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Sir Henry Benjamin Bunbury (1597-1664) & the Civil War

Loyalty to Charles I would cost Sir Henry Bunbury a great deal during Cromwell’s Interregnum.

Old Sir Henry died at Stanney on 8 September 1634 and was interred at Thornton in le Mores Church in County Chester. His eldest son Henry Benjamin Bunbury, a half-uncle to Benjamin Bunbury of Killerig, duly succeeded to the family estate at Stanney at the age of 37. Henry married Ursula, daughter of John Baley (Bailey/Bayly) of Hodsden in Hertfordshire.[1]  They had six sons and five daughters ‘for whom he made a handsome provision notwithstanding the many hardships put upon him for his unshaken loyalty to King Charles I and all the royal family.’[2]

During the English Civil War, several prominent Cheshire gentlemen drew up the Bunbury Agreement (23 December 1642) to keep the county neutral but the initiative petered out when Sir William Brereton and Dunham Massey, the leading Parliamentarians in Cheshire, rejected its terms, prompting Charles I to send Sir Thomas Aston to secure the county for the Crown. A party of Royalists staying at nearby Cholmondeley House torched the church at Bunbury on June 20th 1643.[3]

Hanshall states that Henry Bunbury was ‘an active loyalist, and had his estates sequestrated by the Republicans for five years, during which period he was closely imprisoned at Nantwich. He was allowed as sustenance only a fifth of the produce of his lands, and when he was set at liberty a fine of £2,200 was levied upon them. His entire loss was about £10,000, exclusive of his Hall at Hoole, near Chester, which was destroyed during the siege of that city.’ The 7th Bart added that not only had his mansion house been ‘pillaged and burned to the ground … by the Parliamentary forces when they were besieging Chester in 1645’ but his estates were also ‘ravaged’. Platt’s History and Antiquities of Nantwich states that he had ten children at this time. [4] It is notable that Bruens of Stapleford (and later Carlow) were among the other Cheshire families who suffered in the war.

In 1649, Sir Henry’s cousin, Sir Arthur Aston, was commander of the Royalist garrison at Drogheda when Oliver Cromwell’s forces laid siege to the Irish port. Aston was clubbed to death with his own wooden leg,

Was he still in prison when his wife Ursula died on 20 March 1652, aged 53? The 7th Bart writes: ‘The old hall at Stanney had been neglected during the many years whilst the head of the family resided at Hoole. It was dilapidated and parts seem to have been pulled down. Such as it now was, however, it became of necessity the dwelling-place of the impoverished Henry Bunbury, after his release from prison.’ In Webb’s Itinerary, written in 1662, he records ‘the pleasant and sweet seat’ of Sir Henry Bunbury. Writing in 1823, Hanshall added: ‘The Old Hall still remains and is a singularly curious room, with a heavily ornamented roof of wood. On the wainscoat at the upper end are inscribed a series of verses now nearly defaced. The building is surrounded by extensive barns and grainaries [sic]. When this building began to decay the Bunburies fixed their seat at a more modern building.’ Stanney Hall was degraded to a farm house but traces of its ancient splendour were visible to Sir Henry Edward Bunbury when he succeeded to the estate in 1821.

Henry survived Ursula by twelve years, passing away on 1 February 1664, aged 66. ‘This unfortunate cavalier,’ remarked the 7th Bart, ‘lived to see the restoration of Charles II, but not to receive any reward for his loyalty, or remuneration for his losses. His son Thomas Bunbury probably continued to urge the claims of his father and himself in vain, during many years, till in 1681 he was obliged to content himself with the barren honour of a baronetcy.’ [5]

A memorial to Henry and his ‘most loving wife’ Ursula was erected in Stoke Church (near Stanney) by their four younger sons and two daughters.

The Children of Henry and Ursula

Henry and Ursula’s six sons were:

1) Sir Thomas Bunbury, baronet (1618-1682).

2) John Bunbury who died unmarried ‘in the service of his King and Countrie in Ireland in 1642’ according to the inscription on his parents memorial in Stoke church (near Stanney). He should not to be confused with Colonel John Bunbury of Wexford.

3) Henry Bunbury married Eleanor Birch, widow of Mr Holcroft of Holcroft, Lancashire, but left no issue.

4) William Bunbury married Mary Skevington, second daughter to Sir Richard Skeffington (Skevington) of Fisherwick, Staffordshire, and died on his 47th birthday, 23 October 1676. Mary lived to be 82 and died in 1711. Their oldest son Charles Bunbury died unmarried while their second son William Bunbury was a Fellow of Brazennose College, Oxon, and Rector of Great Catworth in Huntingdonshire. The younger William married Anne Chernocke, daughter of Sir Williers Chernocke of Hulcot in Bedfordshire, Bart, with whom he had three sons and three daughters. Sir Richard Skevington, Mary Bunbury’s father, died in 1647, exhausted by the trauma of the Civil War. (A monument to him exists in Church of Broxbourne, and suggests that he found his life ‘such a burthen, as caused him to retire to this place for ease, where his God, the God of peace, appointed him to rest from his labours.’) Mary Bunbury’s sister Elizabeth married William Ferrar of Dromore, County Down, but had no children. Mary’s older brother Sir John Skeffington also strengthened the Irish connection when he married Mary, daughter and heiress of Sir John Clotworthy, Lord Viscount Masserene, of Antrim, after which the Viscountcy of Masserene passed to his heirs.

5) Joseph married Leticia Neal, daughter to Sir William Neal of Ireland, Bart, who had been Governor of Hawarden Castle during the Civil War; Sir William resisted a four week siege by Parliament before King Charles I urged him to surrender the castle in February 1646. Sir William was subsequently incarcerated for taking part in Sir George Booth’s rebellion in 1659, a Royalist conspiracy that followed the resignation of Richard Cromwell and the ending of the Protectorate in 1659. Leticia’s mother, name unknown, was a sister to Major General Randolph Egerton, a prominent Royalist supporter who lived at Betley in Staffordshire. Originally from Cheshire, the Egertons had been seated in Staffordshire since early in the 15th century. Joseph and Leticia had one son, also Joseph Bunbury, and two daughters Helena and Anne.

6) Richard, the youngest, who appears to have died unmarried.

Henry and Ursula’s five daughters were:

1) Susan who married, first, William Davys of Ashton and, secondly, William Cowley of Dodleston in Cheshire.

2) Mary, who died young.

3) Anne, who died young.

4) Elizabeth

5) Ursula who married Edward Morgan of Goulden Grove, Flintshire, a son of the ‘noble’ Captain Morgan who was slain at Winnington Bridge in 1659, by Elizabeth Whitley of Aston. Ursula died in 1709, aged 72. Her husband died in 1682, aged 38. Their children included Edward and Elizabeth Morgan.

Footnotes

[1]Cheshire and Lancashire Funeral Certificates’ by John Paul Rylands

[2] Wootton.

[3]Tracts relating to the civil war in Cheshire, 1641-1659; including Sir George Booth’s rising in that county’ (Manchester: The Chetham Society, 1909), p. 75, 93.

[4] There is some sort of a claim by Sir Henry for £868 on p. 38 of George Ormerod, ‘The history of the county palatine and city of Chester’.

[5] Memoirs, p. 235.