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Bunburys in the Medieval Age

This section follows on from the earlier remarks about the Baron de St Pierre. It is based upon a family tree, compiled in the 19th century, which I discovered in the attic of Lisnavagh House in 1986. Given the enormous passage of time since these people lived, one must treat all these names, dates and suppositions with a degree of caution.

 

Sir George Beeston (1499 -1601) lived to the remarkable age of 102. He served four monarchs, was Admiral of the Fleet, and commanded the Dreadnought against the Spanish Armada when he was 89.

Alexander de Bonebury

 

Patrick Bunbury was a great-grandson to David de Bonebury, or Bunbury, brother of the first-named Henry de Bonebury. (David’s signature was, on escutcheon, a lion, passant). He

Alexander de Bonebury, Lord of Bunbury, was part of the Norman elite in England during the reign of King Henry III. He inherited his cousin Joan’s half of the lordship of Bunbury. According to Hanshall, his father was

Patrick married Letitia Fitz-Hugh, eldest daughter and co-heiress of Robert FitzHugh, Baron of Malpas. The lordship of Bunbury (or part of it, its complicated!) was thereafter vested in their descendants.

Alexander and Letitia had two sons – William, his heir; and Joseph … although Joseph may have been called Henry. Either Alexander or his son Joseph also had sons Henry and Robert de Bunbury, both of whom were alive in the reign of Edward I.

 

The Beeston Connection

 

Joseph de Bonebury married Margery Beeston, sole daughter and heiress of William Beeston, and seems to have adopted the Beeston name. He may have had three sons – Joseph (age three, temps Edward I), Henry and Robert (27 Ed I) but there is some confusion about what happened to this line.

By one account, the line died out and Beeston passed to their cousin Henry. Another suggests that Margery Beeston’s husband was Alexander de Bunbury and that the Henry who succeeded to Beeston was their son. To add to the confusion, the ‘Memoir and Literary Remains of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Edward Bunbury’ (1868) says that Margery Beeston’s husband was actually called Henry! The latter author also observes that the Beeston family were nothing to do with Beeston Castle, which is a pity. However, there is some consolation that it was the aforementioned Urian de St Pierre who helped James de Audley regain control of Beeston Castle for Edward I after it had fallen to men loyal to Simon de Montfort. Beeston Castle was originally built by Ranulf, 6th Earl of Chester, in the 1220s, and incorporates the banks and ditches of an Iron Age hillfort.

Sir Hugh Calverley

Bunburys in Bunbury, 2018.

There is also a genetic connection to the great Admiral Beeston which reminds me of a morning in August 2018 when, while charging towards the Holyhead ferry, I obliged my dear family to make a whistle-stop pilgrimage to the town of Bunbury, having never set foot in the place. Bunbury was a village of some importance in medieval times. Its high number of 31 listed buildings include the Mill and The Dysart Arms.  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 also caught my attention – the aforesaid 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.

Bunbury 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 turns out the Bunbury Arms is at Stoak, near Little Stanney / Chester, just off both the M56 and the M53. (See here for a 2022 article, kindly sent to me by Susan Catchpole.)  The family arms are on the pub wall, I believe. I guess this is all linked to the feud between the Bunbury and Dysart families over the manorial rights! A return pilgrimage is called for. [1a]

 

Soldier of Longshanks

William de Bunbury, eldest son of Alexander, fought on behalf of Edward Longshanks against the Scots and the Welsh and died in about 1288 (16 Edward I). By his wife Matilda (or Maud), he left two sons – Hugh, his heir, and Henry. It is this second son Henry who is said to have succeeded his uncle Joseph and changed his name to become Henry, Lord de Beeston, and was ancestor to the Beeston family. (Henry bore for his signature, on an escutcheon, a lion, rampant). But just to keep things neat, another source – Hanshall’s History of the County Palatine of Chester – says that, in 1248, Henry granted the lands in Beeston to William’s son Richard de Bonebury.

 

The Malpas Connection

 

Bear in mind this family tree that appeared in the Visitation of Shropshire from 1625, which also refers to the Malpas-St Pierre link. The rest of the tree is available here at p. 423-426.

* Harl. 1241 makes Isabella a daughter of Sir William Patrick.

Hugh de Bunbury

Hugh de Bunbury succeeded his father as Lord of Bunbury in 1288, sixteen years into the reign of Edward I. The Bunburys were always very good at marrying the right type of people. Randle Le Meschin, the fabulously wealthy 3rd Earl of Chester, had a daughter called Beatrix. Her husband was Ralph ap Eynion, son of a chap called Griffith who, being Baron of Malpas, Lord of Flint, Broomfield and Moelore (in Denbighshire), was also fabulously wealthy. It seems that Beatrix and Ralph had a daughter, Beannan, who married William le Belward and their son ‘Dan David’, Baron of Malpas, sometimes called David Le Clerk, inherited much of this wealth, as well as a moiety of the barony of Malpas, in right of his wife. A lineal ancestor to the Egerton baronets, David was also secretary to the then Earl of Chester (Ranulf de Blondeville, perhaps, or Simon de Montfort) and High Sheriff of Cheshire in 1251/52.

During the early years of Edward I’s reign, Hugh de Bunbury married Dame Christiana Malpas, daughter of Dan David and Margaret Malpas, which gave the Bunbury family serious financial clout. Hugh and Dame Christiana had issue at least five sons and a daughter, viz –

  1. Richard (their heir)
  2. Adam de Bunbury (a clerk, presented as Chaplain to the Rood Chapel in Tarporley, pronounced Tar-plee, circa February 1301)
  3. Henry (a possible son and vicar of Neston in 1307)
  4. David
  5. Robert
  6. Mabel, wife of Matthew de Hulgreve [1]

 

Richard de Bunbury & Bunbury Manor

 

Hugh was succeeded by his eldest son Richard de Bunbury who lived during the reign of Edward II and Edward III. According to Ormerod’s History, Richard levied fine of the manor of Bunbury in 1365. [2] He married Alice, surname unknown, who was a widow by 1379. He had issue David, Richard and Matilda.

 

Lord of Stannich (Stanney) & Hoole Hall

 

The Bunbury Arms in Stoak / Stoke, Cheshire

As well as being Lord of Bunbury, Richard’s son, David de Bunbury was Lord of Stannich, or Stanny, in Wirral, a ‘fair lordship near the city of Chester.’ He came into this via his marriage in the 1320s to the sole daughter and heiress of David de Stannich (or Stanny), near the city of Chester. That said, Hanshall says there is evidence that the family had property in the locality since the reign of Richard I.

David and his wife had two sons, William and David. According to Hanshall, David ‘settled the advowson of the Church of Bunbury, and the manor of Stanney, by fine, on his son William de Bunbury.’ His other son David was Prior of Bunbury circa 1311, as was his son, also David, afterwards, so there was clearly no problems with Priors having sons there … The Lordship of Stannich remains with Sir Michael Bunbury, the present head of the family.

The family appears to have moved their seat from Bunbury to Stanney during the long reign of Edward III (1327-1377), although Sir Thomas Charles Bunbury (1740-1821) still had an estate in the parish of Bunbury in the 1820s. They also acquired additional lands in the area, particularly in the parish of Hoole, just north-east of Chester, which they bought off the Calvaley family. In Hoole, they built a fine mansion house known as ‘The Hall’, which Hanshall (p. 614) describes as being ‘built chiefly of timber and encompassed with a moat.’

 

Roger De Bunbury, Marshall of the English Army

 

David was succeeded by his eldest son William de Bunbury, of Stanny on the Wirral, who had issue, Roger and Henry. William was succeeded by his son Roger de Bunbury of Stanny who lived during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377), an era that saw many vital developments in legislature and government—in particular the evolution of the English parliament— as well as the horrors of the Black Death. Between 1347 and 1351 the world’s temperature was the lowest recorded in 1000 years, coinciding with the plague, leading to a series of four failed harvests as the price of fuel and salt rocketed. It may have been started by rodents, and carried by them initially, but humans quickly proved to be expert transmitters of the disease. Adults were taken out in disproportionate number during the first plague, especially the over 50s, but the same plague returns in 1361 and this time it was the Plague of Children because it targeted the young, who suffered disproportionately. The plague would hit Europe five times, if not more, during the 14th century – primarily in 1360–63 and 1374-75 – so have pity on the generation born in the 1340s who had to deal with all of that. (Plague continued to ravage England in 1603 and then the last big one in 1665.) Moreover, it prompted the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381.

Family tradition holds that Roger de Bunbury was given the right to add chess rooks to his armorial coat of arms ‘for his great skill in martialing the troops of that warlike and victorious prince, Edward III.’ [3] As Roger was in his prime in 1341, we can assume that any such marshalling was in response to growing conflict with France in the lead up to the Hundred Years War.

According to Hanshall, Roger ‘added the chess rooks to his paternal armorial coat, in compliment to his skill in military tactics’. [4] Sir Henry Edward Bunbury, 7th Bart, speculates that Roger de Bunbury could have been the man called ‘Bembro’ who fought – and died – during the Combat des Trente on 26 March 1351. However, sadly it looks like ‘Bembro’ was actually Sir Robert Bramborough, Captain of Ploermel, who was indeed killed during the battle.

 

De Bunbury’s in the Plantagenet Army

A still from Kennet Branagh’s acclaimed 1989 film, ‘Henry V.’

 

Roger died without issue and was succeeded by his brother Henry de Bunbury, who was likely the family head when the boy king, Richard II, was crowned in 1377. This was the age of Piers Plowman, the Peasant’s Rebellion of 1381 and the MacMurrough wars in Ireland. Closer to Stanny, King Richard II was imprisoned at Chester in 1499 by Henry Bolingbroke, just before the latter usurped the throne to become Henry IV. Chester was also on the perilous Anglo-Welsh border when Owain Glyndŵr lead the Welsh Revolt of 1400-1415. (Listen to Adam Chapman tell Dan Snow about Owain here.)

Henry de Bunbury was , in turn, succeeded by his son, Richard de Bunbury, Lord of Bunbury, and Stanny. He married Alice Dutton, daughter of Edward Dutton and died in 1459.

Was there a Bunbury at Agincourt? According to the University of Southampton’s The Soldier in later Medieval England Project, three Bunburys served during the French expeditions of the early 15th century. In the summer of 1415, the 29-year-old King Henry V sailed for Normandy with 12,000 men, of whom 75 per cent were longbow archers earning six pence a day. The remaining quarter of his men were either aristocrats, knights (two shillings a day) or men-at-arms (one shilling a day). One of those men-at-arms was Richard de Bunbury, Esq, who may well have been Henry de Bunbury’s above-named heir.

Richard is likely to have been with Henry V’s army when it laid siege to the Norman town of Harfleur in mid-August. It took six long weeks before Harfleur surrendered on 22 September. The king left 300 men-at-arms were to guard the city, along with 900 archers, before marching the rest of his men back towards Calais, apparently with a view to returning to England. (He had challenged the Dauphin a personal combat, but the portly French monarch-in-waiting had wisely declined.) It is not known where Richard de Bunbury was at this point, but he was reported ‘sick’, probably suffering the bloody flux (aka dysentery) that was so rife in the ranks.

Richard de Bunbury craftily pulled a sickie on the morning of Agincourt.

As such, Richard does not seem to have fought during the great victory at Agincourt on 25 October 1415. That epic battle occurred after the French blocked Henry’s return to Calais, leading him to cross the Somme at Béthencourt, after which he found himself face to face with the French army and compelled to attack. The French likely numbered 15,000; the English were half that but it was, of course, England’s day. Nothing more is yet known of this Richard de Bunbury’s military career. [5]

Two years later, John Bunbury served as an archer under Henry V’s younger brother Humphrey Bolingbroke (1390-1447), the popular Duke of Gloucester. [6] Humphrey had a reputation as a successful commander. His knowledge of siege warfare, gained from his classical studies, contributed to the fall of Honfleur. For his services, he was granted offices including Constable of Dover, Warden of the Cinque Ports and King’s Lieutenant. His periods of government were peaceful and successful.

In the next generation, another Roger Bunbury served as an archer under Captain Sir John Lewis in the 1441 French campaign of Richard, Duke of York, who would become one of the protagonists during the Wars of the Roses. [7]

The Wars of The Roses

 

Bonbury of Stanney on the Visitation of Cheshire from 1580.

Richard died in 1459 and was succeeded by his son John Bunbury, perhaps the man who fought in France for the Duke of Gloucester. John was living in 1446. His wife Catherine was a daughter of John Hooks, of Flint. According to Wotton and Kimber’s Baronetage, ‘the Welch call her daughter to Jenkins Hollis ap Flint’. [8] John was named as a mise collector for the Wirral Hundred. He was also impannelled as a juror for 28 Cheshire County Court sessions, and sworn in on 25 of them, as well as being impanelled on 27 gaol delivery juries, and sworn on 22 of them. His name was usually found within the upper three-quarters of grand jury lists, and within the upper three fifths of gaol delivery jury lists. This coincided with the Wars of the Roses, in which Cheshire was a Lancastrian stronghold. Many prominent Yorkists were held prisoner in Chester Castle. John is said to have died in 1468/1470, although juror’s records suggest he attended his last jury service on 31 July 1481. [9] There may be some confusion over death dates and jury service records as John’s son and successor was also John Bunbury.

John Bunbury’s brother Richard Bunbury of Stanney was named in an undated petition from the turbulent reign of Edward IV (1461-1470; 1471-1483) when he led twenty men on a Palm Sunday raid of the Cheshire villages of Wervyn (Wervin) and Picton. His men were searching for the servants and tenants of Sir William Stanley of Hooton ‘in theire howses and chambers, and all theire places, theym to have beaten, maymed, murthered and slayne’. Luckily for Stanley’s dependents, they could not be found; they remained hidden until Bunbury’s mob had moved on. [10] This was presumably the Lancastrian born Sir William Stanley who became Sheriff of Chester in 1462 and who was, I think, one of the King’s Carvers although there may be some confusion here at there were a number of William Stanleys about. In 1465, he was made Sheriff for life and continued in that office until 1494. He built the Old Stone Tower of Hooton. For all that, Sir Henry Edward Bunbury notes that the Bunbury’s owned land in both Wervin and Picton, and he concludes:

‘… it seems probable, therefore, that the feud had arisen out of some dispute as to local rights, rather than any question touching the houses of York and Lancaster.’ [11]

John was succeeded by his son John Bunbury of Stanny Esq, who was married in 1464/5 to Agnes Norris (Norreys), daughter of William Norris of Speake, Esq, having ‘settled the manor of Bunbury for her jointure.’ It seems that Agnes’s father or brother was the William Norris of Speake who was knighted after helping the Lancastrians achieve the final victory in the last battle of the Wars of the Roses at Stoke Field in 1487. A William Norris had also lined out for Henry VII’s Lancastrian army at the battle of Bosworth two years earlier. John died in 1506.

John and Agnes’s daughter Margaret Bunbury married Edward Frodsham, although their descendant Jax Williamson advised me in 2022 that Margaret may actually have been a daughter of Blanche Poole and Richard Bunbury, as recorded in the above tree called Bonbury of Stanney from the Visitation of Cheshire of 1580.

 

The Port of Chester

 

From about 1400 onwards, Chester was struggling with a decline of trade brought on by the slow but steady silting up of the port, which made navigation of the River Dee increasingly difficult for ships carrying wine, slate, millstones and other produce. After the port silted up, I imagine it still smelled of salt and mud and reeds, with ruins, rot and stagnant water where those businesses had once thrived, the faded remnants of its prosperity. However, there seems to have been a revival in Chester’s fortunes in the early Tudor period, perhaps brought on by some remedial works at the port. Maybe there was a man-made canal also?

Moreover, while Irish and coastal shipping to the port declined briefly after 1460, it had recovered by the mid-1470s. Wine imports in the decade 1470-80 were less than 600 tuns. By 1510-20 they had climbed to 2,500 tuns and in the years 1530-40 almost reached 3,000 tuns. In fact, as K.P. Wilson observed in ‘The Port of Chester in the Fifteenth Century’ (1965), Chester enjoyed a period of unprecedented prosperity between 1486 and the 1540s, when ‘work began on a new quay in the estuary in response to the challenge from the rising “creek” of Liverpool.’

 

The Poole-Stanney-Fitton Link

 

Poole Hall, Cheshire, on the site of Blanche Bunbury’s family home.

The younger John died in 1505-6, a few years before Henry VIII came to the throne. His son Richard Bunbury of Stanney married Blanche Poole. Her grandfather Thomas Poole was knighted at the battle of Stoke in 1487. She was a daughter of Sir Thomas Poole (de Pulle) (1450-1510) of Poole, Wirral, Chester. That said, I see no mention of Blanche or any relevant Bunbury connection in ‘The Poole Family of Poole Hall, in Wirral: A Paper Read Before the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire 16th March, 1899′ by Margaret Ellen Poole.

Blanche Bunbury’s mother Elizabeth was a daughter of Sir William Stanley of Hooton, so there was evidently peace between the Stanleys and Bunburys by now. In the next century, the two families would again be merged.

Blanch’s brothers included Sir Thomas Poole (who married a sister of Sir Edward Fitton, sometime Treasurer of Ireland, which may be the original Irish link), Sir William Poole, and Randle Poole (who became a priest).

John died in 1540 , the hottest summer of the sixteenth century and the same year that Thomas Cromwell fell from power. His son Henry Bunbury succeeded as Lord de Bunbury. Chester’s golden age would soon be at an end but the Bunbury family were to remain in the area through until the English Civil War.

*****

 

Click here for previous chapter on the Baron de St Pierre and the origins of the Bunbury family.

Click here for next chapter on Henry Bunbury of Great Stanney (1509-1547).

*****

 

Footnotes

[1a] To contact the church, visit http://www.bunbury.org.uk/ while one recommended place to stay locally is The Wild Boar. With thanks to Victoria House.

[1] From Ormerod’s History of the County Palatine and City of Chester, Vol. II, p. 395, Pedigree of the Bunbury Family, confirmed by William Dugdale in the Visitation of 1663. See: http://cybergata.com/roots/5619.htm

[2] Ormerod’s History of the County Palatine and City of Chester, Vol. II, p. 395, Pedigree of the Bunbury Family, confirmed by William Dugdale in the Visitation of 1663.

[3] Wooton.

[4] The history of the county palatine of Chester, J H. Hanshall (1823), p. 614.

[5] TNA_E101_45_1; m13.

[6] TNA_E101_51_2; m42.

[7] TNA_E101_53_33; m8.

[8] The baronetage of England, by Thomas Wotton, Edward Kimber, Richard Johnson (1741).

[9]The Administration of the County Palatine of Chester, 1442-1485’ by Dorothy J. Clayton, Edward Moore Bennett, p. 232.

[10] Hanshall, p. 614.

[11] Memoirs, p. 233.