Gabriel Fowle: a schoolmaster in sixteenth-century Lewes

My revised transcription of the will of my 13 x great grandfather, Gabriel Fowle of Lewes, Sussex, has confirmed that he was indeed the master of the Free Grammar School there. Here is the crucial passage in Gabriel’s will:

Item I wyll to be gyven amonge the scholers of the ffrye schole namely soche have been with me a quarter of a yere iijs iijd a peny a pece, as far as yt wyll serve as to pray for me. Item I wyll to John Cotmott the yonger, Andrewe baran Edward Pelham John Raynold & John ffeharbar for theyr dylygence about me vs amonge them, equally to be devyded & all theyse v to take advantage of theyr peny apece, yf ther be under xl scholers beside them.

I’ve been in email contact with David Arscott, author of Floreat Lewys, 500 Years of Lewes Old Grammar School who confirms that his book refers to Gabriel Fowle as headmaster of the school during the reign of Queen Mary.

A Tudor schoolroom: Stratford Grammar School, attended by William Shakespeare

A Tudor schoolroom: Stratford Grammar School, attended by William Shakespeare

Before we explore Gabriel’s life and career in Lewes, it might be helpful to summarise what we know about his origins and early life. Most sources agree that Gabriel was the son of Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst, on the Kent-Sussex border, who made his will in 1522, appointing Gabriel as co-executor with his mother Elizabeth. I’ve come to the conclusion that he is not the ‘Gabriel mercer’ mentioned early in the will, who is to receive a ‘good heffer’ when he reaches the age of eighteen. This bequest may have been the source of the claim in some sources that Gabriel was born in about 1507, whereas I now believe that he was born somewhat earlier, perhaps around 1500 or even in the late 1490s.

The name of the property bequeathed to Gabriel Fowle

The name of the property bequeathed to Gabriel Fowle

Nicholas bequeaths to his son Gabriel ‘my ii messuages with the gardens with a medo and a orcharde called [——–] the whiche I hold in fee formme of the prior and covent of ledes’. The name of the property (see above) is difficult to decipher: the first letter looks like a ‘w’, the second is probably a vowel (‘i’ or ‘e’), the middle consonants could be ‘lh’ or possibly ‘th’, and the final abbreviated group of letters (indicated by the symbol above them) might end in ‘n’. It would be useful to have access to a list of field names in and around Lamberhurst against which to check this. Leeds priory owned many properties in Kent, including the manor of Lamberhurst, until its dissolution some time in the late 1530s.

This bequest is dependent on Gabriel ‘paying suche charges as it is charged with all so that my saide son gabriell shall suffre my said wif his moder to have suche parte of that same messuage & gardene as I have now in occupying for all the terme of her lif’ and provided that ‘my sayde son gabriell shall suffre my saide son Thomas to have all suche yeres (?) as he hath taken of the saide partt of the saide messuage gardens & medow as the said Thomas hath now in farme paying unto hym and here iil of lawfull money of England furthermore’.

Countryside near Lamberhurst (via

Countryside near Lamberhurst (via

Although Gabriel is named as the executor of Nicholas’ will, he seems to have been the youngest of the three sons who are mentioned as beneficiaries. His brother John is to receive a number of properties, including Great Petfold and Little Petfold, on the death of his mother Elizabeth, while his other brother Thomas is bequeathed perhaps the greater part of Nicholas’ lands, including the Byne (or Vyne?) in Lamberhurst town and Pyfers, Paldings, Overmead and Hogwood in the wider parish. Gabriel’s bequest of a single property is quite modest by comparison.

In an earlier post I mentioned that a case in Chancery puts Gabriel Fowle in Lewes by 1529 at the latest. However, I’ve now found a reference to him in the Lay Subsidy Roll for 1524-5 – i.e. the year after his father’s death. Gabriel is listed as resident in the borough of Southover, where he is assessed as earning (?) £2 (per annum?) not quite the lowest amount in the list, but a long way behind the prior of Lewes at £18 and Thomas Puggeslye (of whom more later) at £40.

I had always assumed that Gabriel moved to Southover specifically to teach at the Free Grammar School, but I’ve begun to wonder about this. If he was master of the school in 1554, it would mean he had taught there for thirty years – and that he had been appointed as quite a young man. My fellow researcher Bill Green suggests that Gabriel might have been come to Southover in order to marry. Certainly it would seem that the extensive lands in Ringmer and Glynde that Gabriel bequeathed in his will were probably gained through marriage. The question is: to whom? I’m currently searching his will, and other documents, for clues as to his wife’s surname. I think there’s a good chance that her first name was Agnes – the name that Gabriel gave to his daughter, and that his son Magnus gave his daughter, my 11 x great grandmother.

Ringmer, Sussex

Ringmer, Sussex

The other unsolved mystery surrounding Gabriel’s early adulthood is: where did he acquire the education that prepared him for the role of schoolmaster? I can find no trace of him in the alumni records for Oxford or Cambridge. I wonder what kind of training or qualification a grammar school master needed in the early 16th century?

The Free Grammar School at Southover had been founded out of a bequest in the will of Agnes Morley, who died in 1512, just ten years or so before Gabriel arrived in Lewes. The will includes provision for the employment of a ‘scolemaister which shalbee a preest able to teche grammer in the said Free Scole, if such a preest able to canne bee had, or els to put in a seculer man whiche ys able teche grammer in the meane tyme in his stede’. There was clearly a close relationship between the new school and the neighbouring Cluniac Priory of St Pancras, since Agnes Morley wills that the prior is to be involved in organising the payment of the wages to the schoolmaster and to an usher. The schoolmaster is to receive ‘xli by the yere’ and the ‘receyvour’ appointed by the prior to handle payments is to ensure that the ‘messuage at Watergate, that is to say, the scolehouse and the house that the scolemaister and the ussher dwellith in, and closure about the same’, are ‘well maytenyned and repaired in all maner condition’.

Elsewhere in her will Agnes Morley bequeaths lands in Southover to ‘Thomas Puggislee the elder and the heirs of his body lawfully begotten’, and if he fails to produce an heir, then ‘that al the saide landes and tenementes shall remayne to the use and behofe of the Free Scole at Watergate, and for the mayteynyng of Saynte Erasmes Chapel in the church of Southovere’. Presumably Thomas was a relative – perhaps the father? – of ‘Sir Andrew Puggeslie’, the curate of St Michael’s church in Lewes and later vicar of Ringmer, who witnesssed Gabriel Fowle’s will.

David Arscott informs me that the original building of the Free Grammar School was in the corner of the grounds of what would become Southover Grange. There is still a Watergate Lane nearby. The school would have been very close to the grounds of Lewes priory.

Tudor schoolmaster and pupils (via

Tudor schoolmaster and pupils (via

The names of some of the scholars left money by Gabriel Fowle are familiar from local records of the period. ‘John Cotmott the younger’ may be a relative (the son?) of the man of that name who was assessed in the Lewes Lay Subsidy Roll of 1524-5, and who seems to have been quite wealthy. From Graham Mayhew’s sumptous recent book on Lewes priory, I learn that a John Cotmott was the priory’s surveyor and its second highest paid servant at the time of the Dissolution. He left several houses in his will of 1559. Edward Pelham may have been a member of the noble Pelham family of Sussex, possibly the son or brother of Sir Nicholas Pelham. As for Andrew Baran (Baron?) and John Raynold, there are a number of people with those surnames in contemporary local records. Previously I thought that ‘ffeharbar’ was a misspelling of Fitzherbert, but I see that a Henry Ferherberd was listed in the Lay Subsidy Rolls for Ringmer.

Dunstan Sawyer, vicar of Ringmer during Mary’s reign, and one of the overseers appointed by Gabriel Fowle, seems to have remained a loyal Catholic. In his will of 1559, a year after Queen Elizabeth’s accession, he, like his late friend Gabriel Fowle, asked for masses to be said for his soul.

Some of the other name that occur in Gabriel’s will – such as Nicholas Aptott of Ringmer Green, William Marle, John Fortune and John Revet – might provide valuable clues to his family connections in the area. I’m also intrigued by the fact that two members of the Brown family are mentioned by Gabriel. He leaves money to a certain Thomas Brown, and elsewhere decrees that his moveable goods are to be equally divided between his son Magnus and daughter, Agnes, ‘with thadvyse of my overseers and Edward Brown.’ Is this an indication that Gabriel was closely connected to the Brown family, perhaps by marriage? Might Thomas Brown be the man of that name, from the parish of St John the Baptist, Southover, who made his own will four years later, in 1558?

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The will of Gabriel Fowle (died 1555): a new transcript and new information

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

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

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

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

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

Springtime at Southover Grange, Lewes (via

Springtime at Southover Grange, Lewes (via

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

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

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In search of Bartholomew Fowle, the last prior of Southwark

In the last post I noted that my Fowle ancestors and their neighbours in late 15th and early 16th century Kent, the Pattendens, had something intriguing in common. Both had family members who were priors of houses of Augustinian canons. I wondered whether this similarity might provide further evidence, confirming suggestions in various family wills, of a connection between the two families.

Thomas Pattenden was prior of Combwell near Goudhurst until his death in 1513. He was both a beneficiary of and a witness to the will of James Pattenden of Lamberhurst who died in 1488. Bartholomew Fowle, who was the prior of St Mary Overy, Southwark, until its dissolution by Henry VIII in 1539, is said by some authorities to have been the son of my 14 x great grandfather Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst and the brother of my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle.

St Mary Overy, from the Norden Map

St Mary Overy, from the Norden Map

So far I’ve found no independent verification of Bartholomew’s link to my Fowle ancestors, and in previous posts I’ve cast doubts on claims that he was Nicholas’ son, while suspecting that he was probably related to him in some way. I remain fascinated by Bartholomew – it’s intriguing to find such an interesting historical figure in one’s family tree – and I’m keen to solve the mystery of his origins and family connections. In this post I’m revisiting Bartholomew’s story and endeavouring to gather together everything that I’ve been able to find out about him. 


Bartholomew Fowle’s date of birth is unknown, and this remains one of the difficulties in establishing his place in the Fowle family tree. However, Bartholomew’s place of birth is said by some sources to have been Lynsted in Kent, a village in the north of the county, between Sittingbourne and Faversham, and about thirty miles north-east of Lamberhurst. For example, a chapter on Lynsted in an eighteenth-century county history notes that ‘Bartholomew Fowle, alias Linsted, a native of this place, was the last prior of St Mary Overie, London, being elected to that office anno 1513.’ Interestingly, Lynsted had close associations with the Roper family, who were linked by marriage with Sir Thomas More: I’ve written elsewhere about the recusant Lady Roper of Teynham who lived at Lynsted Lodge in the early seventeenth century.

Early etching of Lynsted Lodge

Early etching of Lynsted Lodge

Some sources give Bartholomew’s name as Lynsted alias Fowle, while others reverse the order. We can only speculate as to why Bartholomew used an alternative surname. Was it a common habit to take the name of your home village, or was it a particular practice among members of religious orders? Did Bartholomew find it politic to conceal his Fowle family connections for some reason, or alternatively did he have a particular reason (a local benefactor or sponsor, for example) for identifying with Lynsted?

Leeds Priory

At some point Bartholomew Fowle joined the Canons Regular at the Augustinian priory of St Mary and St Nicholas at Leeds, Kent, about twelve miles south-west of Lynsted and eighteen miles north-east of Lamberhurst (which happened to be one of the manors it owned and one of the parishes for which it possessed the advowson) .

Canons Regular were priests living in community under the Rule of St Augustine and sharing their property in common. Unlike monks, who lived a cloistered, contemplative life, the purpose of the life of a canon was to engage in a public ministry of liturgy and sacraments for those who visited their churches. Apparently the canons sought to reflect supernatural order and stability within their priories, with examples of worship, farming, medical care, librarianship, learning, and so forth. The canons often worked in towns and cities, where the worship, medicines, education and the skills of the enclosed Benedictines were not present to the growing numbers of urban dwellers. By the 12th century hundreds of communities of canons had sprung up in Western Europe. Usually they were quite autonomous of one another, and varied in their ministries.

As far as we know, Leeds was the first religious house that Bartholomew joined. I’m not sure at what age young men and women joined religious orders at that time, but my research into recusant families suggests that it was usually in their middle teens. Even so, this doesn’t help us with determining Bartholomew’s date of birth, since although we know when he left Leeds priory – 1509 – we don’t know when he joined. Presumably, since canons tended to be priests, and one assumes that some years training was required before ordination, it was a number of years before then.

William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, by Hans Holbein

William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, by Hans Holbein

I haven’t found any records for Leeds priory during Bartholomew’s time there, but two years after he left, Archbishop Warham of Canterbury made a visitation. According to a county history:

Richard Chetham, prior, said that all was well; John Bredgar, formerly prior, was now vicar of Marden, and rarely came to the monastery, but thought that all things were well; and Thomas Vincent, sub-prior, said that much had been reformed, but much still remained to be reformed by the prior and sub-prior. […] Besides the eight canons already named there were twelve others, making a total of twenty in addition to the prior.

We’ve come across Thomas Vincent before. In 1513, on the death of Thomas Pattenden, he would take over as prior of Combwell, just a few miles from Lamberhurst. There was obviously a fair amount of movement of personnel between the Augustinian priories of southern England.

St Mary Overy 

We don’t know why Bartholomew Fowle transferred from Leeds to the priory of St Mary Overy at Southwark in 1509, the year in which Henry VIII came to the throne. Was this a promotion of some kind? If so, it wasn’t yet to a senior role in the community, since that would not come until 1513, four years after Bartholomew’s arrival in Southwark. According to one source, Bartholomew Lynsted alias Fowle was elected sub-prior in January 1513, but there is a suggestion that he was promoted again to prior very soon afterwards, perhaps as early as February in the same year. Robert Michell had been prior from 1499 until his resignation in 1512, when he was succeeded by Robert Shouldham, whose term of office appears to have been less than a year, though the reason for this is unclear.

We only know a little about Bartholomew’s time as prior of Southwark, which coincided with the tumultuous years of Henry VIII’s reign. In previous posts I’ve quoted the account of his intervention at the chapter of the Canons Regular held at Leicester in 1518, when he called ‘with every outward demonstration of trouble and sorrow’ for a ‘stricter and verbal observance’ of their rule.

London Bridge in the 16th century (via

London Bridge in the 16th century (by Peter Jackson, via

At the same conference a letter from Cardinal Wolsey was read, ‘observing with regret that so few men of that religion applied themselves to study’. It seems this criticism could not be applied to Bartholomew Fowle, who was said to have been ‘a very learned man’, and not just in matters of religion. He was the author of the book De Ponte Londini in which he popularised a tradition about the origins of London Bridge, subsequently repeated in Stow’s Survey of London. According to one source:

In the early part of the Saxon times there is no notice of any town or other place on this spot ; but a tradition of Bartholomew Linsted, or Fowle, Iast prior of St. Mary Overie, preserved by Stow (Survey of London, book i, chapter xiii), notices that the profits of the ferry were devoted by the owner, “a maiden named Mary,” to the foundation and endowment of a nunnery, or “house of sisters,” afterwards converted into a college of priests, by whom a bridge of timber was built, which with the aid of the citizens was afterwards converted into one of stone.

Subsequent historians cast doubt on Bartholomew’s theory, but a recent author has reassessed its validity.

In 1535 the annual value of Southark priory was declared to be £624 6s. 6d, with its rents in Southwark alone realising £283 4s. 6d. On November 11th of that year there was a great procession by command of the king, at which the canons were present, with their crosses, candlesticks, and vergers before them, all singing the litany. However, if this was a sign of royal favour towards St Mary Overy, it was to prove shortlived. 


In 1531, following the dispute with Rome over his desire to divorce Katharine of Aragon, Henry VIII had declared himself Supreme Head of the Church of England. Five years later the king, through the agency of his chief enforcer Thomas Cromwell, began the process of suppressing the country’s religious houses and appropriating their property. According to Wriostheley’s Chronicle for the year 1539:

Also this yeare, in Octobre, the priories of Sainct Marie Overis, in Southwarke, and Sainct Bartholomewes, in Smithfield, was suppressed into the Kinges handes, and the channons putt out, and changed to seculer priestes, and all the landes and goodes [escheated] to the Kinges use. 

The priory of St Mary Overy was ‘surrendered’ to Thomas Cromwell’s agents on 27th October 1539. Cromwell himself signed the pension list, which granted £8 each per annum to two of the canons and £6 to nine others. There were eleven annuitants in all, besides the prior, with their pensions totalling £70 in all. At least one source claims that Bartholomew Fowle quibbled over his original grant of £80 per annum and managed to have it increased to £100.

Southwark priory buildings in about 1700

Southwark priory buildings in about 1700

In addition, Bartholomew was provided with a house ‘within the close where Dr Michell was dwelling’. Robert Michell was the last prior but one before Bartholomew, and had probably resigned due to ill health or old age. A certain William Michell, almost certainly a relative, had witnessed the will of Thomas Fowle of Lamberhurst, whom I believe to have been the elder brother of my ancestor Gabriel, in 1525. Thomas left a number of bequests to the priory church at Southwark.

In 1545 the priory buildings and grounds came into the possession of Sir Anthony Browne, and there were complaints in the manor court of Southwark that he had opened a public bowling green in the close and was allowing gambling there. Although he was a staunch Roman Catholic, Browne remained a close friend of Henry VIII and became the owner of much former monastic property. His eldest son, Anthony, was created Viscount Montague in the time of Queen Mary. It seems probable that Lord Montague lived in what had previously been the house of the prior of St. Mary Overy and utilised the other buildings for stabling and so forth. He died in 1593, leaving to his wife, Magdalen (see this post), his mansion house of ‘St. Mary Overies,’ for her life, with reversion to his grandson Anthony.

The area around the former priory buildings became known as Montague Close and, as I’ve written elsewhere, in the late 16th and early 17th century, it became a refuge for Catholic recusants, under the protection of the Browne family.


There is evidence that Bartholomew Fowle remained in London after his enforced retirement, and also that he continued to serve as a priest. For example, in 1543 Dame Joan Milbourne, the widow of a former lord mayor of London, bequeathed money in her will to a number of priests to come to her burial at the church of St Edmund Lombard Street and to pray for her soul. She left the sum of £6 13s 6d ‘to my very good friend Bartholomew Linsted some time prior of St Mary Overies, to pray for my soul’.

From this, we can conclude that Bartholomew Fowle was well connected with the gentry of London and that, despite the religious changes of Henry’s reign, Catholic practices such as prayers for the dead were still popular.

The date of Bartholomew’s death is unknown, and I’ve failed to find any trace of a will, but a number of sources confirm that he was still receiving his pension in 1553. In other words, he lived for at least another fifteen years or so after his expulsion from St Mary Overy.

This means that Bartholomew Fowle long outlived Nicholas Fowle, who died in 1523, and Nicholas’ son Thomas, who died in 1525. Like my ancestor Gabriel, who died in 1555, Bartholomew lived long enough to witness the brief restoration of Catholicism under Queen Mary.

There was a Bartholomew Fowle living in Boughton Monchelsea, Kent, in 1565, about whom we know because of an accusation of incest with his daughter, but it seems extremely unlikely that this was the same person, despite the location.

Family connections?

Does Bartholomew’s survival until at least 1553 provide us with any clues about his date of birth, and therefore about which generation of the Fowle family he belonged to? Life expectancy rates are not much help: many adults died in their thirties or forties in the 16th century, and 50 and 60 were reckoned to be good ages to reach – but there were some cases of survival to the age of 80 or more. If we suppose that Bartholomew was about 30 when he became prior of Southwark in 1513, then he would have been 70 in 1553, which seems reasonable. In that case he would have been born in about 1483. If on the other hand it was possible to lead a religious house at a younger age – say 25? – then he might have been born closer to 1490. On the other hand, he might have been older when he became prior, and survived into his eighties, meaning that he belonged to an earlier generation.

In other words, it’s technically possible that Bartholomew was born late enough to be a son of Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst, or early enough to be his contemporary, perhaps his brother. My initial information about Bartholomew came from a footnote in Walter Renshaw’s history of the Byne family of Sussex, in which (page 99) he has this to say about my ancestor Gabriel Fowle: ‘He was son of Nicholas Fowle by Joan (Vince), and brother of William Fowle of Riverhall, with whom the pedigree in Berry’s Suss. Gen. commences, and of Bartholomew, the last prior of St Saviour’s, Southwark’.

Riverhall, Wadhurst, home of the Fowle family, in the 18th century, via

Riverhall, Wadhurst, former home of the Fowle family, in the 18th century, via

Renshaw cites as his source for these claims ‘Harleian MSS, 1562, fol[io] 89a and 90’, which is in fact the record of the Visitations of Sussex. This contains a pedigree of the Fowle family that is replete with dubious information. For example, it claims that Nicholas was the son of Thomas Fowle of Lamberhurst , who is said to have died in the seventeenth year of the reign of Henry VII (i.e. 1502), but of whom I have found no trace. The same pedigree claims that Nicholas was married to Joan Vince and gives him four sons: William of Riverhall, Gabriel, Bartholomew and Robert Fowle of Carshalton. My fellow researcher Bill Green has highlighted some of the problems with this information in an article in the journal of the Sussex Family History Group (March 2012). On a more trivial level, the pedigree mistakenly states that the daughter of Gabriel’s son Magnus daughter was the wife of someone named ‘Bird’ of Burwash, when in fact we know that the person Agnes Fowle married was Edward Byne. In other words, the source on which Renshaw depends for his information about Bartholomew Fowle is inherently unreliable. Incidentally, there is another example in the same footnote that shows Renshaw, for all his meticulous and groundbreaking research, relying on unconfirmed sources, when he claims that Richard Lucke of Mayfield, the father of Alice who married Magnus Byne, made his will in 1593, when in fact (as I have shown) the person who did so was a different Richard Lucke of Wadhurst, and Alice’s father had died some forty years earlier.

On her family history website Mandy Willard includes this extract from Arms of Sussex families by J.F.Huxford:

In 1427, during the reign of King Henry VI, a certain Ricardus Foull was summonded to parliament for East Grinstead.  Whether or not he was an ancestor of the Fowles I cannot say, for they are said to descend from a brother of Bartholomew Fowle, last prior of St. Mary Overie in Southwark.  They were among the ironmasters of Sussex and a forge at Riverhall between Wadhurst and Frant was worked by them.

Who was the brother of Bartholomew Fowle from whom the Fowles of Sussex were said to descend? Was it Nicholas, or was Huxford simply relying on the Visitation records, which claimed that William Fowle of Riverhall was the brother of Bartholomew?

Perhaps the strongest argument against Bartholomew being the brother of Gabriel and the son of Nicholas is not chronology, but locality. If Bartholomew really was ‘of Lynsted’, then it’s unlikely that he was the son of Nicholas, unless the latter had moved all the way across Kent to Lamberhurst at some point during his adult life.

It seems that determining Bartholomew’s precise place in the Fowle family tree will depend on resolving some of the other puzzles that still surround the early history of the family.

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The Fowles and the Pattendens

Yesterday I reviewed what we know about the immediate family of my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle of Southover near Lewes in Sussex, who died in 1555. It’s almost certain that Gabriel’s father was the Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst who died in 1523, that his mother’s name was Elizabeth, and that he had older brothers named Thomas and John.

Lamberhurst parish church and treetops (via

Lamberhurst parish church and treetops (via

It also seems quite likely that Gabriel’s paternal grandfather was William Fowle of Lamberhurst who made his will in 1487, since the latter mentions a son named Nicholas, and there are other points of connection between the two men. (I’m grateful to my fellow researcher Bill Green for pointing me in the direction of William Fowle, and for other information about William and Nicholas reported in this post.) One of those points of connection concerns the Patynden, Patenden or Pattenden family. For example, one of the witnesses to Nicholas Fowle’s will was a certain Walter Pattenden. Walter seems to have been the son of William Patynden of Benenden, with whom Nicholas Fowle had dealings in 1493, as reported in this record held at East Sussex Record Office:

William Haler of Brenchley, Kent, to Alisaunder Culpeper, esq, Harry Darrell, gent, Nicholas Fowle, John Foule of Lamberhurst, Kent, and William Patynden, the younger, of Benenden, Kent 

Half of 2 messuages, 3 gardens, 15 pieces of land called Kyngewodys and Dungates in Lamberhurst

Refers to indenture of even date. Recites that William Hogekyn of Lamberhurst, now deceased, bought from David Gyffray of the same, deceased, land called Mydremedys in Lamberhurst for £20. WH paid £12 but died intestate leaving £8 unpaid. WH left issue William, Agnes and Elizabeth under age. Jane, widow of WH married John Chowry, who with Alisaunder Culpeper and Harry Darrell arranged that the lands should be saved for the children of WH. William Haler, as feoffee of William Hogekyn paid £8 by mortgaging the above premises to Nicholas Fowle. William Hogekyn, the younger, is to repay £8 at age 21.

One of the witnesses to the will of William Fowle in 1487 was Jacobus or James ‘Pattyenden’, who would make his own will a year later. William Patynden, the father of the Walter Pattenden who witnessed Nicholas Fowle’s will, made his will in 1507. Interestingly, he ordained five marks to the marriage of Joan Fowle, daughter of Nicholas Fowle. As Bill Green comments, this seems to indicate a familial tie between the two families, and it’s possible (though not yet proven) that Nicholas Fowle’s wife was born a Pattenden. The fact that Nicholas fails to mention a daughter in his will of 1523 need not concern us: she may have died in the intervening sixteen years.

Parish church of St George, Benenden

Parish church of St George, Benenden

Further work needs to be done to establish the precise relationships between Walter, William, James and the other Patyndens for whom there are records. In the meantime, I came across an intriguing reference in the will of James Patynden, which might hint at another kind of connection between the Patyndens and the Fowles. James Patynden makes bequests to Thomas Pattenden, prior of Combwell, and the same man, ‘Sir Thomas Patenden Prior of Combewell’ is a witness to the will, together with ‘Sir William Dalton Vicar of Lamberherst’, and a certain John Shendefeld. This Thomas Patenden seems not to be identical with James’ son Thomas who is mentioned elsewhere in the will, and it’s more likely he was James’ contemporary, perhaps his brother?

Combwell Priory in 1809 (see footnote)

Combwell Priory in 1809 via (see footnote)

The priory of St Mary Magdalen, Combwell, was just five miles from Lamberhurst and about ten miles from Benenden. Like St Mary Overy in Southwark, and Leeds Priory, eighteen miles away in northern Kent, Combwell was a foundation of Augustinian or Austin canons. Thomas Patenden was prior there from about 1480 to his death in 1513. In the year before his death, the priory was subject to a visitation by William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury. The account in the Victoria County History does not reflect very well on Thomas Patenden:

Archbishop Warham made a visitation of the priory in 1512. Thomas Patenden had been prior for thirty-two years, and there were six other canons, who stated in their evidence that the infirmary was in great need of repairs and nobody attended to the sick, who had to lie in the dormitory. They had not enough food and drink or clothing, the prior never rendered any accounts, and there was no teacher of grammar. The manors of Benenden and Thornham needed great repairs. John Lanny said that the prior and convent laid him under a debt of £40 in an obligation without any condition to two outsiders, now remaining in the hands of the minister of Mottenden, and arranged that the house should not be indebted by this. The prior said that the obligation was cancelled, and was ordered to show it to the archbishop; and he was also ordered to make a proper account and inventory, to make sufficient repairs to the infirmary before All Saints and to correct the other points mentioned. 

Interestingly, Thomas Patenden’s successor as prior was a certain Thomas Vyncent. Gabriel Fowle would be involved in a Chancery case involving Hugh Vyncent in the late 1530s or early 1540s (see my last post): were the two men related? Even more speculatively, some sources claim that Nicholas Fowle’s (first?) wife was Joan Vince: might this have been a misreading of Vincent or Vyncent? Thomas Vyncent had the misfortune to be prior when Combwell was suppressed in 1536, though he was able to retire with an annual pension of £10. The site and possessions were granted in 1537 to Thomas Culpeper – perhaps a relative of the Alexander Culpeper with whom Nicholas Fowle had dealings in 1493? After Thomas Culpeper’s attainder (on what grounds is not made clear), Combwell passed in 1542 to Sir John Gage ‘in tail male’. Gage, who lived at West Firle near Lewes, held a number of important offices at court during the reigns of Henry VII and VIII and bore the train for Queen Mary at her marriage to Philip of Spain. Ironically, perhaps, given that he benefited from the dissolution of at least one monastery, he was a loyal Catholic and his descendants were noted recusants during Elizabeth’s reign.

Augustinian canon (via

Augustinian canon (via

So the Pattendens’ experience parallels in some ways that of their Fowle neighbours and possible relations. They too had a family member who was prior of a community of Austin canons: Bartholomew Fowle, the last prior of St Mary Overy, who had previously been at Leeds priory, with which Combwell seems to have had reciprocal ties, at least historically, as in this further extract from the above account:

The prior of Combwell was visitor with the prior of Leeds of the Augustinian houses in the dioceses of Canterbury and Rochester in 1311 and 1317 (fn. 21); and in 1353 the priory of Combwell was visited by the priors of Leeds and Tonbridge.

However, I think it’s fair to say that the visitations at Southwark did not produce the same kind of critical report as at Combwell. On the contrary, Bartholomew Fowle seems to have been an advocate of stricter observance of the monastic rule, as reflected in this account:

An important chapter of the canons regular of St. Austin was held in their chapter-house, Leicester, on Monday, 16 June, 1518, when one hundred and seventy joined in the procession, of whom thirty-six were prelati or heads of houses. As night came on they adjourned till Tuesday morning at seven, and when they again assembled, the prior of Southwark, with every outward demonstration of trouble and sorrow, appealed for a stricter and verbal observance of their rule. His manner and address excited much stir, but he was replied to by many, particularly by the prior of Merton. On the first day of this chapter a letter had been read from Cardinal Wolsey observing with regret that so few men of that religion applied themselves to study. On Wednesday, the concluding day of the chapter, Henry VIII and his then queen were received into the order. 

The ‘then queen’ was Katharine of Aragon, whose ‘divorce’ from Henry fifteen years later would precipitate England’s schism from Rome, and indirectly lead to the suppression of the monasteries and the surrender in 1539, by Bartholomew Fowle, of St Mary Overy to the agents of Thomas Cromwell. Bartholomew was granted a pension of £100 and a house within the close at Southwark where Robert Michell, the previous prior, was living.

It remains to be seen whether there is any significance in the fact that both the Fowles and the Patyndens had such close ties to the same religious order.

(Footnote: The picture of Combwell Abbey featured in this post was the work of the artist Paul Amsinck who was, I believe, a relative – perhaps the son – of the London-based German merchant of that name, to whom was apprenticed John Godfrey Schwartz, who in 1780 would marry Frances Collins, the daughter of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Collins née Gibson and later Holdsworth. The picture was engraved by Letitia Byrne.)


In writing this post, I had of course forgotten yet another possible Augustinian link in my family history. Only a couple of weeks ago, I speculated that Thomas Lucke, curate at Litlington in Sussex, and the uncle of my 12 x great grandmother Alice Fowle née Lucke, may have been the person of that name who was a canon at the Augustinian priory at Michelham until its dissolution in 1537.


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The family of Gabriel Fowle revisited

My recent research into the family of my maternal 12 x great grandmother Alice Fowle née Lucke of Mayfield, Sussex, has re-awakened my interest in the Fowle family. I’m connected to them through my 11 x great grandfather Edward Byne of Burwash (died 1614), who married Agnes Fowle (died 1626), daughter of Magnus and Alice. Magnus Fowle, who died in 1595, was the only son of Gabriel Fowle of Southover, near Lewes, who may have been the master of the Free Grammar School there, and who died in 1555. Gabriel was my 13 x great grandfather.

Parish church of St Mary the Virgin, Lamberhurst

Parish church of St Mary the Virgin, Lamberhurst

Gabriel Fowle was born in about 1507, in the penultimate year of the reign of Henry VII. He was the son of Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst (then in Sussex, now in Kent) and his wife Elizabeth. They were my 14 x great grandparents. Nicholas made his will in 1522/3, in the sixth year of the reign of Henry VIII, appointing Elizabeth and Gabriel as his executors. From the will, we know that Nicholas had two others sons, Thomas and John, who both seem to have been older than Gabriel.

Some time ago I transcribed and discussed the will of Thomas Fowle of Lamberhurst, who died in 1525, believing at the time that he was Nicholas’ father and thus my 15 x great grandfather. A number of online sources had led me to this conclusion, but those sources also turned out to be mistaken about other aspects of Fowle family history: for example, they repeated the common error that Nicholas’ wife was a certain Joan Vince, when his will clearly states that his wife’s name was Elizabeth.

I now think it more likely that the Thomas Fowle who made his will in 1525 was actually Nicholas’ son and the brother of my ancestor Gabriel. What is the evidence for this? Firstly, on the negative side, there is some evidence that Nicholas’ father was a certain William Fowle, rather than Thomas (I’m indebted to my fellow Fowle family researcher Bill Green for this information). Secondly, from his will it would appear that Thomas Fowle of Lamberhurst was quite a young man when he died: he mentions an unmarried daughter and a son who is not yet twenty-one. Thirdly, Thomas’ daughter is named Elizabeth, so may have been named after his mother, Nicholas’ wife.

Unfortunately, Thomas’ will is quite brief and shows evidence of having been written in a hurry – the consequence of a sudden illness, perhaps? As a result, there is no mention of any relatives beyond his immediate family, nor of any specific properties that might enable us to connect him with Nicholas. However, the fact that Nicholas had a son named Thomas, who was probably born in about 1490 and would therefore have been a young married man with a young family in the 1520s, makes it likely that this is the same person.

St Mary Overy in the 17th century by Wenceslas Hollar

St Mary Overy, Southwark by Wenceslas Hollar

Even if Thomas turns out to be my 14 x great uncle rather than my 15 x great grandfather, I remain fascinated by his tantalisingly brief will, and particularly by his connection with the priory of St Mary Overy in Southwark. Although he describes himself as ‘Thomas Fowle dwelling in the p[ar]ishe of Lamberest [Lamberhurst] in the countie of Kent’, he wishes to be buried ‘within the church yarde of Saint Margaret in Southwerk’, all of his religious bequests are to the same church, and two priests there are among the witnesses to the will. Thomas also makes a bequest to ‘my gosteley fader’. Since writing about Thomas’ will a year ago, I’ve seen this term mentioned in other contexts and can confirm that it refers to the writer’s spiritual father or mentor. For example, in Act 2 Scene 3 of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Romeo addresses Friar Lawrence as ‘my ghostly Father’. My knowledge of early-sixteenth-century lay religiosity is sketchy, but from the evidence of his will I would conclude that Thomas Lamberhurst was quite a pious individual.

It seems likely that Thomas Fowle’s association with Southwark had something to do with Bartholomew Fowle being the prior of St Mary Overy, of which the church of St Margaret was a part. Some sources claim that Bartholomew was the son of Nicholas, and therefore Thomas’ brother, but in an earlier post I cast doubt on this theory. For one thing, Bartholomew Fowle was also known as Bartholomew Linsted, because he was apparently born in the Kent village of that name, which was about thirty miles from Lamberhurst. We also know that Bartholomew was elected sub-prior at Southwark in 1513, having transferred there from Leeds priory in 1509. Now, it’s not altogether impossible that Nicholas Fowle had a son who was old enough to hold monastic office in 1513. And the fact that Bartholomew is not mentioned in Nicholas’ will is not necessarily conclusive: my excursions into recusant history have shown that relatives who had taken religious vows were not always named in wills (though in the case of recusants, these omissions may have been for reasons of legality or security). However, given his dates, it seems more likely that Bartholomew was a more distant relative of Thomas Fowle’s – perhaps an uncle or cousin? For now, Bartholomew’s precise connection to my Fowle ancestors remains unproven. Nevertheless, when Thomas Fowle made his will, Bartholomew Fowle had been prior of St Mary Overy for twelve years, and it’s possible that he is the ‘high master’ of St Margaret’s to whom Thomas made one of his bequests. Could he also be Thomas’ ‘gosteley fader’?

We know that Thomas’ brother Gabriel, my 13 x great grandfather, was not yet eighteen years old when his father Nicholas died in 1523. His life thereafter is something of a mystery, but we know that he was certainly living in Lewes by 1529 at the latest. He was named in a case in Chancery that was heard some time between 1518 and 1529. Gabriel and a certain John Fortey were defendants in a case concerning tenements with gardens in East Porte, late in the ownership of one John Salisbery of Lewes. (I assume East Porte is identical with the modern Eastport Lane in Southover, the part of Lewes where Gabriel is said to have lived.) The plaintiffs were Henry Hylles of Lewes, a yeoman, and his wife Agnes, who was the great granddaughter of the said John Salisbery. Some time between 1538 and 1544 Gabriel Fowle or Voule was again the defendant in a Chancery case concerning ‘detention of deeds relating to messuages and gardens in Lewes Cliff’. (Cliffe is a district to the east of Lewes) The plaintiffs were Hugh Vyncent and his wife Anne, daughter and executrix of John May. Gabriel was described as the supervisor of May’s will.

Priory of St Pancras, Lewes (via

Priory of St Pancras, Lewes (via

Walter Renshaw, in his history of the Byne family, suggests that Gabriel Fowle was master of the Free Grammar School in Lewes. If so, then it seems likely that he himself received some form of higher education, though I’ve yet to find his name in any university records. The school had been founded in 1513 by the will of Agnes Morley and was attached to the Cluniac Priory of St Pancras, which was also in Southover. The priory was surrendered to the Crown in 1537, at the time of the Dissolution of the monasteries, and became the property of Thomas Cromwell, the agent of its destruction. However, the Free Grammar School seems to have survived these events.

Curiously, Renshaw also found records from 1551 that describe Gabriel Fowle as ‘of Burwash’ and which suggest that he often acted as proctor in the court there. Burwash is twenty miles or so east of Lewes, but only about ten miles south of Lamberhurst. It’s possible that Gabriel inherited property there from his father, and that his connection to the area helps to explain how his son Magnus came to marry a woman from nearby Mayfield. Burwash was, of course, the home of my 11 x great grandfather Edward Byne, who would marry Magnus’ daughter Agnes.

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The Lucke family in the Mayfield Manor Court Rolls

In recent posts I’ve been attempting to trace my links to the Lucke family of Mayfield, Sussex. I’m now fairly sure that my 12 x great grandmother Alice Fowle, the wife of Magnus Fowle, was the daughter of Richard Lucke of Mayfield, who probably died some time in the 1550s. It also seems apparent that there was some link between Richard and the John Lucke of Mayfield who died in 1549, though the latter makes no mention of Richard, or indeed of any other relatives beyond his immediate family, in his will. And there were almost certainly connections between the Mayfield Luckes and those with the same surname in nearby Wadhurst.

Ruins of Mayfield Palace in the 18th century (via

Ruins of Mayfield Palace in the 18th century (via

Thanks to some generous assistance from a fellow researcher, I’ve come across a number of references to members of the Lucke family in the Manor Court Rolls of Mayfield from the late 1540s and early 1550s. For example, in the court held at Mayfield on 1st December 1546, in the thirty-eighth year of Henry VIII’s reign, John Barham ‘surrendered into the lord’s hands one croft of land called Fair field containing by estimation 10 acres of land of old assart lying with its appurtenances in Mayfield in Bakehese ward, to the use of John Luck of Durgates, Edward Luck and Robert Wembourne who were admitted.’

There are a number of connections between my ancestors and the Barham family, and the Barhams would later be linked by marriage with both the Fowle and Byne families. Closer to the date of this court case, the first wife of my 13 x great grandfather Christopher Maunser of Hightown, Wadhurst, was Mildred Barham, and she was in all probability a relative (perhaps a daughter or a sister?) of the John Barham mentioned here. As for Robert Wembourne or Wenborne, he was Christopher Maunser’s son-in-law, the husband of his daughter Mildred. In my last post, I noted that Robert’s father John and Christopher Maunser had something in common: their wills were both witnessed by Thomas Hoth, a priest who may have been an itinerant protestant preacher and possible martyr under Queen Mary.

16th century manorial court rolls

16th century manorial court rolls

We’ve come across the two members of the Lucke family mentioned in this record before: or rather, two men with the same names. ‘John Lucke of Dargatte’ was one of the beneficiaries of the will of Nicholas Fowle of Wadhurst, who died in 1600 (as well as being related to my ancestor Magnus Fowle, Nicholas was married to a member of the Maunser or Manser family). The ‘John Lucke of Durgates’ who appears in the manor court rolls half a century before must belong to an earlier generation of the same family. (Nicholas Fowle also bequeaths property to a John Barham, presumably a descendant of the person of that name in the same court rolls.) Durgates was a property in Wadhurst, and still appears on modern maps as an area to the west of the town. I believe that this John Lucke is not identical with the John Lucke of Mayfield who died in 1549, and that the reference to his property is made in order to distinguish him from his Mayfield namesake, whose name appears in other records of the manorial court. For example, on 12th January 1546/7, just over a month after the case cited above, ‘John Luck’ came to the Mayfield court and ‘submitted himself to the lord’s pardon because he has cut down two willow trees upon the lord’s common at Ryden and Byshetwood.’ Perhaps this is the ‘other’ John Lucke – the one who died in 1549?

As for Edward Lucke, the only person of this name that I’ve come across before is the brother of Richard Lucke of Wadhurst, who died in 1593, but once again this was more than fifty years after the manorial court case.

In the court held at Mayfield on 10th April 1547, in the first year of the reign of Edward VI (his father Henry VIII had died at the end of January), there is a reference to a Richard Luck, mentioned as owning land close to some property that is the subject of the case. A number of other landowners came to court at this time to surrender six and a half acres of land ‘into the lord’s hands…to the use of Richard and John Luck who were admitted.’ This seems to suggest a close relationship between Richard and John: were they brothers, cousins, or father and son?

At the same session of the Mayfield court, Richard Lucke was involved, together with William Penkhurst, in a separate case concerning another plot of land. Penkhurst would be named some years later as a defendant in the Chancery case brought by Magnus and Alice Fowle concerning Richard Lucke’s will.

Farms at Mayfield (via geograph)

Farms at Mayfield (via geograph)

On 10th December 1547 the Mayfield Hundred was held and twelve men appointed to a jury ‘for the lord king’. The list includes Richard Luck and ‘John Luk of Dorgatts’, as well as other familiar names such as John Barham, William Penkherst and John Maynard.

‘John Luck of Durgates’ is mentioned again in the record of the manorial court held on 10th April 1548. The record of the court session held just over a month later, on 16th May 1548, is intriguing. Three ‘amercements’ (fines imposed by a court or by peers) are listed, all of them involving the sum of three pence, and two of them involving Richard and John Luck. In one, ‘John starts proceedings with Richard Luck in a plea of taking away and the illegal detention of draught animals. In another ‘Richard Luck starts proceedings himself with John Luck, in a plea of taking away and the illegal detention of draught animals’. In other words, both men seem to be accusing the other of the same offence. Was this a dispute and a falling out between brothers, perhaps? And if so, does it explain the absence of Richard’s name from the will of the John Lucke who died in 1549?

In the record of the court held on 12th January 1550/1, ‘John Luck of Dorgats’ is listed among the tenants of ‘Hadley virgate’. At the same court session it was noted that in the previous December a widow named Alice Boniface ‘surrendered into the lord’s hands one messuage with a garden adjoining with the appurtenances in Mayfield, to the use of Richard Luck and his wife Agnes who were admitted’. The record goes on:

To hold by them, the heirs and assigns of the same Agnes at the lord’s will according to the customs of the manor through the rents and services there owing and customary and they paid 4d as relief and they give the lord 6d as a fine and they made fidelity and have seisin through the rod. Then nothing comes to the lord as a heriot because they have no animals.

(A ‘heriot’ was a death duty, usually in the form of a horse, owed by a tenant to a nobleman.) So these manorial court rolls have provided me with at least one significant new piece of information: the name of my 13 x great grandmother, Agnes Lucke. This might explain why Magnus and Alice Fowle gave their only daughter, my 11 x great grandmother, the name Agnes (though Magnus also had a sister of that name).

John Luck of Dorgates and Edward Luck are mentioned together in the record of the manorial court held on the following day, 13th January 1550/1, suggesting that these two men may have been related, and perhaps connecting Edward to the Wadhurst rather than the Mayfield Luckes.

At the Mayfield Hundred held on 30th April 1551, Richard Luck’s name appears in a list of eight men ‘amerced’ the princely sum of twenty shillings ‘which has been exacted from each at the taking the oath before the jury of 12 and they absolutely refused’. Was it the fine they refused – or the oath? The record is tantalisingly brief, and I would be interested to know more about this act of defiance on the part of my ancestor.

Significantly, none of the eight men thus fined appears in the list of twelve men ‘for the lord king’ (presumably the jury) that follows. However, a certain ‘John Luke of Fair chorche’ is among the twelve. Who exactly is this John Lucke? And where was ‘Fair chorche’ – or perhaps Fairchurch? Could he be the son of the John Lucke who died in 1549? Although the latter failed to mention a son in his will, he does describe himself as John Lucke ‘thelder’ (i.e. the elder).

Richard Lucke and William Penkhurst are again mentioned together in the record of the manor court held on the same day, 30th April 1551. Richard obviously overcame his resistance to serving on the manorial jury, as his name is included in the list of twelve men ‘appointed for the lord king’ at the hundred held on 4th October that year. Among his fellow jurors are both ‘John Luck of Dorgates’ and ‘John Luck of Fayrechorche’, thus confirming that these were two different men. The jury also included Richard Maynard, the son-in-law of the John Lucke who died in 1549, as well as Robert Wenbourne and John Thorpe, both sons-in-law of my 13 x great grandfather Christopher Maunser of Hightown (a rider to this record notes that John Thorpe and two others were ‘sellers of ale in Wadhurst’ who were to be ‘amerced’ for two pence each.)

This seems to be the last reference to Richard Lucke in the Mayfield manorial court rolls. It tallies with my own theory that Richard died some time in the early 1550s and that the Chancery case in which his will is mentioned dates from some time in the middle years of that decade.

What else can we conclude from these valuable records? Besides the important information about his wife’s name, these court rolls also tell us something about Richard Lucke’s property and status in the Mayfield community in the 1540s and early 1550s. He was obviously one of a small group of local yeoman farmers and a closer analysis of his properties might, in time, help us to understand more about him and his family. John Lucke (of Mayfield, not Durgates) was clearly a close relative, but the precise nature of their relationship remains unclear, and while it seems likely that he is the person whose will was proved in 1549, this can’t yet be confirmed.

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Was the witness to my ancestor’s will a renegade priest and radical preacher?

In the process of exploring the last will and testament of John Lucke of Mayfield, Sussex, who died in 1549, I had cause to look again at the will of Christopher Maunser of Hightown, Wadhurst, who died four years earlier: this was because the Wenborne family was mentioned in both wills. Christopher Maunser or Manser was my 13 x great grandfather; his son Robert had a son named John, who was the father of Mary Manser who married Stephen Byne of Burwash: they were my 10 x great grandparents.

Christopher Maunser’s will shares a number of common features with that of his contemporary and near neighbour John Lucke. Both men begin their wills by bequeathing their souls ‘to almighty God, our lady Saint Mary and all the (glorious) company of heaven’. In my discussion of John Lucke’s will I cited this preamble as evidence of continuing attachment to Catholicism, despite the religious changes wrought during the latter years of the reign of Henry VIII, who died in 1547. However, a discovery that I made yesterday has undermined this conclusion, certainly in the case of Christopher Maunser.

Protestant preaching in the early 16th century (via

Protestant preaching in the early 16th century (via

In my original discussion of Christopher’s will, almost a year ago, I remarked on the fact that a certain ‘Sir Thomas Hothe, preste’ was among the witnesses to the document. I noted that the same man would also witness the will of John Wenbourne, who was probably the father-in-law of Christopher Maunser’s daughter Mildred, just over a year later. I also mentioned that I’d been unable to find Hothe in any clergy records, despite Hothe or Hoth being a fairly common name in that part of Sussex at the time. But yesterday I came across a source that appears to solve the mystery of Thomas Hoth’s identity.

In a chapter on ‘Richard Woodman, Sussex Protestantism and the Construction of Marytrdom’ in Art, Literature and Religion in Early Modern Sussex: Culture and Conflict (Ashgate, 2014), Paul Quinn of the University of Chichester mentions a Thomas Hoth who was formerly the precentor of the Augustinian New Priory in Hastings, but in 1533 was charged ‘with rejecting purgatory, tithes and payment on the four offering days, and of supporting clerical marriage, a vernacular translation of the New Testament, and justification by faith’. It’s possible that the same Thomas Hoth went on to become an itinerant protestant preacher and that he may have radicalised a number of the Sussex martyrs who died during Queen Mary’s reign. Quinn also suggests that Hoth may himself have suffered for his beliefs, perhaps being identical with the Thomas Ahoth who is listed in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. (Hoth’s story is a reminder that a number of the early protestant preachers – including Martin Luther himself – were former monks, and that I should perhaps be cautious in assuming that my probable ancestor Thomas Lucke, rector of Litlington, who died in 1551 and may have been a member of another former Augustinian priory, at Michelham, necessarily retained Catholic sympathies.)

The burning of Richard Woodman and other protestant martyrs in Lewes in 1557

The burning of Richard Woodman and other protestant martyrs at Lewes in 1557

Paul Quinn connects Thomas Hoth with the burgeoning protestant community in East Grinstead, just twenty miles from Wadhurst. It’s possible that, as an intinerant preacher proselytising for the new faith, Hoth visited a number of East Sussex parishes and the fact of his witnessing Christopher Maunser’s and John Wenborne’s wills could be evidence that they were among his converts. If so, then the use of a traditional Catholic preamble in Christopher Maunser’s will may provide an interesting example of a transitional phase between old and new forms of piety. Of course, as I’ve noted before, it’s important to remember the formulaic and conventional character of will preambles. At the same time, it’s probably significant that Maunser’s will includes none of the traditional bequests for altar lights to be found in John Lucke’s will, or the requests for masses to be said for his soul that occur in the will of another of my 13 x great grandfathers, Gabriel Fowle of Southover, who died ten years after him.

In previous posts I’ve expressed my curiosity about those of my ancestors who appeared to hold on to their Catholic faith – whether openly, like Gabriel Fowle, or apparently covertly, like his son Magnus (my 12 x great grandfather) – through the successive religious revolutions of the sixteenth century. But I’m also fascinated by the process by which most of my Sussex forbears gradually moved away from the beliefs of their forefathers, so that by the mid-seventeenth century many of them were out-and-out Calvinists and Puritans. This flickering glimpse of the life of the Thomas Hoth, renegade priest and itinerant preacher, may provide some insight into the first steps in that journey.

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