DUNSTER, Henry (1618-84), of Mincing Lane, London and Jenningsbury, Hertford.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

Family and Education

bap. 6 Sept. 1618, s. of Giles Dunster, yeoman, of Seavington St. Michael, Som. m. c. May 1655, Mary (d. 10 Oct. 1718), da. of Henry Gardiner of Jenningsbury, and h. to her bro. Edward, 6s. 2da.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Grocers’ Co. 1644, warden 1668-9, master 1669-70; ‘burgess’, Ilchester by Apr. 1660-?74; commr. for assessment, London Aug. 1660-80, Som. 1664-9, Herts. 1664-80, recusants, Som. 1675.2

Biography

Dunster came from a South Somerset yeoman family, several of whom became merchants in London in the 17th century. He was apprenticed to a London Grocer in 1636, and appears to have taken no part in the Civil War. ‘He increased the family fortune by his laudable industry’, but little is known of his trading ventures except for the despatch of two consignments of arms to the Barbary corsairs under the Commonwealth. His business was adversely affected by the Cromwellian war with Spain, and he may have become less active after marrying a Hertfordshire heiress, though he retained a London address, and is said to have fined for alderman, but this cannot be confirmed.3

Dunster held 52 acres in Ilchester by 1652 and was elected to the corporation. He was returned for the borough at the general election of 1660 as a supporter of the Restoration, probably unopposed; but he took no ascertainable part in ‘that Parliament which recalled the King together with the monarchy’, as his epitaph expressed it. Re-elected in 1661, when he signed his own indenture, he survived a petition from Robert Hunt, but never became an active Member of the Cavalier Parliament. He was named to only 18 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in six sessions. In the opening session he was among those ordered to consider bills for regulating common fields, and preventing abuses in weighing and packing butter, and to inspect the disbandment accounts. His brother Giles became a commissioner for public accounts after the second Dutch war, later serving as surveyor-general of customs; but there is no sign that Dunster’s own career was affected, and indeed he may have moved into opposition. He was appointed to the committees to recommend increases in customs rates (29 Feb. 1668), and in 1670 to those to consider the additional bill for the rebuilding of London and a bill to prevent illegal imprisonment. He was absent from a call of the House in 1671, but his excuses were accepted, and later in the session he was named to the committee to prevent the export of wool. His name appears on no lists of the court party, and Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’ in 1677. His last committee (3 June 1678) was on a bill to provide for the son of a London alderman and excise farmer.4

Dunster sold his property in Ilchester in 1674 and never stood for the borough again. But he came forward as court candidate for Hertford at the second general election of 1679. After his defeat by Sir Thomas Byde, though only by a handful of votes,

he retired into private life, where he conducted himself with devout piety towards his God, severe justice towards his neighbours, singular fidelity in his promises, wonderful foresight and sagacity in business transactions, beneficence towards the poor, and goodness and benevolence towards all.

‘Well deserving of his King, his church, and his country’, he died of an epidemic fever on 29 July 1684, aged 66. He was buried at All Saints, Hertford, the only member of the family to sit.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / John. P. Ferris

Notes

  • 1. Som. RO, Seavington St. Michael par. reg.; Guildhall Lib. mss 11593/1/62; Clutterbuck, Herts. ii. 183.