My 8 x great grandfather John Byne was the third member of the extended Byne family of Sussex to move to London and settle in the Tower Hill area, following in the footsteps of his cousin John Manser and his older brother Stephen Byne. Born in 1651/2 and baptised on 11th March at the parish church of St John the Baptist, Clayton, John was the third son and the youngest child of Magnus Byne, rector of Clayton, and his wife Anne.

When John was ten years old his mother died, and in the following year his father re-married. As I’ve noted before, it’s possible that Magnus Byne’s second wife, Sarah Bartlett, played a decisive role in John’s choice of career. Sarah was the daughter of John Bartlett, a London citizen and stationer, whose publication of radical religious literature had got him into trouble with the authorities before the Civil War. Although John Bartlett senior had probably died by the time his daughter married, we know that his son John Bartlett junior took over his stall at the sign of the Gilt Cup in Westminster Hall. Surely it’s no coincidence that John Byne also became a stationer in London; I wonder if he was apprenticed to his stepbrother?


Seventeenth-century bookshop (via

Although John Byne’s will clearly describes him as a ‘citizen and stationer’, at least one source suggests that he might also have worked as a merchant tailor. Walter Renshaw’s history of the Byne family informs us that as the youngest son and therefore ‘customary heir’ of his mother Anne, John was admitted to the copyholds of the manor of Clayton on 25th October 1665. On 14th October 1673 John surrendered the copyholds to William Crase, who was from Pycombe near Clayton. By a deed dated 19th October 1676 between George Scrase of Aldgate, apothecary, and John Byne of the Minories, Aldgate, Scrase sold and conveyed to John two closes of land in Tunbridge containing nine acres. (Interestingly, George Crase, who was the son of William Crase’s brother James, was an apothecary in the parish of St Olave’s, Southwark, the same part of London where John’s younger half-brother Magnus Byne junior would follow the same profession.) Renshaw tells us that this deed describes John Byne as a merchant tailor, though he notes that John does not appear in the list of freemen of the Merchant Taylors’ Company.

Even if we can’t be sure where or to whom John Byne was apprenticed, we know that once he became a citizen John established himself at Tower Hill, close to his brother Stephen Byne and cousin John Manser. It was here that he met and married Alice Forrest, the daughter of citizen and haberdasher Thomas Forrest of Little Tower Hill. We’ll have much more to say about Thomas and the Forrest family, including their origins in Worcestershire and connections to a network of important London families, in future posts. I haven’t found a record of the marriage of John Byne and Alice Forrest, though it was almost certainly at the local parish church of St Botolph’s, and must have been by 1675 at the latest, since their first child would be born in the following year. Of course, 1675 was a significant year in other ways for the Bynes, since it saw the death of John’s older brother Stephen. In an earlier post I highlighted what appears to be a certain coolness in Stephen’s reference to John in his will. Is it also significant that Stephen left the care of their younger half-siblings Magnus and Sarah to his father-in-law Thomas Whiting, rather than to his younger brother?


Part of Rocque’s 1746 map of London, showing the Tower, Tower Hill, and Little Tower Hill

We know from later records that John and Alice Byne lived next door to Alice’s parents at Little Tower Hill, which was to the north-east of the Tower and led off towards East Smithfield in the east and the Minories to the north. Alice, their firstborn child, was christened at St Botolph’s church on 3rd September 1676. Their eldest son, John, was baptised on 15th December 1679. He was followed by Mary on 7th December 1683; Magnus on 21st June 1685; and Thomas in October 1686. John Byne’s father-in-law, Thomas Forrest, died early in 1679 and was buried at St. Botolph’s.


First page of the will of John Byne, citizen and stationer

During the next ten years, while the John and Alice Byne’s children were still young, England was convulsed by the death of King Charles II, the controversy surrounding the brief reign of his brother James II, and then the coup that overthrew James and installed his daughter Mary and her husband William on the throne. On 24th January 1689/90, in the first year of William and Mary’s reign, ‘John Byne of the parish of St Buttolph without Aldgate Citizen and Stationer of London being at this present time somewhat indisposed in health But of sound and perfect mind and memory’ drew up his last will and testament. He appointed his wife Alice as executrix and ‘my Loveing Freinds and Neighbours Mr John Hawkins Distiller and Mr Samuel Lloyd Apothecary’ as overseers of the will. We learn from the will that the Bynes had five surviving children – John, Alice, Mary, Magnus, and Thomas – and that John’s mother-in-law Anne Forrest, to whom he left ‘the sume of five pounds of lawfull mony of England to buy her mourning’, was still living. John Byne’s will also reveals that he owned a property ‘in Ladd lane neere Woodstreete in the parish of St Michael Woodstreete within the City of London’ and ‘fower Messuages or Tenements with their & every of their appurtenances Situate lying and  being in or neere Distaffe Lane in the parish of St Margaret Moses in Fryday streete and St Nicholas Coleabbey or one of them neere old Fish streete’.

John Byne died less than two months after making his will and was buried at St Botolph’s church on 2nd March 1689/90. He was 48 years old.