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THOMAS BUNBURY (1606-1668)


The Bunburys of Lisnavagh descend from Thomas Bunbury, son of Sir Henry Bunbury (1565-1634) of Stanney Hall, Cheshire, and his second wife, Lady Martha (nee Norris, see Appendix A below]. He was father to, amongst others, Benjamin Bunbury of Killerig, Tobinstown and Lisnavagh.

Sir Henry was the eldest surviving son and heir of Thomas Bunbury, who was involved with Lismore Castle in 1585, and his wife Bridget Aston. He succeeded his father in 1601 and was knighted by King James on 23 July 1603. (The 7th Bart mistakenly states that Henry was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.) One presumes the fact that Henry’s grandfather John Aston was subsequently appointed to the office of Server or Steward to Queen Anne, the Danish bride of the new King James I, helped his chance of a knighthood.

In 1605, his elderly uncle Sir William Stanley, a half-brother of his father, was implicated in the Guy Fawkes Plot; he managed to avoid arrest and died in Ghent in 1630. Through another uncle Sir Thomas Aston (d. 1613), sometime Sheriff of Cheshire, Sir Henry's numerous first cousins included Sir Arthur Aston of Fulham (d. 1624), a professional soldier / mercenary who served in Russia in the 1610s and in the Turkish war in 1621. Sir Arthur's son, another Sir Arthur Aston (1590-1649), an ally of the Earl of Ormonde, was the ill-fated governor of the port of Drogheda in 1649. Sir Thomas Aston (1600-1645), a younger brother of the younger Sir Arthur, was an outspoken Royalist who suffered defeat at the hands of Sir William Brereton in Middlewich. [i.a]

Sir Henry Bunbury married twice. His first wife Elizabeth Anne was a daughter of Geoffrey Shakerley of Holme and a granddaughter of Sir George Beeston, one of the Admirals responsible for defeating the Spanish Armada. She died after giving him a son, (Sir) Henry Benjamin Bunbury (1597-1664) of Hoole, who endured tough times during the Civil War and whose son Thomas, from whom the main English branch today descends, was created a baronet in 1681.

Sir Henry's second marriage to Martha Norris may explain the initials 'MB' on the original cover of a Bible that once belonged to him. Printed in 1610, this is the last-known octavo-sized edition of the Geneva Bible, which was swiftly phased out with the introduction of the first King James Bible in 1611. Heavily based on the earlier translations by William Tyndale, the Geneva Bible had been the Bible of choice for both Anglican and Puritan Protestants during the Elizabethan Age. King James did not like it, which is why he commissioned his own bible. The fact that Sir Henry’s copy was such a late edition inclines me to think that Sir Henry was by now inclined to Calvinist Puritan thought, perhaps under the influence of his second wife. And yet his firstborn son, Henry, would go to jail for his opposition to Cromwell’s Republic.

Sir Henry also possessed a first edition volume of some of Shakespeare’s plays, including an unknown text of “Hamlet” known as Q1, which predates all other versions and is dated 1603. [i.b]



Born in May 1606, he appears to have been just fourteen years old when he was married, on 2 May 1620, to Margaret Wilcocks, daughter of William Wilcocks (sometimes Wilcox) of The Oakes in the county of Salop (Shropshire), gent. [i] According to a marble monument at the church in Bunbury, Margaret bore Thomas a son Henry and three daughters (Martha, Elizabeth and Anne) before her death in October 1632 at the age of 37. I am unsure what became of these early children. [ii]



After Margaret’s death, Thomas Bunbury was married secondly in early 1634 to Eleanor Birkenhead, or Birkhead. Born on 29 November 1605, she was the fifth daughter of Henry Birkenhead of Huxley and Backford, whose wife was also a Bunbury. According to that marble monument at the church in Bunbury, Thomas and Eleanor had 'eleven children, whereof six died in their minority. Thomas, Dulcibella, Joseph, Benjamin and Diana only survived him.'

Henry Birkenhead, a sequestrator and non-Cestrian during the Commonwealth, was "a lawyer in the Chester Exchequer and staunch Parliamnetarian in 1642", lending further credence to the idea that this branch of the Bunbury family were more partial to Cromwell than the House of Stuart. [iii] He was also presumably father or at least a very close relative to the Henry Birkenhead or Birkhead (1617-1697), known as the Founder of the Oxford Chair of Poetry.

Eleanor's sister Bridget Birkenhead married John Chetwode who was, I believe, a pal of Jonathan Swift, while another sister Mary Birkenhead married William Downes of Shrigley and Worth.



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-brother to Thomas (and thus half-uncle to Benjamin Bunbury of Killerig), duly succeeded to the family estate at Stanney.

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.

Henry Benjamin Bunbury was an active Royalist, for which he had his estates sequestered by the Republican forces for five years, during which time he was 'closely imprisoned in Nantwich'. According to Hanshall, '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. Platt's History and Antiquities of Nantwich states that he had ten children at this time. Henry's 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' but his estates were also 'ravaged'. 'This unfortunate cavalier,' continues the 7th Bart, 'lived to see the restoration of Charles II, but not ro recieve 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.' (p. 235).

[Sir Thomas Bunbury, 1st Bart, who died in 1682, was appointed Sheriff of Chester County on 12 November 1673, although the appointment seems to have been confirmed or renewed on 3 December 1673. His son Sir Henry Bunbury, 2nd Bart, married Mary Eyton, daughter of Sir Kenrick Eyton, a Welsh awyer and prominent Royalist. Sir Henry died in 1687 and was succeeded by his 11-year-old son, Sir Henry Bunbury, 3rd Bart (1767-1733) who was a prominent Jacobite and Commissioner of the Revenue for Ireland from 1711 to 1715. When he died on 12 February 1733, his obitary remrked: 'On Monday last died, at his Seat of Stanny near Chester, Sir Henry Bunbury, of Bunbury in Cheshire, Bart, descended from a Norman Commander, who came over at the Time of the Conquest, and shared the Fortune of Hugh Lupus, first Norman Earl Chester, since which Time the Family have liv'd in very honourable Repute: Sir Henry married Susannah, only surviving Daughter of William Hanmer, and Sister to Sir Thomas Hanmer, of Hanmer in Flintshire, Bart, by whom he has had several Children, and is succeeded in Dignity and Estate by his eldest Son, now Sir Charles Bunbury, Bart. Sir Henry was elected a Member of Parliament for the City of Chester in 1700, and continued with Honour to serve that City till the present Parliament was elected [ie: 1727], when he resigned: in the Year 1715 he was by Queen Anne appointed one of the Commissioners of the Revenue in Ireland.’ (Stamford Mercury, Thursday 22 February 1733.) He was touted to run again after the death of Sir Richard Grosvenor, MP for Chester, in July 1732 but was himself dead in less than 9 months. (Derby Mercury, Thursday 27 July 1732).]



While Henry Benjamin Bunbury languished in prison and had his house burned for supporting Charles I, his half-brothers Thomas and his brother John appear to have batted for Cromwell's Republic ...

His brother John Bunbury is thought to have been granted Ballyseskin Castle in County Wexford in return for his services as a Colonel in Cromwell’s army, although the John who was his brother may, alternatively, have been a clergyman in the Inishowen peninusla in Dongeal. His sisters, Elizabeth (1595-1612) and Anne, were married to John Richardson, Bishop of Ardagh, and Sir John Keningham, both key players in the new post-Elizabethan Ireland. Another sister Mary Bunbury married Thomas Draper of Walton, while another Martha Bunbury died in 1664.

Thomas's younger brother George Bunbury was christened in Stoke on 18 October 1609. Gill Miller forwarded me a copy of the original parish register which not only shows his baptism but also that of another brother Sackville Bunbury on 31 May 1607. George was described in his mothers' will as "my fourth sonne" and she bequeathed "the sum of ten shillings" in full satisfaction against any future claim against her estate. George gained his MA in Ireland and moved to Ireland circa 1634. He is thought to be the George Bunbury who is listed as a Vicar in 1640 in the Appendix 1, Parish of Clonguish in 'St Paul's Church of Ireland Church, Newtownforbes, Co.Longford - The Church and Parish of Clonguish' by Doreen McHugh in her dissertation for Maynooth Studies in Local History.

A document emerged in November 2014 suggesting that brothers George and Henry Bumbry purchased land in the Carlow-Wicklow area from John Richmond, an officer in Cromwell's Parliamentarian Army in the 1650s. Was this the same George Bunbury? Was there a brother Henry that we have not yet registered? Or were these some other brahc, tied in with Colonel John Bunbury of Wexford?



There is mention of a Thomas Bunbury, D.D., of Balliol College, Oxford, who succeeded Dr. Joseph Denison in the vicarage of St. Mary's Church in Reading. He was driven out of Reading by the Presbyterians, when that town came under their possession, and fled to Oxford for protection. He was given a license under the public seal of the university to preach the word of God throughout England.

Into the mix here we must note the Bunbury's Catholic cousin Sir Arthur Aston who, in 1631, was commissioned by Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden to raise an English regiment; they fought, without distinction, in the secondary theatres of Germany. He commanded a regiment for King Charles during the Second Bishops’ War but his Catholicism made people uneasy. As commander of Reading, Sir Arthur's dictatorial behaviour made him unpopular and he continued to irk people when he was made Governor of Oxford in late 1643; he lost a leg falling from a horse at Horspath in September 1644 and was relieved as governor. Is it relevant that Thomas Bunbury, DD, was connected to both Readng and Oxford? Sir Arthur went on to become Governor of Drogheda in Ireland where he fought for the Confederacy; he reluctantly agreed to a surrender, only to have his head horribly smashed in with his own wooden leg by Parliamentarian soldiers convinced it was full of gold. Sir Thomas Aston, Sir Arthur's grandfather, was a brother-in-law to the Thomas Bunbury who was connected to Lismore Castle.



In January 2014 the Carlow historian Michael Purcell emailed me an extract of a Cromwellian land settlement indenture from 1652 which read:

“… lands on the south of the river Burren adjoining the town of Catherlough & nominated my wellbeloved friends and attorney Benjamin Bumbury and Thomas Bumbury with Copal Norris and heirs or assignees for ever to enter and take possession of all such lands, tentenments, hereditaments with appurtenances.”

I know not who Copal Norris was, or even what ‘Copal’ means, but it may be short for ‘Corporal’? The Norris connection is quite possibly relevant because Benjamin's grandmother, Lady Martha Bunbury, wife of Sir Henry, was born a Norris, or Norreys as it is sometimes spelled. [For more on the Norris family, see Appendix A below].

I am unsure who wrote these lines originally but they certainly shook my traditional understanding of our family history a little. This suggested that the Bumbury [sic] family were not just in Carlow a decade before I previously thought, but also that they acquired their initial landholdings through the despised Cromwellian land settlement. My fears seemed compounded when I noted that their elder brother Colonel John Bunbury had also profited from the Cromwellian settlement.

Clearly these brothers were of a different political pursuasion to their half-brother Henry Benjamin Bunbury with his burning mansion in Cheshire ...

I am simply not knowledgeable enough on 17th century politics to know what any of this means. Was this the ‘wellbeloved’ attorney Thomas Bumbury who was acquiring land in Carlow according to a 1652 indenture? The Norris connection seems telling. And yet that 1652 indenture also names a Benjamin Bunbury who I have not yet placed. Was Benjamin another as yet unidentified brother of Thomas? [Born in 1642, the future Benjamin Bunbury of Killerig would have been ten years old at the time of the deed so he hardly fits the bill? His brother Thomas Bunbury (of Virginia) would have been eighteen but still surely too young to be an attorney.]

Perhaps some day, further clues will spill into the plot enabling us to make sense of these muddied waters. [iv]




Thomas died on 9 December 1668 aged 63, and Eleanor on 20 December 1675, aged 70. They had eleven children, including at least four sons and six daughters.

Their first son Thomas Bunbury was born on 21 October 1634 and subsequently made his career as a tobacco baron in Virginia where he became ancestor to the Bumbreys, one of the oldest black families in the United States today.

In 1636, Eleanor produced triplets, christened George, Susan and Alice, although all three died soon after birth.[v] Next was John Bunbury born 1637 who also died shortly after birth.

Their eldest surviving daughter, Dulcibella Bunbury, was born in 1638 and died aged 48 on 5 July 1686. Her will was proved by her only surviving sister, Diana, widow of Richard Bunbury. Dulcibella left her signet ring to her brother Benjamin. [vi]

Benjamin Bunbury, later of Killerig, ancestor of the Bunbury family in Ireland, was born in 1642 and was the elder twin of Joseph Bunbury. Ormerod records that the twins were christened/baptised at Stanney in Cheshire on 13 September 1642. Joseph also spent time in Ireland, marrying Hannah Desmineers (or Desminiere) of Dublin in 1666, but later returned to England. [vii]

The youngest child, Diana, was born on 23 September 1644 and married her first cousin Richard Bunbury.[viii] Elsewhere, Benjamin's sister Diana is said to have settled in Ireland and married a Mr Berib, Esq, of Co. Carlow.


Two more Bunburys, possibly Benjamin's brothers, who moved to Ireland at this point were William Bunbury who lived at Moyle, Co. Carlow, and John Bunbury (King's Inn, 18 May 1698) who lived at town but these two need to be examined further. Lower Mortarstown adjoined Cloghna and was close to the old Butler / Carew castle at Cloughgrenan, just outside Carlow on the banks of the Barrow. Mortarstown had belonged to the Bradston family until Francis Bradstone was attainted by James II's Irish Parliament. It later passed to Col. Kane Bunbury.



1646 (12 Aug): Archbishop Giovanni Rinuccini, papal nuncio to the Irish Confederate Catholics, condemns their adherence to Ormond’s peace terms for failing to fully recognise Catholicism.

1649 (Aug): Oliver Cromwell arrives in Dublin with his New Model Army (20,000 men), a huge artillery train and a large navy. Drogheda and Wexford fall. Jones defeats Ormond at Rathmines, ending royalist hopes of taking Dublin. Kilkenny also falls in August.

1650 (30 July): Edward Parry, Church of Ireland Bishop of Killaloe, dies in Dublin from the plague.

1650: Archbishop Ussher of Armagh, who preached in Lincolns Inn, “carefully trolled the Bible totting up the lifespans of everyone descended from Adam and Eve", as Neil McGregor puts it in "A History of the World in 100 Objects". He then combined that with other data to reach his conclusion that the world began at night for on Sunday 23rd of October 4004 BC! And everybody believed him for ages!

1652 (12 Aug): ‘Act for the Settling of Ireland’ allows for the transplantation to Clare or Connacht of proprietors whose land is confiscated by Cromwell to meet promises to adventurers and soldiers; also known as the “To Hell or Connacht” Act.



[i.a] The following, about the younger Sir Thomas Aston, is from Rylands: The Newsletter of the Special Collections Division of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester (Spring 2002, issue no. 3):
Broadside Petition for Episcopacy in Cheshire
Sir Thomas Aston (1600-45), A Petition Delivered in to the Lords Spiritual and Temporall, by Sir Thomas Aston, Baronet, from the County Palatine of Chester concerning Episcopacie. [London] Printed, Anno Dom., 1641.
The Royalist Sir Thomas Aston was born on 29 September 1600, the heir to an ancient Cheshire family. His father, John Aston, had been sewer to the wife of James I. Educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, Thomas was made a baronet in 1628. He served as High Sheriff of Cheshire in 1635, and as MP for Cheshire in the Short Parliament of 1640.
Sir Thomas was a staunch churchman who loathed the rise of nonconformism. When the Cheshire petitions against episcopacy were in circulation in the early 1640s, Sir Thomas and his friends initiated a counter-petition. The broadside entreats that the institution of bishops dates back to the time of the Apostles, and urges that ‘such dangerous discontents amongst the common people’ should be suppressed. The petition is subscribed by ‘Foure Noblemen. Knight Baronets, Knights and Esquires, fourescore and odde. Divines, threescore and ten. Gentlemen, three hundred and odde. Free-holders and other Inhabitants, above six thousand’, all of the county of Cheshire. Wing records only two other copies of this edition.
Sir Thomas is perhaps best known for his brave but undistinguished role in the Civil War. He commanded the Royalist army that was defeated by Sir William Brereton at Middlewich on 13 March 1643, and later suffered defeats at Macclesfield and in Staffordshire. He died from a fever, brought on by his war wounds, on 24 March 1645.
The younger Sir Thomas Aston also published The Short Parliament (1640): Diary of Sir Thomas Aston, edited by Judith D. Maltby, London, The Royal Historical Society, Camden fourth series, volume 35, 1988. The Short Parliament was in session from 13 April to 5 May 1640.

[i.b] Sir Henry's Geneva Bible included a 1611 dated title to the “Whole Book of Psalms Collected into English Meter,” by Thomas Sternhold and John Hopkins. For 'Hamlet' link, see Correspondence of Sir Thomas Hanmer, London, 1838, p. 38.

[i.a] Ormerod's History of Cheshire (now available on CD) gives Margaret Wilcocks as the first wife of Thomas Bunbury.

[ii] Reference from the Monuments in Stoke Church courtesy of Peter Bunbury.

[iii] Crisis & Order in English Towns, 1500-1700 (Routledge, 2013), by Peter Clark & Paul Stack, p. 228. A book called 'Henry Birkhead, Founder of the Oxford Chair of Poetry: Poetry and the Redemption of History' (Studies in British Literature) by Joan H. Pittock on Amazon may explain more.

[iv] A digitial manuscript detailing whom lands were disposed in 1641 can be found at http://www.irishmanuscripts.ie/digital/surveydistributionv4/files/641.html; John Ryan’s 1833 The History And Antiquities of The County Of Carlow. CHAPTER XXI provides a detailed picture of the land ownership and other matters in the county from 1605 - 1625. Thanks to Paul Horan. See http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~irlcar2/Antiquities_1833_XXI.htm
[v] Their deaths are recorded in to Sir Henry Noel Bunbury's pedigree.
[vi] There is a memorial in Stoke Church, Cheshire which reads:- 'Here lyeth the body of Dulcibella Bunbury eldest daughter to Thomas Bunbury of Stanney, Gent by Eleanor his second wife who was fifth daughter to Henry Berkenhead of Backford Esq: She died the 5th July MDCLXXXVI (1686) aged XLVIII years (48)'. The Will of Dulcibella Bunbury, which names a large number of relations and friends, was dated 13th June 1686 and proved at Chester by her sister Diana, the widow of Richard Bunbury, on the 28th August following. She desires to be buried 'at Stoke in the chancell as nigh to my father as possible. I cann & doe hereby humbly request Sir Henry Bunbury that he be pleased to let me lye there & not doubting that he will grant my desire herein I leave unto my cozen [first cousin twice removed] Henry Bunbury his sonn and heire one eleven shillings piece of old gold'.
[vii] A pedigree of the Desminieres family was compiled by W. B. Wright, published in The Irish Builder Vol. 29 (1887), pp. 71, 339. See also British Library MS. 3,682; "Researching Huguenot Settlers in Ireland” by Vivien Costello, The BYU Family Historian, Vol. 6 (Fall 2007) p. 83-163.
[viii] Diana Bunbury is also buried in Stoke Church.


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Lady Martha Bunbury was Sir Henry Bunbury’s second wife and she grew up at Speke Hall in Lancashire where she was one of at least nine children – two sons and seven daughters – born to Edward Norris (c.1539-1606) and his wife Margaret Smallwood, daughter and coheir of Robert Smallwood of Westminster, London.

Martha’s grandfather, Sir William Norris (or Norreys), was knighted in 1531 and served variously as Mayor and MP for Liverpool, as well as High Sheriff of Lancashire and a Justice of the Peace for Cheshire. The marriage to Sir Henry Bunbury was Martha’s second. Her first husband was of Thurstan Anderton of Lostock, Bolton, Lancashire, England, heir of his brother James Anderton of Lostock.

Martha’s oldest brother William Norris was made a knight of the Bath at the Coronation of King James I. Sir William married Eleanor Molyneux, daughter of Sir William Molineaux of Sefton, Lancashire, and died in 1626. According to Thomas Heywood, editor of ‘The Norris papers’ (Chetham Society, 1846), Sir William was a spendthrift. [i] Recognizing this before his death, his father left Speke in trust for ten years and then to be ‘delivered’ to Sir William and Eleanor’s small son instead. However, as the 23rd Earl of Leete might say, there was ‘precious little to inherit’ by the time William came of age. Sir William had ‘pawned everything down to two suits of clothes; he even obtained from his mother, for many years, the money left her to buy clothes; and here is a letter imploring, in the most abject terms, a little delay from one of his creditors.’

The younger William Norris – Martha Bunbury’s nephew - was married to Margaret Salisbury [Salusbury], whose father Sir Thomas Salisbury had been executed in 1586 for his part in the Babbington Plot. William succeeded his father in 1626 and, ‘with his two sons Edward and Thomas zealously fought for the King in Lancashire’ during the Civil War. In September 1649, William was obliged to play host at Speke to Colonel John Moore, one of the regicides who signed Charles I’s death warrant earlier that year. Colonel Moore, ‘who was waiting for a wind to pass with his regiment into Ireland’, would go on to become Governor of Dublin where he died of a fever in 1650. William Norris apparently died on 20 July 1651.

I guess “Copal Norris” could have been either of William Norris’ sons. If so, it’s more likely to have been Thomas. According to ‘The Norris Papers’, the elder son Edward had already been disinherited, possibly for being a Papist, and died in 1664, leaving an only daughter. As such, what was left of the family fortune passed to his second son Thomas who, born in 1618, married Katherine, daughter of Sir Henry Garway, sometime Governor of the Levant Company, about whom there is much more in ‘The Norris Papers’. Thomas died sometime before 1687.

Martha’s other brother Edward Norris married Margaret, widow of Edward Ireland of Lydiat, County Lancaster. As to Martha’s six sisters, Perpetua Norris married Thomas Westby of Mowbrick, Lancaster; Anne Norris married, as his third wife, Sir Thomas Butler of Bewsey Hall, Warrington, Lancashire [seemingly no connection of the Irish Butlers] and she married, secondly, Thomas Draycot of Paynesley, Salop; Mary married Thomas Clifton of Westby, Lancaster; Margaret married Edward Tarbock of Tarbock; Emilia married William Blundell of Crosby and Winifred married Richard or William Banester of Wem, Shropshire (Salop).

NB: See The Norris papers’ (Chetham society1846) online on Google Books.