BONYTHON, Charles (c.1653-1705), of Westminster.

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



Family and Education

b. c.1653, 1st s. of John Bonython of Bonython, Cury, Cornw. by Anne, da. of Hugh Trevanion of Trelugan, Gerrans, Cornw. educ. G. Inn 1671, called 1678. m. Mary Livesay of Lincs., 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. aft. 1671.1

Offices Held

Steward of Westminster courts 1683-7, Oct. 1688-d.; j.p. Westminster 1683-Feb. 1688, 1689-d., Mdx. 1685-Feb. 1688, Sept. 1688-?d.; commr. for assessment, Mdx. 1689, Cornw. and Westminster 1689-90.2

Serjeant-at-law 1692-d.


Bonython’s ancestors took their name from a small property on the Lizard, where they can be traced back to the year 1278. A cadet branch established at Carclew produced a Member for Fowey in 1586 and a royalist lieutenant-colonel in the Civil War. But Bonython’s father appears to have taken no active part in the conflict.3

Bonython, a practising lawyer, appeared for the crown against Lord Castlemaine (Roger Palmer) in 1680 and in other Popish Plot cases. In 1683 he succeeded (Sir) Francis Wythens as steward of the courts of Westminster. This post, worth £500 p.a., was at the disposal of the dean and chapter, who usually followed the recommendations of the high steward, the Duke of Ormonde. Bonython was returned for Westminster in 1685 as a Tory, apparently unopposed. A moderately active Member of James II’s Parliament, he was appointed to eight committees, including the committee of elections and privileges and those to recommend expunctions from the Journals and to consider the bills establishing the new parish of St. James Piccadilly in his constituency and regulating hackney coaches. On 6 June he was given leave with Charles Porter to bring in a bill setting up ‘courts of conscience’ for small claims in Westminster and other areas adjoining London. As chairman of the committee to estimate the yield of a tax on new buildings, he told the Commons on 20 June that the calculations would take some time. He was also named to the committee for the relief of London widows and orphans. After the recess he was entrusted, together with Thomas Done, to see that the constables kept the streets between Temple Bar and Westminster Hall free from obstruction ‘by cars, drays, carts or otherwise’ during the Commons’ usual hours of sitting from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.4

Bonython was superseded as steward of Westminster in February 1687, presumably because he opposed the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws, but he was restored in the following year. He was defeated by Sir William Pulteney at Westminster in 1689, though only after his rival’s son had threatened to beat and shoot him if he did not desist. Again a candidate on the high Tory interest in November 1691 and in 1698, he did not go to a poll on either occasion; and when he did persist in January 1701 he came at the bottom of the poll. He shot himself on 30 Apr. 1705. His eldest son, Richard, after selling the estate, also committed suicide by throwing himself out of the window after setting fire to his chambers in 1720, and no later member of the family entered Parliament.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. H. F. Burke, Hist. Fam. Bonython, 13-14.
  • 2. Luttrell, i. 255; Mdx. RO, MJ/SBB/446; WJP/CP1, 3.
  • 3. Burke, 1, 32.
  • 4. DNB; State Trials, vii. 1069; CJ, ix. 731, 742, 753.
  • 5. DNB; Carte 40, f. 506; Luttrell, v. 545.