My ancestor Stephen Byne, citizen and upholder of Tower Hill, and brother to my 8 x great grandfather John Byne, died in 1675 at the age of twenty-seven, after only a few years of marriage to his wife Rebecca. She was the daughter of Thomas Whiting, a citizen and joiner in nearby Houndsditch. Thomas’ life, and the story of his seventeenth-century London family, are interesting in their own right, so in this post I’ll share what I’ve discovered about the Whitings.


Parish church of St John the Baptist, Clayton, Sussex (via

I’ve been unable to determine the exact date of Thomas Whiting’s birth. However, given the other information we have about him, I think it likely that he was born in 1620 or thereabouts. As for his place of birth, it’s possible that, like the Bynes, the Whitings had their roots in Sussex. While researching William Wane, my 9 x great grandfather Magnus Byne’s predecessor as rector of Clayton-cum-Keymer – and also his father-in-law – I discovered, that Wane was instituted to the rectory at Clayton on 9th December 1601 ‘on the presentation of Queen Elizabeth “ratione defectus liberatione Thomae Whiting generosi”’. According to Walter Renshaw, historian of the Byne family:

Some difficulty connected with the title to the advowson existed at this time, as on 25th November, 1601, Sir Edward Michelborne wrote to Sir Robert Cecil stating that he claimed the patronage. In 1603, however, Sir Edward was returned as being the patron. Thomas Whiting was closely related to Sir Edward Michelborne.

Edward Michelborne of Clayton (c.1562 – 1609) was a soldier, adventurer and Member of Parliament who was implicated in the the Earl of Essex’s rebellion of 1601. Given the date, I assume the Thomas Whiting mentioned here could not be the person who was Stephen Byne’s father-in-law. However, perhaps he was his father? The connection is made more likely by the fact that Stephen would himself hold the advowson for Clayton for a time after his father’s death.


Joiner’s tools, 17th century

Even if he was born in Sussex, it’s likely that Thomas Whiting was himself sent to London at an early age, to be apprenticed as a joiner. He must have gained the freedom of the city by the mid-1640s at the latest, since he was married and the father of a child by 1647. His first wife was Frances, who had previously been married to John Bigrave, a carpenter who died in 1644. John and Frances Bigrave had three daughters: Sarah, born in 1637, and Dorcas and Mary, both born in 1638. Given John Bigrave’s occupation, and the fact that he and Frances lived in Houndsditch, where the Whitings can be found in later records, it’s tempting to speculate that Frances’ two husbands were business associates and possibly neighbours.

Thomas Whiting probably married Frances Bigrave in 1645. Their first child together, Isabella, was born in about 1646, and their second daughter Rebecca, who would marry Stephen Byne, in 1648. A son, Thomas, was born in 1651. We know that Rebecca and Thomas were christened at the church of St Botolph, Aldgate, and the parish register entry for Rebecca confirms that the family lived in Houndsditch.


Coronation process of King Charles II, London, 1661

Thomas Whiting’s occupation is deceptive, certainly to modern readers, who might assume that a ‘joiner’ was simply a skilled labourer. However, as a master joiner, Thomas helped to prepare pageants for the Lord Mayor’s show in 1659, 1660 and 1662, and in 1661 he worked on the entertainments for the coronation of Charles II. He also played a part in the rebuilding of the church of St Edmund the King, Lombard Street, and in the design of Brewers’ Hall, both of which replaced buildings destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. All of this clearly made Thomas a wealthy man: in 1676 he donated an organ to the church of St Botolph, Aldgate, which was installed in the early years of the eighteenth century and is still apparently in situ, having recently been restored.


Brewers’ Hall, built by master bricklayer Captain Thomas Caine to a design by Thomas Whiting

In March 1669, Thomas and Frances Whiting’s daughter Isabella married Edward Davis, a grocer from the parish of St Catherine Coleman, at the church of St George, Southwark. Edward was 26 and although the marriage licence states that Isabella was ‘about 22’, it also notes that she was married ‘with consent of her father’. Edward and Isabella would have two daughters, Isabella and Rebecca. As we know, their other daughter Rebecca Whiting married Stephen Byne in the early 1670s; their only son Thomas died in infancy and Stephen himself died in 1675.

As for Frances’ daughters from her first marriage to John Bigrave, we know that Dorcas Whiting was married to John Mercer and they had children named William and Elizabeth. Mary Whiting was married twice, firstly in 1661 to a joiner named Herbert Higgins, and they had a son, also named Herbert; and secondly, at Christmas 1673, to Robert Kember, also a joiner, with whom she had two children, Rebecca and Mary. It’s possible to one or both of Mary’s husbands had been apprentices or employees of her stepfather Thomas.

Thomas Whiting’s wife Frances died in 1676 and was buried at St Botolph’s on 10th August. Just over a year later, in September 1677, Thomas married again. His second wife was Elizabeth Plumer and the ceremony took place at the church of St Katherine by the Tower. The following year, 1678, saw the death of Robert Kember, husband of Thomas’ stepdaughter Mary.


Section of Rocque’s 1746 map of London, showing the lower end of Houndsditch, St Botolph’s church, the Minories and part of Tower Hill

Thomas Whiting died in 1679 and was buried on 24th November at St Botolph’s, Aldgate. In his will Thomas mentions his brother-in-law ‘Mr Deputy William Lillingston’, but it’s unclear whether he was the brother of his first or second wife. We know from other records that William also lived in Houndsditch, and from his own will of 1700 that he was a ‘citizen and upholder’, just like Stephen Byne. Indeed, at one stage he was master of their livery company. Interestingly, he owned property in Distaff Lane and Fish Street, as would Stephen’s brother, my 8 x great grandfather John Byne. If William Lillingstone was the brother of Thomas’ first wife Frances, then perhaps he had something to do with Stephen Byne’s choice of career (he was also an upholder); he might even have been Stephen’s apprentice master. Alternatively, it could have been through Lillingstone that Stephen met his future wife.

A year after Stephen’s death, his widow Rebecca married again. On 8th November 1676, at Christ Church, Surrey, Rebecca Byne, a widow of St Botolph’s, Aldgate, aged about 28, married Joseph Edwards, of St Saviour’s, Southwark, a grocer and a bachelor, also aged about 28. I’ve found no further records for them, apart from a court case in 1679 concerning property in Southwark, in which the couple were plaintiffs and Elizabeth Whiting – presumably Thomas’ widow, and Rebecca’s stepmother – was one of the defendants.