In search of Gregory Martin

In recent posts I’ve written about Thomas Lucke, the former Augustinian canon and precentor of Michelham Priory, Sussex, who was serving as a curate in the parish of Litlington at the time of his death in 1552. Thomas was the brother of my 13 x great grandfather Richard Lucke of Mayfield. Richard was the father of Alice Lucke who married Magnus Fowle. Magnus and Alice were my 12 x great grandparents, and it was their Chancery case about Thomas’ disputed will that provided me with vital information about the Lucke family.

Reference to Gregory Martyn in Thomas Lucke's will of 1551

Reference to Gregory Martyn in Thomas Lucke’s will of 1551

In his will, Thomas Lucke made a number of bequests to his niece Alice. One of them was as follows:

I wyll of that monye that ys in Gregorye Martynes hands of Mayghfelde xlv to the povertie there to be dystrybuted by my executor. And the Resydue of the monye in his hands, I wyll halfe to Alice Lucke: the other halffe I wyll equally betwene Thomasyn Lucke and Elizabeth Lucke, by the hands of my executor to theme to be delyvred.

Gregory Martyn (or Marten, or Martin) is the only name that occurs both in Thomas’ will of 1551, and in the will of John Lucke of Mayfield, composed two years earlier in 1549. I’m fairly certain that John was a relative of Thomas’, and may indeed have been another of his brothers.

Witnesses to the 1549 will of John Lucke

Witnesses to the 1549 will of John Lucke

The witnesses to John Lucke’s will are listed as follows:

Richard lukk John Mone Gregory mtty: John Wenborn wm penkherst with others

I’m almost certain that ‘mtty:’ is an abbreviation for ‘Martyn’ and that this is the same person who would be mentioned in Thomas Lucke’s will. However, my searches for Gregory Martyn in the contemporary records have proved frustrating. His name does not appear in the 1524-5 lay subsidy rolls for Mayfield or indeed for anywhere else in Sussex, though the names of Christopher, Laurence and Thomas Marten can be found in the Mayfield listing. Nor can I find a will for a Gregory Marten in the Sussex archives.

List of witnesses to the 1529 will of Robert Sawyer

List of witnesses to the 1529 will of Robert Sawyer

However, there is one solitary reference to a Gregory Martin in the records, and it’s an intriguing one. In 1529 Robert Sawyer of Mayfield made his will. The opening paragraph is in Latin and it culminates in a list of witnesses, which includes the name ‘Gregorio Marten’. The word that follows this name is difficult to read, but it could be ‘clico’, which might be an abbreviation for ‘clerico’. Indeed, the transcript by the Sussex Record Society translates the word as ‘clerk’: in other words, priest.

Is this the same person who would appear in the wills of John and Thomas Lucke some twenty years later, and was he really a priest? Unfortunately, I’ve found no trace of a Gregory Martin in the clergy records, but then they only begin in 1540. Could he have been a member of a religious order, rather than a secular priest? Then again, if the person mentioned in those later wills was a priest, why was he not described as such, given that Thomas Lucke doesn’t hesitate to append the word ‘clerke’ to the name of Richard Cressweller, one of the witnesses to his will? Had Gregory Martin ceased to serve as a priest by 1551, or is this a different person altogether?

Father Gregory Martin (via Wikipedia)

Father Gregory Martin (via Wikipedia)

Interestingly, my search online for traces of Gregory Martin led me to a very different person with the same name: the Catholic priest, scholar and author who was chiefly responsible for the Douai-Rheims translation of the Bible that first appeared in 1582. Although this Gregory Martin’s origins are largely obscure, it’s said that he was born at Maxfield, in the parish of Guestling near Winchelsea – also in Sussex. Indeed, an introductory chapter to Martin’s book Roma Sancta, by George Bruner Parks, includes the following speculation:

There was an older ‘Gregory Martin clerk’ at Maughfield or Mayfield in northeast Sussex in 1529 and again in 1551, and the unusual Christian name makes it almost certain that he (if he was one man) was related to our author. If so, this priest, though he is not listed at either university, must have influenced the younger man’s schooling and vocation.

The references here are to the wills of Robert Sawyer (1529) and Thomas Lucke (1551). One thing is certain: the Gregory Martin mentioned in Thomas Lucke’s will can’t be the priest and translator of the Bible, since the latter was probably born some time in 1540s and would have been still a child when Thomas died. We know that this Gregory Martin went up to the newly-founded St John’s College, Oxford, as one of its first students, in 1557, where he befriended and may have influenced the conversion of the future Catholic priest and martyr Edmund Campion. For a time Martin was a tutor in the household of the Duke of Norfolk, before the increasingly hostile atmosphere for Catholics under Elizabeth I prompted him to travel to the continent and join the English College at Douai. After a sojourn in Rome, he returned to the College at its new home in Rheims, where he worked on his translation of the New Testament, before dying of consumption soon after its publication.

Great Maxfield (via

Great Maxfield (via

As already noted, Father Gregory Martin was said to come from Guestling, near Winchelsea. In the lay subsidy rolls of 1524-5, there was a John Marten living in the parish and two William Martens. As for Maxfield, reputed to be the Marten family home, there is still a house in Guestling known as Great Maxfield. Apparently the property belonged to Battle Abbey until its dissolution in 1538. However, I’ve found no trace in the records of any association between Maxfield and the Martin family. At one stage, this made me doubt the sources that claimed Maxfield as Gregory’s home: I even wondered if somebody had once misread ‘Mayfield’ as ‘Maxfield’ and the misunderstanding had become accepted as fact. The earliest source I’ve found is an 1843 edition of A Defence of the Sincere and True Translations of the Holy Scriptures Into the English Tongue, Against the Cavils of Gregory Martin by the Puritan divine William Fulke, a contemporary of Martin’s.

On the other hand, if we could prove a connection, it might be further proof of the Catholic sympathies of my Lucke ancestors, especially if Gregory Martin of Mayfield turned out to be a (former?) priest. We know that Father Gregory Martin was a lifelong Catholic, rather than a convert,  so it’s certain that he was brought up as a Catholic. However, even if he turns out to have been born elsewhere in Sussex, and even if he was actually from Mayfield, we have no evidence to connect him with the Gregory Martin of Mayfield mentioned in the wills of John and Thomas Lucke. The fact that they shared a name, and an unusual one at that (I’ve found very few Gregorys in the contemporary Sussex records) suggests some kind of connection – but what?


The Luckes and the Fowles: united by faith?

Thomas Lucke, who died in 1552, was the brother of my 13 x great grandfather Richard Lucke of Mayfield, Sussex. At the time of his death, Thomas was a priest in the parish of Litlington, but until its suppression in 1537, he had been a canon at the Augustinian priory in nearby Michelham. Thomas Lucke’s will, as well as supplying us with a useful catalogue of local names, is notable for its traditionally Catholic preamble:

Ffyrst I comytt my soule into the hands of almyghtie god, wth the intercessyon of the blessed virgyn marye mother of god and all the holy companye of heaven.

These words, written four years into the reign of Edward VI and two years after the Catholic mass had been banned in England, suggest that Thomas continued to adhere to the old religion even after his enforced departure from Michelham and his appointment to a parish in the (now protestant) English church. As Robert Whiting explains, bequeathing one’s soul to the Virgin Mary and the saints remained common throughout the middle years of the 16th century, despite the dramatic changes under Henry and Edward, and the practice only began to decline during the reign of Elizabeth. Tim Cooper points out that preambles of this kind were popular not only with the laity but also among clergy who wished to signal their continuing attachment to the traditional faith. Robert Brooke of Litlington, one of the witnesses to Thomas Lucke’s will, included a similar bequest – ‘to our Lady Saynt Mary and to all the holy company of heaven’ – in his own will six years later.

Litlington parish church, Sussex (via

Litlington parish church, Sussex (via

There is evidence that Thomas was not the only member of the Lucke family to maintain his allegiance to the Catholic faith after the schism between England and Rome. John Lucke of Mayfield, who was almost certainly a relative of Thomas, and may well have been another brother of his, made his own will two years earlier, in 1549. Like Thomas, John Lucke begins by committing his soul ‘to Almightie god our lady saynt Mary and all the glorious company of heaven’. But he goes further than Thomas in his explicit Catholicism, following the medieval practice of donating money for the maintenance of ‘lights’ for the altars of local churches:

Item I give to the high aultir ther for my tithes & oblacions forgotten or withholden lyd. Item I bequeath to the light of the withsaid church lcyd. Item to our mother church of seynt ayngell of Southemallinge vyd.

As Caroline Litzenberger notes, bequests of this kind provide us with vital evidence of continuing popular adherence to the traditional faith. Indeed, some historians maintain that most of the population remained Catholic in their sympathies until Elizabeth’s reign. Towards the end of his will, having left money to his unmarried daughter Christian, John Lucke appends the following proviso:

Item if the saide Cristian happen to dye before she be married then the said fyve poundes to be bestowed in this manner five nobles to apriest to praye for my soule her soule and all xten soules and other five nobles to the church of maughfield aforesaid.

Paying to have Masses said for one’s soul after death was a defiantly Catholic practice. John Lucke’s bequest suggests either that he knew his parish priest was enough of a traditionalist to carry out his request, or that he was confident, despite Edward’s protestant reforms, of a return to Catholic practice. Even my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle, who made his will during the reign of the Catholic Mary Tudor, was careful, in asking for ten priests ‘to celebrate & say masse for my sowlle & all crysten sowles’, to add the proviso ‘yf they can be gott’.

Catholic Mass in the Middle Ages

Catholic Mass in the Middle Ages

The wills of Thomas and John Lucke suggest that the Lucke family remained Catholic in its religious sympathies, at least during the middle years of the century. This may help us to understand how my 12 x great grandparents Alice Lucke and Magnus Fowle came together. As already mentioned, Magnus’ father Gabriel, the master of the Free Grammar School in Lewes, which had been closely connected to Lewes Priory before its suppression, made an explicitly Catholic will before his death in 1555. As well as the request for Masses to be said for his soul, Gabriel leaves his ‘wrytten masse book’ to his parish church in Southover.

As for Magnus, I’ve written before about the curious bequest in his own will of 1595 to Eleanor Ashburnham, a member of a notable family of Sussex recusants (Eleanor had been fined £40 for recusancy three years earlier). Moreoever, it would seem that Magnus’ bequest of his own soul to the Trinity – ‘to Almightie god, the father, the sonne, and the holie ghoste, Three persones and one god’ – was a neutral form of words often used by Catholics and ‘church papists’ to signify their allegiance to the traditional faith, while avoiding both an accusation of recusancy and the florid Calvinist-influenced language of the reformers.

More on the Lucke family

I’ve been revisiting the family of my 12 x great grandmother Alice Lucke, who married my 12 x great grandfather Magnus Fowle some time in the 1550s. I’ve confirmed that Alice was the daughter of Richard Lucke, a yeoman farmer from Mayfield, Sussex, and that she had at least one sister, Elizabeth, and a brother Christopher, who inherited his father’s property after the latter’s death in about 1559.

Michelham Priory cloisters (via

Michelham Priory cloisters (via

As I noted in the previous post, Richard Lucke’s brother Thomas was a priest at Litlington, about 20 miles to the south of Mayfield, and was almost certainly a canon at the nearby Augustinian priory of Michelham until its suppression in 1537. It was Thomas’ disputed will of 1551 that prompted the case in Chancery from which I’ve gleaned some of my key information about the Lucke family.

I recently came across a history of Michelham Priory by Helen Poole, which lists ‘Thomas Luck’ among the canons at Michelham at the time of the visitation of 1521. Thomas held the post of precentor, responsible for facilitating worship, and in some monasteries fulfulling the additional roles of librarian and registrar. He was one of eight canons, in addition to the prior, Thomas Holberne.

From the same history we learn that Michelham was dissolved on 1st October 1537 and became the first religious house to be given to Thomas Cromwell by Henry VIII. Following the priory’s enforced closure, the canons each received a pension of £13.13.4. The prior lived on near Eastbourne, receiving a pension of £20, until his death in 1545. Apparently most of the other canons went to Sussex parishes (so it seems Thomas’ experience was fairly typical) and were allowed to keep the beds on which they had slept.

If Thomas already held a relatively senior position at Michelham by the early 1520s, does this mean that he was probably born some time in the 1490s, and that perhaps he was in his late fifties when he died in 1552? As for his brother Richard, who died a few years later, was he possibly born around the turn of the century?

St Dunstan's church, Mayfield (via

St Dunstan’s church, Mayfield (via

On the other hand, Richard’s name doesn’t appear in the lay subsidy rolls of 1524-5 for Mayfield, or indeed for anywhere else in Sussex, suggesting that he may not have been of age by that date. If his daughter Alice married Magnus Fowle in the 1550s, then it’s possible she was born in the 1530s, shortly after Richard’s marriage to his wife Agnes – which may date Richard’s birth to some time in the 1510s.

The lay subsidy rolls of 1524-5 certainly mention some members of the Lucke family, but they are in Wadhurst rather than Mayfield. The listing takes care to make distinctions between John Lucke of Durgates and John Lucke of Faircrouch on the one hand, and John Lucke the elder and John Lucke the younger on the other, in addition to a certain William Lucke, a turner.

I’ve drawn up a probably chronology for the Lucke and Fowle families in the first half of the sixteenth century:

1500             Probable birth of Gabriel Fowle (son of Nicholas) 

1509              Accession of King Henry VIII

Bartholomew Fowle joins Southwark Priory

1513               Bartholomew Fowle elected Prior of Southwark

1521               Thomas Lucke precentor at Michelham Priory

1523               Will of Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst

1525               Will of Thomas Fowle (son of Nicholas)

1535               Probable birth of Magnus Fowle (son of Gabriel)

1537               Suppression of Michelham Priory

1539               Suppression of Southwark Priory

1547                Accession of King Edward VI

1549               Will of John Lucke of Mayfield

1551               Will of Thomas Lucke, curate at Litlington

1553                Accession of Queen Mary

1554               Will of Gabriel Fowle of Lewes (son of Nicholas)

1556               Probable marriage of Magnus Fowle and Alice Lucke

1559               Probable death of Richard Lucke of Mayfield

1560               Probable death of Elizabeth Lucke (daughter of Richard)

1567               Death of Christopher Lucke of Mayfield

1575               Agnes Fowle marries Edward Byne

The Luckes: a yeoman family in 16th century Sussex

I’ve written before about the Lucke family, but new information has come to light that has renewed my interest in exploring this particular branch of my maternal family tree. My initial interest in the family was prompted by learning, via Walter Renshaw’s history of the Byne family of Sussex, that my 12 x great grandmother, the wife of my 12 x great grandfather Magnus Fowle of Mayfield, was Alice Lucke.

Renshaw’s book also directed me to a case in Chancery which, he claimed, provided evidence that Alice was the daughter of Richard Lucke of Mayfield. However, Renshaw’s claim that Richard Lucke died in 1593 seems to have been somewhat less reliable. Having examined his will, I found no reference to Alice or Magnus – and what’s more, this Richard Lucke lived in Wadhurst, not Mayfield.

Countryside near Mayfield, Sussex (via

Countryside near Mayfield, Sussex (via

In fact, the Chancery document suggests that Alice’s father Richard had already died – he was said to be ‘late of Mayfield deceased’ – by the time this legal suit was brought, some time between 1558 and 1579, according to the National Archives.

The main focus of the legal case is the disputed will of Richard Lucke’s brother Thomas, a ‘clarke’, i.e. a clergyman, which is dated 1551. At the time of his death, Thomas Lucke was curate at Litlington, and before that almost certainly an Augustinian canon at Michelham Priory until its suppression in 1537.

Besides Alice, the legal document also refers to her sister Elizabeth, another of the daughters of Richard Lucke. And in addition the will of Alice’s uncle Thomas Lucke mentions Thomasin, who I assume to have been another of Richard’s daughters.

My fellow researcher Bill Green has discovered a reference to the Lucke family which suggests that their connection to the Fowle family may have predated the marriage of Magnus and Alice: indeed, it may help to explain how that marriage came about. Apparently in about 1480 a certain Nicholas Fowle acquired Slade Farm in Lamberhurst. This property remained in the family until some time in the 1550s when Nicholas Fowle of Riverhall sold it to Richard Lucke, son of John Lucke of Durgates, together with 60 acres of land surrounding called Piufers, Grublands and Goldynge.

Although the date does not match exactly, it is at least possible that the Nicholas Fowle who bought this property in 1480 or thereabouts (Bill suggests that it might have been later, making the date fit better with our existing knowledge) was Magnus’ grandfather Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst, who died in 1523. His son, and Magnus’ father, was my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle, who would serve as master of the Free Grammar School in Lewes until his death in 1555.

Extract from the will of Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst, with possible reference to 'Pyfers' and 'Goldynge'

Extract from the will of Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst, with possible reference to ‘Pyfers’ and ‘Goldynge’

Nicholas Fowle’s will of 1522/3 certainly refers to properties that might be Piufers and Goldynge (see above).  Slade Farm was almost certainly located in the area to the south of Lamberhurst now known as ‘the Slade’, where a Goldings Barn was recently advertised as being for sale. The only references I’ve found online to Grublands are in documents relating to the Ballard family: a certain Thomas Ballard of Wadhurst, who died in the early years of the seventeenth century, left lands called ‘Peparmill’ and ‘Grublands’.

Bill Green reminds me that Nicholas Fowle bequeathed the lands that might be Piufers and Goldynge to his son Thomas, who died at Southwark only two years after his father. What happened to his properties in the Lamberhurst area after his death is a matter for conjecture. Thomas’ will mentions a daughter named Elizabeth and an unnamed son. It’s possible that there is some connection here with the Adam Fowle who could be found living in London later in the century and using the same coat of arms as the Fowles of Kent and Sussex, but at present this is pure speculation. According to Catherine Pullein’s history of Rotherfield, the Rotherfield Roll for the court of 6th December 1556 includes the following statement:

At this Court appears Richard Lucke who holds freely of the Lord of this Manor, and prays to be admitted to fine for his suit released this year, and he gives for the same 8d.

Pullein suggests that Lucke was the owner of the sub-manor of ‘Hall’ at Rotherfield. Apparently he failed to attend later courts in 1557 and in 1558 his name is listed among those free tenants reckoned to be in default for non-attendance. Richard Lucke’s name is missing from a similar list in May 1559, but in a list entered in October of that year a certained Christopher Lucke is charged in his stead with non-attendance and the record includes the following statement which Pullein describes as ‘defective and unfinished’ due to the frustrating blank space where the name of the property should be:

It is found by the Homage that Richard Lucke who held certainly land, namely [blank] died so seised since last Court.

Was the Richard Lucke who held property in Rotherfield the same Richard Lucke of Mayfield who was the father of Alice? Rotherfield is a mere three miles from Mayfield, so it’s certainly possible. And if the Richard Lucke who seems to have died circa 1558-9 was Alice’s father, then this would fit with the date of the Chancery case, which we know was some time after 1558.

Goldings Barn, Slade Farm, Lamberhurst

Goldings Barn, Slade Farm, Lamberhurst

According to Catherine Pullein, Christopher Lucke’s name is entered again in the Rotherfield Roll as a defaulting tenant on other dates in 1559-60. Unfortunately there is no indication of his relationship to Richard, but it’s likely he was his son and heir. If so, he did not long outlive his father, since the record of a post mortem inquisition tell us that he died on 14th July 1567. Pullein reports that this document includes the following statement:

Christopher Lucke died seised of the manor of Hawle [i.e. Hall] and of a capital meuage and sixty acre of land, meadow, pasture and wood in Retherfeld [Rotherfield] held of Henry Nevill, Knight, Lord Abergavenny, as of his manor of Retherfeld in socage by fealty and rent of 12s. and they are worth 40s. yearly. And of a lane leading from the said capital messuage to Maynard’s Gate, which is held of the same fealty and a rent of 1d. He died 14th July 9 Eliz : and his son and heir Edward Lucke is aged 6 years.

Pullein includes the pedigree of Christopher Lucke’s family from the Herald’s Visitation of 1633-4, which clearly describes Christopher as ‘of Mayfield’ (as was his wife Alice Page), though his son Edward is said to be ‘of Reitherffeld’. His son John, also of Rotherfield, was said to be ‘one of the Coroners of Sussex in the Libertie of the lordship of Aburgaveney’.

Some time ago, I was contacted by Joan Angus who has conducted extensive research into her own Lucke ancestors. Joan has found references to a William Lucke holding property in Mayfield in the second half of the fifteenth century. Tax records from 1498 reveal that he owned seven pieces of land, one of which was Grubbes at Tidebrook, where he lived.

I’ve written before about references to the Luckes the Court Rolls of the Manor of Mayfield. These records suggest that Richard Lucke may have been married to a woman named Agnes. This may explain why Magnus and Alice Lucke gave the same name to their only surviving daughter, my 12 x great grandmother. The records also imply a close connection between Richard and a certain John Lucke, who may be the John Lucke of Mayfield who made his will in 1549.

It’s disappointing that the body of the will doesn’t mention Richard, or any of his children, but on the other hand a Richard Lucke was one of the witnesses. I suspect that John may have been Richard’s brother, rather than his father.

The will of John Lucke of Mayfield contains references to property in the manor of Sharnden. The manor house of Sharnden was – and indeed still is – about two miles to the east of Mayfield. Bill Green reminds me that, between the two, lies Coggins Mill, close to which Magnus Fowle held rights to property in 1590.

Oast house at Old Sharnden Manor Farm

Oast house at Old Sharnden Manor Farm

One difficulty in disentangling the history of the Lucke family is the presence at Wadhurst, and specifically at the property known as Durgates, of a branch of the family bearing similar Christian names. These include the John Lucke of Durgates mentioned frequently in the manor rolls (perhaps to distinguish him from the John of Mayfield?) and his son the Richard Lucke of Wadhurst who died in 1593. At this stage, it’s not possible to say how the two branches of the family were related, but I’m sure there was some connection between the two. The fact that Nicholas Fowle of Riverhall conveyed property to Richard Lucke of Durgates suggests not only a link between the Fowles of Lamberhurst and those of Riverhall, but also between the Wadhurst and the Mayfield Luckes.

At this stage, we can probably say with some confidence that Richard Lucke of Mayfield was the brother of Thomas Lucke, priest, and perhaps also of John Lucke who died in 1549, and that he was the father of Alice, Elizabeth and possibly Thomasin, as well as of his son and heir Christopher Lucke.

A brief visit to Blunham

A couple of weeks ago I was at a work-related meeting at Moggerhanger Park in Bedfordshire. It was a glorious spring day, and on the way home, I took the opportunity to visit the neighbouring village of Blunham for the first time. It was here that my maternal great great great grandparents Daniel Roe and Eliza Holdsworth were married on 25th April 1825. Daniel was a shoemaker in nearby Biggleswade, where the couple would live, and his family seem to have come from the villages on the borders between Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire (not far, in fact, from Hitchin where – by complete coincidence – I now live). Eliza had been born in Mile End, London, the daughter of another shoemaker, William Holdsworth and his wife Lydia Evans.

I wrote about Eliza’s life in service in a recent post on my academic blog, as part of an attempt to correct what I saw as the masculine bias of much family history writing.

Daniel and Eliza were Baptists but they were married in the Anglican parish church at Blunham, with the curious name of ‘St Edmund or St James’, whose most famous incumbent was the seventeenth-century poet John Donne. Here are a few of the photographs that I took on my visit:


Parish church of St Edmund or St James, Blunham5 4

New information about Robert Fowle – and another link to the Prior of Southwark

In my last post I wrote about Robert Fowle, the ‘captain in Ireland’ who married Mary Burton, daughter of Nicholas Burton of Carshalton, Surrey. Nicholas Burton had married Eleanor, widow of William Fowle of Mitcham, after the latter’s death in 1547. I’m interested in this branch of the Fowle family because of their possible connection with my own Fowle ancestors, and specifically because William’s will bequeaths property to Bartholomew Fowle, the former prior of St Mary Overy, Southwark, whom some sources claim was the brother of my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle of Lewes, Sussex.



My fellow Fowle family researcher, Bill Green, has reminded me that Robert Fowle is mentioned in Catherine Pullein’s history of the village of Rotherfield, Sussex, which was published in 1928. Pullein has two chapters on the Fowles, though Bill has himself cast doubt on her pedigree of the family, and its reliance on inaccurate information gathered at the Heralds’ visitations in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Nevertheless, Pullein’s book contains useful information that adds to, and in some instances corrects, what I’d managed to discover about Robert Fowle and his relatives.

I’d forgotten that a Robert Fowle is mentioned in the Fowle family pedigree included in the records of the Visitations of Sussex, on which Pullein relies so heavily. According to this source, my ancestor Gabriel Fowle was the son of Nicholas Fowle and his wife Joan Vince of Lamberhurst, and the grandson of Thomas Fowle of Lamberhurst and his wife Ellen. Thomas is said to have died in the seventeenth year of the reign of Henry VII (i.e. in 1502) and Nicholas at some time during the same reign (i.e. before 1509). As Bill points out, there is no evidence to support these claims, and indeed they are contradicted by the evidence of Nicholas’ will, which was actually made in 1522.

Also to be treated with caution is the same source’s listing of the children of Nicholas Fowle. Gabriel is said to have had an older brother William, who lived at Riverhall in Wadhurst, Sussex, and two younger brothers: Bartholomew, the prior of Southwark, and Robert, who lived in Carshalton, Surrey. In fact, Nicholas’ will gives his sons’ names as Thomas and John, not Bartholomew and Robert. However, the pedigree gets at least one thing right: it correctly names Gabriel’s son Magnus, even if it claims that the latter’s daughter married someone with the surname ‘Bird’ from Burwash, when in fact Agnes Fowle married Edward Byne of that village.

Elizabethan harquebusiers and pikemen on the march in Ireland (via

Elizabethan harquebusiers and pikemen on the march in Ireland (via

However, it is interesting for our purposes that the Heralds discovered a connection of some kind between the Fowles of Lamberhurst and those of Surrey, and a link between both branches and Bartholomew Fowle of Southwark. The Visitation pedigree claims that it was the son of Robert Fowle of Carshalton, also named Robert, who served in Ireland. The information about him is in Latin and describes Robert Fowle the younger as ‘p[ro]positus Marischellus Conucie usus in bello Tirenensi in hiberniae’: in other words, he was Provost Marshall of Connaught during the war in Tyrone, Ireland. If we compare this to the Surrey Visitation records, we have to conclude that it was Robert the younger who married Mary Burton. Pullein, who seems unaware that Mary’s mother (or possibly stepmother) was the widow of William Fowle of Mitcham, failed to find any reference to a Fowle in the Carshalton parish registers before 1557, when Eleanor Fowle married John Russell; in the following year Joan Fowle is said to have married John Haydon. Pullein writes: ‘doubtless they were Robert’s daughters, named after his grandmother and mother’. This is contradicted by Tyler’s notes, my original source for the information about William Fowle of Mitcham, which claim that Eleanor and Joan were actually William’s daughters.

Pullein reports that she has failed to find a will for either Robert the elder or his son. However, on making enquiries at the Four Courts in Dublin (presumably about Robert Fowle the younger), ‘a copy of a letter doing duty as a will, and addressed to “Cousin Boyle”, was received, and was wholly disappointing since no relatives we named except “my wife daughter and her children”, a rather puzzling phrase that suggests that he had lost his first wife and married a widow with a daughter’. The letter is dated 1595 and Pullein notes a source that claims Robert Fowle the younger ‘lost his life in a skirmish of arms in Ireland’ and that probate was made on 15th January 1595/6 to the executor, Robert Boyle. The latter was apparently born in Cantebury in 1566 and went to Ireland in 1588 where, after a distinguished legal career he was created the first Earl of Cork in 1620. I wonder if Boyle was a relation of Robert Fowle’s unnamed second wife?

At this stage it’s impossible to prove or disprove Pullein’s and the Heralds’ claim that Robert Fowle of Carshalton was descended from the Fowles of Lamberhurst. If this turns out to be true, then the same would probably apply to William Fowle of nearby Mitcham. How and why these members of the family came to re-locate from the borders of Kent and Sussex to Surrey, some forty miles away, remains a mystery.

St James' Palace and garden (via

St James’ Palace and garden (via

Even more intriguing than Pullein’s additional information about Robert Fowle, however, is her discovery of yet another branch of the family with a connection to Bartholomew Fowle of Southwark. Apparently the record of the Visitation of London for the years 1633-34 and 1635 includes a Fowle pedigree of four generations, headed by a coat of arms that is very similar to that of the Fowles of Riverhall in Sussex. The first person in the tree, one Adam Fowle, is described as ‘Keeper of the house and garden of St James’ and ‘servant to Queen Elizabeth’. However, for our purposes, the most interesting part of the description is that which states he was ‘nephew to the prior of S. Mary, co. Surrey’.

Pullein found an earlier and fuller pedigree of the same family in the Middlesex pedigrees collected by Richard Mundy, Somerset Herald, in 1623. In this pedigree, the coat of arms is apparently identical with that of the Riverhall branch of the family. Much of the information given echoes that of the London pedigree, though no mention is made of the Prior of Southwark. However, from this earlier version we learn that Adam Fowle was of Faversham in Kent, but ‘descended out of Sussex’.

Both pedigrees have Adam marrying Anne Dryland, also from Kent, the widow of a man named Webb. Their son was Alphonsus Fowle, described in the earlier pedigree as a justice of the peace in Middlesex, ‘dwelling near St James’, beyond Westminster’, and in the later pedigree as ‘sometime servant’ to Queen Elizabeth, King James, Prince Henry and Prince Charles’ as well as (like his father before him) ‘sometime keeper of the house and gardens of St James’. Alphonsus Fowle was said to be still alive and 74 years old in 1634: I’ve found the record of hs baptism at St Martin in the Fields in 1559. He was married firstly to Eleanor, daughter of a Mr Medley, who died in 1624, and secondly to Ellen, daughter of Mr Chapman of Tuts(h)am Hall, which was near Maidstone, and widow of John Lawrence of Essex.

Catherine Pullein was unable to find any reference to Adam Fowle in the parish registers, nor was she able to locate his will. The only references I can find to Adam Fowle at the National Archives are two certificates of residence, from 1563 and 1571, declaring him to be liable for taxation in the Royal Household. His son Alphonsus made a will in 1635 but, as Pullein reports, there are no clues in it as to his father’s origins or connection to any other branches of the Fowle family. Pullein speculates that Adam might be have been another son of Robert Fowle the elder of Carshalton; but if so, it seems odd that he did not figure in the Surrey pedigree, especially given his status as a royal servant.

As an alternative, Pullein falls back on the explanation that ‘nephew’, like ‘cousin’, was used very broadly at this period. However, the name given at the end of the London pedigree – presumably the Heralds’ informant? – is Alphonsus Fowle. This is probably Adam’s grandson, another Adolphus (who by this stage was married with a daughter), rather than Adam’s 74-year-old son. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that this Alphonsus would have made a mistake, or used an inaccurate term, about a key relationship of his grandfather’s, especially as his own father was still alive to correct him.

This means that Adam Fowle’s father was the brother of Bartholomew Fowle, prior of St Mary Overy in Southwark. Since Adam was said to be ‘descended out of Sussex’ there’s a good chance that he was connected to the Lamberhurst or Wadhurst Fowles in some way. Now, if we could only find the name of Adam Fowle’s father…

Burton and Fowle

Following on from my discussion of the last will and testament of William Fowle of Mitcham, Surrey, who died in 1547: I’ve uncovered some additional information about the family of Nicholas Burton of Carshalton, who married William’s widow Eleanor after his death.

According to the records of the heraldic visitations of Surrey, made in 1530, 1572 and 1623, Nicholas Burton of Carshalton had three sons and two daughters. It’s not clear how many of these children, if any, were the product of Nicholas’ marriage to Eleanor Fowle, or indeed whether he had been married before.

Martin Barnham, future Sheriff of Kent (right), with his mother and brother (via wikimedia)

Martin Barnham, future Sheriff of Kent (right), with his mother and brother (via wikimedia)

As I reported in the last post, Nicholas Burton’s eldest son Richard married Anne Hampton, daughter of Barnard Hampton, who was Clerk of the Council under Edward VI, Queen Mary, and Elizabeth I. Richard and Anne Hampton had four surviving children. Their eldest son Henry Burton was made a Knight of the Bath; he married firstly Winifred Lodbrooke, daughter of London merchant Jonas Lodbrooke, and secondly Judith, daughter of Sir Martin Calthorp of Hickling, Norfolk, and Lord Mayor of London, and widow of Sir Martin Barnham, Sheriff of Kent (see image above). A second son, Barnard Burton of Croydon, was ‘one of the Privy Chamber to King James’; he married Martha, daughter of John Bray of Surrey and widow of John Guilpen. A third son was Charles Burton, about whom there is no further information. Richard and Anne Burton also had a daughter Anne who married Richard Fenton of Madingley.

The other two sons of Nicholas Burton were Nicholas the younger and William, a ‘doctor of phissick’, who married the daughter of a man named Ball of Cambridge, who was a Justice of the Peace. Nicholas’ daughter Mabel married Thomas Howard, the first Viscount Bindon (see the previous post). His other daughter, Maria or Mary, married Robert Fowle; it seems highly likely that the latter was a relative of William Fowle.

The Visitation document helpfully describes Robert Fowle as ‘a Captaine in Ireland’. I’m fairly certain that he is the Captain Robert Fowle who was Provost Marshall of Connaught in 1581. According to a note to the Selected Letters of Edmund Spenser, Fowle was ‘appointed by Grey on Maltby’s recommendation’, a letter by the former to the Privy Council of 9th December 1581 describing his ‘sufficiencie in service, and his well deserving of longe tyme’.

The defeat of the Armada

The defeat of the Armada

Following the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, when many Spanish sailors and soldiers were shipwrecked in Ireland, the Calendar of State Papers contains the following entry (my emphasis):

Upon Monday the 16th of September, it was thought good by the Governor and Council, forasmuch as many of the Spaniards who escaped shipwreck were kept by divers gentlemen and others of the province, and used with more favour than they thought meet, to set forth a proclamation, upon pain of death,that every man who had or kept any of them should presently bring them in, and deliver them to Robert Fowle, the Provost Marshal, the justices of peace, the sheriffs, or other head officers, or else that any man who should detain any of them above four hours after the publication of the said proclamation to be held and reputed as a traitor, which he published in every place for avoiding of further peril. Whereupon Teige Ne Bully O’Flaherty and many others brought their prisoners to Galway, and for that there were many Spaniards brought to the town of Galway from other parts of the province, besides those which the townsmen had taken prisoners beffore, he despatched Robert Fowle, the Provost Marshal, Captain Nathaniel Smythe and John Byrte [thither] with warrant and commission to put them all to the sword, saving the noblemen or such [principal] gentlemen as were among them, and afterwards to repair to O’Flaherty’s country [to make] earnest search who kept any Spaniards in their hands [and to] execute them in like manner, and take view of the great ordnance, munition, and oth[er] things which were in the two ships that were lost inthat country, and see how it might be sa[ved for] the use of Her Majesty. Whereupon they executed 300 men at Galway.

There are many other references in the same document to Fowle’s role as Provost Marshall, including his involvement in negotiations with Irish rebel leaders and his disagreement with the tactics of Sir Richard Bingham, the governor of Connaught, whose ‘intemperate dealings and bad instruments’ he blamed for a rebellion in the province. Another officer, a Captain John Merbery, described Captain Fowle as ‘a professed enemy to Sir R. Bingham and always a stirrer of the State.’ (See Wikipedia’s account of Bingham’s controversial career.)

16th century map of Connacht (Connaught)

16th century map of Connacht (Connaught)

Another opinion, which seems to be that of Bingham himself, claimed that ‘no officer in Connaught hath so much broken the composition and exacted from the subjects inordinately as Mr. Fowle hath, what by cessing of his horses and horse boys, and placing his deputy marshals in every county, who hath gone up and down with 20 or 30 horses, eating and spoiling and exacting of money.’ On the other hand, Fowle himself claimed in a letter to Lord Burghley: ‘The general discontent in Connaught grew upon some unruly proceedings of bad officers. The Burkes and others still continue in those mistrustful terms towards Sir Richard Bingham and all his ministers.’ The dispute resulted in both men petitioning Queen Elizabeth against the other.

The British Museum and the National Library of Ireland hold copies of a ‘statement of the accompts of Capt. Robert Fowle, late Provost-Marshal of Connaught, set down and signed by Philip Hore, Feb. 26, 1599’, suggesting that he died some time in the 1590s.

Unfortunately, I’ve yet to discover anything about Captain Robert Fowle’s origins, or his possible connection to my own Fowle ancestors.

Analysing the will of William Fowle of Mitcham, Surrey (died 1547)

In the previous post I shared my transcription of the will of William Fowle of Mitcham, Surrey, which is dated 1547. I’m interested in William primarily because his will makes bequests to Bartholomew Fowle, a priest who had been the prior of St Mary Overy, Southwark, until its dissolution in 1539, and whose precise relationship to my own Fowle ancestors I’m seeking to clarify.

Churchyard, Mitcham, Surrey

Churchyard, Mitcham, Surrey

In this post I want to explore what William Fowle’s will can tell us about him, his family, and perhaps his connection to Bartholomew. We learn from his will that William was married to a woman named Ellyn and that they had two daughters, Eleanor and Joan, both of whom were under the age of twenty-one and unmarried when their father made his will. William also had a brother Richard, who was given a degree of responsibility for seeing that William’s wishes were fulfilled after his death. Interestingly, William entrusted Richard with ensuring that some of his money was used to maintain and repair highways in Kent, which suggests a family connection to the county, despite William’s residence in Surrey. I know that my own Fowle ancestors originated in Kent: my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle was born in Lamberhurst, on the Kent-Sussex border.

In his will William Fowle describes himself as a ‘yeoman’, but he was also something of a landowner. He mentions a farm in Mitcham, which was perhaps where he lived, but also an interest in the ‘parsonage and lordship’ of Mitcham and in the parsonage and a garden in nearby Bansted, as well as the garden in Camberwell that he bequeaths to Bartholomew Fowle. Interestingly, it seems that the priory of St Mary Overy owned land in Mitcham, knowns as the manor of Mitcham Canons. According to one source, at the time of the Dissolution the priory ‘held 6 acres of wood at 12d. an acre, 7s. rent and the rectory of Mitcham, worth £16.’ I wonder if this rectory is identical with the parsonage mentioned in William Fowle’s will?

Reconstruction of a Tudor farm (via

Reconstruction of a Tudor farm (via

William Fowle makes two bequests to ‘Sir Bartholomew Fowle’, priest. The first relates to ‘my …. gardeyn with thappurtenances at Camberwell’. Camberwell is about eight miles from Mitcham: in the sixteenth century, both were villages deep in the Surrey countryside but are now part of the urban sprawl of south London. Camberwell is also about three miles from Southwark, where Bartholomew Fowle was given a house to live after the surrender of his priory to Thomas Cromwell. The second bequest to Bartholomew consists of ‘all suche money as Sir Edward Boughton knight and his sonne do owe unto me by their obligacon with condicion’. This seems to be the Sir Edward Boughton of Woolwich who in the thirty-seventh year of Henry VIII’s reign ‘conveyed to that king two parcels of land, called Bowton’s Docks, and two parcels, called Our Lady-hill, and Sand-hill’ in Woolwich. Sir Edward died in 1550 and his son may be the Nicholas Boughton of Plumstead who died ten years later.

The page from the Tyler Index to Wills (apparently compiled by Frank Watt Tyler) which was my original source of information about William Fowle, and which I reproduced in my last post, contains the beginnings of a family tree. As I understand it, the author suggests that Willam Fowle’s widow Ellyn, also known as Eleanor, married for a second time after William’s death in 1547. Her new husband was a certain Nicholas Burton from Carshalton, about three miles to the south of Mitcham. Interestingly, Burton was the owner of the manor of Mitcham Canons, formerly the property of the priory of St Mary Overy. According to one source:

In 1545 Henry VIII sold the manor of Mitcham, described as lately belonging to St. Mary Overy and demised together with Buckwood (comprising 7 acres) to Thomas Fremonds, to Nicholas Spackman and Christopher Harbottell, citizen and haberdasher of London. Licence was given to Spackman and Harbottell in 1550 to alienate to Sir John Gresham, who again received licence the next year to alienate to Spackman and Harbottell. (fn. 12) They re-alienated to Laurence Warren, who conveyed the manor to Nicholas Burton.

The same source states that in 1589 a Richard Burton died ‘seised of the manor of Mitcham, leaving a son Henry’. Tyler’s notes suggest some confusion between Nicholas and Richard Burton. Although Nicholas is said to have married William Fowle’s widow Eleanor, William’s daughter Eleanor is described, at the time of her marriage to John Russell on 18th April 1558, as ‘Ellenor Fowle daughter of Richard Burton’. Tyler further suggests that at least one child resulted from the second marriage of William’s widow to Nicholas Burton: a daughter named Maria. In 1566 she apparently married a Robert Fowle, who presumably was a relative of her mother’s first husband William.

Old map showing Mitcham and Carshalton (via

Old map showing Mitcham and Carshalton (via

Nicholas Burton seems to have died before his wife, as Tyler has a note at the foot of the page which reads ‘3.5.1574 = Elnar Burton, w[idow].’ This could be read as the date of Eleanor’s death, but the ‘=’ sign when used elsewhere denotes a marriage, and above Eleanor’s name is the name of one Randall Hurlestone. He was the author of a virulently anti-Catholic book entitled ‘News from Rome concerning the blasphemous sacrifice of the papisticall Masse with dyvers other treatises very Godly and profitable’, published in 1549 by Edmond Campion, who was (ironically) the father of the future Catholic saint and martyr of that name.

If Eleanor Burton, formerly Fowle, did indeed marry for a third time to this man, then it seems an odd decision for the relative of a former Catholic priest. However, we now that religious loyalties were volatile during this period, and that contrasting opinions were often held within the same family (witness the example of the Campions).

A final note on this page suggests that Richard Burton married Anne Hampton in 1574. Another source gives the date as 9th November and describes Anne as ‘the daughter and sole heiress of Barnard Hampton, Clerk of the Council to Edward VI. Mary, and Elizabeth’, and Richard as ‘brother to Mabell Viscountess Bindon, and uncle to Frances Duchess of Richmond and Lennox’.

On 7th June 1576 Thomas Howard, 1st Viscount Bindon, married (for a third time) to Mabel Burton, the daughter of Nicholas Burton of Carshalton, Surrey. Howard’s will, proved in 1582/3, bequeathed ‘£2000 for the better preferment and advancement of Frances Howard my daughter, my loving sister in law Mary Fowle, wife unto Robert Fowle, gentleman, shall have the government and education of my said daughter until her marriage, etc., or if the said Mary shall happen to die or depart out of the Realm of England I will the government etc. to my loving brother in law Richard Burton of Carshalton in Surry, esq. or to mine executors until the time of her marriage unless she be preferred to her Majesty in service. And I wholly refer her advancement in marriage unto her Majesty.’ Richard Burton was also one of the executors of the will. Richard Burton of Carshalton made his own will in 1588, forgiving the debt of ‘Robert Fowle gent and brother in law’ and making him one of the overseers and beneficiaries of the will.

My analysis of William Fowle’s will, and of Tyler’s notes, has supplied some useful information about William’s family and its connections. However, I’m still no clearer about his relationship with Bartholomew Fowle. It’s odd that, despite the generosity of William’s bequests to Bartholomew, he fails to provide any information about their relationship. Further research is clearly needed, perhaps into the identities of William’s brother Richard Fowle, and the Robert Fowle who married Maria Burton.

A new clue in the search for Bartholomew Fowle

Earlier this year I wrote about my quest for information about Bartholomew Fowle, an Augustinian canon who was the prior of St Mary Overy, Southwark, at the time of its ‘surrender’ in 1539 to Henry VIII’s enforcer Thomas Cromwell. According to some sources, Bartholomew was a close relation, and possibly the brother, of my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle, the master of the Free Grammar School in Lewes, Sussex. In that earlier post, I was able to provide some new information about Bartholomew Fowle’s life and career, though it wasn’t possible to prove the connection with my own Fowle ancestors.

St Mary Overy in the 17th century by Wenceslas Hollar

St Mary Overy  by Wenceslas Hollar

References to Bartholomew Fowle in the contemporary records are few and far between. However, this week I’ve come across a new source of information, and one that may in time help us to understand Bartholomew’s family background. In searching for Bartholomew’s name online at Ancestry, I found myself directed to a collection of documents labelled ‘Kent, England, Tyler Index to Wills, 1460 – 1882′ consisting of a large number of typed and handwritten notes that appear to have been composed in the 1930s. One of the handwritten pages refers to the 1547 will of a certain William Fowle, which apparently mentions ‘Sir Bartholomew Fowle priest’. In medieval and Tudor times ‘sir’ was a common honorific title given to priests. Could this be ‘our’ Bartholomew?

Page from Tyler Index to Wills

Page from Tyler Index to Wills (via

I searched for William Fowle online and found the will of William Fowle of Mitcham, Surrey, dated 1547, in the collection of wills at the National Archives. I’ve done my best to transcribe the will (see below). There are a few indecipherable words – indicated thus [ ] – and some about which I was unsure – these are followed by a bracketed question mark thus [?]. In the next post, I’ll discuss what the will can tell us about William Fowle, his family, and the connection with Bartholomew Fowle.

In the name of god Amen The      daie of May in the first yeare of the Reign of our Soveraigne lord Edward the sixt by the grace of god kinge of England France & Ireland I William Ffowle of micham in the Countie of Surrey yeoman (although sick of body yet being of hole mynde and in good and parfitt remembrance thanks be unto Almyghtie god make devise and ordeyne this my [ ] testament conteyning herein my last will in manner and forme folowing tha tis to saye Ffirst I betake [?] and comend my soule iinto thandes of Almightie god my maker & Redemer And I will my body to be buried where I and [     ] by the discretion of myne Executor hereafter written And I bequeath to the church of mycham [   ] for tithes [   ] forgotten to be paid xx Item I bequeath to my daughter Eleanor Thirtie pounds Remayning now in my brother Richard Ffowles handes which xxxil I will shall so remayne untill she be of lawfull age of xxi yeres yf she be not in the mean tyme married, and then to be paid unto her. Item I bequeath unto Joane my daughter other Thirtie pounds to be paid unto her out of my other goodes. Item I assigne and bequeath unto my said daughter Eleanor all my right tithe Interest and termes of yeres of all my leases aswell of [   ] other concernyng the parsonage and lordship of Micham, after the decease [?] of Ellyn myne entirely beloved wyfe. And I will Sir bartholomewe ffowle preist shall enyoie all my lease and Interest of and in my [   ] and the gardeyn with thappurtenances at Camberwell in the said Countie. And after his decease I give and bequeath all my [   ] lease interest and terme of yeres of and in the same [   ] to come to my said daughter Eleanor. And I bequeath unto my said daughter Joane all myn Interest and terme of yeres of all my lease [   ] concernyng the psonage of Bansted with all thappurtenances ceonteyned within the said leases And if any of my said daughters happen to deceas before lawfull age or daie of mariage Then I [   ] thother to be hir heire in all the bequests to her befor made. And if they shall both happen to dye before any of them [       ] lawfully begotten Then I give and assyne all the right Interest and term of yeres than to com of the said leases and reversions concernying the parsonage of Bansted aforesaid with thappurtenances contayne within the same leases unto my foresaid brother Richard ffowle his heires Executors and assigned And yf it happen both my said daughters to depart this [   ] psent lyf without yssue lawfully begotten Then I will give and bequeath ffifteen pounds [ ] of the said some of xxxli remayning in my said brother Richards hands to be bestowed in maintaining and repairing of high waies within the Countie of Kent where it shall be [   ] by my said brother most     [   ] And theother fifteen pounds I give and bequath to my brother Richard And in case my wife shalbe [   ] unto my said brother Richard all the forsaid leases concernyng the messaueg and lordship of Micham And my [   ] and tithe garden with thappurtenances at Camberwell and Bansted above [   ] with their apurtnenances . And [ ] to to be [   ] to the [   ] feoffment in the Lawe unto my said wife and her assignes to make [   ] of all the said leases unto my children before named when they or either of them come to lawfull age or daie of mariage to their before [   ] as aforesaid And if my said wife shall refuse so to do and deliver the said leases than as now and now as then. I will that yt shalbe lawfull unto my said brother Richard to enter into my said [   ] and messauge Micham aforsaid there to seise upon as manner [   ] My goodes and catalles as well with the houses as upon all the lands and to cause the same to be lawfully praised [?] By indifferent [ ] And that [   ] to make equall pticion and division thereof to and arrange my said children And I will that my said brother Immediately upon the [   ] into his handes of the foresaid leases be come bounde unto my said wife for his bond feoffment in the lawe in a convenient and reasonable form, to      [   ] the said leases, so long as they shall remayne in his handes or   [ ] at [ ] tym as yt shalbe required by my said wyf for [   ] of all my said farmes And I will that my wife immediately after the probate Of this my testament be come bound unto my said brother for the payment of the [   ] and some of xxxil to my forsaid daughter Joane above bequeathed. And if my saide wife do refuse so to doe than I will it shalbe lawfull unto my said brother to enter into my said farme of Micham and there to seise upon all my goodes and to make [   ] to the said some of xxxil and [  ] he then to be come bound unto my wife for payment thereof unto my said daughter Joane at the daye of her mariage Item I bequeath graunt and assigne unto the said Ellyn my wife my newe orchard which I purchased and bought of [  ] [   ], to have and to hold the same orchard, with thappurtenances unto the same Ellyn and her asignes during her naturall lyfe. And after her decease I will the said orchard to remayne unto the foresaid Eleanor my daughter her heires and assignes for every And also I give and bequeath unto the said Eleanor my daughter yls yerely untill she come to thage of xxy yeres for her apparell. And I will my wife be bounde to paye the some out of my goodes Item I give and bequeath unto Sir Bartholomew Ffowle preist all suche money as Sir Edward Boughton knight and his sonne do owe unto me by their obligacon with condicion. The residue of all my goods Catalls and debts after my debts paide my funerall expenses pformed and these my Legacies conteyned in this my    [   ] testament fulfilled I wholy give and bequeath to my entirely beloved wife whome I make and ordeyn my soule Executrix These hereafter subscribed being present and witnesses And for more faith [  ] I have hereunder published my name the daye and yere above written and also sette my seale By me Willm Ffowle   [  ] me Johan E[   ] notary public and [ ] and [   ] by me Henry Frrimay witnes.

Revisiting the will of Thomas Fowle of Lamberhurst (died 1525)

Nearly two years ago I posted my transcription of the last will and testament of Thomas Fowle of Lamberhurst, Kent, who died in 1525. At the time I mistakenly believed Thomas to be my 15 x great grandfather, and the father of Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst. However, I’ve since realised that Thomas was almost certainly Nicholas’ son, and therefore the brother of my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle, who was the master of the Free Grammar School in Lewes.

Countryside near Lamberhurst (via

Countryside near Lamberhurst (via

As I wrote in an earlier post, Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst made his own will in 1522/23, in the sixth year of the reign of Henry VIII. From Nicholas’ will we can conclude that he was married to a woman named Elizabeth and that they had three sons: Thomas, John and Gabriel. The will divides Nicholas’ lands between his wife and his three sons, with Thomas to receive a number of properties in the parish of Lamberhurst, including one called ‘the byne’ in the town itself.

Fowle family researcher Bill Green infers from Nicholas’ will that Thomas was probably the firstborn son, and that he may have been born in the 1490s. That Thomas was still a young man when he died can also be inferred from his own will: firstly from its date, soon after the death of his father, and from the fact that, though he was married by this time, his two children, a daughter named Elizabeth and a son whose name is not given, were not yet of age. It’s possible that Thomas Fowle married his wife Elizabeth in about 1515 or shortly thereafter.

Wyngaerde's 1542 panorama of London, from Southwark

Wyngaerde’s 1542 panorama of London, from Southwark

As I noted when I first wrote about Thomas’ will, one of the most intriguing things about this brief document is its references to the church of St Margaret in Southwark. Thomas’ home was in Lamberhurst, some fifty miles away. And yet not only does Thomas ask to be buried in the churchyard at St Margaret’s but he leaves money to the church and to priests associated with it. What was the connection between a young landowner with family and property in rural Kent, and a church on the southern outskirts of London?

The Southwark connection is of interest because of the theory, reproduced in a number of documents but not convincingly proven, that Bartholomew Fowle, the prior of Southwark at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, was a close relative of Thomas’: according to some sources, he may even have been his brother. In my most recent post about Bartholomew, earlier this year, I noted that he was originally a member of the Augustinian priory of St Mary and Nicholas at Leeds, Kent (about 18 miles from Lamberhurst), before moving in 1509 to the priory of St Mary Overy in Southwark, where he was elected prior in 1513 or thereabouts, a post he held until the priory was ‘surrendered’ to Thomas Cromwell in 1539.

When I first analysed Thomas Fowle’s will, I assumed that St Margaret’s church was identical with the Augustinian priory and speculated that the ‘gostely’ or spiritual father to whom Thomas bequeaths a sum of money might actually be Bartholomew himself. Either that, or Bartholomew might be the ‘high master of Saint Margaret’ who is also left money by Thomas. However, further research has made me more cautious about leaping to such conclusions. Establishing the precise link between the various churches of Southwark is quite difficult, but I understand that St Margaret’s was the parish church for the northern part of Southwark during the Middle Ages. It was granted to the priory of St Mary Overy during the reign of Henry I, in other words before 1135 (the priory had been established in 1106), but this does not necessarily mean that it formed part of the establishment: the priory was also granted a number of other churches in the City of London and elsewhere, as well as properties in Kent and Berkshire. It was only under Henry VIII, and after the forced closure of the priory, that St Margaret’s was united with the nearby church of St Mary Magdalene and the original priory church became the parish church of St Saviour (and much later, the Anglican cathedral of Southwark).

St Mary Overy, Southwark

St Mary Overy, Southwark

So at the time of Thomas Fowle’s death, the church of St Margaret, Southwark, was a separate parish church, albeit under the general supervision of the nearby priory of St Mary Overy. However, we know that St Margaret’s, Southwark, was also home to the Perpetual Guild or Fraternity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, founded in the reign of Henry VI and later incorporated under Henry VII to manage parish affairs and charities for the people of the northern part of Southwark. In fact, at least one of the priests named in Thomas Fowle’s will appears to have been associated with the fraternity. ‘Sir Richard Dawson morowe masse priest’ was one of the witnesses to the will – a ‘morrow mass priest’ being simply one who said the morning or early mass in a parish church. The Clergy Database includes an entry in 1541, two years after the dissolution of Southwark Priory, for a stipendiary priest by the name of ‘Ricardus Dawson’ at St Saviour’s church, Southwark, where his stipend was paid by ‘the Fraternity of the Blessed Mary in St Saviour’s church’.

Sixteenth century clergy

Sixteenth century clergy

As for the other priests referred to in Thomas Fowle’s will, the only William Mychell I can find in the database was a chantry priest and chaplain in Canterbury in 1540. I’ve speculated before that he may have been a relative of the Robert Michell who was prior of Southwark not long before Bartholomew Fowle. At the dissolution, Bartholomew as provided with a house ‘within the close where Dr Michell was dwelling’. The third witness to the will, with Richard Dawson and William Mychell, was ‘Willm Carnell p[ar]ishe priest and Curet of the foresaid Saint Margaretts’. The only other reference I can find to a priest of that name, at around this time, is to a William Carnell, priest, who witnessed wills in Rye, Sussex, in 1509 and 1517. Both wills included bequests to the Augustinian friars, and it’s possible that Carnell was a member of the priory at Rye before moving to Southwark. If so, it might mean that, as well as owning the ‘temporality’ or physical property of St Margaret’s, and controlling its advowson or clerical appointments, Southwark priory was also in the habit of providing its parish priest from among its own number.

Of course, none of this gets us any nearer to understanding why Thomas Fowle of Lamberhurst should want to be buried at St Margaret’s or why he leaves money to the priests associated with the church. And then there’s the unresolved question of who he means by the ‘high master’ of St Margaret. Was this the prior of Southwark, who could be said to have overall responsibility for the church? Or was it the master of the Fraternity? I even wondered at one point if there was a school associated with the church, and whether Thomas had been a pupil there, and the reference was to a school master. But that wouldn’t necessarily explain his continuing attachment to the church and his familiarity with its clergy. It’s frustrating that Thomas fails to name the ‘high master’, but explicable if this person’s role was well known. It’s less understandable that he withholds the name of his spiritual father: would it be obvious who he meant?

I believe Thomas Fowle’s association with Southwark, and the fact that Bartholomew Fowle was prior there, cannot be mere coincidence, but determining the relationship between the two men, and the exact connection between Bartholomew and my Fowle ancestors, remains frustratingly difficult.