GUNTER, Richard (by 1503-53), of Oxford.
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Family and Education
b. by 1503. m. by 1528, Joan, wid. of one Reeve, 1s. 2da.2
Manciple, Gloucester Coll. Oxf. by 1524; chamberlain, Oxford 1525-6, bailiff 1529-30, alderman 1540-d., mayor 1545-6, 1546-7; j.p. Oxford 1541; commr. gaol delivery 1545.3
Richard Gunter’s will and his land transactions with his cousin James Gunter of Abergavenny establish his Welsh origin, but his parentage remains unknown. He was probably the first of his name to settle in Oxford. As manciple of Gloucester College, a Benedictine house, he was assessed for the subsidy in 1524 at 2s.6d. on wages or on goods of £5. Such functionaries were not prevented from playing a full part in municipal life: Gunter’s career resembles that of Edward Glynton, who was to fill his place as alderman in 1553, but it was less simple in that his relations with the university were troubled and confused.4
The new charter secured by Wolsey for the university led to a clash with the town, whose two bailiffs were imprisoned by the commissary in 1527. Two years later Gunter and his fellow-bailiff William Pery closed the doors of the guildhall against the university, and when the two men were summoned to answer for this defiance, Gunter did not attend the court and on 17 May 1530 was excommunicated. He had already been discommoned, members of the university being forbidden to trade with him, for his refusal to take the oath to observe the privileges of the university, on the ground that such an oath ‘was repugnant to the oath that he took to the King’s grace for the executing of his office’ of bailiff. The university, in its answer to various points in dispute given some time later, argued that the oath was required of all manciples, was not inconsistent with the bailiff’s oath, and had been taken by ‘every bailiff before him time out of mind ... although they were no manciples to scholars’. Gunter’s losses through being discommoned included a quantity of ale which he had already brewed for his academic clientele. Despite the setback, it was at about this time that Gunter was registered in the chancellor’s court as having contracted for the office of manciple of Vine Hall or Peckwater’s Inn with its principal John Tregonwell, on condition that the work should be done by a scholar in return for free board, lodging and tuition, while Gunter should receive 10d. a quarter from each scholar. It was not at first clear whether, in these circumstances, Gunter was bound to take the oath, but on its being decided that he was he refused and on 17 Jan. 1530 was declared not to be manciple of Vine Hall, a declaration which, however, did not close this long drawn-out and involved controversy.5
In 1531 the university went on to accuse Gunter with others of ‘forestalling and regrating of [the] market and selling of much corrupt victuals’; his widow was also to be convicted of regrating in 1553, evidently not regarded as a serious offence as the fine was one penny. Perhaps the university was also behind the more serious rumour that he had killed one of his servants. This led the coroner William Fleming to order an investigation at Gunter’s house in the parish of St. Peter le Bailey which showed that the servant had died of pestilence, a finding which in October 1531 the council ordered to be recorded: this verdict notwithstanding, John Parkins, ‘the fool of Oxford’ was to claim five years later that Gunter was still ‘in fear for murdering his servant’. Gunter was one of those appointed to deliver the town’s promise of submission to the King in 1532 and was named, with Glynton and others, as mediator in a new dispute nine years later. In December 1533 the chancellor’s court ordered Gunter to answer the principal of Hinxsey Hall in a case concerning disobedience to the commissary’s orders. He was again contumaciously absent when cited before the court early in 1550. He also quarrelled with Edmund Irish over their seniority as aldermen, the corporation deciding in Irish’s favour in October 1548.6
Gunter’s return to the Parliament of 1539 was a step in his municipal career, which culminated in two consecutive terms as mayor in the following decade. His fellow-Member Thomas Denton was perhaps of his alliance, as Denton’s sister was married to William ap Walter of Roxwell, Essex, a great-grandson of one William Gunter of South Wales. Nothing is known about Gunter’s work in the House, but after the dissolution he was the recipient of a letter about the collection of the subsidy that he had helped to grant. He may have been re-elected in 1542 and 1545 when the names of the Oxford Members are lost.7
Gunter obtained various properties in Oxford and its suburbs, including those formerly of Studley priory and Eynsham abbey. In 1544 he and his wife also purchased the buildings of the Grey Friars. A year later he bought some lands with James Gunter, most of which they sold not long afterwards to (Sir) George Herbert. Gunter’s will, made on 25 Feb. and proved on 5 Apr. 1553, shows that he also had land in Somerset. After asking to be buried in his parish church of St. Peter le Bailey and contributing to several charities, he provided for his wife, children and kin. He named his wife and son residuary legatees and executors, and James Gunter, a stepson Thomas Reeve, and two clerics, one beneficed in Wales, supervisors. The witnesses included Alderman Richard Atkinson and William Aubrey II, principal of New Inn Hall and probably a relative: it was presumably Aubrey’s future wife Wilgiford Williams to whom Gunter also left 40s. The connexion with Aubrey may signify that Gunter’s relations with the university had improved, and at his death on 27 Mar. 1553 he was engaged in business with Oriel College which his widow was later called on to complete.8
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: T. F.T. Baker
- 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
- 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Oxf. Univ. Arch. T/S cal. chancellor’s ct. reg. EEE, p. 62; PCC 8 Tashe.
- 3. Oxf. City Docs. (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xviii), 57; Oxf. Recs. 55, 65, 160, 178, 186; LP Hen. VIII, xvi., xx.
- 4. Oxf. City Docs. 57.
- 5. Oxf. Recs. 69, 70, 80, 89; Oxf. Univ. Arch. T/S, EEE, pp. 66, 174, 176.
- 6. Oxf. Recs. 101, 104-6, 111, 161, 192-3; Oxf. Univ. Arch. T/S, EEE, p. 328; GG, pp. 64, 92; LP Hen. VIII, xii.
- 7. Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 310; E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
- 8. Liber Albus Civ. Oxon. ed. Ellis, no. 318; Surv. Oxf. i. (Oxf. Hist. Soc. n.s. xiv), 36, 98; ii. (n.s. xx), 125; Antiqs. Oxf. ii. (ibid. xvii), 325, 389; LP Hen. VIII, xix, xx; PCC 8 Tashe; C142/112/135, 114/60; Oxf. Univ. Arch. T/S, GG. p. 95.