Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

Random Quote
Random Date




image title

image title

Above: Benjamin Bunbury (1642-1707), courtesy of Camilla Corrie of Leighton Hall, England.



St. Mary's Church, by Castle Street in Carlow Town boasts the oldest burial-ground in the town. [1.a] The oldest existing tomb in the graveyard appears to be a slab dated 1707, erected in memory of Benjamin Bunbury, of Killerig, Co. Carlow, who died on 3rd April 1707, aged 64. He was the son of Thomas Bunbury, son of Sir Henry Bunbury, Knight, of Stanney, in Cheshire, England. Benjamin and his wife Mary had five sons - Joseph, of Johnstown; Benjamin, of Killerrig; Thomas of Clogna; William, of Lisnevagh and Moyle, all in County Carlow; and Matthew, of Killfeacle, Co. Tipperary - and a daughter, Diana.

So who was Benjamin and where did he come from?


Aside from the connection to Sir William Stanley and Lismore Castle in the Elizabethan Age, I had always assumed that the Bunbury family did not take root in Ireland until the mid-1660s when Benjamin Bunbury (pictured) settled at Killerig, County Carlow. My theory was that some of the family took flight in the wake of the English Civil War in which Sir Henry Bunbury, Benjamin’s grandfather, was thrown in prison and had his house burned down on account of his support for Charles I. Benjamin was thought to have arrived in Ireland at the time of the Restoration while his older brother Thomas headed to Virginia.

This theory has been somewhat tested since January 2014 when the Carlow historian Michael Purcell emailed me an extract of a Cromwellian land settlement indenture from 1652 which read:

“… lands on the south of the river Burren adjoining the town of Catherlough & nominated my wellbeloved friends and attorney Benjamin Bumbury and Thomas Bumbury with Copal Norris and heirs or assignees for ever to enter and take possession of all such lands, tentenments, hereditaments with appurtenances.”

I am unsure who wrote these lines originally but they certainly shook my traditional understanding of our family history a little. This suggested that the Bumbury [sic] family were not just in Carlow a decade before I previously thought, but also that they acquired their initial landholdings through the despised Cromwellian land settlement. My fears seemed compounded when I noted that their elder brother Colonel John Bunbury had also profited from the Cromwellian settlement. So clearly these brothers were of a different political pursuasion to their half-brother Henry Benjamin Bunbury with his burning mansion in Cheshire?

A similar document emerged in November 2014 suggesting that brothers George and Henry Bumbry purchased land in the Carlow-Wicklow area from John Richmond, an officer in Cromwell's Parliamentarian Army in the 1650s. I am unsure who these men were but Thomas, Benjamin and John Bunbury had a brother George, born circa 1609 [who I think became Vicar of Clonguish, Co. Longford] but no brother Henry that I know of.

Another confusion arises over Thomas Barnes of Grange, Co. Kilkenny, who married Benjamin Bunbury's daughter Mary. He is traditionally said to have been one of the Duke of Ormonde's officers but elsewhere he is described as a Cromwellian.


A digitial manuscript detailing whom lands were disposed in 1641 can be found at http://www.irishmanuscripts.ie/digital/surveydistributionv4/files/641.html

John Ryan’s 1833 The History And Antiquities Of The County Of Carlow. CHAPTER XXI provides a detailed picture of the land ownership and other matters in the county from 1605 - 1625. Thanks to Paul Horan. See http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~irlcar2/Antiquities_1833_XXI.htm


I know not who Copal Norris was, or even what ‘Copal’ means, but it may be short for ‘Corporal’? The Norris connection is quite possibly relevant because Lady Martha Bunbury, wife of Sir Henry and grandmother of Benjamin Bunbury of Killerig, was born a Norris, or Norreys as it is sometimes spelled.

Martha was, in fact, Sir Henry’s second wife and she grew up at Speke Hall in Lancashire where she was one of at least nine children – two sons and seven daughters – born to Edward Norris (c.1539-1606) and his wife Margaret Smallwood, daughter and coheir of Robert Smallwood of Westminster, London. Scroll down to see this tree in detail but, in short, Martha’s grandfather, Sir William Norris, was knighted in 1531 and served variously as Mayor and MP for Liverpool, as well as High Sheriff of Lancashire and a Justice of the Peace for Cheshire. The marriage to Sir Henry Bunbury was Martha’s second. Her first husband was of Thurstan Anderton of Lostock, Bolton, Lancashire, England, heir of his brother James Anderton of Lostock;.

Martha’s oldest brother William Norris was made a knight of the Bath at the Coronation of King James I. Sir William married Eleanor Molyneux, daughter of Sir William Molineaux of Sefton, Lancashire, and died in 1626. According to Thomas Heywood, editor of ‘The Norris papers’ (Chetham Society, 1846), Sir William was a spendthrift. [i] Recognizing this before his death, his father left Speke in trust for ten years and then to be ‘delivered’ to Sir William and Eleanor’s small son instead. However, as the 23rd Earl of Leete might say, there was ‘precious little to inherit’ by the time William came of age. Sir William had ‘pawned everything down to two suits of clothes; he even obtained from his mother, for many years, the money left her to buy clothes; and here is a letter imploring, in the most abject terms, a little delay from one of his creditors.’

The younger William Norris – Martha Bunbury’s nephew - was married to Margaret Salisbury [Salusbury], whose father Sir Thomas Salisbury had been executed in 1586 for his part in the Babbington Plot. William succeeded his father in 1626 and, ‘with his two sons Edward and Thomas zealously fought for the King in Lancashire’ during the Civil War. In September 1649, William was obliged to play host at Speke to Colonel John Moore, one of the regicides who signed Charles I’s death warrant earlier that year. Colonel Moore, ‘who was waiting for a wind to pass with his regiment into Ireland’, would go on to become Governor of Dublin where he died of a fever in 1650. William Norris apparently died on 20 July 1651.

I guess “Copal Norris” could have been either of William Norris’ sons. If so, it’s more likely to have been Thomas. According to ‘The Norris Papers’, the elder son Edward had already been disinherited, possibly for being a Papist, and died in 1664, leaving an only daughter. As such, what was left of the family fortune passed to his second son Thomas who, born in 1618, married Katherine, daughter of Sir Henry Garway, sometime Governor of the Levant Company, about whom there is much more in ‘The Norris Papers’. Thomas died sometime before 1687.

Martha’s other brother Edward Norris married Margaret, widow of Edward Ireland of Lydiat, County Lancaster. As to Martha’s six sisters, Perpetua Norris married Thomas Westby of Mowbrick, Lancaster; Anne Norris married, as his third wife, Sir Thomas Butler of Bewsey Hall, Warrington, Lancashire [seemingly no connection of the Irish Butlers] and she married, secondly, Thomas Draycot of Paynesley, Salop; Mary married Thomas Clifton of Westby, Lancaster; Margaret married Edward Tarbock of Tarbock; Emilia married William Blundell of Crosby and Winifred married Richard or William Banester of Wem, Shropshire (Salop).


Sir Henry Bunbury and Martha Norris were also the parents of George Bunbury, christened in Stoke on 18 October 1609. Gill Miller forwarded me a copy of the original parish register which not only shows his baptism but also that of his brother Sackville Bunbury on 31 May 1607. George was described in his mothers' will as "my fourth sonne" and she bequeathed "the sum of ten shillings" in full satisfaction against any future claim against her estate.

He gained his MA in Ireland and moved to Ireland circa 1634. He is thought to be the George Bunbury who is listed as a Vicar in 1640 in the Appendix 1, Parish of Clonguish in 'St Paul's Church of Ireland Church, Newtownforbes, Co.Longford - The Church and Parish of Clonguish' by Doreen McHugh in her dissertation for Maynooth Studies in Local History.

We also find mention of a George Bunbury who married Ann Green in Dublin in 1668 and may have been father of Walter Bunbury, MP for Clonmines.


1646 (12 Aug): Archbishop Giovanni Rinuccini, papal nuncio to the Irish Confederate Catholics, condemns their adherence to Ormond’s peace terms for failing to fully recognise Catholicism.

1649 (Aug): Oliver Cromwell arrives in Dublin with his New Model Army (20,000 men), a huge artillery train and a large navy. Drogheda and Wexford fall. Jones defeats Ormond at Rathmines, ending royalist hopes of taking Dublin. Kilkenny also falls in August.

1650 (30 July): Edward Parry, Church of Ireland Bishop of Killaloe, dies in Dublin from the plague.

1650: Archbishop Ussher of Armagh, who preached in Lincolns Inn, “carefully trolled the Bible totting up the lifespans of everyone descended from Adam and Eve", as Neil McGregor puts it in "A History of the World in 100 Objects". He then combined that with other data to reach his conclusion that the world began at night for on Sunday 23rd of October 4004 BC! And everybody believed him for ages!

1652 (12 Aug): ‘Act for the Settling of Ireland’ allows for the transplantation to Clare or Connacht of proprietors whose land is confiscated by Cromwell to meet promises to adventurers and soldiers; also known as the “To Hell or Connacht” Act.




With thanks to Gill Miller and Maura Mooney.


Thomas Bumbury [sic] mentioned in the 1652 indenture well have been the same man as Thomas Bunbury, son of Sir Henry and Lady Martha Bunbury, and father of (amongst others) Benjamin Bunbury of Killerig.

Born in May 1606, Thomas appears to have been just fourteen years old when he was married, on 2nd May 1620, to Margaret Wilcocks, daughter of William Willcocks (sometimes Wilcox).[ii]

Margaret bore Thomas a son and four daughters before her death in October 1632 at the age of 37. I am unsure what became of these early children. [iii]


[i] The Norris papers’ (Chetham society1846) online on Google Books.

[ii] Ormerod's History of Cheshire (now available on CD) gives Margaret Wilcocks as the first wife of Thomas Bunbury.

[iii] Reference from the Monuments in Stoke Church courtesy of Peter Bunbury.


After Margaret’s death, Thomas Bunbury was married secondly in early 1634 to Eleanor Birkenhead, or Birkhead. They had had four sons and six daughters, including Thomas of Virginia and Benjamin of Killerig, of whom more details below.

Born on November 29th 1605, Eleanor was the fifth daughter of Henry Birkenhead of Huxley and Backford. Birkenhead, a sequestrator and non-Cestrian during the Commonwealth, was "a lawyer in the Chester Exchequer and staunch Parliamnetarian in 1642", lending further credence to the idea that this branch of the Bunbury family were more partial to Cromwell than the House of Stuart. [1] He was also presumably father or at least a very close relative to the Henry Birkenhead or Birkhead (1617-1697), known as the Founder of the Oxford Chair of Poetry. A book called 'Henry Birkhead, Founder of the Oxford Chair of Poetry: Poetry and the Redemption of History' (Studies in British Literature) by Joan H. Pittock on Amazon may explain more.

Eleanor's sister Bridget Birkenhead married John Chetwode who was, I believe, a pal of Jonathan Swift, while another sister Mary Birkenhead married William Downes of Shrigley and Worth.

There is mention of a Thomas Bunbury of Baliol College, D.D., who succeeded Dr. Joseph Denison in the vicarage of St. Mary's Church in Reading. However, he was driven out of Reading by the Presbyterians when that town came under their possession. Thomas fled to Oxford for protection, and was given a license under the public seal of the university to preach the word of God throughout England.

I am simply not knowledgeable enough on 17th century politics to know what any of this means. Was this the ‘wellbeloved’ attorney Thomas Bumbury who was acquiring land in Carlow? Was Benjamin his as yet unidentified brother? Born in 1642, the future Benjamin Bunbury of Killerig would have been ten years old at the time of the deed so he hardly fits the bill? His brother Thomas Bunbury (of Virginia) would have been eighteen but still too young to be an attorney. Or perhaps these were connections of the Rev. George Bunbury, the Vicar. And then there is the Norris connection … all much food for thought but perhaps some day, further clues will spill into the plot enabling us to make sense of these muddied waters.

[1] Crisis & Order in English Towns, 1500-1700 (Routledge, 2013), by Peter Clark & Paul Stack, p. 228.


Thomas and Eleanor had four sons and six daughters.

Their first son Thomas Bunbury was born on 21st October 1634 and subsequently made his career as a tobacco baron in Virginia where he became ancestor to the Bumbreys, one of the oldest black families in the United States today.

In 1636, Eleanor produced triplets, christened George, Susan and Alice, although all three died soon after birth.[i] Next was John Bunbury born 1637 who also died shortly after birth.

Their eldest surviving daughter, Dulcibella Bunbury, was born in 1638 and died aged 48 on 5th July 1686. Her will was proved by her only surviving sister, Diana, widow of Richard Bunbury.[ii] Dulcibella left her signet ring to her brother Benjamin.

Benjamin Bunbury, later of Killerig, ancestor of the Bunbury family in Ireland, was born in 1642 and was the elder twin of his brother Joseph Bunbury. Ormerod records that Benjamin and Joseph were christened/baptised at Stanney in Cheshire on 13 September 1642. Joseph also spent time in Ireland, marrying Hannah Desmineers (or Desminiere) of Dublin in 1666, but later returned to England. This provides an intriguing link with one of the first Huguenot families to achieve prominence in Dublin, having settled in Ireland in the 1630s. By the time Joseph married Hannah, they had established a powerful business empire, mostly concerning real estate and alcoholic beverages. Jean Desminières became the Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1666 and his brother Louis Desminières did likewise in 1669: these could feasibly have been Hannah's father and brother. Desminières lived over his tavern “The Sign of the Sugar Loaf” in Bridge Street. Gimlette’s The History of the Huguenot Settlers in Ireland' records that he was a sheriff of Dublin during the Commonwealth and enjoyed much of the confidence of Oliver Cromwell’s son Henry, who had been appointed as Governor of Ireland. Jean Desminière’s political volte-face must have been convincing for him to become lord mayor of Dublin just 6 years after the Restoration.” A pedigree of the Desminieres family was compiled by W. B. Wright, published in The Irish Builder Vol. 29 (1887), pp. 71, 339. See also British Library MS. 3,682; "Researching Huguenot Settlers in Ireland” by Vivien Costello, The BYU Family Historian, Vol. 6 (Fall 2007) p. 83-163.

The youngest child, Diana, was born on 23rd September 1644 and married her first cousin Richard Bunbury.[iii] Elsewhere, Benjamin's sister Diana is said to have settled in Ireland and married a Mr Berib, Esq, of Co. Carlow.

Two more Bunburys, possibly Benjamin's brothers, who moved to Ireland at this point were William Bunbury who lived at Moyle, Co. Carlow, and John Bunbury (King's Inn, 18th May 1698) who lived at town but these two need to be examined further. Lower Mortarstown adjoined Cloghna and was close to the old Butler / Carew castle at Cloughgrenan, just outside Carlow on the banks of the Barrow. Mortarstown had belonged to the Bradston family until Francis Bradstone was attainted by James II's Irish Parliament. It later passed to Col. Kane Bunbury.


[i] Their deaths are recorded in to Sir Henry Noel Bunbury's pedigree.

[ii] There is a memorial in Stoke Church, Cheshire which reads:- 'Here lyeth the body of Dulcibella Bunbury eldest daughter to Thomas Bunbury of Stanney, Gent by Eleanor his second wife who was fifth daughter to Henry Berkenhead of Backford Esq: She died the 5th July MDCLXXXVI (1686) aged XLVIII years (48)'. The Will of Dulcibella Bunbury, which names a large number of relations and friends, was dated 13th June 1686 and proved at Chester by her sister Diana, the widow of Richard Bunbury, on the 28th August following. She desires to be buried 'at Stoke in the chancell as nigh to my father as possible. I cann & doe hereby humbly request Sir Henry Bunbury that he be pleased to let me lye there & not doubting that he will grant my desire herein I leave unto my cozen [first cousin twice removed] Henry Bunbury his sonn and heire one eleven shillings piece of old gold'.

[iii] Diana Bunbury is also buried in Stoke Church.

The Move to Ireland

While Benjamin's elder brother Thomas Bunbury (1634-1680), made it to Virginia and became a prosperous tobacco baron, for Benjamin, it was a shorter voyage across the Irish Sea to County Carlow. He appears to have emigrated when he was in his early 20s. (1a) The Bunbury family have been connected to Ireland at least since Elizabethan times when Benjamin's great-grandfather Thomas Bunbury was appointed one of the executors of Sir Walter Raleigh's Lismore estate in 1585. In 1644, Benjamin's uncle, John Bunbury, grandson of Thomas of Lismore, became Clerk of the Crown & Peace in Wexford and founded a branch at Ballyseskin, including Walter Bunbury who married the formidable Dame Elizabeth..

John's sisters, Elizabeth (b. 1595) and Anne, were married to John Richardson, Bishop of Ardagh, and Sir John Keningham, both key players in the new post-Elizabethan Ireland. (1c) John's half- brother Henry Benjamin Bunbury (1597-1664), was stripped of his title and lands for supporting the Royalist cause during Cromwell's Dictatorship in the 1650s. While his sons remained in England, Henry's nephews followed a growing trend and emigrated.


1662 – Ormond becomes Lord Lieutenant and arrives in Ireland on 27 July.

1663 – (27 July) The ‘Cattle Act’ restricts Irish trade with colonies as well as exports to England.

1665 - (29 April) – Birth of James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde.

1672 - (28 Sept) ‘Popish plot’ to assassinate Charles II alleged in England. Concocted by Titus Oates, the fictitious conspiracy gripped England in anti-Catholic hysteria between 1678 and 1681 and culminated in the execution of St Oliver Plunkett.



In 1669, a year after the death of his father in England, Benjamin Bunbury obtained lands at Killerig in the parish of Nurney in County Carlow. It is thought the farm was near Killerig Cross, on the east side of the road from the old Knights Templar stronghold. I made a vague pilgrimage to this site in January 2015 and it appears to be a cattle farm with a largely concrete base. However, there were a number of small fields which, to my mind, seemed somewhat 17th century while I presume the stunning view of Keadeen and the Wicklow Mountains was the same view that Benjamin beheld 346 years earlier. Benjamin appears to have leased them from either Philip, Lord Wharton, or Charles Butler, Earl of Arran, younger brother of James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde.

In the patent rolls of Charles II enrolled on 15th November 1669, Killerig is described as ‘a castle, messuage, mill and lands [of Killerick, measuring 489 acres.’. Together with 81 acres at nearby Ardenhugh, that made 923 acres, one rood and nine perches which seemingly belonged to Philip, Lord Wharton, and was rented for £11, 10 shillings and ten pence half-penny annually.

The Whartons are thought to be descendants of Henry VIII through Henry Carey, the King’s illegitimate son by Mary Carey (nee Boleyn) who was herself a kinswoman of the Butlers. Philip, 4th Lord Wharton (1613–1696) was a prominent horse breeder and owned lands in Wetsmeath as well as Carlow. Although he was a Puritan and a favourite of Oliver Cromwell, he refused to assent to Charles I’s execution. In 1676 he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

When James II came to the throne in 1685, Lord Wharton’s son Thomas Wharton went to confer with William of Orange at his court in The Hague. Thomas is also credited with having composed the popular Williamite marching ballad Lilli Burlero, described as ‘a jig with Irish roots’ which satirised the sentiments of Irish Catholic Jacobites and ridiculed James II.[i] Thomas served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland 1708–1710 and was later created Marquess of Wharton, as well as Marquess of Catherlogh (ie: Carlow) by George I. His son Philip, 1st Duke of Wharton, an ally of the Jacobite Butlers (who were also kinsmen of the Boleyns), later bankrupted himself through his personal debauchery and other excesses. The 1st Duke was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England and founder of the Hell-Fire Club in London. [ii]

It is not yet know if or how Benjamin Bunbury was connected to the Wharton family.

According to Lewis, Killerig (aka Killarge, or Killerick) was 'a preceptory of Knights Templars' founded in the reign of King John by Sir Gilbert de Borard (or Bocard), one of Strongbow's allies. The name apparently translates as the Church of Urk, or St Tegra, and anyone so inclined can celebrate St Urk’s Day on October 27th. That said, Google has never heard of St Urk (Eric perhaps?) and St Tegra barely rates a mention either. In 1187 Sir Gilbert was entrusted with Waterford after its conquest and, by way of a reward, ‘The Song of Dermot’ says Strongbow gave him ‘Ofelmeth by the Sea’ which Orpen suggested was Southern Offeimy, the O’Murchada’s lands [1] Sir Gilbert founded the Commandery of St John at ‘Killergy’ on the River Slaney some 5 miles from Carlow Town; some remains still existed at Friarstown in the 1907 Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. The same publication quotes Ware as maintaining it was a preceptory founded for Knights Hospitallers by Gilbert de Borard, while the Irish Architectural Society say it was ‘a Receptory for Knights Templar’ so who knows![2]

Writing in 1818, the Abbe de Vertot maintained it was founded ‘in the thirteenth century’ by Gilbert as a commandry of St John the Baptist – ‘first templars, since hospitallers’ and that it was then in the possession of Sir Gerard Aylmer.[3] The implication here is that it began as a Templar house but, after their ‘extinction; it was granted to the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. Once the wealthiest Order in Europe, the Knights Templar were rather controversially excommunicated by the Pope in 1308. Edward II duly issued instructions for the arrest of all such Knights and the seizure of their property. ‘The instructions given to the English sheriffs were that they should arrest all the Templars within their district, seize all their land, cattle and goods, and to cause an inventory of the same to be made in presence of the warden of the place, whether Templar or not, and of respectable persons in the neighbourhood; to place said goods and chattels in safe keeping; to keep the Templars in safe custody in some convenient place, without subjecting them to prison or irons, and to preserve the charge of the goods and chattels till they received instructions as to their final disposal’. [4] A writ was directed to John Wogan, Lord Justice of Ireland, commanding him to take similar action as soon as he had a chance to liaise with the exchequer and local sheriffs. He was urged to move quickly before the Templars of Ireland got wind of the fate befalling their brethren in England. The establishments of Killerig and Ballymoon were then suppressed. 'In 1331, the Irish burnt the church, with the priest and eighty persons who had assembled in it ; but the Pope ordered the Archbishop of Dublin to excommunicate all the persons engaged in the perpetration of this atrocious act, and to lay their lands under an interdict'. In 1837, 'the parish comprises 3841 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, and valued at £3405 per annum, which, with the exception of about 100 acres, is good arable and pasture land'. (Lewis). The preceptory was granted by Queen Elizabeth to Mary Aylmer, ’the wife of Gerard Aylmer’ on 12th December 1590.[5] One wonders did Benjamin acquire the property directly from the Aylmers.

Today there is only one wall of the monastery still standing, complete with the original slit window. It stands opposite the house where the late Seamus McGrath was born and raised and which, when I visited him in 2013, was being used as a cattle shed. It was clear that Seamus felt a strong connection with this location. After our meeting, I wrote: 'He runs his hands along walls cemented with ox-blood and points out the narrow slits through which defenders let loose their deadly arrows a thousand years ago. Alongside the wall are a series of bins where his father Jim used to store meal for his cattle. During the Troubles, Jim kept his single barrels shotgun stashed in the monastery so that the IRA wouldn’t seize it. Jim took the chimney down because it was leaking and about to collapse. Seamus himself used some of the granite from the building to construct his own house. There is still no preservation order on the monastery despite the fact nobody has lived there since the Knight’s Hosiptallers left. Elsewhere there are the two wells down which ancient monks lowered buckets for fresh water. ‘They say there’s treasure down there but it’s a long way down to find out,’ laughs Seamus. An ambitious but aged priest arrived with a metal detector one day but was seemingly so hard of hearing that he failed to notice anytime his machine began bleeping. It is not so long since somebody sighted a ghost, clad in a hooded cassock, with a puck on his back, heading up the Friarstown Road. ‘One of the old stock’, smiles Seamus.'


[1] The Song of Dermot and the Earl: An Old French Poem from the Carew’, Goddard Henry Orpen, Morice Regan (Clarendon, 1892). Knights' Fees in Counties Wexford, Carlow and Kilkenny, 13th-15th Century’, Eric St. John Brooks (Irish Manuscriots Commission, 1950). See also, The Annals of Ireland by John Clyn, Richard Butler, Thady Dowling, Thaddaeus Dowling, Irish Archaeological Society, 1849).

[2] Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 1907; Publications / Irish Archaeological Society, Dublin (1849), p. v. At this period the Knights were said to possess some 19,000 manors across Europe. In 1187, they had been nearly annihilated in a massacre of 30,000 Christians by the Saracens at Tiberias. Synoptical sketch of the illustrious & sovereign order of Knights, Richard Brown.

[3] L’Abbe de Vertot, ‘History of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, Styled Afterwards the Knights of Rhodes and at present The Knights of Malta’ (J. Christie, Dublin, 1818), p. 430.

[4] History of the Irish Hierarchy With the Monasteries of Each County, Biographical Notices of the Irish Saints, Prelates, Thomas Walsh, p. 366-367.

[5] Walsh, p. 368. Thomas D'Arcy McGee, A History of the Attempts to Establish the Protestant Reformation in Ireland (Patrick Donahoe, Boston, 1853), p. 379.

The Children of Benjamin of Killerig

In 1669, the same year he acquired Killerig, Benjamin Bunbury married a woman believed to be called Mary or Elizabeth Shepperd (also Sheapheard and Shepherd). In earlier editions of 'Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry', she is stated to be the daughter and heir of Philip Shepherd, Esq. Mary/Elizabeth is said to have been married previously to Charles Bernard, by whom she had three sons, Thomas [who married Deborah Sheapeard], John and Phillip Bernard. Given that her eldest son Thomas Bernard was born in about 1665, it seems reasonable to suppose that Mary/Elizabeth was born circa 1642-1646 and married Charles Bernard circa 1664. (2a.ii)

[15 March 1672 – The first declaration of indulgence suspending penal laws against Catholics and dissenters is issued by Charles II.]

In 1676, Thomas Bernard married Deborah Sheapeard, daughter of Mathew Sheapeard of Killerig, who, if 18 at the time of her wedding, was born circa 1658 or earlier. (2a.i) It is not clear how Mathew Sheapeard and Philip Shepperd were related - they could have been brothers, cousins or even father and son; they both lived in Carlow.

Benjamin and Mary/Elizabeth Bunbury had five sons and a daughter before his death in 1708.

Their eldest son, Joseph Bunbury (d. 1731), settled at Johnstown, just outside Carlow town, married Hannah Hinton and was ancestor to the Bunburys of Johnstown.

Their second son Thomas Bunbury (d. 1743) married Rose Jackson and was ancestor to the Bunburys of Cloghna & Cranavonane.

Their third son William Bunbury (c. 1674-1710) settled at Lisnavagh outside Rathvilly in County Carlow and was ancestor to the Bunburys and McClintock Bunburys of Lisnavagh. The original lease on Lisnavagh was granted by the Earl of Arran (brother of Lord Ormonde) to Benjamin Bunbury of Killerick in 1676. Benjamin also had the lease of Tobinstown which, on 16 June 1683, he leased to a Catholic soldier named John Baggott. Baggott was later attainted for serving the Catholic King James II. Many of Baggott's Carlow estates were acquired in 1702 by the Right Honourable Philip Savage, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Ireland.

Meanwhile, on 20th December 1695, Benjamin Bunbury assigned the Lisnavagh lease to his son, William Bunbury, thought to have been on account of William turning 21 years old. On 21st December 1695 - the Winter Solstice - Benjamin also assigned the lease of his Tobinstown lands to his 24-year-old son William. According to an inscription above the main staircase of Lisnavagh House (apparently etched on a relict of the original house), the first Lisnavagh House was built in 1696 - midway through the reign of William of Orange. The fee farm grant of Lisnavagh by the Duke of Ormonde was dated 22nd February 1708 with Benjamin named as the grantee; the annual rent was £105.5s.4d. I believe it was granted to William Bunbury I and his heirs in fee farm indentures of lease and release dated 21st and 28th February 1708 respectively.

Their fourth son Matthew Bunbury (d. 1733) moved to Tipperary and was ancestor to the Bunburys of Kilfeacle, including Lord Roberts.

Their fifth and youngest son Benjamin Bunbury II inherited Killerig, served as High Sheriff of Carlow in 1713, married Hester Huband of Dublin and may have been grandfather of Charlotte Dee, mistress to the Duke of Cumberland. He died on 3rd January 1715 [1716?], aged 39.

Benjamin and Mary's daughter Diana Bunbury (d. 1728) married Captain Thomas Barnes (d. 1710) of Grange, Co. Kilkenny. He is described on the Bunbury family tree as one of the Duke of Ormonde's officers, but elsewhere it is suggested that he was a Cromwellian officer. [2c]


The aquisition of Killerig takes place against the back drop of Charles II's reign. The Duke of Ormonde was Lord-Lieutenant at this time but he was having a difficult time given that the legal and political system in Ireland was so stagnant and broken. He also had to pay many of the Irish levies, including the administration, from his own pocket. He derived some relief from the export of good Irish beef to England but this came to an end in late 1666 when the Duke of Buckingham – now a jowly alcoholic in his forties, but still full of energy, boosted by his cousin Barbara Villiers sharing the king’s bed – led a successful campaign to enact the Irish Cattle Bill, halting the sale of Irish beef in England. The duke and his allies, "the Western gentlemen" (ie: the landed gentry of the North and West of England, and Wales), claimed such sales had been undercutting prices for English farmers, especially in London where there was a considerable market for Irish beef. The cost of Ireland now fell on the king’s purse and Charles II, who opposed the bill, clocked its unexpected passage (the Importation Act of 1667) as another failure by the Earl of Clarendon, his long time mentor and father-in-law to the Duke of York (later James II). Clarendon’s administration was now on the cusp of fall. Clarendon started 1667 lying in bed, riddled with gout, while having to contend with the death of two grandsons as well as his trusted sidekick, the Earl of Southampton. The Dutch destruction of the British fleet on the Medway on 13th June (the greatest naval disaster in the history of the Royal Navy) would further hasten Clarendon’s fall and a new cabal arose, led by the the hugely influential Earls of Arlington and Buckingham.

Arlington dominated from 1668 onwards and would be involved in a sly attempt by Charles II to trick the French into signing the secret Treaty of Dover. A combination of bad timing, the death of Charles's favourite sister Minette, Duchess of Orleans (an emissary from the French court) and the comedy show of Buckingham signing a second secret Treaty of London with the Sun King, lead to Charles forming an alliance with the French against the Dutch, who were now led by his young nephew, William of Orange. Charles II was a gambler. This one did not pay off and culminated in the Third Anglo-Dutch War between the Kingdom of England and the Dutch Republic, which lasted between April 1672 and early 1674. The war was a costly and fruitless failure for the English.

On 29 April 1680 the first stone of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham was laid by the Duke of Ormond. Three months later, on 31 July 1680, the House of Ormonde was greatly shaken by the premature death of Vice-Admiral Thomas Butler, 6th Earl of Ossory, KG, PC, PC (I), the Duke's eldest son. Lord Ossory's son later succeeds as 2nd Duke.


[i] ‘The Berties of Grimsthorpe Castle’ by Allan Chilvers (AuthorHouse, 2010), p. 108.
[ii] The Present State of Europe, Or, The Historical and Political Mercury, Volumes 24-25 (Randal Taylor, 1713), p. 494.


Sir Henry Bunbury, Commissioner of the Revenue

The Bunburys in Ireland presumably benefited from the appointment of Benjamin's cousin Sir Henry Bunbury, head of the English branch, to be Commissioner of the Revenue for Ireland during the reign of Queen Anne. Sir Henry was a close colleague of the Duke of Ormonde, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, with whom he shared great apprehension at the prospect of the German House of Hanover occupying the British throne once Queen Anne had died. Like many of their contemporaries, they gave their support to the cause of the Old Pretender; like so many other Jacobites they discovered they had backed the wrong horse, and both men were summarily dismissed from their posts. The Bunbury allegiance to the Ormondes stood through until 1715 when, following the failure of the Jacobite Rebellion, the 2nd Duke fled into permanaent exile in France.

20 June 1715 – There is a general election. The first session of the Irish parliament of George I commences on 12 November, and will continue till 20 June 1716. There will be six sessions of this parliament.

The Dukes of Ormonde

Captain Barnes service to the Ormonde's and Benjamin's rent of Killerig from the 1st Duke of Ormonde's grandson highlight the importance of the House of Butler to the Bunbury family at this time. The Great Duke had been the first Irish magnate to move away from the concept of power deriving from sheer military might to something consideraly more intriuging. Cromwellian connections aside, perhaps Henry Bunbury's loyalty to the Stuarts during the English Civil War stood them in good favour when the 1st Duke was appointed Viceroy of Ireland by Charles II (1662-1668), following the Restoration of the Monarchy? He had served as Viceroy under Charles I twice in the 1640s and would return to Dublin Castle again in 1677 until 1685. During this latter period, the Great Duke made a massive splash in the city by having over 100 bewigged court officials and servants in his entourage. It must have looked like the ultimate ACDC / Status Quo hoe-down. They were certainly rocking it. Household accounts for the 16 months between May 1682 and September 1683 show that Ormonde household and their guests consumed 6000 gallons (about 22,200 bottles) of wine, close on 50 bottles a day. That’s before anyone was offered whiskey or any other forms of alcohol.

By the 1690s, the Bunburys were part of the 2nd Duke of Ormonde’s extended cirle, men loyal to the House of Butler who could be installed as useful political allies in the new local governmnt system that folowed the Glorious Revolution. However, while he offered advancement, the 2nd Duke’s power base was simulatenously crumbling. His vast estate was being ‘devoured by debt’ (on account of his grandfather's expenses) and his inheritance ‘encumbered and mortgaged in every part, inefficentloy managed, top heavy with superfluous personnel'. (3). Renting land from the Duke was not a particularly costly business. Indeed, one of the reasons the Ormonde estates were so profitless was their common practice of ‘abatements of rent to be granted and arrears indulged’. Collection of rents was slow ‘on the pretext that the depridation of both sides in the Jacobite wars had destroyed stock, damaged agricultural production and made ready money more scarce’. The 2nd Duke and his wife were both lively Stuarts, love-making, gaming and spending money around the clock. In due course, their lifestyle and the costs of mainatining so many houses and castles obliged the Ormondes to sell off some of their property. One wonders whether these were the sort of men who apparently raised their glasses 'to the little gentleman in black velvet' after William III's horse slipped on a molehole and threw the King on the ground with such force that he broke his collarbone and died a few days later.

Lisnavagh and Tobinstown came to the Bunburys directly from the Duke's only brother Charles Butler, Earl of Arran (1671-1758). They were the sons of the Great Duke's firstborn son Thomas, earl of Ossory, who was tragically drowned in 1680. Lord Ossory was married in 1659, on the eve of the Restoration, to Lady Emilia [Ameilia] Nassau, daughter of Lodewijk [Louis], Lord of Auverquerque, who was himself a natural son of Maurice, Prince of Orange, for whom the island of Mauritius is named. The Ossorys had eleven children although details are only known of five, namely the aforementioned sons, James and Charles, and three daughters, Lady Elizabeth Butler [who married William Stanley, 9th Earl of Derby], Lady Emilia Butler [who never married] and Lady Henrietta Butler [who married Hendrik van Nassau Ouderkerk, Earl of Grantham].

In 1693, Charles Butler was created Baron Cloghgrenan [sic], Viscount Tullough and Earl of Arran in the peerage of Ireland, and Baron Butler of Weston, Hunts, in the peerage of England. Horace Walpole described him as “an inoffensive old man, last of the illustrious house of Ormonde, and much respected by the Jacobites”. However, others believed Lord Arran deliberately started the great fire that destroyed much of Dublin Castle on the 7th April 1684. Lord Arran’s wife, Elizabeth Crew, employed as her lady in waiting Katherine Mildmay, the aunt and foster mother of the essayist Richard Steele who founded The Spectator. Lady Arran was also part of a “social circle of tribades” based around Lady Frances Brudenell, Countess of Newburgh, wife of the 2nd Earl of Newburgh, who lived on Usher’s Quay, who was noted in Dublin for her bisexuality, and her affair with Lady Allen of Stillorgan Park. After the death in exile of his older brother, Charles succeeded as de jure 14th Earl and 3rd Duke of Ormonde. [i] He died without male issue in 1758, at which point these titles became extinct for the second time. [ii] His unmarried sister Lady Emilia succeeded as heir general to the Ormonde estates. Many long decades later, the Earls Cowper successfully laid claim to part of the Ormonde inheritance, including part of the chattels of Thomas, Lord Ossory. As there were no other senior heirs male, or heir general, to the progeny of Lord Ossory, the succession to the Ormond estates and titles fell back to the line of a younger brother of the Great Duke of Ormonde.

[i] G.E.C. The Complete Peerage of England Scotland Ireland Great Britain and the United Kingdom, new edition, revised and much enlarged edited by The Hon. Vicary Gibbs London, London 1910-45, 2222? vols., vol. x, pp. 162-3.

[ii] Ryan, p. 241.



Benjamin Bunbury Senior died aged 64 on April 4th 1707. His widow Mary (aka Elizabeth?) made her will in 1710 and died in 1711.

In 1916, the noted historian Lord Walter FitzGerlad found ‘a small fragment of a limestone slab, now placed on a Heap of stones' on which he could make out the words Killer[rig] and [Benja]min Bunbu[ry]. However, he said the remainder of the headstone had already 'quite disappeared'. It is believed the stone was moved from its original grave to make way for the building of the Frenchman's rectory for Reverend Benjamin Daillon at the western side of the churchyard. FitzGerald added that Benjamin's tomb-slab 'exists' in St. Mary’s churchyard, Castle Street, Carlow . According to the Bunbury Papers in the PPP, this is the oldest recorded tombstone at Saint Mary's. The inscription below, taken from Ryan, claims he was 44 but this is surely incorrect:



With thanks to Michael Purcell, Jean Casey, Hilary Jarvis, Seamus & Fiona McGrath, William Bunbury and Peter Bunbury.


1. (a) The burial ground is now very much smaller than formerly, as, in the 18th century, much of it was cut away for the erection of houses as the town extended away from the castle. The present Protestant Church, of St. Mary's was erected in 1732. Its tower was taken down in 1833, and the present spire erected from a design by a Mr Thomas Cobden. In 1724 whilst on a visit to Carlow Dean Swift upon seeing the low tower of St Mary's "High Church" and obviously having met some of the population the Dean penned the following distich :- Carlow.
"A high church and no steeple,
A poor town but proud people."
[Note added by Lord Walter FitzGerald :- So as not to upset the present inhabitants I have added underneath - Times have greatly changed for the better with Carlow, now with a fine tall steeple, no longer a poor town but still a proud people.]From a 1909 paper addressed to Reverend John Finlay, Dean of Leighlin, Rector of St Mary's Church, Carlow, and sSigned by Lord Walter FitzGerald (Courtesy of the Pat Purcell Papers).

1 (d) As to John and Sir Henry's other sisters, Mary Bunbury married Thomas Draper of Walton and Martha Bunbury died in 1664.

2 (a) (i) Deborah Sheapeard, daughter of Matthew Shepperd, of Killerick, Co. Carlow, was married in 1676-7 to Edward Humfrey (d. 1686) of Clonagh, co. Carlow, the fifth son of John Humfrey (Humfreys) of Donard, forefather of the Humfreys of Cavanacor. She and Edward had at least five children between 1677 and 1684; her sons are named below.

Burke’s Landed Gentry of 1899 claimed that Deborah was a daughter of Benjamin Bunbury, Esq. of Killerig. However, this was corrected by Burke in 1912; the update said that she was Matthew Shepperd's daughter. Hilary Jarvis observes that in Deborah's will of 1728, she mentions her mother "Mary Bunbury, relict of Benjamin Bunbury" and refers to her (Mary's) will of 7 December 1710 in which she was left "the sum of £150 Stg to be divivded amongst my children as i should think fit." As Benjamin Bunbury did not have a daughter named Deborah and, as his wife Mary (a.k.a. Elizabeth) died in 1711, Hilary believes the term mother refers to Deborah's mother-in-law. The use of relationship terms such as in-law , half-sibling and step-sibling where not in common use at this time. This may be the reason that Burke’s 1899 declared that Deborah was the daughter of Benjamin Bunbury.

Edward Humfrey died in 1686. In 1708 Deborah (Shepperd) Humfrey, then about sixty years old, found companionship once more when she was married secondly in 1708 to Thomas Bernard (1665-1720) of Oldtown and Clonmulsh, Co. Carlow. [Thomas Bernard had married firstly Deborah Franks, a daughter of Charles Franks, Esq, of Clapham, with whom he had five children: Charles, Franks, Joseph [father of William Bernard, 1726- 1807], Elizabeth (m. Henry Rudkins) and Anne (m. Thomas Barnes).] Given that her second marriage was 32 years after her first, I am unsure this all adds up and yet a deed dated April 1729 between John Humfrey, gent of Carlow, son and heir of Edward Humfrey (Gent, deceased) and Deborah Bernard of Carlow (widow of Thomas Bernard Esq, deceased), confirms the first marriage of Deborah (Sheppard) to Edward Humfrey. Ref: ROD 84/100/58379. In her will, dated 1728, Deborah lists her children as: John Humfrey, Mathew Humfrey, Benjamin Humfrey, Thomas Humfrey, William Humfrey, Charles Bernard, Franks Bernard, Joseph Bernard, Elizabeth (Bernard) Rudkins and Anne (Bernard) Barns. The Bernards being her step-children. With the £150, she gave £25 to each of her four elest sons and then £5 each to the rest. Ref: Carloviana # 20, 1971 (page 26). There is a record of a will for a Debora(h) Bernard (widow) in 1732 in Carlow (Ref: Index of Irish Wills 1484-1858). Deborah (Shepperd/Humfrey) Bernard died about 1732 or later, in Carlow. Deborah would have been in her seventies at the time of her will. With thanks to Hilary Jarvis.

2 (a) (ii) Mary/Elizabeth appears to have lived to a considerable age - according to Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland 1912, her will was proven in 1741. Burke's makes an unfounded claim that Charles Bernard was a grandson of Francis Bernard Esq of Abington in Northamptonshire who accompanied Cromwell to Ireland and settled in Co. Carlow. Hilary Jarvis has sourced a William Bernard in the 1659 Census, as well as a John Bernard (in John Ryan's "History and Antiquities of Carlow") regarding a deed in 1619 in Tinnriland (ie: Tinryland). Hilary also provided this cuirous story about a Bernard in Dublin during the early 14th century:

1308 in Dublin. William Bernard against John McCorcan, of a plea of trespass. It is found by the jury that, whereas William, on the Sunday after the Nativity of St John Baptist last, in the town of New Castle of Lyons[Dublin], was playing at ball with men of that town, and the ball was struck in the direction of John, who was standing near to watch the game. John ran towards the ball, which William was following in pursuit, and met him so swiftly that he wounded William in the upper part of his right leg with a knife which he, John, had upon him, which knife unfortunately without John's knowledge pierced its sheath and so injured William, to his damage of five shillings. And the jurors, being asked if John did this from ill-timed zeal or ran against William from malice aforethought, say that it was not so, but that it was for the purpose of playing that he ran towards him to hit the ball. Therefore it is considered that William recover against him his said damages. And John is in mercy, which is pardoned him afterwards by the justiciar, because the jurors testify that William and John at the said time and before that were fast friends, and that John did not wound William knowingly

The prerogative will of Thomas Bernard of Clonmulsk, Co. Catherlogh, Esq. 25 Feb. 1720.: Narrate, 1 ¼ p., 19 May 1721. Wife Deborah Bernard. Eldest son Charles Bernard. Second son Franks Bernard. Third son Joseph Bernard. Daughter Ann Bernard. “His brothers Joseph Bunbury and Phillip Bernard, Esqrs." The will lists Harry Dungan, Redmond and Daniel Phelan, tenants. In terms of land it refers to:
"Ballypic[k]as, Clarbarracum, Bolybegg, Queen's Co.
Drumselig, Balliglishine, Queen's Co.
Demore Bog. Bellclogh. Queen's Co. Ballybar
Clonmulsk, Co. Catherlogh.
The witnesses were William Nesbitt, Catherlogh, clerk, Thomas Doyle, Garryhunden, Co. Catherlogh, mason, Bartholomew Newton, Bushellstowne, Co. Catherlogh, gent.
Memorial witnessed by: Robert Wallis, Dublin, notary public, Isaac Walsh.
On behalf of Franks Bernard (seal) Joseph Bernard (seal)
Ref Eustace, P. Beryl. Abstracts of wills / Govt document 1954

The Joseph Bunbury referred to in Thomas Bernard's will was his half-brother Joseph Bunbury - referred to as his ‘brother’ - who later settled at Johnstown.

Two editions of Burke (1847 and 1853) claims that Elizabeth was married thirdly to a Richard Humprheys Esq. but this reference to a later marriage is omitted in later editions (1858 onwards) and appears to be erroneous. In searching the Grantor's Indexes, Hilary Jarvis reported in June 2018 that she could find no mention of such a marriage. As Hilary Jarvis observes, Richard/John Humfrey died in 1655.

2c. However, Wikitree suggests the following: "Thomas Barnes who was was born in the 1620s, probably in Derbyshire, England. He was a Lieutenant in Oliver Cromwell's army and was granted lands at Grange (Kiltown and possibly also spelt the same as the county) in the south of County Killkenny, and at Donore (or Donover) near Moynalty in County Meath. These land grants were confirmed by Charles II in September 1666. He married but his wife's name is not known. She was likely from Derbyshire as tradition says three young sons joined their father in Kilkenny. As understood (this needs more research), the Grange is a place (?civil parish) near the town of Kilkenny (may also be spelt "Kiltown") in the county of Kilkenny, Ireland. It is about 135 kilomtres southwest of Dublin. Donore (or Donover) is outside the town (?village) of Moynalty in County Meath to the northwest of Dublin. The accompanying Google map shows both Grange and Moynalty with the "directions to Dublin" to orient the viewer. The name of Thomas' wife is unknown. Whoever she was, it is thought that she, too, was from Derbyshire. She and Thomas had the following children:
John - was given Donore
Thomas - stayed at the Grange in Kilkenny + Diana
Caleb - sheriff of Kilkenny – 1709-1714 + Rebecca Bary
Carlot + Thomas Milbank
Elizabeth + Stevington Kilkenny
Thomas Barnes may have died in 1684.
Grange may have been the townland on the west side of the River Nore just south of Ballyragget.

2d. "Journals for the Preservation of the Memorials for the Dead", Vol, Issue 1916, CARLOW, page 18; John Ryan's "History & Antiquities of the County of Carlow" - Page 331. I think '44' must be a misprint and that he was '54' when he died.

3. D.W Hayton, Dependence, Clientage & Afiinity in ‘The Dukes of Ormonde

image title

Above: Extract of Norries / Norris family tree.