Members of the Byne family began moving to London from Sussex in the second half of the seventeenth century. My 8 x great grandfather John Byne, a stationer, probably arrived in the city as an apprentice in the late 1660s or early 1670s, while his older brother Stephen, an ‘upholder’ or upholsterer, must have settled there a few years earlier. And their cousin, John Manser, an apothecary, was probably in London before either of them.


Parish church of St John the Baptist, Clayton, Sussex

John and Stephen Byne were the sons of Magnus Byne (1615 – 1671), the rector of Clayton-cum-Keymer in Sussex, and his first wife Anne. Educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, Magnus was the son of yeoman farmer Stephen Byne of Burwash (1586-1684) and his wife Mary Manser (born c. 1590). Another of Stephen’s sons, Edward (1623 – 1682), was also a Cambridge-educated clergyman, and something of a Puritan agitator during the Civil War years. Magnus’ own agitation was limited to a scathing diatribe, published in 1656, against the newly-founded Society of Friends, or Quakers.


Magnus Byne’s anti-Quaker pamphlet, published in 1656

Magnus Byne’s mother, Mary Manser, was the daughter of John Manser of Wadhurst, younger son of Robert Manser of Hightown. The Mansers or Maunsers were iron masters in the Weald of Sussex and could trace their history back to Sir Robert Maunser of Hightown who was knighted by Richard III towards the end of the fifteenth century. It was Mary Manser’s younger brother Christopher whose son John Manser would work as an apothecary in London, living just a few streets away from his cousins John and Stephen Byne.


A view of Burwash, Sussex

The Bynes had been yeoman farmers in Burwash since at least the early sixteenth century. Stephen Byne’s father Edward Byne had married Alice, daughter of Magnus Fowle of Mayfield, a county coroner and the only son of Gabriel Fowle, the master of the Free Grammar School in Lewes. Gabriel, my 13 x great grandfather, had remained true to the Catholic faith throughout the stormy years of Henry VIII’s and Edward VI’s religious reforms, dying during the reign of Queen Mary.


Southwark church and London Bridge in 1616

Gabriel Fowle is said by some sources to have been the brother of Bartholomew Fowle, who was prior of the Augustinian community at St Mary Overy, Southwark, at the time it was dissolved by Henry VIII. Whatever the truth of this story, there seems to have been a longstanding connection between the Fowle family, and to some extent the Bynes, and Southwark. Magnus and Anne Byne would choose to marry at the church of St Saviour, formerly the priory church and now Southwark Cathedral, in 1640.

There were other links, too, between the Byne family and London, even before John and Stephen moved there in the second half of the seventeenth century. One source claims that Magnus Byne’s brother Edward, the Puritan preacher, was a pupil at Merchant Taylors School, which was then in Suffolk Lane, between Cannon Street and Thames Street, and there’s a possibility that Magnus was also educated there. Certainly, Magnus’ youngest son, Magnus junior, would be enrolled there in the 1670s. And John Byne would later send his sons to the school as well.


Merchant Taylors School in Suffolk Lane, London (via Wikipedia)

Magnus Byne’s first wife Anne died in 1661 and in the following year he married his second wife, Sarah Bartlett. She was the daughter of John Bartlett, a stationer – a bookseller, in reality – and religious radical who kept a shop in London but may have been born in Sussex. Bartlett was imprisoned in 1637, during Archbishop Laud’s persecution of religious dissidents, for publishing the work of Puritan propagandists. Under the Puritan-dominated Long Parliament of the early 1640s, his fortunes were reversed and he was the favoured publisher of John Pym, the Parliament’s leader. Since Magnus Byne’s son John, my 8 x great grandfather, would also work as a stationer in London, it’s tempting to conclude that he was apprenticed to his stepfather, or more likely to John Bartlett junior, who carried on his father’s business after the latter’s death.

Stephen and John Byne had a brother Edward who seems to have remained in Sussex and probably continued the family farming tradition. As a result of their father Magnus’ second marriage they also had a half-sister Sarah and a brother Magnus junior, mentioned above, who would also end up in London, working as an apothecary like their cousin John Manser.

In the posts that follow, I’ll trace the story of each member of the extended Byne family who moved to London in the seventeenth century, beginning with John Manser, who seems to have been the first of this generation to arrive in the city.