My 8 x great grandfather John Byne, a citizen and stationer at Tower Hill, died in the early months of 1690 at the age of 48. Eight months before John’s death, King James II had been defeated at the Battle of the Boyne by William of Orange and forced to flee the country. John Byne left a widow, Alice, and five children: Alice, 13, John, 10, Mary, 6, Magnus, 4, and Thomas, 3. Despite having a large family to look after, Alice Byne never remarried, surviving for an astonishing 48 years after the death of her husband. However, judging by her will, Alice was surrounded by a large extended family, some of whose stories will be featured in future posts.

John Byne left enough money to enable Alice to send all three of their surviving sons to Merchant Taylors School, following in the Byne family tradition. The name of John Byne junior appears in the school register for September 1693, when he was thirteen years old; and Magnus and Thomas both make an appearance in September 1695, when they were nine and eight respectively.


Seventeenth-century goldsmiths

Mary Byne, my 7 x great grandmother, seems to have been the first of the Byne siblings to marry. On 19th March 1701/2, when she was eighteen years old, Mary married Joseph Greene at the church of All Hallows, London Wall. Joseph was a goldsmith at Tower Hill, so he was a neighbour of the Bynes. Born in the riverside hamlet of Ratcliffe, Stepney, twenty-four-year-old Joseph was the son of the late Captain William Greene, about whom I will have say more in another post.

Mary’s sister Alice was married two years later. On 22nd December 1703, Thomas Bouts, a twenty-two year old bachelor from the parish of St Mary, Whitechapel, declared his intention to marry Alice Byne of the parish of St Botolph without Aldgate, also aged twenty-two ‘and having her mother’s consent’. The couple were married at St Botolph’s on the following day. Thomas seems to have been the son of another Thomas Bouts and his wife Hannah. We know that Thomas and Alice had two children, Thomas and Anne, but I’ve only found a baptismal record for Thomas, who must be the ‘Tho Boote’, son of Thomas and Alice of Tower Hill, who was christened at St Botolph’s in July 1708.

I’ve found various land tax records for Thomas Bouts in the Tower Hill and Aldgate area. In 1710, a Thomas Bouts was included under ‘weavers’ in an electoral register of London liverymen, but I’m not sure whether this was Thomas senior or junior. To date, I’ve found no record of Thomas’ death. However, we know that he died first and that his widow Alice be buried at St Botolph’s on 20th April 1760: the parish register describes her as being ‘of St Olave Southwark’, so this may indicate where she lived in her old age. In 1733 Thomas and Alice’s daughter Anne was made joint executrix with her mother of the will of her grandmother Alice Byne; the probate clause refers to Anne as a spinster.


Ships on the Thames at London in the seventeenth century

As for the sons of John and Alice Byne, there is evidence that all three of them sought their fortunes at sea. In 1705 John Byne junior married Jane Paulin. They had a son, also named John, born in the Minories and christened at St Botolph’s, Aldgate on 6th March 1708/9. On 22nd January 1716 John Byne of London filed a bill in Chancery against his mother, Alice. John claimed that, in his will of 1698, Alice’s uncle, William Forrest of Badsey in Worcestershire, had bequeathed all his lands in Badsey to Alice for life, and to her son John Byne ‘in fee’, and that he had divided his personal estate equally between the two of them. (We shall have more to say about William and the Forrest family of Worcestershire in future posts.) John’s complaint was that his mother had already felled and converted to her own use a large quantity of timber on those lands. I’ve been unable to discover how the case was resolved, but the document is useful in giving us John Byne’s occupation: he was a mariner.

Walter Renshaw’s history of the Byne family claims to have found a document stating that John’s brother Magnus died a bachelor on 30th May 1716 ‘apud vel prope Guineam’ (at or near Guinea), so perhaps he too was a mariner, or possibly a merchant. Letters of administration for his effects were granted to his mother, and principal creditor, Alice.

The only information that we have for the third Byne brother, Thomas, after his registration at Merchant Taylors School, is his will, dated 12th November 1728, which reveals that he too was a mariner, living in the parish of St Botolph’s, Aldgate, and about to set sail on His Majesty’s ship, the Deal Castle.

It’s possible that these three brothers, John, Magnus and Thomas Byne, were influenced in their choice of career by their mother’s extensive contacts, through her father’s family, with key figures in the East India Company. I’ll explore this connection in future posts.