BUNNY, Richard (1513/14-84), of Bunny Hall, Wakefield and Newlands Normanton, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b. 1513/14, 1st s. of Richard Bunny of Bunny Hall by Rose, da. of Sir John Topcliffe of Topcliffe, West Ardsley. educ. G. Inn, adm. 1539. m. 1538, Bridget, da. of Edward Restwold of The Vache, Bucks., 3s. inc. Richard†. suc. fa. 1535.2
Sewer, the chamber by 1546; receiver, ct. augmentations, bpric. of Durham and archdeaconry of Richmond 1546-50, crown lands, Cumb., Northumb., Westmld. temp. Edw. VI; treasurer, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumb. and northern garrisons 1550-4; j.p. Yorks. (W. Riding) 1554, 1558/59, 1573/74-d., q. 1573/74.3
The traditional lineage of Richard Bunny’s family is set out on a brass to his memory in Normanton church near Wakefield: his family claimed a French origin, an estate in Nottinghamshire under William I and an unbroken descent into the 16th century. Although there is no evidence to support these claims, Bunny’s ancestors are known to have been established near Wakefield by the early 14th century, and in 1535 he inherited some property and coal pits in the locality.4
Bunny’s marriage in 1538 into a Buckinghamshire family with some northern connexions was to prove an important step in his career, for it doubtless introduced him to a more influential family in the same county, the Peckhams. In 1539, shortly before the birth of his first son, Bunny entered Gray’s Inn, the inn to which members of that family belonged: whether or not he intended to follow a legal career (as his maternal grandfather had done), by 1546 he had obtained a minor post in the royal household. In that year he was also appointed, on the recommendation of Sir Thomas Heneage and Sir Edmund Peckham a receiver in the court of augmentations. After holding this post for four years he was made treasurer of Berwick and other fortresses on the Scottish border, an assignment in which, however, he was to discredit himself, thus putting an end to any hope of further advancement.5
Before his mismanagement was revealed Bunny had obtained his first experience of Parliament. He appears as junior Member for Bramber on the list of Members revised for the last session (1552) of the Parliament of 1547, presumably as a replacement for the unidentified John Fylde. Although nothing is known of Bunny’s by-election, it is likely to have taken place somewhat earlier than the eve of the last session. Through his dependence on Sir Edmund Peckham, high treasurer of all the mints, he would have been known to (Sir) William Sharington, under treasurer of the Bristol mint and the other Member originally returned for Bramber, but Sharington could have been of no help after his attainder at the beginning of 1549. Bunny is also known to have been associated with Anthony Bourchier, who sat for New Shoreham in this Parliament and was himself a client of Thomas, Baron Seymour of Sudeley; at this time Seymour was lord of the barony of Bramber, but he was executed in January 1549 and Bourchier died two years later. Anthony Restwold, Bunny’s brother-in-law, could also have been of help, for Restwold began his career in the service of the 12th Earl of Arundel, a Sussex magnate on good terms with the Seymours. If it was to one or more of these that Bunny owed his seat, he must have obtained it well before the opening of the final session. Moreover, by the autumn of 1551, Bramber was held by the crown, to which it had reverted on Seymour’s attainder, and although Bunny might have sought a place in the Commons as a protection against the consequences of his misadventure at Berwick he could not have expected official support. Nothing is known of his part in this Parliament, but in February 1552, during its last session, the Council ordered him ‘to have better consideration of his charge’ and in the next three months he was busy in London raising £10,000 to defray the costs of the garrison at Berwick.6
The official inquiry into affairs at Berwick resulted in the dismissal of the surveyor before the death of Edward VI and the committal of Bunny to the Fleet on 7 Nov. 1553 ‘for his misbehaviour in using the queen’s treasure in his charge and in trifling before the lords of the Council’ when accused of owing £2,800 to the crown. A few days later he was released and sent to Berwick with John Fisher to pay the garrison and to confer there with Sir Thomas Cornwallis and (Sir) Robert Bowes. Not long afterwards he was ordered back to London where he was recommitted to the Fleet, and in June 1554 he confessed to forging the Duke of Northumberland’s signature on an acquittance for £95. He was dismissed from office and forfeited some of his lands in Yorkshire when he fled to the continent—the remainder of his property passed to the crown early in 1555.7
Bunny’s exile brought him little relief. In September 1555 he wrote from Paris to the English ambassador Nicholas Wotton of his straitened circumstances and of his loyalty to the Queen: he admitted that he had now learnt the same lesson as Job, ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken back.’ Wotton is not known to have done more than forward the letter to the Council, but as two of Bunny’s sons, later renowned Calvinists, entered Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1556 and 1558, he may have returned home before the end of the reign. Later in life Bunny was to tell Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, that he had been persecuted for religion, not peculation, and that the honour he had won in the crown’s service had been taken away by Mary, ‘myself cast into prison, my lands extended and three houses spoiled, and my goods sold for nought (under pretence of an account) and yet after my account taken and when she had undone me I was found in a surplusage’; the version was to be repeated by his son Edmund in a privately circulated manuscript entitled the ‘Defence of his labour in the work of the Ministry’. Of Bunny’s Protestantism there can be no doubt, but his denial of corruption failed to convince his contemporaries or Queen Elizabeth. At the beginning of her reign he obtained a seat in Parliament, presumably to vindicate his name, and was restored to the Yorkshire bench from which he had been removed by Mary, but despite his efforts he never recovered his lost offices or gained what he thought adequate compensation for them.8
Bunny opposed his eldest son Edmund’s decision to become a preacher, having destined him for the law. He disinherited him in favour of his second son Richard, but shortly before his death, when he was living with Edmund at Bolton Percy, father and son were reconciled and this reconciliation was reflected in the will that he made on 11 Apr. 1584. Bunny died on the following 30 Apr. and in accordance with his wishes he was buried at Normanton.9
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: R. J.W. Swales
- 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament; Hatfield 207.
- 2. Aged 70 at death according to MI. The Gen. n.s. x. 42-43; Yorks. Arch. Jnl. iii. 8-15; C142/57/90.
- 3. LP Hen. VIII, xxi; W. C. Richardson, Ct. Augmentations, 48-59, 262, 281; CPR, 1549-51, p. 178; 1553-4, p. 26; 1558-60, p. 194; APC, xiii. 358.
- 4. Yorks Arch. Jnl. v. 272-3; xx. 421; Surtees Soc. cvi. 44.
- 5. LP Hen. VIII, xxi; Richardson, 262; APC, ii. 397; iii. 116, 324, 370, 424.
- 6. APC, iii. 474; iv. 55, 62.
- 7. Ibid. iii. 441; iv. 139, 362, 366, 396; v. 3, 43; CPR, 1554-5, p. 294; SP11/13, f. 119.
- 8. C. H. Garrett, Marian Exiles, 99 where father and son have been conflated; CSP For. 1553-8, p. 191; DNB (Bunny, Edmund and Francis).
- 9. York wills 22, f. 551; Mill Stephenson, Mon. Brasses, 554.