DUNCH, Edmund (?1677-1719), of Little Wittenham, Berks. and Down Ampney, Glos.
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Family and Education
b. 14 Dec. ?1677, o. s. of Hungerford Dunch† of Little Wittenham and Down Ampney by Katherine, da. of William Oxton, Brewer, of Westminster and Herts. m. 24 Apr. 1702, Elizabeth (d. 1760), da. and coh. of Charles Godfrey*, and maid of honour to Queen Anne, 4da. suc. fa. 1680.1
Freeman, Wallingford 1695.2
Master of the Household 1708–12, 1714–d.
Dunch has often been mistakenly represented as a nephew of Lord Wharton (Hon. Thomas*), in confusion with his third cousin Wharton Dunch*. He did have some association with the Junto lord, through his father-in-law, Charles Godfrey, a crony of Wharton’s, and through his own membership of the Kit-Cat Club; but equally, if not more important was Godfrey’s connexion with the Churchill family. In his youth, according to Caulfield’s Memoirs of the Kit-Cat, Dunch ‘received and profited by a liberal education’, though where this took place has not been ascertained. He enjoyed some reputation for wit, and apparently before his marriage some notoriety as a ladies’ man. His parliamentary ambitions may have initially lain in Berkshire, as in 1695 he was admitted as a freeman of Wallingford and four years later he made an unsuccessful attempt to become the borough recorder there. However, his Gloucestershire estate gave him an interest in the nearby borough of Cricklade and it was here that he secured his return, unopposed, in January and again in November 1701, and he was included on the Whig side in Robert Harley’s* list of the latter Parliament. However, the beginning of his Commons career was uneventful, and either he or his cousin was given leave of absence for a week on 23 Apr. 1701. Defeated at the 1702 election, he was none the less considered a possible nominee for a peerage that year, presumably as a favourite of the Marlboroughs, and twice in 1704 it was rumoured that he would succeed Godfrey in the jewel office. He won back his seat at the next election, a result marked as a ‘gain’ by Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*). Despite being labelled a ‘Churchman’ in one classification of the returns, he voted on 25 Oct. 1705 for the Court candidate for Speaker, and on 4 Dec. told in favour of the House going into committee forthwith to consider the proceedings of the Scottish parliament with regard to union and the succession. In early 1708 Dunch was listed as a Tory, but another list from later the same year more realistically described him as a Whig, and in the feverish speculation in the aftermath of the fall of Harley in February 1708 he was very quickly recognized as a likely appointee to an important Household office, first the comptrollership and later the mastership. When he eventually kissed hands as master in October it was to the Duchess of Marlborough that his wife wrote in gratitude. Before the appointment it was reported that he had been granted a pension of £1,000 a year for life, but almost certainly this was never confirmed. Re-elected without difficulty after taking office, he voted for the naturalization of the Palatines. He supported the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell both inside and outside Parliament, on one occasion becoming involved with other Whig MPs and peers in a fracas provoked by toasts on the subject of the doctor.3
Returned at the head of the poll for Cricklade in 1710, and marked as a Whig in the ‘Hanover list’, Dunch retained his office over two sessions in spite of stout adherence to his party. This again seems in all probability to have been due, directly or indirectly, to the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†). Dunch voted on 7 Dec. 1711 in favour of the ‘No Peace without Spain’ motion. Finally removed from his place after Marlborough’s disgrace, in a purge of Whig office-holders in June 1712, he continued in opposition, voting against the French commerce bill on 18 June 1713, as a Whig. It is not clear why he withdrew from Cricklade in 1713: perhaps for financial reasons. Instead he was nominated by Lord Pelham and William Jessop* at Boroughbridge, as ‘a gentleman of an estate of at least £4,000 a year . . . a true Whig and a very honest, civil, well bred and good-natured gentleman’. Lord Pelham called him ‘a particular friend’ and specifically brought to the electors’ attention Dunch’s relationship to Marlborough and Wharton and his staunch voting record in Parliament, which was further enhanced on 18 Mar. 1714, when he voted against the expulsion of Richard Steele. He was classed as a Whig in the Worsley list and in a list of the Members chosen again in the election of 1715, prior to which he had been restored, along with his father-in-law, to his Household office.4
Dunch died on 31 May 1719 and was buried at Little Wittenham, where he left ‘a very good estate’. Down Ampney, on the other hand, had to be sold to pay gambling debts of over £6,000. ‘He was a very great gamester’, wrote Hearne, ‘and had, a little before, lost £30 one night in gaming’, a vice into which he was supposed to have allowed himself to be drawn ‘purely to please his lady’.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. Foster, London Mar. Lic. 426; Daily Courant, 2 May 1702.
- 2. J. K. Hedges, Hist. Wallingford, ii. 239.
- 3. J. Carswell, Old Cause, 45, 90–91; J. Caulfield, Kit-Cat Club, 210; W.L. Sachse, Ld. Somers, 192; Materials Hist. Cricklade ed. Thomson, 156; Add. 47025, f. 57; 61450, f. 224; 61461, f. 63; 70075–6, Dyer’s newsletter 2 Mar. 1704; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 185, 419; vi. 267, 354; Northants. RO, Isham mss, John to Sir Justinian Isham, 4th Bt.*, 17 Sept. 1704; 7th Duke of Manchester, Court and Soc. Eliz. to Anne, ii. 280, 336; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletters 14 Feb., 28 Sept. 1708; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 1124; HMC Portland, iv. 505.
- 4. Boyer, Pol. State, iii. 387; Add. 17677 FFF, f. 249; Sir T. Lawson-Tancred, Recs. of a Yorks. Manor, 249–55, 259–61.
- 5. Misc. Gen. et Her. ser. 3, ii. 46; Hearne Colls. v. 380; vii. 17.