Sunday, 12 August 2012
Sir William Dunch (1508 - 1597)
Brass memorial and final resting place - St. Peter's Little Wittenham
Little is known of William Dunches’ (later to be knighted) roots but it is believed he hailed from Northamptonshire where he had relatives in Easton-on-the-Hill.
He was educated as a lawyer and had chambers at Gray’s Inn, Holborn central London. In 1546, Dunch was appointed Auditor of the Royal Mint, overseeing work at the Tower of London, York, Canterbury, Bristol and Southwark.
He was heavily involved in Henry VIII's disastrous policy of debasing the English coinage and its subsequent restoration under Edward VI. He was paid a good salary of 200 marks (£133-13s-4d - today that would be nearly £27,000) per annum for his trouble, but, despite acting under the King's orders, it was a dangerous business. Luckily, Dunch was pardoned in 1552 for any treason he may inadvertently have committed.
Indeed, in 1549, he had spent a short period in the Fleet Prison, but this may have been due to his attachment to the Lord Protector, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, who fell from power at this time. Dunch was soon released, though his bail cost £4,000 (that's an amazing £800,000 today!). By 1551, however, he had relinquished his auditor's post and was given an annuity of £100 in recompense.
In 1547 he had married Mary Barnes, the daughter of William Barnes, Porter of Guisnes Castle in France. She bore him two sons - Edmund and Walter, the latter eventually taking up residence at, then inheriting Avebury Manor in 1581. Edmund lived at Brightwell Manor another of Dunch’s estates.
Dunch acquisition of Avebury Manor in 1551 for £2,000 (£400,000 today) was due to Sir William Sharington (owner of Lacock Abbey) falling from grace in 1549 following a charge of defrauding the Bristol Mint, where he held the post of under treasurer. His crimes forced him to relinquish many of his estates and holdings to cover a hefty fine, Avebury Manor was one such estate. The Dunches' are largely responsible for building the new house between 1551 - 1580.
In 1552 Dunch purchased a coat of arms and with the fortune he had amassed began to invest further in land and properties.
In 1553 he purchase Little Wittenham from Sir Edmund Peckham, which became his main country residence, though no trace of the Tudor house remains. More was to follow as he acquired lands and property in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Dorchester.
1563, he was elected MP for Wallingford and, seven years later, he was made Sheriff of Berkshire. In 1567, Dunch was one the commissioners of sewers on the River Thames, overseeing the condition of local waterways. A similar commission throughout Berkshire, Wiltshire and Hampshire followed. In 1573, he was appointed commander of musters for the Berkshire Militia. In his latter years, William was appointed Esquire Extraordinary to the Body of Queen Elizabeth I and worked with great men like the Royal Treasurer, Lord Burghley; the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, Thomas Egerton; and the Queen's Principal Secretary, Robert Cecil; and, in the 1580s, he was presiding
in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. He was knighted in 1603 by King James I
Sir William Dunch died on 11th May 1597 age 86. He was buried in St. Peter’s Church Little Wittenham, which, in 1553 he paid to be extended. His tomb is marked with a brass memorial, the only surviving image of him. The inscription reads:
'Here lyeth buryed William Dunche Esquier Auditor or the Myntes to our late soveraigne lordes Kinge Henrie the eight, and Kinge Edwarde the sixte and Esquier sworne extreordinarie for the bodye of our soveraigne Ladie Elizabeth. He maryed Marie Barnes they had yssue betwene them two sonnes Edmonde the eldest and Walter the younger which William deceased the .... daie of .... in the yeare of our Lorde God.'
Sir William Dunch was succeeded in the majority of his estates by his eldest son, Edmund. Walter predeceased his father in 1594.
Source: Royal Berkshire History, Avebury Manor Archives
The Tudour Parlour (BBC Project) is representative of the ownership of William and Mary Dunch. It is indicative of a family with considerably wealth. Tapestries hang from its walls, an extravagance much favoured by the wealthy. Bespoke seasoned oak furniture, carefully researched for the period adds opulence to the room, as does the rush matting which has been hand threaded into plaits using herbs, lavender, southernwood and English bulrushes harvested from the river Nene in Northamptonshire. The heraldic walnut panel over the fireplace includes a representation of the Dunch coat of arms painted for the project by Grant Watt