Origins of the Irish Hungerfords: New Evidence

This article was extensively researched and written by Peter Sherlock [E.4.1a.6b.5c.1d.2e], and initially published in HAFS Journal Vol 15 No 4, November 2020.

One of the greatest mysteries in the Hungerford family history is the origins of the Hungerfords of Ireland, and how they are connected to the medieval English Hungerford family.

The ancestor thought to be the progenitor of the Irish family is Thomas Hungerford (d1681), who settled in Rathbarry parish, Co Cork, and through his Irish-born children became the ancestor of Hungerford families from Ireland, England and Wales to North America, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Like many HAFS members, I descend from Thomas of Rathbarry through his great-great-great-grandson, Captain Emanuel Hungerford (1785-1872), who emigrated to Australia. Captain Emanuel was twice descended from Thomas of Rathbarry, for his parents were third cousins.

There is no conclusive evidence of Thomas of Rathbarry’s birth or parentage, and so, for descendants of the Irish Hungerfords, the family tree ends here. We cannot trace his descent from Sir Thomas Hungerford (d1397), first recorded Speaker of the House of Commons, or from Walter, Lord Hungerford (d1449) who fought with Henry V at Agincourt.

For around 200 years, successive generations of historians have tried to establish the link. My additions to this tradition were first published in 1994 1 and again in 1999 2. Recently, I have found new evidence about Thomas’s origins. First, let’s rehearse what we already know.

Thomas Hungerford of Rathbarry (d1681)

Thomas Hungerford of Rathbarry makes only a few appearances in contemporary historical sources. First, in 1640 he took out a licence in the Church of Ireland Diocese of Cork and Ross to marry a woman named Mary May. Unfortunately, the original marriage licence bond does not survive, but its existence is recorded in the indexes to the Irish Marriage Licence Bonds at the National Archives of Ireland, which is available online 3.

Thomas and Mary (May) Hungerford had seven known children: sons Richard, John and Thomas; and daughters Elizabeth, Anne, Jane and Margaret. Their many grandchildren bore the surnames Hungerford, Daunt, Poole, Hewitt and Knolles, all well-known Protestant families in Cork.

In 1659 Thomas Hungerford was recorded in a quasi-census of Ireland as one of the tituladoes (property owners) in the Barony of Ibawne and Barymore. He was described as resident at the townlands of Croanogh and Gortigrenane in the parish of Rathbury (sic)4.

Second, we know of only one document written in Thomas Hungerford of Rathbarry’s own hand. This letter survives in the Egmont papers at the British Library and is dated at Rathberry (sic) on 10 October 16755. It was addressed to Robert Southwell (1608-1677) of Kinsale, Cork.

The letter contains a wonderful genealogical clue, for Thomas asks Southwell if he would “profer my due respects to my lady parcevall and my Cozen Southwell”. “Lady Parcevall” refers to Robert Southwell’s daughter Catherine (1637-1679), widow of John Perceval, while “Cozen Southwell” is surely Robert’s wife, Helena Gore (c1610-1679).

In the same collection of papers survives a rental receipt from May 1679 which records “Captaine Hungerford” as renting the “Lands of Dundedy in Glacone” from the Percival family for the sum of £406.

Finally, Thomas of Rathbarry made a will dated 3 December 1680. The will itself does not survive, but abstracts of it do which state that it was witnessed by William Hull, Adam Clarke (a neighbour), and Achilles Daunt (Thomas’s son-in-law). The will went to probate on 6 March (1680) 1681 in Cork7.

In 1857, long after his death, a monument to Thomas of Rathbarry was erected at Ross Cathedral by his descendant and namesake. The epitaph claimed that he died on 2 March (1680) 1681 and that he was descended from Sir Edmund Hungerford of Down Ampney in Gloucestershire, England through the Hungerfords of Lea, Wiltshire.

Thomas Hungerford and the Irish Rebellion of 1641

These facts have long been known. New evidence has now come to light that enables us to place Thomas Hungerford in Cork during the tumultuous events of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, the war between Ireland’s established Catholic population and more recent English Protestant colonists.

In 1641, a vast series of depositions were taken to record witness testimonies, mostly by Protestants, about the Irish Rebellion and its alleged atrocities. These manuscripts have long been a key historical source for many centuries, and some years ago were transcribed and are now available online by Trinity College Library, Dublin in the Irish Depositions Project8.

Within this extraordinary collection is the deposition of Ann Sellers of Cork, taken on 4 October 1642. She first described how she had been robbed of goods worth £139. She went on to narrate how, “on or aboute Candlemas last” (2 February 1642) the famous Irish rebel John Barry had led a force of 500 or 600 and:

beseidgd the said castle of Downededy and tooke the same vpon quarter the who hauing tak’n this deponent, & diuers others, the said John Barry cald vp to mr Richard Hungerford gouernour of the said Castle, wishing him also to come downe, or else, he would quarter the deponent & others, & soe serue them vp in dishes to him; which said Richard Barry when he was come downe, the said John Barry calld him treacherous rogue & rascall & told his two sons, that they should rather haue bound their father & so haue made him to giue vp the castle, and that they should not haue turn’d rebbells too: in which Castle the said deponent was kept prisoner a weeke, and after escapt to Rathbarry Castle for refuge.

What an extraordinary scene. In February 1642, one Richard Hungerford, father of two sons, is the British Protestant governor of Dundeady Castle, and unsuccessfully attempts to defend the castle against Irish Catholic rebels led by John Barry.

Dundeady Castle is in the parish of Rathbarry, in the heart of the lands occupied by the Hungerfords across the mid 17th to the early 20th centuries: it is ten kilometres to the southeast of the town of Ross where Thomas Hungerford of Rathbarry is buried, and about 12 kilometres southwest of the island of Inchydoney.

Could it be that Thomas Hungerford of Rathbarry was one of the two sons of the Richard Hungerford mentioned in Ann Sellars’ deposition?

Fortuitously, another – anonymous – account of this incident in February 1642 is recorded in the manuscripts at Trinity College Dublin:

And that very same night the rebels took the castle of Donnemeas, where Mr. Richard Hungerford, his two sons, and his daughter-in-law, were taken prisoners, with three men and eight women and children, who were afterwards ransomed by my Lord of Kinalmeaky9.

The Hungerfords’ rescuer, Viscount Kinalmeaky, was a younger son of Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork.

In 1641, one of the sons of Richard Hungerford of Dundeady Castle was married. This fits perfectly with the known facts about Thomas Hungerford of Rathbarry, who had married Mary May in 1640.

There is also a reference from January 1642 to an “Ensign Hungerford” who rode to Ross to plunder the town and take prisoners10. Perhaps this is a reference to Thomas Hungerford of Rathbarry, or to his brother, the other, unnamed son of Richard Hungerford of Dundeady Castle.

The Irish Hungerford connection: a new theory

Significantly, Thomas Hungerford and Mary May named their eldest surviving son ‘Richard’, further evidence that Thomas was the son of Richard Hungerford of Dundeady Castle.

In 1642 Richard was a rarely used Christian name in the Hungerford family. The only adult Richard Hungerford living in the first half of the 17th
century was a son of Anthony Hungerford (d1639) and his wife Israel Goddard, perhaps named after his mother’s uncle, Sir Richard Verney.

He was alive by 1599 when he was mentioned in the will of his grandmother, Edith (Strange) Hungerford, and his paternal descent from the Hungerfords of Farleigh Hungerford Castle through the Hungerfords of Down Ampney is well attested. This Richard would have been the right age in 1642 to be the father of two sons, one newly married, and is the best candidate for Richard Hungerford of Dundeady Castle.

A new theory for the origins of Thomas Hungerford of Rathbarry can therefore be considered, one drawn from the very midst of the terrible circumstances of violence and tumult of mid-17th century Ireland. This theory is in fact an old one – it is the theory I originally proposed in 199411.

The new theory fits well with older evidence, such as the 1729 will of John Hungerford of Lincoln’s Inn, England, which was for many centuries the only known source connecting the Irish and English Hungerfords. John of Lincoln’s Inn had no children and, after providing for his widow Mary, left bequests of several hundred pounds to Richard Hungerford (d1729), the eldest son of Thomas of Rathbarry, to Richard’s wife, their children and grandchildren. John described Richard as his “near Kinsman” and “cousin”.

John Hungerford of Lincoln’s Inn was born in 1657 and baptised on 28 October 1657 at Charterhouse Hinton, Somerset, just a couple of miles to the east of Farleigh Hungerford. John was the son of Richard Hungerford and Anne Price, who were married on 10 December 1656 at Bath Abbey. John’s father Richard was perhaps the father of two daughters baptised at Charterhouse Hinton to a Richard and Elizabeth Hungerford – Elizabeth in 1649, and Mary in 1650 – about whom nothing further is known.

The origins of John’s father, Richard, are unclear. Noting how unusual the name Richard Hungerford was, and that for John Hungerford of Lincoln’s Inn to have been a “near kinsman” of the Irish Hungerfords there must have been a close connection to Thomas of Rathbarry, the simplest explanation is that Richard Hungerford of Charterhouse Hinton was the other son of Richard of Dundeady Castle mentioned in the 1642 deposition.

An old theory disproved

In 1999 I changed my mind to argue that Thomas Hungerford of Rathbarry was the son of Fulke Hungerford (d1620), the elder brother of Richard Hungerford of Dundeady Castle12.

Fulke Hungerford’s will of 1620 mentioned his children Henry, George and Susanna, and an unborn child. The name and fate of this unborn child is not recorded. My previous theory was that Thomas Hungerford of Rathbarry was this child, born posthumously to Fulke and Avis Hungerford.

Furthermore, Fulke’s wife Avis was the daughter of Sir George Ivy (d1639) of West Kington, Wiltshire, and Susan Hyde. If Avis was the mother of Thomas Hungerford of Rathbarry, then Thomas and Helena Gore of Kinsale could be cousins through Susan Hyde (mother of Avis Ivy) and Catherine Hyde (mother of Helena Gore).

Two pieces of evidence now rule out the theory that Thomas of Rathbarry was the posthumous child of Fulke Hungerford and Avis Ivy.

First, in 1999 I proposed that Helena Gore’s mother Catherine Hyde was the daughter of Nicholas Hyde. Nicholas was son of Laurence Hyde (d 1590) of West Tisbury, Wiltshire and brother of Susan Hyde who married George Ivy. This genealogy is incorrect. The Southwell family monument at St Multose’s Church in Kinsale, Cork, erected around 1680, provides details of Helena’s ancestry. The epitaph not only explains that she was the daughter of Robert Gore but also provides details about Helena’s mother’s ancestry:

Here also lieth Catherine Gore, mother to the said Helena, and sister to Sir Arthur Hyde, of Castle Hyde, knt. who died upon the 7th day of July, 1638.

Catherine and Arthur Hyde’s parents were Arthur Hyde (d1600) of Castle Hyde, Cork and his wife Elizabeth Pates. They were Elizabethan colonists thought to be from Denchworth, Berkshire. Arthur Hyde was resident in Cork as early as 1589 when he possessed 12,000 acres of land, and that his household was comprised of himself, his wife, and his children Arthur, Susan, Ellen and “Katheren” as well as many servants13.

Ancestry of Helena Gore Southwell

Helena Gore

(c1613-1679) married

Robert Southwell (1608-1677) of Kinsale, Cork

Robert Gore (d1625)

Thomas Gore of Great Sherston, Wiltshire (d1603)

Edith Unknown

Catherine Hyde (d1638)

Arthur Hyde of Castle Hyde, Cork (d1600)

Elizabeth Pates

This means that Avis Ivy, formerly proposed as mother of Thomas Hungerford of Rathbarry, was probably not related to the Hyde, Gore and Southwell families.

A son sues his mother

Fascinating new information has now emerged about Avis Ivy herself and
her family. This not only rules her out altogether as Thomas Hungerford’s
mother but shows there were other Hungerfords living in Ireland in the 1640s besides those in Co Cork.

In October 1654 a case in the Court of Chancery in London was instigated by one Henry Hungerford against Avis and Walter Backhouse14. The bill of complaint
explains in detail the fate of Avis and her children after Fulke Hungerford’s death in 1620. According to Henry Hungerford, his father “Fowke Hungerford” left “a verry good personall estate” valued over £500, including bequests of £50 to Henry and his brother George Hungerford, with the residue of the estate provided to Henry’s mother and Fulke’s widow, Avis Hungerford.

Henry went on to explain that his brother George Hungerford was a successful merchant who lived in Persia for six years, accumulating property worth over £2,000. When he returned from Persia, George lived with his mother Avis and died at Holborn, London in 1640. Avis then moved to Ireland, taking with her not only the property left to her by her husband Fulke, but also the wealth accumulated by her son George. Henry’s complaint was that he had never received the £50 due to him under his father’s will, and that his mother had appropriated his brother’s estate.

In a reply to the bill of complaint dated March 1655, Walter Backhouse provided further details about Avis’s life. He stated that the value of George Hungerford’s estate in 1640 was only about £100. After George’s death Avis “transported herself” to Ireland where she married “one Purcell an Irishman and Catholike” from Kilkenny. Shortly after the marriage, “the Rebellion” broke out in Ireland between the Irish people and the English army. Purcell was killed by soldiers, and Avis had her wealth confiscated by “the Rebells”. Avis was then said to have married twice more in Ireland, to English Army officers, both of whom died leaving her “little or noe estate”.

Finally, in about 1652 Avis married Walter Backhouse, who was at least her
third and possibly her fifth husband. Walter claimed that she had only forty shillings to her name, and that her jointure was tied up in her former husband Purcell’s lands. By 1655 the Backhouses had moved from Ireland back to London.

Fulk Hungerford: a new Irish Hungerford

As is often the way with early modern legal records, we do not know whether Henry Hungerford won his case against his mother and stepfather Backhouse. Henry was still alive in 1661 when he himself was sued in another legal matter. It is as yet unknown whether he married or had children.

We have no further information about the final chapters in Avis’s remarkable life. The fact that Avis went to Ireland would seem to tie in beautifully with the thesis that she was the mother of Thomas Hungerford of Rathbarry. In 1640 Avis’s son Henry Hungerford appears to have been living on his father’s or grandfather’s lands at The Lea and Garsdon, Wiltshire. Her second son George Hungerford had just died in London. A move to Ireland to be with a third son would fit with this.

Here we return to the collection of depositions from the Irish Rebellion. These include a deposition by Elizabeth Dowdall of Killfinney, Limerick, dated to Dowdall describes the murder of her servant ‘Fulk Hungerford’ by Irish rebels whilst attempting to reach the English army. The name is unique. Surely this “Fulk Hungerford” was none other than the son born posthumously to Fulke and Avis Hungerford in 1620 or 1621. His untimely end in 1641 placed him as one among tens of thousands of violent deaths which took place in this tumultuous period, and which had long-lasting political consequences.

Avis Ivy – born c1596, England to Sir George Ivy and Susanna Hyde
m c1615 Fulke Hungerford
m c1640 unknown Purcell
m c1654 Walter Backhouse living 1654
Henry Hungerford c 1616 (living 1661)
George Hungerford c 1618-1640
Susanna Hungerford c 1619-1622
Fulk Hungerford c 1620-1641

Future avenues for research

In light of the new evidence presented above, Thomas Hungerford of Rathbarry was almost certainly the son of Richard Hungerford of Dundeady Castle and grandson of Anthony Hungerford of Hankerton, Wiltshire, thus providing a line of descent right back to the medieval English Hungerford family.

Thomas could not have been the posthumous son of Fulke Hungerford and Avis Ivy, as this child may now be identified as Fulk Hungerford who died about 1641 or 1642 in the Irish Rebellion while in the service of Elizabeth Dowdall of Limerick, Ireland.

Many new questions now arise:

  • When did the Hungerfords first arrive in County Cork? It now seems entirely possible that Thomas Hungerford of Rathbarry was not an emigrant, as long assumed, but was born in Ireland.
  • When did Richard Hungerford die after he was ransomed by Lord Kinalmeaky? Was his life taken elsewhere in the tumultuous events of 1642, or did he live on, perhaps returning to England.
  • If Richard Hungerford of Dundeady Castle had two sons in 1642, then who was their mother? There is a marriage at Bricklehampton, Worcestershire, in 1629 of one Anne Kimber to Richard Hungerford, who is very likely Richard of Dundeady. The couple would have been first cousins: Richard’s aunt Dorothy Hungerford was Anne’s mother – but 1629 was too late for a marriage which had produced two adult sons by 1642.
  • How was Thomas Hungerford of Rathbarry related to “Cozen” Helena Gore Southwell? Perhaps his mother was a member of the Hyde family of Cork, or of the Gore family who hailed from Sherston, Wiltshire, just a few kilometres from Farleigh Hungerford and Charterhouse Hinton.

Happily, as we wait for future evidence to emerge which might prove Thomas of Rathbarry’s parentage for once and for all, a large chunk of his descendants may take consolation from another recent discovery.

It turns out that Captain Emanuel Hungerford was indeed a direct descendant of the medieval Hungerford line, not through his paternal line but through his grandmother Mary Cranfield Becher, whose ancestry I have recently traced to Mary Hungerford (1468-1533), wife of Edward Hastings and heiress of the Barons Hungerford, Moleyns and Botreaux.
But that’s another story!

  1. HAFS Journal Vol 2 No 3, May 1994.
  2. HAFS Journal Vol 5 No 2, Nov 1999.
  5. British Library, Additional Manuscript 46952.
  6. British Library Additional Manuscript 46956A folio 112.
  7. Until the mid-18th century, the English counted the change of year from 25 March, not 1 January, hence the double date given here for clarity.
  9. Mary Hickson, Ireland in the Seventeenth Century (1884) Volume 2, 381.
  10. Herbert Webb Gillman, ed, “Siege of Rathbarry Castle, 1642”, Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 2nd series, Vol 1, No 1 (January 1895) 1-20.
  11. HAFS Journal Vol 2, No 3, May 1994.
  12. HAFS Journal Vol 5 No 2, Nov 1999.
  13. The National Archives, London: SP 63/144 folio 226ff.
  14. The National Archives, London: C6/42/107.

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