claim that Thomas Fowle, father of Nicholas, died in 1502, and not in 1525 as stated in the will that I discussed earlier. So perhaps the Thomas Fowle of Lamberhurst who died in 1525 wasn’t Nicholas’ father, but another man of the same name, perhaps from the same family?

Countryside near Lamberhurst (via

Countryside near Lamberhurst (via

According to one pedigree, the Thomas Fowle who was father to Nicholas was born in about 1450 and married Ellen, who was born at around the same time, in about 1475. Their son Nicholas is said to be have been born in about 1480 and to have married Joan Vince in about 1500. According to the same source, Nicholas and Joan had four sons: William, Gabriel, Bartholomew, and Robert.

However another source claims that the names of Nicholas and Joan Fowle’s children were in fact Gabriel, Christopher and John, and that in addition they had a daughter, name unknown. Furthermore, this source suggests that William Fowle, said to be the son of Nicholas, may actually have been his nephew and his ward, the son of his brother William.

So it would seem that the identity of my 15 x great grandfather is once again in doubt. He was probably named Thomas Fowle, but whether he was the person who made his will in 1525 seems doubtful. Some doubt also surrounds my 14 x great grandfather Nicholas, though he may be the person of that name who made a will in 1522.

As I was writing this post, I came across a very helpful article by William Green in the March 2012 issue of the Sussex Family Historian, which casts doubt on much of the information about the Fowle family currently available online. I’ll say more about the article, and its conclusions about Nicholas Fowle and his origins, in another post.

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The family of Agnes Byne of Burwash

What can the will of my 11 x great grandmother, Agnes Byne née Fowle of Burwash, Sussex, who died in 1626, tell us about her family? We learn from Agnes’ will that she had four surviving sons from her marriage to Edward Byne, who had died in 1611: they were Magnus, William, Edward and Stephen. Renshaw’s history of the Byne family informs us that all four were christened at Burwash: Magnus on 4th November 1576; William on 28th October 1579; Edward on 21st May 1581; and Stephen on 3rd July 1586 (we also learn that Stephen, my 10 x great grandfather, was actually born at Mayfield, presumably in the house of his maternal grandparents, Magnus and Alice Fowle).

Old map of East Sussex

Old map of East Sussex

Renshaw adds that Edward and Agnes Byne had three other children: a son named John; an unbaptised daughter who was buried at Burwash on 14th August 1590; and another son named James, baptised at Burwash on 9th December 1593 and buried there on 20th December 1594. John Byne was christened on 6th April 1589. The reason he is not mentioned in his mother’s will is that he predeceased her, dying a bachelor and being buried at Burwash on 7th February 1615/6.

William Byne also remained a bachelor and died only two years after his mother Agnes, being buried at Burwash on 28th August 1628. Edward Byne the younger lived for a time at Framfield, where he was described in a surety to a marriage bond of 1609 as a yeoman. After his marriage to Dorothy Alchorne in 1615, Edward lived in Catsfield, where he died in 1647/8. Edward and Dorothy Byne had three daughters: Dorothy, Mary and Elizabeth.

Stephen Byne, my 10 x great grandfather, married Mary Manser, daughter of John Manser of Wadhurst, on 22nd January 1611/12. Christopher Manser, one of the witnesses to Agnes Byne’s will, was almost certainly Mary Manser’s brother – and therefore Stephen’s brother-in-law. As I’ve noted before, Christopher was married to Anne, daughter of John Byne of Burwash, whose precise relationship to my own Byne ancestors remains unclear. By the time that Agnes Byne wrote her will, her son Stephen had been married to Mary Manser for some thirteen years and, besides the daughter Elizabeth mentioned in the will, they had four other children, including my 9 x great grandfather – another Magnus Byne, who had been born in 1615.

Stephen Byne’s older brother Magnus, who was appointed co-executor with him of their mother Agnes’ will, was married three times. On 22nd June 1604 a marriage licence was granted at Lewes to Magnus Byne ‘gent’ and Elizabeth Polhill of Burwash. One of the sureties was Hamond Hardiman of Cliffe near Lewes: as I noted in a recent post, he was married to Mary, daughter of Lewes merchant John Harman and his wife Agnes Fowle, the sister of Magnus Fowle – Magnus Byne’s grandfather.

I assume that Elizabeth Polhill was related in some way to the family of that name who would later be linked with others in my Byne and Manser family trees. For example, Edward and John Polhill would both be named as witnesses to my 10 x great grandfather Stephen Byne’s will of 1664, while the 1674 will of Nicholas Manser of Hightown refers to Edward Polhill as a cousin. As I’ve noted before, Edward Polhill was almost certainly the eminent Puritan author of that name, and he and John were the sons of Thomas Polhill and his wife Faintnot – a popular Puritan Christian name. If, as seems likely, the Elizabeth Polhill who married Magnus Byne was a member of the same family, then their marriage is interesting in providing possible evidence of a shift from loyal Catholicism and recusant sympathies to Puritan evangelicalism in two generations. In this regard, it’s worth noting that, according to Agnes Byne’s will preamble of 1625, she hopes ‘assuredlie to be saved by and through the merritts and passion of my blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’, a familiar Calvinist aspiration.

On 2nd June 1606 Magnus and Elizabeth Byne had a daughter Elizabeth buried at Burwash. Just over a year later, on 28 July 1607, Magnus’ wife Elizabeth was also buried there. Renshaw mentions that Magnus owned property in the manor of Framfield, and when he remarried in 1608, he is described as being a ‘gent’ of Framfield. His second wife was Bathshua (another Puritan name?), daughter of Morgan Newington of Kingston Bowsey, where the wedding took place. In 1611 Magnus Byne, ‘gent’, was said to be a churchwarden in Framfield. Bathshua Byne would be buried there on 22nd July 1620.

On 17th June 1628 Magnus Byne married his third wife at Framfield. She was Elizabeth, the widow of Abraham Manser of Wenborne. Abraham was the brother of my 11 x great grandfather John Manser of Wadhurst –the father of Christopher and Mary Manser. An additional family connection is provided by the fact that Elizabeth’s maiden name was Byne: she was another daughter of the John Byne of Burwash whose daughter Anne was married to Christopher Manser.

Parish church of St Thomas a Becket, Framfield

Parish church of St Thomas a Becket, Framfield

Magnus Byne had four children: John; Agnes, who married John Bennett of Lewes in 1639; Magnus, who married Mary Durrant  in 1637; and Thomas. Magnus Byne of Framfield made his will on 7th May 1647 and was buried there on 13th May. He appointed his son Thomas the executor of his will and bequeathed him properties in Ringmer and Glynde: presumably these were the lands inherited via his mother Agnes from his grandfather Magnus Fowle, who in turn had inherited them from his father Gabriel.

I won’t trace the lives of Magnus Byne’s children here, except to note with interest that his son Magnus also had a son of the same name, who in December 1674 married Constance Osbaldiston of Framfield. She was the widow of John Osbaldiston, a gentleman and recusant who was buried at Alciston in 1699. Does this suggest that the dividing lines between Catholic and Protestant in my Byne and Fowle family trees continued to be rather blurred?

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The will of Agnes Byne of Burwash (died 1626)

In recent posts I’ve explored the life and times of my 12 x great grandfather Magnus Fowle of Mayfield in Sussex, who died in 1596. According to his will, Magnus had only one surviving child, a daughter named Agnes, who was my 11 x great grandmother. Agnes Fowle was probably born in the early 1550s.  Some time in the early 1570s she married Edward Byne, the son of William and Joan Byne of Burwash. Edward and Agnes had six sons that we know of, including my 10 x great grandfather Stephen Byne. Edward Byne died in 1611, while Agnes lived another fifteen years, dying in June 1626 at the age of about 75. She had made her will in the previous year – the first year of the reign of Charles I.

Countryside near Burwash (via

Countryside near Burwash (via

In this post I’m sharing my transcription of Agnes’ will, and in the next post I’ll discuss what it tells us, and what else we know, about her and her family.

In the name of God Amen The seaven and twentieth daye of Aprill in the yeare of our Lord god One thousand six hundred and five & twentieth And in the first yeare of the raigne of our Soveraigne Lord Charles by the grace of god of England Scotland Frances and Ireland kinge defender of the faith – I Agnes Byne of Burwash in the countie of Sussex widowe, beinge weake in body But of good and perfect remembrance, thanks be to Allmightie god therefore doe make ordaine and declare this my perfect testament and last will in manner & former following (that is to say) first and principally I comend my soule unto Allmighty god my Creator, hopeinge assuredlie to be saved by and through the merritts and passion of my blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ And I comitt my body to the earth, whereof it is made Item I give and bequeath unto the poore people of the p[ar]ish of Burwash twenty shillings of lawfull English money, to be paid and distributed amongst them upon the day of my burial or within one moneth next after my decease at the discrecion of my Executors Item I give and bequeath unto Rose Burner my goddaughter the wife of William Bourner a flockbedd a flock boulter a couverlett and a blanket of the meaner sort to be delivered unto her immediately after my decease Item I give and bequeath unto Rebecca Freeman my goddaughter two shillings And to Agnes Merion two shillings And to Thomas Mitton my godson two shillings all of lawfull English money, to be paid unto every one of them within one halfe yeare next after my decease Item I give and bequeath unto Anne Crotonden my servant five shillings and fower pence of lawfull English money to be paid unto her immediately after my decease (if she be then dwelling with me. Item I given unto John Byne sonne of my sonne Magnus Byne four shillings and to my goddaughter Agnes Byne daughter of my said sonne Magnus Byne four shillings of lawfull English money to be paid unto either of them within halfe yeare next after my decease Item I give and bequeath unto my sonne William Byne the some of fifty pounds of lawfull English money to be paid unto him within one yeare next after my decease by my Executors hereafter named Also more I give unto him two paire of sheets and one paire of pillowe coates of an indifferent sort, and my lesser iron pott to be delivered unto him immediately after my decease And whereas I have in my life time given unto my sonne Edward Byne forty pounds of lawfull English money w[hi]ch I meant (?) him for his porcion yet nevertheless for the amendinge and increasinge of his porcion I doe further give and bequeathe unto him four pounds of lawfull English money to be paid unto him within one halfe yeare next after my decease by my Executors or the survivor of them Item I give and bequeath unto my said sonne Edward my great iron vessel called Marmore, my great iron pott, and a great brasse kettle  p…d (?) in the bottom, a paire of iron brandyrons, a little frame table with the frame and forme belonging and used to the same, a great chaire, a painted cheste standing in the middle chamber and three paires of sheets and three paires of pillowe coates of indifferent sort to be delivered unto him within one moneth next after my decease by my Executors. Item I give and bequeath unto Elizabeth Byne daughter of my sonne Stephen Byne a peece of twelve shillings in gold, and two little plaine chests to be paid and delivered unto her within one halfe year next after my decease Item my will and meaning is and I doe by this present testament order and appointe that all my pewter vessel shalbe equally shared and divided betweene and amongst all my fower sonnes Magnus, William, Edward, and Stephen Byne, in fower equall parts by the advice of and discrection of my Overseers The residue of all my moveable goods, debtes and chattels not formerlie given or bequeathed by me in this my will (my debts legacies and funeral  expenses beinge first paid and discharged I do give and bequeath unto my two sonnes Magnus Byne and Stephen Byne whome I doe make and ordaine my full and whole Executors of this my perfect testament and last will And I do nominate ordaine and appointe my trusty and wellbeloved friends John Squire of Framfield yeoman, and Allexander Ellott of Maighfeild yeoman to bee my trusty and faithfull overseers of this my perfect testament and last will to see the same performed in all things according to my said (?) meaninge To whome I give three shillings and fower pence apeece of lawfull English money over and besides their charges and expenses born whensoever they or any of them shall have occasion to travel about the performance of this my last will and testament In witness of this my perfect testament and last will I the said Agnes have hereunto putt my hand an seale the daye and yeare above written, in the presence of Christopher Manser and Thomas Rolfe his marke; Agnes Byne:

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Reflections on the will of John Harman of Lewes

In the previous post I shared my transcription of the will of John Harman, a merchant of Lewes in Sussex, who died in 1600. Harman was the husband of Agnes Fowle, sister of my 12 x great grandfather Magnus Fowle and daughter of my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle. In this post, I’ll be analysing what John Harman’s will tells us about him and his family.

Elizabethan merchant and family

Elizabethan merchant and family

The first thing the will tells us is that Agnes Harman née Fowle, the testator’s wife, must have predeceased him, since she is not mentioned. We also learn that John Harman had four surviving children: a son and three daughters. I assume that the son, John Harman the younger, was not yet of age, since one of his sisters, Mary, is appointed as executrix of the will. We discover that the three daughters were all married, and that all had children.

Mary Harman was married to Hamon Hardyman and they had four children: John, Edward, Elizabeth and Agnes. Hamon (or Hamond) Hardyman (or Hardiman) was a glover in Cliffe, near Lewes, and was almost certainly related to ‘Jerman Hardyman my Neighbour’ who witnessed John Harman’s will. In his will of 1595, Magnus Fowle had left ten shillings to ‘my cosen’ Hamon Hardyman: in fact, the latter was the husband of Magnus’ niece. In 1604 Hardyman was one of the sureties of the licence for the marriage of Magnus Fowle’s grandson, Magnus Byne, to Elizabeth Polhill. Hamon Hardyman died in 1617 and was buried, like his father-in-law John Harman, at All Saints Church, Lewes.

Agnes Harman, who had been christened at All Saints church on 20th April 1567, was married to Nicholas Bonwick, but their children are not named in the will. Bonwick is an old Lewes name, but I haven’t been able to find out anything further about Nicholas. However, I have come across a record of the marriage, on 18th January 1586, of ‘Nicholas Bonnycke’ and ‘Annys Harman’. Interestingly, it took place at the church of St Saviour, Southwark, which had previously belonged to the priory of St Mary Overy, with which the Fowle family was closely connected. My 9 x great grandparents Magnus and Anne Byne would be married in the same church in 1640.

The name of John Harman’s third daughter, who was married to John Smith, is not mentioned in the will. One source gives her name as Elizabeth, though I’ve found a record of the christening of Alice Harman, son of John, at All Saints church in Lewes, on 25th October 1562. The Smiths had two sons: Richard and Thomas.

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