Of some influence in Kenya during the mid-20th century, the Versturme-Bunbury family descend from the marriage of 3rd February 1829 between Anne Elizabeth Bunbury, only daughter of Major Benjamin Bunbury of Marlstone House, Newbury, and Captain Louis (Robert James) Versturme, KH, of Walcot, Berkshire. (1) Anne's father, a descendent of the Bunburys of Cranavonane, died in a horse accident in 1827, leaving Marlstone to her brother, Henry Mill Bunbury. Anne's elder brother Major Thomas Bunbury, an illegitimate son, would become one of the more charismatic officers of the British Army over the ensuing decades, playing a pivotal role in negotiating the Treaty of Waitangi with the Maori chieftains in New Zealand.
Anne was born on 27th August 1803 and educated in England. In his 'Recollections' her brother Thomas recalls visiting her boarding school while on leave circa 1813/14 and boasted that he made quite an impression on the school girls with his military uniform. Anne's marriage to Louis took place at Chieveley or Buckleberry (ie: beside Marlstone House) with the Rev. Henry Hodgkinson officiating.
The Versturme were a Belgian family, descended from William (Guillelmo) Versturme and Petronilla de Bruyher.[1a] Given that George III had a mistress called Petronilla Versturme, it is assumed she is the one and the same lady. Their son Louis (aka Lewis) Versturme appears to have been born in Ghent around 1760. In 1795 the British Government opened a new General Hospital in the Antilles; Lewis was appointed to head it with the equivalent rank of Lt-Colonel.[1b] Sir Lewis went on to become Inspector General of Military Hospitals in Britain. He was created a Chevalier de l'Ordre de la Légion d'honneur and was an exhibitor at the Ghent ‘Exposition publique de la société royale d'agriculture et de botanique’ in 1817 and 1818. In the year he was also made Chevalier de l'Ordre du Lion Belgique.
In 1798 Sir Lewis married Harriet Paillet, daughter of Clement Paillet and Leah Oldmeadow, under the guardianship of Richard Draper, the husband of her aunt, Anne Paillet. [1c] They had at least four children: Emily Teresa who married Major William Warburton Huntley, Louis Robert; Louisa Eliza and Caroline. Sir Lewis Versturme died in Bath on 11 May 1833. Louisa died in France before him; Caroline (1804–1874) survived him and married a local advocate and solicitor in Lymington called Chiels Cripps Wilkinson (1804–1884)
Louis, the only surviving son, became a Military Knight of Windsor and a Major in the Hanoverian Army. Anne and Louis had two sons, Rear Admiral Lewis Hutton Versturme and Colonel Adolphus Versturme, and a daughter, Gertrude, who married North North. A particularly grim fate was to befall their firstborn son Lewis, the Rear Admiral, who took his own life in 1888, viz:
THE SUICIDE OF ADMIRAL VERSTURME:
A TERRIBLE STRUGGLE (The Western Mail, 23 Jan 1888)
An inquest was held at Falmouth on Saturday on the body or Admiral Versturme, who committed suicide in a shocking manner at his residence, Arwenack. – Mrs Versturme, who was greatly prostrated by the shock, stated that on Thursday evening she and her husband dined together, and, on retiring to tho drawing-room, she was about to play the piano, when she heard a dreadful noise and saw deceased with the red-hot poker in his hand. She rushed at him and seized it, burning her hands, and in the struggle to wrest it from him she fainted. They had lived very happily together. – Ellen Davies, one of the servants, stated that she went to the drawing- room because she heard groans, and found Mrs. Versturme, who had fainted, on the floor in front of the fire, and the deceased was also on the floor “banging” himself with the joker. She seized it and took it away. There was a lighted lamp on the floor, which he also took hold of, and witness threw a rug over it to extinguish it. – Dr. Bellmore said when he arrived the deceased was in a perfect frenzy, evidently suffering from paroxysms of suicidal mania. Ha had four punctured wounds in the abdomen, two of them having a general burnt appearance. Blood was issuing from his mouth, as he had been chewing broken glass. Witness had great difficulty in pacifying him. He was lucid at intervals, but in witness's opinion was raving mad. – A verdict of “Suicide in a state of temporary insanity” was returned.
HORRIBLE DEATH OF A BRITISH ADMIRAL (Waikato Times, Volume XXX, Issue 2447, 17 March 1888, Page 2)
A mysterious and horrible occurrence is causing great excitement at Falmouth. Captain Louis Hutton Versturme, R.N. , has lived in a pleasantly situated house in tho neighbourhood of Falmouth for some years past, and has been a popular and much-respected officer. A year ago he retired from the navy with the rank of Rear-Admiral. His wife resided with him, and his father lived in the locality. On the fatal evening he dined at home alone with his wife, and was heard to mention to her how much he had enjoyed his dinner. They retired to the drawing-room, and one of the two domestic servants went out. Half an hour afterwards the servant heard screams and groans, and, running to the drawing-room, knocked at the door. Admiral Versturme cried out “Come in,” and on entering the servant saw her mistress at the further end of the room, apparently insensible, and the admiral in front of the fire with some weapon protruding from his stomach. The horrified girl ran for assistance, and returned with Dr. Bulmore, who found the admiral to be suffering from three wounds in his stomach, the wounds being also severe burns. A thin, brass-handled poker, which had lately been red-hot and was still heated, was by his side, and this had been thrust into him three or four times with much force. The unfortunate officer on being removed to bis bedroom spoke two or three times, saying, “It was because of the whiskey I did it!” and subsequently, “I am dying ! I commit my body, soul, and spirit to Christ!” There were burns on the side of his head,apparently injured when his wife was trying to wrest tho poker from him. Admiral Versturme lingered in great agony through the night, and died yesterday morning, in the presence of his father, without, so far as is known, having given any explanation of the horrible affair. He had been walking in his garden during the previous day, and appeared fairly cheerful, although he had been lately much depressed owing to the failure to come into a fortune he had expected on the death of a relative.
Major Louis Versturme died in Cheltenham on 4th December 1881, leaving £163. His widow, Anne Versturme died at Newton Hall, Whittington, Lancashire on the 24th February 1896 aged 92. She left just £96 in her will. (3)
When Anne's brother Henry Mill Bunbury died without heir in 1886, he left the family seat in Ireland at Cranavonane to his young cousin, Hamilton Joseph Bunbury (1866 - 1949). Under the terms of the Will of Henry Mill Bunbury of Marlstone House, who had no children from his two marriages, he left Marlstone House to his nephew Louis Hutton Versturme on the condition that he and his heirs take the name of Bunbury.
Ann and Louis Versturme's eldest son, Louis Hutton Versturme, enjoyed a successful career in the Royal Navy, in command of the Rosario in 1866, and is referred to in The Times. He succeeded to Marlstone House in 1886 and, in turn, left it to his nephew, Harry Verstrum-Bunbury.
Ann and Louis Versturme's only daughter (Alicia) Gertrude Versturme was married on 15th May 1856 to the improbably named North North (April 1824 - 1810). Born in Madras, his original name was actually North Burton but he assumed the surname and arms of North only by Royal License, dated 14 April 1866, on succeeding to the estates of his great-uncle Richard Toulmin North. By the time of the 1881 Census, Major North North was living at Thurland Castle in Tunstall, Lancashire, with his wife, Gertrude, and three younger children Alice Helen (aged 20), Oliver Henry (aged 6) and Albert Kingsley (aged 4). North North was described as a retired Indian Army Major aged 57, whilst his wife was aged 46. The family also had seven servants listed including a governess, nurse, footmen, and maids. (4) Thurland Castle is said to have inspired Charlotte Bronte to write the opening scenes of 'Jane Eyre', first published in 1847.
North and Gertrude's firstborn child, Alice Helen North, was born
in 1861. Their eldest son was Bordrigge North North (1862 - 1936)
who later married Maud Mabella Coulthurst.
North and Gertrude's second son Captain Louis Aylmer North, Manchester Regt, was born in April 1866 and educated at St Bee's School. He entered the Royal Scots Fusiliers from the 4th Battalion Royal Lancaster Regiment, December 14th, 1887, being promoted Lieutenant November 1st, 1890, and Captain June 1899. He served in the operations of the North-West Frontier of India, 1897-98, with the Kohat and Kurram Valley Force. At the action of the Uhlan Pass, August 27th, he was severely wounded. He also served with the Tirah Expedition. Captain North was placed on half pay in June 1899, owing to his wounds and on recovering joined the Manchester Regiment January 1901. He served in South Africa with the Manchesters in Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal and ORC until struck down with enteric. He died at Kroonstad, after two days illness, on 3rd December 1901. At the time of his death he was in command of the 3rd Shorncliffe Mounted Infantry Company, and a tablet was erected in Shorncliffe Garrison Church to his memory and that of the men of the company who lost their lives during the war.
North and Gertrude's third son Edward Bunbury North married Margaret Dundas and was father to the Marjorie North who married Evelyn James Bunbury.
Another son Oliver Henry North was born in 1875, and the youngest boy, Albert Kingsley North, in 1877.
For more details, see the Toulimn Page.
The Versturme-Bunbury family descend from Ann and Louis's second son, Colonel Adolphus Halkett Versturme, who was born in Bath in about 1837. In 1863 Adolphus married 19-year-old Mary Ann Palairet, the eldest of seven children born to Septimus Henry Palairet (1807 - 1854). (5)
Mary Ann was born at Harrow Weald. Her father, Septimus Palairet was a Captain in the 29th Regiment and lived for a time at The Grange in Stratford-upon-Avon although he died in Edinburgh. (6) Septimus married Mary Ann Hamilton, born in London in 1822, died in Philadelphia in 1851, implying the family spent some time in America. One wonders is this the link to the crude Limerick author, the Rev. Septimus Bunbury.
Adolphus and Mary Ann had a large family. In the 1871 census, 34-year-old Captain Adolphus Halkett Versturme, Royal Bucks Militia (retired) and his 27-year-old Mary Ann were living at Castle Mead, Manorbier, Pembrokeshire, with five children - Harry Palairet, aged 7, born at Aldershot (Hants); Eleanor Mary, aged 5, born Ayr (Scotland); Charles Humbleton (sic, should be Hamilton), aged 3, born at Erlegh (Berks); (entry for Richard Wagner crossed out), Edith Maud, aged 2, born at Erlegh, and Richard Wagner, aged 1 month, born at Manorbier, and five servants.
By the time of the 1881 Census, they were living at 13 Miles Road, Clifton, and 45-year-old Adolphus H Versturme was by then a Lt Colonel, 1st G A. Harry 'Strum' Palairet and Eleanor were elsewhere but their other children were listed as follows: Charles H, aged 13, born at Reading, Edith M, aged 12, born at Erlegh, Reading, Richard W, aged 10, born at Manorbier (Pembs), Katherine Elizabeth, aged 6, born at Clifton, Agnes Veronica, aged 4, born at Clifton, James K N, aged 2, born at St Peter Port, Guernsey, and Angela Dorothea, aged 10 months, born at Clifton, and five servants. I believe there was also a John Clement Versturme Bunbury and a daughter Honora Frances who was born in Clifton in 1874.
Adolphus died in Glastonbury on 17th April 1910. (7)
At any rate, Adolphus's firstborn son was Harry Palairet Versturme-Bunbury, a man who may well be part of the "White Mischief" crew in Kenya. He was born at Aldershot in 1864, educated at Charterhouse and became a Lieutenant Colonel with the Royal Scots. In 1909, The Times noted how Lieutenant Colonel H Versturme Bunbury was in command of the Scots stationed at Edinburgh Castle when a memorial window was erected to the memory of Sir William Lockhart, a former Commander-in-Chief of the Army in India. (8)
In 1922 Harry married Margaretta, daughter of Captain Pennefather of Knockinglass, Ireland, and widow of Major WT Holland. Margaretta had at least one son by her first marriage to Major Holland, as evidenced by a poignant obituary in The Times of 1931 which reads: 'In scared memory of WILLIAM PENNEFATHER HOLLAND, Captain, King's African Rifles, and Sudan Political Service, and His Britannic Majesty's Consul. Maji. South-west Abbysinnia, champion and friend of British subjects in that land. He died on duty August 3rd 1930 upholding the traditions of England to the last. His life was one of such romance and heroism as are seldom known in modern times. The beloved son of Mrs. H. P Versturme- Bunbury, Belfield, Wyke Regis, Dorset'. (9)
Harry and Margaretta lived at Belfield Park in Weymouth. Harry worked with Lloyds Bank Ltd, 6 Pall Mall in London. He was a member of the Army & Navy Clubs and of the Royal Dorset Yacht club. Harry died in Nairobi on August 3rd 1943. (10) He was a close friend of Captain Henry "Pants" McCance (1867-1937), 1st Battalion Royal Scots, whose father-in-law Dr. Joseph Bell taught Arthur Conan-Doyle's literature. In an obituary to McCance the author states: 'Pants had a large mail, for he maintained correspondence constantly with old officers - naming just three, "Besom" (Capt. O. R. Brush, living in Switzerland), "Strum" (Lt.Col. H. P. Versturme-Bunbury, generally to be found sitting in Kenya) and "F.J." (Maj.Gen. F. J. Duncan)
At some point Harry and Magaretta moved to Kenya. Indeed, there seems to have been a strong Kenyan connection and, while I don't yet know who their children were, I imagine Richard Versturme-Bunbury referred to below was one of their sons.
The birth of Adolphus and Mary Ann’s second son Charles Hamilton Versturme was registered in Wokingham, Berkshire, in 1867. The 1891 census noted 23-year-old, unmarried Lieutenant Charles Versturme, Royal Engineers, at the Royal Engineers Department, Aldershot.
The American Family Immigration History Center lists 46 Bunburys who passed through New York's Elllis Island between 1890 and 1924. In the 1910 lists we find numbers 9 and 20 referring to Charles Hamilton Verstume Bunbury (aged 43) and his wife Francis Fuller Verstume Bunbury (aged 40). It is thought that they were headed for Vancouver, Canada initially, but later moved on to Bermuda.
Charles (aged 62) and Frances (aged 56) were also listed as passengers on the SS Avon which sailed from Bermuda to Southampton, arriving on 15 May 1929. Their proposed UK address was c/o Brown, Shipley and Co, Pall Mall, London, and the country of their last permanent residence was Bermuda.
According to St Swithin’s burial register in Bath, Frances Fuller Versturme-Bunbury of 19 Gay Street died aged 72 and was buried on 27th June 1938.
C.H. Versturme Bunburywho became a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Engineers and was present at the funeral of Major General Stanley van Donop according to The Times of October 21st 1941. On April 2nd 1942, The Times notes 'a marriage has been arranged' between Lt Col Charles Hamilton Versturme-Bunbury (late RE) and Edith Mary Sybil Langworthy (nee Marshall), widow of J.L. Langworthy. Alas this second marriage was thwarted as Edith was killed in an air-raid around the end of April 1942.
Charles Versturme-Bunbury of 8 Queen's Parade, Bath died aged 79 and was buried on 17 Feb 1947. He was buried with his wife Frances in Lansdown cemetery (Section 6 Row F Plot 5A) beneath a rough granite slab, possibly a headstone that has been laid flat face down. Also buried here is Frances Versturm-Bunbury's sister Cornelia Devens (1869-1935).
Colonel Versturme-Bunbury's daughter Maud married Canon Anthony Charles Deane (d. 1946), Chaplain to the King.
One of Adolphus and Mary Ann Versturme's younger sons John Clement Paillet Versturme-Bunbury
was born in the Barton Regis (Clifton?) district of Gloucestershire in 1889.
In April 1909, a Lieutenant J. C. P. Versturme-Bunbury disembarked
at Cape Town (10a). On 17 October 1912 he married Irish-born Dorothy
Going at the Parish Church of Colnbrook, Buckinghamshire. His residence
was given as Highfield-Hartley, Plymouth, Devon, and he was described as
a Gentleman, aged 23. Dorothy Going was the adopted daughter of Col.
George Nuttall Going (1861-1943) and his wife Leila Mary (1860-1938),
nee Ellis, a first cousin, twice removed of Richard Ellis. Family papers
suggest that Dorothy was born in Rugby on 11 October 1890, but the identity
of her natural parents is unknown. Dorothy's marriage certificate gives
her residence as Poyle Close, Colnbrook, her age as 21 and her father's
name and profession are those of her adoptive father.
George and Dorothy had one son, John Going Versturme-Bunbury, born in Victoria, British Columbia, on 12th August 1918. John served as a student pilot with the RAF, moving to a training school in Arizona in July 1943. On the afternoon of 17 August 1943, J.G. Versturme-Bunbury, Leading Aircraftsman, RAF Volunteer Reserve (Service No: 1809485), was killed when his airplane collided with another place mid-air over Falcon Field, Mesa City, Maricopa County, Arizona. The coroner's report established that he suffered multiple fractures of the head, arms and legs, causing instant death. His death was not reported in The Times until October 15th 1943. (11) He was buried at Lot 4, Block 528, Grave 4, Mesa City Cemetery. The Debt of Honour register gives his age as 25, and states that he also served in the Merchant Navy and that his parents were living in San Francsico. John's address was given as Apt 2, 1335 Washington Street, San Francisco.
John Clement Paillet Versturme-Bunbury was buried close to his son in 1937. His memorial says he was born Clifton, England 1889 and died in San Francisco in 1937. Although he died in 1937, he was buried with the fallen men from the Royal Air Force. Thus, he must have been re-buried there after the death of his son. Images of both gravestones are to be found on www.arizonagravestones.org.
On May 5th 1947, The Times dedicates a short obituary to Richard Versturme-Bunbury, another of Adolphus and Mary Ann's sons. 'By [his] death last month, Kenya Colonly lost one of the diminishing band of those who may still be called pioneers. In 1904 he visited the colony and stayed there ever since, becoming the first ever Justice of the Peace, and an active members of the Convention of Associations when it was a power in the land. A keen sportsman and a fine shot. He was fortunate in his first home, Kiboko Flats, for the country teemed with game in those early days. In 1927, he married Eva, daughter of Sir Kenneth Kemp, and ten years later they settled on the shores of Lake Naivasha, where he did much sailing and boating. An active member of the Naivasha Yacht Club, he gave much time during the war to entertaining convalescent service men who spent happy days on the lake and its shores with him. A keen freemason, he achieved high rank in his craft. "His charm, gentleness, wisdom and knowledge won him many friends in many communities, and the world is a sweeter place for his having passed through it"'. (13)
With thanks to Anthony Bunbury, Peter Bunbury, Phil Bendall, Bruce Trewin, Bob Janes, Ken Baker, Caryn Aston and Richard Ellis.
1. The Times, Saturday, Feb 07, 1829; pg. 4; Issue 13823; col D.
1a.Registers of Pylewell House, Lymington from Miscellania vol 14 - Catholic Record Society pp 299-300. 'Die tertia Maii 1805 ego infra scriptus Rite Baptizavi Carolinam, Die vigesima quinta februarii 1804 natam, filiam Ludovici Versturme (e guillelmo Vesturme, et petronilla De Bruyher Conjugibus in oppido gandavensi orti) Medicinae Doctoris honorarii imperatori germaniae, totiusque extraneorum Militiae Regi Majoris Britanniae inservientium Medici generalis, pro tempore in Civitate vulgo Dicta Lymington Commorantis, et hariettae paillet uxoris ejus Legitimae (filae Clementis paillet et Leah oldmeadow Conjugum patria anglorum). patrinus fuit Ludovicus Bellamont Loco petri Jacobi Versturme, Matrina vero Carolina Eliza uxor Christopi Servaes, prior in oppido gandavensi, posterior vero in oppido alostano (in flandria) orti, et illas Civitates inhabitantes.'
1b. Hôpitaux Militaires 1793-1798. 'Le médecin général est Louis Versturme, commissionne comme assistant le 25 novembre 1795 et faisant fonctions. Sont signales comme ayant été embarques pour les iles, l’assistant chirurgien, 5 aides-chirurgiens, un gestionnaire, l’aide-garde-magasin et l’aide-cuisinier. En janvier 1797, le « General Hospital » comporte: médecin général directeur et inspecteur des hôpitaux étrangers (Louis Versturme, nomme le 25 juin 179 6 et touchant les « allowances » de lieutenant-colonel) et son assistant (G. Couturier, nomme le 25 aout 1796 et percevant les « allowances » de capitaine, avec rang de chirurgien-major), 2 chirurgiens (avec les « allowances » de lieutenant), 3 chirurgiens en second (avec les « allowances » d’enseigne), un gestionnaire, un aumônier, un gestionnaire pour le détachement de l’hôpital servant aux Antilles, un secrétaire, un garde-magasin et son aide, une laveuse, une couturière, un cuisinier et 2 aides.
1c. Richard Draper, who was the guardian of Harriet Paillet, and his wife Anne Paillet were the grandparents of Thomas Charles Byde Rooke?,?? adoptive father of ?Queen Emma of Hawaii.
2. Charles E. Lart., Huguenot Pedigrees vol. 2, Baltimore: Clearfield
Company, 1989. page 6
3. Peter Bunbury has a copy the certificate registered by her son-in-law
North North. Her will, drawn up in 1886, gives her worth as 96 pounds, whilst
her husband, who died in 1882, left 163 pounds. Peter suggests they were
avoiding death duty avoidance.
4. Who then is Henry Bunbury North (b 28 March 1869)? See also 'The
parish of Tunstall', A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8 (1914),
pp. 225-230. Date accessed: 13 December 2007.
5. According to Ken Baker, "Palairet is not the original spelling
of the name which I believe was probably of French origin and would be "Paillet",
Indeed if you look at the IGI under Versturme you will pick up a whole Paillet-Versturme
family - they were clearly of German origin". The 1871 census of
Wales mentions Adolphus Halkett Versturme age 34 born Bath and Mary Ann
Versturme age 27 born Harrow, Middlesex.
6. Could the name Septimus mean that the Rev. Septimus Bunbury, "author"
of the crudest book of Limericks I have ever had the fortune to read is
in fact a real person?!
7. The Times, Monday, Aug 21, 1950.
8. The Times, Monday, May 10, 1909; pg. 11; Issue 38955; col C
9. The Times, Monday, Aug 03, 1931; pg. 1; Issue 45891; col A
10. The Times, Monday, Aug 16, 1943; pg. 1; Issue 49625; col A
11. The Times Roll of Honour on Friday, Oct 15, 1943; pg. 7; Issue
49677; col C.
12. The Times, Friday, Mar 06, 1953
13. The Times, Monday, May 05, 1947; pg. 7; Issue 50752; col E