Turtle Bunbury

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The Baron de St. Pierre & the Bunbury Family

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Above: Founded by David English M.B.E, the Bunbury
Cricket Club is a celebrity cricket club which has
raised over £8m for a variety of charities.
The Bunbury Tails album was a collaboration between
The Bee Gees, Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Elton John.


The most romantic trees in the possession of my family claims that the Baron de St. Pierre as the original Norman devil who spawned a dynasty of sons and grandsons and set the ball rolling for the Bunbury Family to play havoc on the world. The Baron, described as one of the "younger sons" of the House of St. Pierre but nothing more is known of him or his predecessors. In July 2014, i was contacted by a Katherine Chaveli who remarked that the St. Pierre family is also known as 'Semper' which may lead to new clues. She knew the Baron as 'Baron Semper'.

In any case, the general reckoning is that he received lands at Bunbury in Cheshire as a reward for his contribution to the campaign of William, Duke of Normandy, aka William the Conqueror, during his successful campaign to suppress the Anglo-Saxon peoples of England and introduce the feudal process. This campaign concluded with the death of King Harold and the conquest of England in a single battle at Hastings in 1066; the Conqueror's coronation as King William of England followed a few weeks later. I always thought Harold was killed by an arrow in the eye, as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry, but I watched a documentary in 2017 that suggested Harold had a considerably more gruesome and unkingly finale at the hands of the Norman butchers ...

The coming of the Normans effectively spelled the end for both Saxon and Viking although the transfer of power was by no means smooth ... by one account, control of England basically passed from 10,000 Saxons to 10,000 Norman newcomers who immediately began imposing their language, laws and traditions. Was the Baron de St Pierre among this first wave of Normans who now rode along the roads built across England by the Romans a thousand years earlier? The Domesday Survey of 1081 records the county palatine of Cheshire as being owned by a handful of William's loyal stalwarts - the Bishop of Litchfield & Coventry, the canons of St. Werbugh, and Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester (also known as "Hugh de Auranches).

Hugh Lupus was a nephew of the Conqueror. He was granted the bulk of Cheshire to hold "as freely by the sword" as William himself held the kingdom of England "by the crown". Lupus's descendants enjoyed these rights through until 1237 when John, Earl of Chester, died without male heir and the county was seized by Henry III and parcelled out to the deceased Earl's sisters. The Earldom was conferred on Henry's heir, Prince Edward, later Edward I and known to posterity as Edward Longshanks.

It would seem that Hugh Lupus was surrounded by loyal henchmen, one of whom may have been the Baron de St. Pierre. He was granted the manor of Bunbury in the parish of Bunbury, about 13 miles from Chester.

One wonders how much the sons of the Baron de St Pierre were involved with the conquest of England or indeed of the wider Norman Empire. The Normans conquered Sicily just six years after Hastings so that they now had a Christian-ruled state right at the heart of the Mediterranean trade routes. Were any Bunburys among the beardless Normans who join Duke Robert of Normandy on the First Crusade … It initially collapsed when they failed to capture the 400 thoughts of Antioch until one of the citizens betrayed his people in 1098, and the city fell. The Norman prince Bohemond I, a son of the Norman adventurer, Robert Guiscard, duly founded the Principality of Antioch (which included parts of modern-day Turkey and Syria). At this time, the Normans also set aside their brotherly love for all mankind and slaughtered the Muslim inhabitants of Jerusalem wholesale before carving up the land amongst themselves. Robert Giscard’s grandson Tancred (Bohemond’s nephew) became the Prince of Galilee. This latter triumph did a huge amount to put a rift between Christian and Muslim. In 1130 the Norman's united southern Italy and Sicily into a single powerful state under King Roger II, the man for whom Al-Idrisi drew the Tabula Rogeriana (1154). (Don’t be derailed by “Great Ireland”). Roger II’s court at Sicily was seriously cultured, pioneering our thoughts on astronomy, mathematics and navigation. Under Roger, Sicily was more wealthy than Norman England, its Christian art merging with Byzantine craftsmen and mosaic artists. On his watch, the Normans also conquered Malta, moved into Northern Africa and invaded Greece.



The Baron de St Pierre's son is thought to have adopted the name "de Bonebury" because, well, that's where he came from. Henry de Bunbury lived during the reign of King Stephen and had a fleur de lis for his signature.

His grandson, Humphrey de Bonebury, married into the Patrick family during the reign of King John, the Magna Carta fellow whom Robin Hood kept robbing. Humphrey died without male heir and so his inheritance passed to his two daughters - Joan and America. This inheritance was then further divided so that the Patrick family came to own America's share (including Bunbury Manor), while Joan's slice passed to her kinsman, Alexander de Bonebury, a descendant of the original Henry de Bonebury's brother, David.

For more on the Medieval Bunbury family, click here.

Bunbury Manor

The original manor of Bunbury, granted to the Baron by Hugh Lupus, stayed with his descendants for just over 100 years. Following the death of Humphrey de Bunbury in the reign of King John, the manor was divided between his two daughters and co-heiresses, Joan and America. The latter married into the Patrick family, a descendant of whom later married back into the St. Pierre family.

Isabella, daughter and sole heiress of Urian de St. Pierre, married Sir Walter Cokesey in the early 14th century (round about the time of Bannockburn) and so the original manor came into the possession of the Cokesey family and their representatives, the Grevilles. They held on to it through several centuries until 1598 when Lord Keeper Egerton flogged it to one Thomas Wilbraham Esq. whose boss, the Earl of Dysart, went on to become lord of the manor of Bunbury. I'm not sure who owns it today or whether that is remotely relevant.

The forbears of the present Sir Michael Bunbury launched a joint claim on the manor in the 18th century. From what I can gather, they believed they had a right through America's elder sister, Joan, who died without issue and left her share of the manor to Alexander de Bunbury, a kinsman of her father, from whom all living Bunburys are apparently descended. Whatever, the claim does not appear to have been taken too seriously as the Bunbury family had long moved from Bunbury parish by then and hadn't exercised any manorial rights for many long years.

During the English Civil War, a party of Royalists staying at nearby Cholmondeley House torched the church at Bunbury on June 20th 1643.

That's what the likes of Debretts and Burkes say. Indeed, that's what the old scrolled family tree parchment I found in the Cock Loft at Lisnavagh also suggests. But there are other theories afoot.

Bunbury - Origins of a Name

I have seen perhaps 15 entirely credible propositions as to where the actual name "Bunbury" originated.
Looking at the Saxon language, it might have evolved from a number of words.
The first, from Buan, or Bun, to cultivate, combined with Bury, as in town or city, indicating, "a town surrounded by cultivated grounds".
The second, from Byan or Buan, to inhabit or possess, and Bury, as above, so as to say "a well-inhabited town".
Thirdly, try Brun, Bran, Bourn or Burn, which are Saxon syllables used in naming places to suggest the presence of a river, combined with Burh or Burg, which, like Bury, signified a town. So this means "a town by a river", in this case, the River Wever.
The most colourful "origin" suggests that Bunbury is a word play on "St. Boniface's Borough" which evolved into "Bone Bury" and so forth. Certainly the small settlement at Bunbury has had a church dedicated to the martyred saint since the 9th century. In the east window of the present church was "a curious painting of the Root of Jesse" beneath which the inscription read:
"Sanctus Bonifacius intercedat deum pro David de Bonebury, rector ejusdem - qui in ejus honorem hanc fenestram composuit, in vita. An. Dom. M.CCC.XLV".
And if you can translate that, then you're a better man than me.

For the memoirs of the botanist Sir Charles Bunbury, click here.


In August 2018, while charging towards the Holyhead ferry, I obliged my dear family to make a whistlestop pilgrimage to Bunbury, having never set foot in the place. We were there for all of five minutes but that gave me enough time to dash into the church where a clergyman and a clergywoman were plotting how best to choreograph an upcoming wedding. A nice woman from Belfast directed me to the front of the church where I found an effigy to Sir Hugh Calverley. However, a second effigy in the wall caught my attention and it was Sir George Beeston (1499-1601), an Admiral of the Fleet in Queen Elizabeth's reign who commanded the Dreadnought at the time of the Spanish Armada. His family were loosely linked to the Bunbury family. I gripped his arm with as much Tudor fervour as I could muster in the presence of others, before exiting the building. It seemed a charming village, replete with hanging baskets and friendly faces. I later noted how close it was to the Bruen strongholds of Tarvin and Stapleford although, in my daughters’ memory, it will forever be linked to Snugsbury’s Ice Cream where we paused for a quartet of cones (the price of bribery!) and viewed a giant straw sculpture of Peter Rabbit. We also managed to pose for a family photograph beneath a sign for Bunbury. I was confused that the pub in Bunbury village was called the Dysart Arms, not the Bunbury Arms, but it seems the Bunbury Arms is at Stoak, near Chester, just off both the M56 and the M53. A return pilgrimage is called for.




NB: In the summer of 2014, I as alerted to the findings of Roy St Pierre which follow below. I have emailed Roy but no word back yet so Roy, if you should read this, please drop me a line!

"I have traced my family tree back, with a couple of probable but not proved connections, to 1190 when William de Sancto Petro came from France. I have also managed to link in virtually all the other English St Pierres and St Piers. We are not descended from Hugenots who came in the sixteenth century. We are probably not related to most of the St Pierres in America and Canada most of whom went to Canada direct to Franceand then on to the U.S. However some of our descendants are in Australia. There are also some Pears, Piers, Peirs, Peers, Peears who are also part of our family. In all there are over 100 spellings of our name over the ages, most spelling variations being in Tudor and Victorian times.

The entry below puts the first St Pierre in England as William de St Pierre (de Sancto Petro is just the Latin version). He is said below to have entered England in the time of [and with] Richard I. That gives the time frame of 1189 to 1199. Richard acceded to the throne 6th July 1189 whilst in France and crowned in Westminster Abbey on 13th September 1189. It is probably between these two dates that William de St Pierre entered England.

‘To raise even more money he [Richard I] sold official positions, rights, and lands to those interested in them.’ (Wikipedia) in the period prior to leaving England for the Third Crusade in the summer of 1190.
William may have been granted his lands in Cheshire for services rendered on the battlefields of France before coming to England or may have purchased them from the Crown.

Richard was abroad from 1190 to 1194, the last two years as a prisoner. In 1194 he returned briefly to England to raise more money and was Richard was recrowned at Winchester – it is possible that William could have come to England first on this occasion rather than earlier – and then returned to more battles in France where he died April 6th 1199
‘The St Pierres, in whom the other moiety of the interest of the illegitimate line was vested, are said to have been a younger branch of the counts de [Sampier,or] St Pierre, in France; Urian de St Pierre, the husband of Idonea de Malpas, being stated in the pedigrees to be son of John, son of William de St Pierre,* a younger brother of this house, who entered England in the time of [and with] Richard I. [Ayscough Add. MSS.5529.55b. Brit. Mus.]
This Urian was the first to set up the standard of prince Edward, in his earldom of Chester, after his escape from Simon de Montfort, and seized on Beeston castle in his behalf in 1265.
His son, John de St Pierre, obtained a grant of Bunbury from his cousin Isabella Burnel, and appears to have died in his father’s life-time, as his son Urian had a grant of free warren there, 12 Edw. I which is six years before the date of the complaint respecting the serjeancy of Cheshire, when Urian the grandfather is ascertained to have been surviving. [John de St Pierre died 18 Edw. I and his father, in or about 28 Edw. I. See Inqs. post.]

*He was probably brother to ”Urian de Senepere” whose beautiful tombstone, together with that of his wife, was found in the churchyard of St Pierre, near Chepstow, in Monmouthshire. Engravings of both statues appear in the Gentleman’s Magazine, Feb. 1765. The date of this Urian’s death is given as occurring in 1239. See also William’s History of Monmouthshire. – H’

from ‘The History of Cheshire’, p.596