Battle in East Sussex Town Guide

Venice Nicholas of Brightling

As there is now a great deal of information and images available I decided to check what was known, this is how I discovered that Nicholas possibly should be a Villaine or Vyllan.

I found the alternative surname Villaine while trying to figure out why Venis events were happening in Brightling then disappearing before appearing again. I first looked at all burials for the first name Nicholas in Brightling as it looked likely that he should be buried there. One for Nicholas Villaine in 1628 stood out as he was listed as a Frenchman. This name variation then added at least another three possible children for Nicholas : John (1597), Anne (1601) and Benned? (1607/08).

John (1597) slotted everything into place as he married as a Venis, his son John (1621) was born Villaine married as a Venice and whose children were all named Venis.

There is some confusion as an Ann Villaine was buried in 1636 listed as al.s Hicke widow. So is she Nicholas’s daughter Ann for who no marriage has been found, his widow or even his mother, if it’s the daughter and she was married why would she have the surname Villaine? There is a Richard Hack son of Richard born 1632 in Brightling so perhaps she was with Richard but never married.

Then there is also the burial for Katherine Venice in 1612 could this be his wife/mother/daughter or even Benned (1608/08) who disappears without trace, I’ve chosen Katherine as his wife and the Anne burial being his daughter for now.

Then if we move to nearby Battle we have a marriage for Henry Venice who was buried as a Villaine. There is also a marriage for Charles Venice 1614 in Dallington five miles from Brightling, This Charles probably had children in Battle and was buried there using the name Venis . Henry and Charles could possibly be children of Nicholas, if they came from Dallington it could remain a mystery as parish registers only seem to survive from 1598 .

There is a Henry Fennill born 1604 to Nicholas in Brightling who could be the Battle Henry, a Richard Fonnell son of Nicholas born 1583 in Brightling and finally there is a Nicholas Funnel single man who was buried 30th April 1628 in Warbleton 5 miles from Brightling. Fennill etc is a soundex match for Vynall for which there are references to Maresfield mentioned below , perhaps Fennil/Vynall is a another alias for Venis/Villaine.

The name Villaine only appears in Brightling, Maresfield/Newick/Framfield and Petworth close to Wisborough Green which is the other Venis hotspot. In Maresfield the name probably changes to Vyne. The name in Petworth also seems to disappear, there are Villaines in Petworth till 1594 and Venis after 1622 .

There is a Peter Vyllan born 1509 in Beaubec, Normandy ( ) who came to England in 1519 and lived in Maresfield , Framfield and Newick which are in-between Brightling and Wisborough Green. Peter who would have been 10 when he came to Sussex could be the father or grandfather of Nicholas. There are 3 other Vyllans mentioned as godparents in Maresfield between 1563 and 1567 : Agnes, Charles and Michael and a William Vynall in 1584. These could be Peter’s parents, wife or siblings and possibly parents of Nicholas. There is also on this website a John Vallion (Denization 1541) coming to England in 1524 and a John Vylean/Vyall (Denization 1544).

So to sum up did Nicholas come in a rowboat with 2 siblings or is he descended from Peter Vyllan, I don’t know for sure but my gut says from Peter. A lot more research needs to be done to prove the second theory.


3 responses to “Venice Nicholas of Brightling”

  1.  avatar

    I, too, have been following the de Venoix family. My records show that Nicholas de Venoix (of Venoix – a place name) and his brothers. Robert and Thomas arrived in Sussex during the late 1500s as all were married within the year 1585 – Nicholas to Jane Wade – Robert to Joanna Wade (presumably sister to Jane) – Thomas to Joane Jakman. Only Nicholas and Thomas’s marriages produced children. I do believe these three young men came over in a boat and took up residency in Brightling Sussex. Their father is only known as Monsieur de Venoix and I have him born at 1535 in Basse-Normandie and his father in 1500. The name de Venoix did fade out quite quickly but I put this down to misspelling. All records are only as good as those who interpret them and the name is misspelt (according to my opinion) as Venes, Vines, Venus, Venns to name but a few. De Venoix does have a connection to the Marshalls who were connected to William I but that was many centuries ago so the boys had nothing to do with them. We all like to think that our ancestors are someone outstanding but in truth they were mere farmers who barely scratched a living off the land.

  2.  avatar


    A lot of people on have Nicholas marrying Jane Wade on 1 July 1585 at Wisborough Green , this didn’t happen as only Robert marrying Joan happened on this date and she was a widow so probably not a Wade . You can see this at the FamilySearch website which gives you access to the images for Wisborough Green (image 23 of 550 bottom left) .

    I’ve never found any evidence of them arriving in a boat apart from the references to a large influx at Rye .

    My discovery that Nicholas also went by the name Villaine makes me think that he was possibly born in Sussex to Peter Vyllan listed in my original message . Whether Villaine is his true surname and Venis is an alias or vice versa I’ve so far been unable to decypher . He could also have used the name Fennill but I’m still looking into that.

  3.  avatar

    I have noticed the information of Nichol Venie of Brightling from the Ancestry Trees, and sadly most information is an error. My work evidence mainly came from Sussex archives. It’s approved correct by Sussex Archivist.
    NICHOL VENIE was born in Normandy, France, in c1560. He came to Brightling, East Sussex, in c 1570s. In the 16th and 17th centuries, there were various VENIS families across Sussex, but my ancestor appears to have originated as VENIE. Nichol VENIE, Frenchman, later called VENIS, lived in Brightling in the late 16th century. He likely had ten children not confirmed; five children appeared in the Brightling Christening. The name of Villeine is French, but in England, in those days, it was a status (villain) – a lowly one, and Nicholas would have been a villain. The spelling Venis, of course, and Nicke was cross-referenced with the name of Villeine. Villein (pronounced “vill-ain”) was the term used in the feudal era to denote a peasant (tenant farmer) who was legally tied to the land he worked on. An alternative term is serf (from Latin servus = “slave”). A villein could not leave the land without the landowner’s consent. Villeins thus occupied the social space between a free peasant (or “freeman”) and a slave. The majority of medieval European peasants were villeins. Nicholas was buried 17 June 1628 at Brightling under the spelling of Frenchman from the register, his wife Anne Villeine, alias Nicke; the widow, has buried 22 Dec 1636 at Brightling.

    The evidence recorded appeared in the Archdeaconry of Lewes – Churchwarden’s Presentments in 17th Century – 18th July 1676 at Brightling.
    Third Presentment: – Mr John Lord, our minister, doth not performed hid duty injoyed in the book of articles. John Venis, alias Nicke (ex.), Richard Venis, alias Nicke (ex.), Thomas Venis, alias Nicke (ex.), John Swadland (ex.), the wife of John Baker (ex.), John Daw (ex.), Richard Boorman (ex.), Anabaptists. Nehemiah Panton, physician (dead), Henry Stoane and his wife (ex.), for have (ing) a child within 26 weeks after they were married. From Churchwarden’s Presentments that three VENISES (Venice).
    It’s three brothers John, Richard & Thomas were excommunicated at St. Thomas Beckett, Parish Church, Brightling as Anabaptists and each was listed as “Venis alias Nicke”. The excommunications probably had more to do refusal to present babies for baptism than failure to attend church.

    The shows evidence of the Veness with three brothers – Robert and Thomas went to West Sussex (Wisborough Green & Kirdford) and Nichol to Brightling, East Sussex, after their landing at Rye, East Sussex Harbour by rowing boat. The interpretation was down in many generations of the Veness families. (Extract from Horace Victor Veness b 1887 at Ickenham, Sussex – d 1949 at Bridge, Kent). Interestingly, the families tend to misunderstand the interpretation details passed down through the generations. It appeared my forebears came from France as a show from the register of Brightling in Christening and Burial entries.

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