BUNCE, James (1563-1632), of St. Benet Gracechurch, London

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press




Family and Education

b. 1563,1 yr. s. of James Bunce (d.1609), yeoman, of Otterden, Kent and Elizabeth, da. of one Reyner of Kent. m. 13 Jan. 1596 Mary, da. of George Holmeden, Leatherseller, of Brookehouse, Kent, 2s. 1da.2 d. 26 Jan. 1632.3

Offices Held

Churchwarden, St. Benet Gracechurch, London 1609-10;4 gov. Christ’s hosp., London by 1622-at least 1629;5 common councilman, London by 1627.6

Master, Leathersellers’ Co. 1623-4.7


Bunce’s father lived in Kent and described himself in his will of 1601 as a yeoman. Well-to-do, he bequeathed more than £500 in cash and several tenements to his six sons. Bunce’s share of this small fortune was £210, of which he had already received £190 by the time his father drew up his will.8

Bunce married Mary Holmeden in 1596 at St. Benet Gracechurch, London, in which parish he lived. Like Bunce, the Holmedens came from Kent and were members of the Leathersellers’ Company. In 1619 Mary’s uncle, Robert Holmeden, bequeathed Bunce his interest in the lease of a Sussex parsonage.9 Despite his membership of the Leathersellers’ Company, Bunce was actually a linen-draper.10 He evidently prospered, as he lent £200 to James I, and Charles I borrowed a further £500 from him in August 1630.11 He also contributed £20 to the 1622 Palatine Benevolence, lent a Kentish yeoman named Robert Bennett around £250,12 and paid an exceptionally large knighthood fine of £200 in 1631.13 He was so wealthy, in fact, that in 1629 he assigned his daughter Mary a dowry of £3,000 and bequeathed his youngest son Matthew £2,000 in cash, two Kent rectories and the leases of three London inns.14 His refusal to pay the Forced Loan in 1627, for which he was briefly imprisoned and sent to Halifax,15 undoubtedly reflected principled opposition rather than financial hardship. Yet, despite his substantial fortune, Bunce was never admitted to London’s aldermanic bench. Instead, he served as a common councilman, and was added in August 1628 to the committee for handling the Crown lands transferred to the City that same year, attending its meetings assiduously until March 1630.16

Bunce’s resistance to the Forced Loan made him popular with the London electorate, which returned him to Parliament in February 1628.17 However, he made no recorded speeches, and was named to just nine committees. Some of these appointments reflected his concerns as a London merchant. As well as a bill on sailcloth (26 May), he was appointed to consider a petition from the Customs house (20 June), the evidence of John Rolle*, and the evidence and petitions of Richard Chambers and the Levant merchants (3 Feb. 1629). It was presumably because he was regarded as a victim of arbitrary imprisonment that on 2 May 1628 he was named to the committee appointed to draw up a petition on behalf of the vintner Nicholas Clegate, who had been gaoled for refusing to contribute towards the City’s recent loan to the king of £120,000.18

Bunce died in January 1632 and was buried on 14 Feb. at St. Benet Gracechurch.19 His will is chiefly remarkable for its hostility towards Catholics. Endowing the Leathersellers’ Company with £350 for the purchase of lands which were to be used, in part, for the maintenance of ‘a sufficient learned minister or ministers of God’s word’, he required the incumbent minister to preach at least three sermons a year at Otterden, the Kent parish where he had been raised. The first was to be preached ‘on or near the 14th day of August in every year for ever in remembrance and acknowledgement of our deliverance by the mighty hand of God from the Spanish invasion by sea’. The second was to be given ‘on or near the 5th day of November in every year for ever in remembrance of God’s mercy showed to us by our deliverance from that damnable plot the Gunpowder treason plotted by the bloody papists’. The final sermon was to be preached ‘on or near the 17th day of November in every year ... to acknowledge our thankfulness to God for restoring the blessed Gospel into this our realm of England’. Bunce’s will testifies to its author’s strong puritan leanings, for it also provided for the payment of an annuity of £6 on condition that ‘some godly preacher shall be nominated and chosen by my son Matthew Bunce, his heirs and assigns for ever if the vicar of the parish church of Kemsing in ... Kent will, from time to time, give way unto the same to preach the word of God truly and to catechise the younger sort of people’. Bunce’s charitable bequests included £30 for the poor children of Christ’s hospital, where he had served as a governor during the 1620s.20 Part of a portrait of Bunce, salvaged from a fire in 1818, hangs in Leathersellers’ Hall. Bunce was succeeded by his eldest son, James, who also became master of the Leathersellers’ Company. No other member of the family subsequently sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Ex inf. the Leathersellers’ Co.
  • 2. Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xv), 120; GL, ms 5671, unfol.; PROB 11/161, ff. 77-80v.
  • 3. A.B. Beaven, Aldermen of London, i. 290.
  • 4. GL, ms 1568, pp. 434-7.
  • 5. GL, ms 12806/3, ff. 308v, 318v, 326v, 397v.
  • 6. CLRO, Letter Bk. KK, f. 249.
  • 7. Ex inf. Leathersellers’ Co.
  • 8. Add. Ch. 70624A.
  • 9. PROB 11/135, f. 37r-v.
  • 10. Cent. Kent. Stud., U1475/41/7A, unfol., payments of 27 Jan. 1624.
  • 11. CLRO, RCE pprs. nos. 8d, 20.
  • 12. SP14/156/14; LC4/199, f. 412.
  • 13. E401/2450, unfol.
  • 14. PROB 11/161, ff. 77-80v.
  • 15. APC, 1627-8, pp. 7, 58 (mis-named ‘John’ Bunce), 218; SP16/89/2.
  • 16. CLRO, Letter Bk. KK, f. 166. For his attendance, see Royal Contract cttee. bk. 1627-32, ff. 61v-2, 89, 116v, 118v, 120, 122r-v, 127v, 133r-v, 135-7v, 138v, 142v.
  • 17. R. Cust, Forced Loan, 309.
  • 18. CJ, i. 891b, 904b, 916a, 926a.
  • 19. GL, ms 5671, unfol.
  • 20. PROB 11/161, ff. 77-80v.