Turtle Bunbury

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The Baron de St. Pierre & the Bunbury Family

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Above: Founded by David English M.B.E, the Bunbury
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The Bunbury Tails album was a collaboration between
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A musty mid-nineteenth century scroll in the possession of our family claims that the Bunburys descend from a younger son of the Baron de St. Pierre who was, the story runs, one of the lucky Norman warriors who grabbed a chunk of England after the defeat of the Saxons at the battle of Hastings in 1066. This theory is also advanced in Debrett's and Burke's, following on from Thomas Wooton's English Baronetage (1741), which states that the Bunbury family were originally called St Pierre after 'a Norman commander who came over at the time of the conquest and shared the fortune of Hugh Lupus, first Norman earl of Chester,' of whom more details below. Wooton states that Lupus rewarded St Pierre 'for his merit and valour, with divers goodly lands and possessions, among them the manor or lordship of Bonebury … from thence this family have since taken their denomination.’

However, J. H Hanshall’s 'History of the County Palatine of Chester' (1823) says the manor of Bunbury was granted to Robert McHugh, Baron of Malpas, of whom more details are also below. Further clues are offered in 'Memoir and Literary Remains of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Edward Bunbury' (1868)’ where the author, head of the Bunbury family, states that 'the house of St Pierre was of high distinction in Normandy, their castles being in the neighbourhood of St Lo.’ The concept that the family may have come from Saint-Lô, the capital of the Manches district, is tantalising but I know not where he came up with this. Sir Henry also repeats the tradition that a younger son of this house arrived in England ‘in the train’ of the aforementioned Hugh Lupus. However, Sir Henry concedes that 'there remain no documents to show when lands in Bunbury were first granted to this Norman warrior or his descendants’ although he believes they must have been a family 'of considerable note, possessing a manor, the patronage of the church and the lordship of the town of Boneberi.'

In July 2014, i was contacted by a Katherine Chaveli who remarked that the St. Pierre family is also known as 'Semper' which may lead to new clues. She knew the Baron as 'Baron Semper'.

In any case, I think it would make sense to backtrack a little and consider the story from the end of the Saxon era onwards.



Prior to Hastings, the lands at Bunbury belonged to a Saxon lord named as Dedol of Tiverton (Rushton), who is also thought to have also owned land at Cogshall (Tunendune) and Little Budworth (Rushton). However, by far the most important local landholder was Earl Edwin (aka the Earl of Merica) who had one of his bases at Alpraham near Bunbury. Edwin was a grandson of Earl Leofric and the famous Lady Godiva and the elder brother of Morcar, Earl of Northumbria. Dedol may have been a reeve or official serving under Earl Edwin.

On 20 September 1066, Earl Edwin and his brother Morcar were defeated by the combined army of Tostig Godwinson and King Harald Hardrada of Norway at the Battle of Fulford near York. Just five days later, Tostig and Harald were among those slain by Harold Godwinson’s army in the Battle of Stamford Bridge, the battle that seriously curtailed Norwegian interest in England.

The power of Earl Edwin, Godwinson and Viking alike entered their twilight with the arrival of a Norman fleet commanded by William, Duke of Normandy, aka William the Conqueror, aka William the Bastard, into England a few days after Stamford Bridge. It certainly gave Harold Godwinson the mother of all conudnrums before he and his army were annihilated in a single battle, the famous battle of Hastings, despite the fact the two armies were pretty evenly matched at about 7-8,000 men each. One of the main reasons why the Norman’s won at Hastings is because they had mounted knights and the Saxons did not. Many Saxons seem to have died in the crush, bringing to mind Jon Snow’s experience in ’The Battle of the Bastards’ (GOT, S6). I always thought Harold was killed by an arrow in the eye, as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry, but I watched a documentary in 2017 that suggested Harold had a considerably more gruesome and unkingly finale at the hands of the Norman butchers ...

The coming of the Normans effectively spelled the end for both Saxon and Viking dominance in England although the transfer of power was by no means smooth ... by one account, control of England basically passed from 10,000 Saxons to 10,000 Norman newcomers who immediately began imposing their language, laws and traditions. Was St Pierre among this first wave of Normans who now rode along the roads built across England by the Romans a thousand years earlier? The death of so many Saxon landholders in the battle of Hastings had enabled William to reward many of his followers afterwards but his coronation a few weeks later did not mean he was by any means secure on his throne. For instance, Earl Edwin - who missed Hastings, as did Morcar - led a short-lived rebellion against him in Mercer. This was one of a a series of disunited and lacklustre rebellions led by exiled English leaders, including members of Harold Godwinson's family who had fled to Ireland after Hastings. In each instance, they were savagely crushed by William. Earl Edwin was killed in 1071 when he was betrayed to the Normans while journeying to Scotland. William also had to continually confront battles with rival Norman chieftains in Normandy, and lived there for much of his reign, dying in Rouen.

Sir Henry Edward Bunbury proposes that the St Pierre family hailed from Saint-Lô, the capital of the Manche department in Normandy. The town stands upon a rocky outcrop of schist belonging to the Armorican Massif, some 20km south-west of Bayeux, 57 km (35 mi) to the west of Caen, and 78 km (48 mi) south of Cherbourg. One wonders if there is a link to Saint-Pierre-de-Semilly, a commune just 6km east of Saint-Lô? One can but speculate. Many people from Saint-Lô are said to have participated in the Norman invasion of England. The town had become prosperous under Geoffrey de Montbray, Bishop of Coutances, who was a close friend of both William the Conqueror and Robert Guiscard, the Norman adventurer who conquered Apulia and Calabria in southern Italy and, later, Sicily.* Indeed, Geoffrey’s cathedral at Coutances was rebuilt with the wealth that Guiscard plundered from Italy. Is it relevant that Geoffrey de Montbray also fought in the wars against Earl Edwin? Or that Matilda of Flanders, the wife of William the Conqueror, ordered two candelabra for the Abbaye aux Dames from Saint-Lô’s famous goldsmiths. Her son Henry I, Count of Cotentin and later King of England, did much to strengthen Saint-Lô in 1090 while Geoffrey de Clinton, who rose 'from the dust’ to become Henry I's Chancellor of England, hailed from no less a place than Saint-Pierre-de-Semilly?

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



After Earl Edwin’s death, his lands - and those of Dedol - seem to have passed to Hugh d'Avranches (c. 1047 – 1101), whose father had contributed sixty ships to William's invasion fleet in 1066. (Hugh is said to have been a son of William the Conqueror’s stepsister Emma de Conteville but this claim is now considered unlikely.) Hugh became Earl of Chester in 1071 and succeeded his father to become Vicomte d’Avranches nine years later. He built Chester Castle, possibly on the site of an earlier fortress, as part of a network of substantial royal castles designed to impose the physical presence of loyal Norman lords and churchmen across the kingdom. Malpas was another of these castles. Hugh went on to serve as one of Henry I's principal councillors but became so obese from eating that he could barely walk, earning him the nickname of Hugh Gros. (The Norman spin doctors were careful to recast him as Hugo Lupus, or Hugh the Wolf, after his death.) Hugh was granted the bulk of Cheshire to hold "as freely by the sword" as William himself held the kingdom of England "by the crown". Lupus's descendants enjoyed these rights through until 1237 when John, Earl of Chester, died without male heir and the county was seized by Henry III and parcelled out to the deceased Earl's sisters. The Earldom was conferred on Henry's heir, Prince Edward, later Edward I and known to posterity as Edward Longshanks.

The Domesday Survey also records the county palatine of Cheshire as being owned by Hugh Lupus and other loyal stalwarts of the Conqueror such as the Bishop of Litchfield & Coventry and the canons of St. Werbugh. It would seem that Hugh Lupus was surrounded by loyal henchmen, one of whom may have been the Baron de St. Pierre. He was granted the manor of Bunbury in the parish of Bunbury in the hundred of Rushton and the county of Cheshire, about 13 miles from Chester. In the Domesday Book, it appears that Hugh’s illegitimate son Robert d’Avranches was tenant-in-chief of the settlements of Bunbury and Lower Bunbury by 1086. Robert was thus a half-brother of Richard d'Avranches, 2nd Earl of Chester, who died in the White Ship disaster of 1120. According to the Domesday Book, Bunbury had a population of just 3 households (2 villagers, 1 priest) in 1086, which put it in the smallest 20% of settlements recorded. In terms of plough land, it amounted to 2 ploughlands (1 lord's plough teams and 1 men's plough teams) while there was an acre of mixed woodland.



At the time of the Norman conquest, the village of Malpas was known as ‘Depenbech’, meaning ‘at the deep valley with a stream in it’. There may have been an older fortress here, or possibly a Roman one, commanding one of the difficult passes that opened into Wales, running between the sandstone outcrops of the Peckforton Hills and the marshy floodplain of the River Dee. Indeed, “Mal-pas” is literally the French for ‘difficult way or passage’. After Earl Edwin’s death, Hugh Lupus gave Malpas and other estates from the forfeited lands to his own natural son Robert Fitz-Hugh, whom he created Baron of Malpas, and who was one of the eight 'Marcher' barons at Hugh's Parliament. When he died without a male heir, Robert FitzHugh’s lands are said to have been divided between his two daughters Letitia and Mabillia, although some say they passed to Ralph ab Einion, father of Sir David de Malpas, whose descendant would marry into the Bunbury’s. (See below).

Letitia married Richard Patric, or Patrick, whose family would also be interlinked with the Bunburys in the 12th century. Hanshall states: ‘On a subsequent division of the Barony, Bunbury fell to the lot of Patrick, who married Letitia, eldest daughter and co-heir of Robert Fitz Hugh, son of Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester. In their descendants the paramount Lordship was vested.'

Fitzhugh’s other daughter Mabillia married William Le Belward and was thus ancestress of the families of Egerton, Cotgrave, Overton, Gough, Weston, Golborne, Kenclarke, Goodman, Little and Richardson, according to The Battle Abbey Roll, Vol. II, p. 54.




Tradition holds that the Baron de St Pierre's son adopted the name "de Bonebury" because, well, that's where he came from, see below, aquiring a manor that stood 13 miles from Chester and 7 miles from Nantwich. Sir Henry Edward Bunbury and J. H Hanshall concur that the first deed connected to the family concerns Henry de Bonebury, alive during the reign of King Stephen (1135-1154). Was he a St Pierre? Did he have cousins in Saint-Lô? His signature was a fleur de lis and he had a brother called David whose family would later take up the line. Henry was succeeded in turn by his son William de Bonebury and his grandson, Humphrey de Bonebury, who was alive in the reign of Henry II and Richard the Lionheart.

Humphrey married into the Patric / Patrick family during the reign of King John, the Magna Carta fellow whom Robin Hood kept robbing. However, he had no sons so his inheritance was divided between his two daughters Ameria and Joan. They were minors at the time of Humphrey’s death and were in the custody of Robert Patrick, thought to have been their uncle. Robert held the Manor of Bonebury 'by knights service' until the girls came of age. The manor was then divided so that Ameria's moiety descended to the Patricks while Joan’s part went to her cousin Alexander de Bonebury, a descendant of the original Henry de Bonebury's brother, David.

Sir Henry Edward Bunbury refers to the Patricks as 'Barons of Malpas, who held domains of great extent in Cheshire.’ Hanshall recounts that Almeria’s moiety in the Lordship of Bunbury passed from the Patricks to the St Pierres before going to the Cokesey family when Isabella de St Pierre, the daughter and sole heiress of Urian de St Pierre (1216-1295), married Sir Walter Cokesey early in the 14th century (round about the time of Bannockburn). Roy St Pierre has some exciting thoughts on who Urian de St Pierre was, see below, and perhaps the whole St Pierre at Hastings story is a myth and the St Pierre's did not come to England until the reign of Richard the Lionheart?

The Lordship of Bunbury continued with the Cokesey family, and its representatives, the Gryvell (Greville) family, for nearly two hundred years. In an Inquisition from 1507, the manor belonged to John Younge, then Somerset Herald, but it later passed to the Wilbrahams who purchased it from Lord Keeper Egerton in 1598. In 1671 Sir Thomas Wilbraham was ranked as Lord of the Manor of Bunbury. A Presbyterian, the line died out with him and his Cheshire estate was inherited by Lord Huntingtower (Lionel Tollemache), a Jacobite supporter from whom the manorial rights went to the Earl of Dysert. It seems the Bunbury’s held the lordship of the township of Bunbury while Wilbraham was lord of the court of Bunbury. There was a sort of steward’s enquiry as to who owned the rights of the manor in the time of the Rev. Sir William Bunbury (c. 1710–1764); Lord Dysert won. I am unsure who claims to be Lord of the Manor of Bunbury today. Maybe I should have a shot at it.


For more on the Medieval Bunbury family, click here.



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





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

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

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

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

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

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

from ‘The History of Cheshire’, p.596