I believe that Stephen Byne was the second member of the extended Byne family to make the move from rural Sussex to London in the seventeenth century. Stephen, the older brother of my 8 x great grandfather John Byne, was the third child of Magnus Byne, rector of Clayton-cum-Keymer, and his first wife, Anne. Born in 1647, a year after the end of the Civil War, Stephen was baptised at the parish church of St John the Baptist on 3rd July. His parents already had a son, Edward, and a daughter named Anne; another daughter, Mary, had died in infancy.

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Recovered medieval murals in Clayton parish church (via yelp.com)

Stephen’s younger brother John was born four years later. In 1661, a year after the monarchy was restored, when Stephen was fourteen and John eleven, their mother Anne died. In the following year, their father Magnus married his second wife, Sarah Bartlett. In the same year, Stephen’s sister Anne died at the age of nineteen. Magnus and Sarah Byne would have three children together: Anna, born in 1663, who seems not to have survived; Magnus junior, born in 1664; and Sarah, born in 1666.

Although we don’t know for sure when Stephen came to London, it’s likely that he arrived some time in the mid-1660s, perhaps around the time of the Great Fire, to take up an apprenticeship. At the time of his father Magnus’ death in 1671, when Stephen would have been twenty-four years old, he was already being described in legal documents as a ‘citizen and upholder’ of London. ‘Upholder’ is an archaic word for upholsterer, and it seems that these craftsmen not only manufactured and sold upholstered goods but were also cabinet makers, undertakers, soft furnishers, auctioneers and valuers. The Worshipful Company of Upholders had been granted a royal charter by Charles I in 1626.

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An eighteenth-century trade card, depicting the interior of a London upholsterer’s shop (via collections.vam.ac.uk)

As mentioned in the previous post, Stephen’s second cousin John Manser, an apothecary, arrived in London some years before him, and may have been living there since the late 1640s. Although it’s not known where Stephen Byne served his apprenticeship, we know that on becoming a freeman of the city he set up shop in Tower Hill, not far from the Manser family. As we’ll see, Stephen’s brother John would follow him to the city, probably achieving his own freedom of the city in the early 1670s, and would also make his home at Tower Hill.

Stephen’s inheritance from his father Magnus included Flottingdean Farm in Wadhurst, Sussex, as well as the advowson, or right to nominate clergy, for the parish of Clayton-cum-Keymer. The latter he sold, for £370, to Edward Blaker, a Sussex landowner and member of Parliament. Stephen also appears to have inherited responsibility for his much younger half-siblings, Magnus junior and Sarah, who would have been seven and four years old respectively when their father died. Given that the younger Magnus would go to school in London, it seems likely that the two children lived with their much older half-brother at Tower Hill.

Stephen Byne must have met and married his wife Rebecca by 1673 at the latest, when he would have been twenty-six. Born in Houndsditch, London, in 1646 and christened at the church of St Botolph, Aldgate, Rebecca was the daughter of London citizen and joiner Thomas Whiting, about whom I’ll write in another post, and his first wife Frances. Rebecca Whiting had three sisters: Isabella, Dorcas and Mary, and a brother named Thomas. Isabella was already married to a grocer named Edward Davis, Dorcas to John Mercer, and Mary to Robert Kember, a joiner and possibly a former apprentice of her father’s.

As for Stephen and Rebecca Byne, their time together as husband and wife would be extremely brief, and marked by sadness. It’s not clear when their only child, Thomas, was born, but he died in 1674: ‘Thomas Bine son to Stephen Bine Tower Hill’ was buried at St Botolph’s on 7th May that year. Stephen Byne composed his own will just a few months before his infant son’s death, suggesting that he was himself (in the words of the will), ‘sick and weake in body’. The parish register of St Botolph’s records that ‘Stephen Boynes’ (sic), an upholsterer of Tower Hill, was buried there on 11th March 1674/5, less than a year after the death of his infant son. He was only twenty-seven years old.

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Part of Ogilby and Morgan’s map of the City of London, 1677, showing Tower Hill and surrounding area

In his will Stephen Byne left Flottingdean Farm, the property he owned in Wadhurst, Sussex, to his wife Rebecca, and after her death to his younger half-brother Magnus. Stephen bequeathed the sum of one hundred pounds to Thomas Whiting, his father-in-law, ‘to be by him his executors or assignes from time to time disbursed in upon and for the keeping apparrelling educating and bringing up of my brother Magnus Byne and my sister Sarah Byne’, at the same time appointing Whiting as the children’s guardian. Presumably, women weren’t able to exercise this role at this period, otherwise it would surely have fallen to Stephen’s widow Rebecca.

Stephen’s will states that his three sisters-in-law Mary Kimber, Dorcas Mercer and Isabel Davis, are to receive ten shillings each to buy themselves a ring, while his brothers-in-law Robert Kimber and Edward Davis are listed among the witnesses to the will. Stephen’s cousin John Manser is to receive forty shillings, and is also appointed as joint overseer of the will with Thomas Whiting, with Rebecca acting as executrix.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into the will, but the manner in which Stephen refers to his brothers John, his neighbour at Tower Hill, and Edward, who stayed behind in Sussex, appears to reflect a certain coolness in their relationship. They are mentioned only once and are each to receive ‘the sume of Ten shillings a peece and no more’ (my emphasis).

John Byne would have been twenty-three years old, about to be married, and just beginning his own career as a stationer at Tower Hill, when his brother Stephen died. I’ll tell John’s story in another post, but first there’s more to say about the Whiting family, and what became of Stephen Byne’s widow Rebecca after his death.

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