Turtle Bunbury

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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.



Alexander de Bonebury, lord of Bunbury, was part of the Norman elite in England during the reign of King Henry III. He had inherited his cousin Joan’s half in the lordship of Bunbury. According to Hanshall, his father Patrick Bunbury married Letitia Fitz-Hugh, eldest daughter and co-heiress of Robert FitzHugh, Baron of Malpas, and the lordship of Bunbury (or part of it, its complicated!) was thereafter vested in their descendents. Patrick 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).

Alexander and Leititia had two sons - William, his heir; and Joseph ... although Joseph may have been called Henry.

Joseph de Bonebury married Margery Beeston, sole daughter and heiress of William Beeston, and seems to have adopted the Beeston name. He 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 called Alexander de Bunbury and that 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.

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 whistlestop pilgrimage to the town of 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 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. 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. The family arms on the pub wall, I believe. I guess this is all linked to the feudn between the Bunbury and Dysart families over the manorial rights! A return pilgrimage is called for.

Bunbury was a village of some importance in medieval times. Its high number of 31 listed buildings include the Mill and The Dysart Arms. Or they even have of The Bunbury Arms. 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.

Beeston Castle was built by Ranulf, 6th Earl of Chester, in the 1220s, and incorporates the banks and ditches of an Iron Age hillfort.

(NB: Either Alexander or his son Joseph also had sons Henry and Robert de Bunbury, all of whom were alive in the reign of Edward I.)



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.



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 fabulously wealth, as well as a moiety of the barony of Malpas, in right of his wife. As well as being 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 – Richard (their heir), Adam de Bunbury (a clerk, presented as Chaplain to the Rood Chapel in Tarporley, circa Feb 1301), Henry (a possible son and vicar of Neston in 1307), David and Robert, and a daughter Mabel (wife of Matthew de Hulgreve).[i]

This was the era 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 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.



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 de Bunbury, levied fine of the manor of Bunbury in 1365. [ii] Richard was married to Alice, who was a widow by 1579 (5 Richard II). He had issue David, Richard and Matilda.



As well as being Lord of Bunbury, Richard’s son, David de Bunbury was also 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 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). 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.’

(NB: Sir Thomas Charles Bunbury (1740-1821) still had an estate in the parish of Bunbury in the 1820s).



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 (ie: 1327-1377) of Edward III, a successful era that saw vital developments in legislature and government—in particular the evolution of the English parliament— as well as the horrors of the Black Death.

Family tradition holds that William’s son Roger 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.’ (Wooton). As the date upon which Roger is deemed to have been ‘living’ is ‘36 Ed. III’, or 1341, we can for now 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, he ‘added the chess rooks to his paternal armorial coat, in compliment to his skill in military tactics’. [iii] 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 26th March 1351. However, sadly it looks like 'Bembro' was actually Sir Robert Bramborough, Captain of Ploermel, who was indeed killed during the battle.



Roger died without issue and was succeeded by his brother Henry de Bunbury, who 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 (37 Hen VI).

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. Richard de Bunbury, Esq, served as a Man-at-arms under Henry V in the summer of 1415 but was described as ‘sick’ so may not have fought during the great victory of Agincourt that October. (TNA_E101_45_1; m13). Two years later John Bunbury served as an archer under Henry V’s younger brother Humphrey Bolingbroke (1390-1447), the popular Duke of Gloucester. (TNA_E101_51_2; m42). 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 was an archer serving under Captain Sir John Lewis in the 1441 French campaign of Richard, Duke of York. (TNA_E101_53_33; m8)



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 (24. Hen VI). 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’.[iv] 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 thee fifths of gaol delivery jury lists. This was during in the era of 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 (ie: 9 Edw. IV) although the juror’s records suggest he attended his last jury service on 31 July 1481. ['The Administration of the County Palatine of Chester, 1442-1485’ by Dorothy J. Clayton, Edward Moore Bennett, p. 232.] 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 where they came 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 and they remained hidden until Bunbury’s mob and moved on. (Hanshall, p. 614) 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.’ (Memoirs, p. 233)

John was succeeded by his son John Bunbury of Stanny Esq, who was married in 1464/5 to Agnes Norris, 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 in 1485. John died in 1506 (ie: 21 Hen VII).



The younger John died in 1505-6, a few years before Henry VIII came to the throne. His son Richard Bunbury of Stanney Esq married Blanch Poole, daughter of Sir Thomas Poole of Poole, Chester, Knight, and sister to William Poole Esq. He died in 1540 , leaving issue Henry Bunbury of Stanny, Lord of Bunbury, who married Margaret Aldersey, daughter and sole heiress to the merchant Hugh Aldersey, thrice mayor of Chester (1528, 1541, 1546), younger son of Henry Aldersey of Aldersey and Spurstoe. In 1544, Henry Bunbury obtained the 670-acre township of Great Stanney from John Warburton of Broomfield (whose family acquired it from the Cistercian Monastery of Stanlow at the Dissolution of the Monasteries) for 500 marks.

Blanch Bunbury's mother Elizabeth was a daughter of Sir William Stanley of Hooton, so there was evidently peace between the Stanleys and Bunburys now. 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).



For more on this click here.

Richard Bunbury died in 1542 (ie: 32 Henry VIII) and left issue, Henry Bunbury (1509–1547), Lord of Bunbury. This man provides the first direct connection between the Bunbury family and Ireland through his son Thomas Bunbury of Stanny (1542–1601), father of the first Sir Henry Bunbury, although Henry's aunt, as noted above, was a sister of Sir Edward Fitton (1527 –1579), Lord President of Connaught and Vice-Treasurer of Ireland in Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

Chester was the favoured resort of the Irish gentry before Bath came of age. Henry’s wife Margaret was a daughter of Hugh Aldersey, a prosperous merchant who served as Mayor of Chester in 1528, 1541 and 1546. They had Thomas, Edmund and Elizabeth (who married Henry Birkenhead of Huxly).

In his 'Memoir and Literary Remains', Sir Henry Edward Bunbury, 7th Bart, speculates that the knighthood granted to his Bunbury ancestor may have been connected to services 'rendered in Ireland; because it is from this reign (ie: Elizabeth) that one begins to find the first migration of Bunburys to the sister kingdom. This migration appears to have continued through the 17th century; and the families of our name which stil remain in Ireland, or have held estates there, are numerous.' The 7th Bart also points out that Chester had 'the most constant and intimate communication with Ireland' at this time, more so than any other English town, and that it was 'the favourite resort and lounging place of the Irish gentry, before Bath became the fashion with them.' (p. 234)

After Henry de Bunbury’s death in 1547 - the same year Henry VIII died - Margaret married again. Her second husband was Sir Rowland Stanley of Cheshire, who would go on to be the oldest knight in England by the time of his death aged 96 in 1614. Sir Rowland and Lady Margaret Stanley were the parents of Sir William Stanley (1548-1630), one of the most esteemed soldiers in the Elizabethan army during the 1560s and 1570s. Thomas Bunbury was also raised in this household and it is believed both boys were raised as Catholics. In 1585, Sir William was rewarded for his gallantry with a feoffment of the manor and castle of Lismore, Co Waterford. His half-brother Thomas Bunbury was named as one of the three executors of this trust. However, in 1587, Sir William stunned English society when he switched to the Spanish side one the eve of the Armada.

Whether Thomas Bunbury knew of Sir William’s divided loyalties is unknown. He died on May 5th 1601, some six months before Lord Mountjoy’s English army annihilated the combined Spanish-Irish forces at Kinsale and effectively brought Celtic Ireland to its absolute end.



Upon the death of Henry, Lord de Bunbury, in 1547 (ie: 38 Henry VIII), he was succeeded by his eldest son Thomas Bunbury. Thomas was married to Bridget Aston, daughter to John Aston (1572 - 13/5/1615), of Aston, Runcorn, Cheshire. Thomas ‘Bunburie’ was among the Cheshire armigers (ie: men entitled to heraldic arms) named for contributing to the armaments raised in defence of the kingdom against the intended invasion by the Spanish Armada in 1588. He chipped in £25, a wise investment given the antics of his half-brother, Sir William Stanley. Indeed, Sir Rowladn Stanley (father of Sir William) contributed £100. Sir William Stanely’s recent surrender of Deventer was high on people’s mind. ‘His conduct had been held up for imitation in a book published by a Lancashire Catholic, William Allen (shortly afterwards made a cardinal), on the ground of its being unlawful to obey an excommunicated queen.’ (George Ormerod, 'The history of the county palatine and city of Chester’, p. 34, fn h). Thomas died on May 5 1601, and was succeeded by Sir Henry Bunbury (1565-1634), grandfather of Benjamin Bunbury who acquired the land at Lisnavagh.


See here for the next chapter.



Later Bunburys of this line include Sir Harry Bunbury (a Jacobite sympathiser who was an initimate friend of Farquhar the dramatist), Sir Charles Bunbury (the Admiral of the English Turf and husband of Lady Sarah Lennox, for whom the Derby race was so nearly named), the American General Harry Lee, the explorer Henry St. Pierre Bunbury (for whom Bunbury in Australia is named), the Georgian cartoonist and painter Henry William Bunbury, the botanist Sir Charles Bunbury and the Tory politician Sir Henry Bunbury who, as Under-Secretary of State for War, informed Napoleon that he was to be exiled in perpeuity in St. Helena.




[i] 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

[ii] 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,

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

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