There are records of Gunters in Hungerford from 1470 right up to the 20th century, although the family links have not yet been established.
The Berkshire Burial Index (compiled by the Berkshire Family History Society) lists the following burials at St Lawrence:
- 1577/8 (4 Mar) Walter Gunter
- 1587 (Oct) Edwarde Gunter, gent (departed this mortal life 26 Oct at his house at Morton)
- 1587 (18 Nov) Jafferie Gunter, gent (died at Mr Chocke's of Avington)
- 1590 (5 Apr) Widow Gunter
- 1594 (4 Apr) Margery Gunter, poor maid
- 1669/0 (26 Jan) Martha Guntere (sic!), daughter of Mr John Guntere (sic!)
- 1931 (23 Dec) Sarah Louise Gunter (50), Park Street, Down View
- 1935 (25 Feb) Emma Gunter (48), Park Street
- 1936 (6 Mar) William Gunter (75), High Street
- 1950 (30 Nov) William Charles Gunter (68), 67 High Street
- 1951 (30 Oct) Emily Gunter (89), 67 High Street
In 1470 William Gunter held ¼ part of a burgage late John Goldyng's, quit rent 2d. This appears to relate to part of what would now be numbered 109-110 High Street.
Also in 1470 William Gunter held 11 Bridge Street.
In 1470 Henry Gunter held 1 burgage "late J. Golding, q.r. 8d", corresponding to 107 High Street.
Brian Gunter: (also Bryan Gunter):
In 1556 George Essex of Hopgrass forbade fisherman to fish in the River Dun. To sort out this nasty situation the Constable John Lovelake dispatched men "with bows and arrows", and George Essex withdrew his objection.
In 1569, Brian Gunter took over the lease of Hopgrass from George Essex (which Gunter was to hold at least until 1581). This led to a notable dispute the following year (1570) with the "tenants of Hungerford and Sanden Fee", who had "time out of mind been in the practice of coming to Freeman's Marsh to pasture for all their beasts and cattle until about half a year ago when Bryan Gunter of Hobegrasse disturbed the tenants from their said custom in Freeman's Marsh and with force (those so beaten included John Parker tithing man and Richard Ive hayward) and killed the cattle of the said tenants and daily on horseback with chasing stones in their hands and morysch pykes having great mastyffe dogs which chase and kill and worry the tenants' cattle." It was pretty rough stuff.
The Duchy of Lancaster's attorney, George Bromley took up the case. His view was that "Freeman's Marsh contains by estimation 30 acres of ground in Berkshire and that Bryan Gunter one year ago wrongfully entered the Freeman's Marsh. He therefore asks for a sub-poena to Bryan Gunter to appear in the Duchy of Lancaster court." He denied that Freeman's Marsh was part of the manor of Hopgrass nor was it in the county of Wiltshire. Therefore Gunter had no rights to the land in question.
The case was heard on 3 Nov 1570 by the then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Rt Hon Sir Raphe Sadler kt.
Bryan Gunter responded by a statement sworn 25 Jan 1570/1, stating that formerly George Essex late of Hopgrass esq. was lawfully seised of the manor of Hopgrass which included Freeman's Marsh lying and being in Wiltshire. Essex leased the land to Gunter by indenture 2 March 11 Eliz. (1569) for 46 years (until 1615).
Others (including George Bromley) denied that Freeman's Marsh is part of the manor of Hopgrass or that it is in Wiltshire.
(There was a further less serious dispute in 1573, when a Local Jury report recorded that "George Essex (Lord of the Manor) & Brian Gunter (tenant of Hopgrass) have taken a tree "by force" valued at 2 shillings out of the Marsh which was ordered to be cut and used to repair the highway by Henry Edes". Edes was perhaps highway's overseer and the wood for bridge repair.)
The 1570 dispute between Gunter and the townsmen of Hungerford led to a much more serious problem two years later (1573), and the famous "Case of the Missing Charters", where the early Charters for Hungerford were "lost". The legal action of 1570 had been rather ill-judged, because it brought to the notice of the Duchy Court the whole question of the status of the Hungerford townsmen.
Pandora's box had been opened. In January 1573, the Surveyor of the Duchy lands held a special court to make enquiries about certain manor customs, particularly fishing rights. The main objective was simple: the Duchy needed every source of income and would do its utmost to ensure that rights and revenues were not diverted elsewhere. It was of vital importance for the townspeople to prove that they were entitled to the fishery, but the necessary charters were missing.
Had they been stolen? Some people thought so: they remembered that John Lovelack had taken some documents away after the case against Brian Gunter in 1569, and it was alleged that, along with William Butler, he had fraudulently disposed of them. An official complaint was filed in the Duchy Court in London. As a result of this, a Special Commission was ordered to examine witnesses and take evidence from both sides so that a judgment could be made.
This Commission sat in Hungerford between June and September 1573. Much of the proceedings seemed to concern the contents of the Town Chest, in which all the town's legal documents were stored. It seems clear that Lovelack had taken the chest to his house to examine the contents privately, but no-one seemed sure of what documents should have been in there in the first place. The conflicting testimonies, hearsay and malicious backbiting must have been extremely tedious for the Commissioners. The final decision was that there was no proof any charters had existed, so no one could be charged with stealing them. There seemed little doubt that some documents had been removed, perhaps in connection with some property, but this was not the concern of the Court. The main concern was to establish the status of the town. It seemed abundantly clear that it was not a Borough, nor had it ever been one. If a charter of incorporation had been granted by John of Gaunt, there would have been clear evidence of it elsewhere.
In 1582 Brian Gunter declined the position of Churchwarden.
The Hungerford Witch: It seems that Brian Gunter continued to act in a troublesome way. He was involved in the case of apparent bewitching in Hungerford (this information is provided by Douglas Clapp, who spoke on 26 Jan 2011 to the Hungerford Historical Association on "Witchcraft in Berkshire").
Brian's daughter Anne was baptised in May 1584. In 1604/05, as a 20-year old, she apparently started to suffer fits, trances, and even vomiting needles.
Brian Gunter accused one Elizabeth Gregory of bewitching his daughter Anne, but it was eventually discovered that Anne had been forced to feign these episodes by her father.
The case against Elizabeth Gregory was heard in the Star Chamber under King James I. The truth that Anne Gunter had been forced into this behaviour by her father Brian resulted in Brian being fined, and stripped of all offices in the town. Anne moved away from the area and later married.
In 1621 Thomas Dyer, an innkeeper (and probably previously a fishmonger from London), bought a property (1 messuage, with garden, orchard and 1 acre of land) on the east side of the High Street, later demolished for the railway bridge.
In 1631 the Court Baron 4 Oct 7 Chas. I reported that "the palings of the tenement of Thomas Dyer are greatly in decay; and also he is instructed to scour and cleanse the outlet from his privy which is near the house of John Gunter". The privies of inns were, of course, particular nuisances to their neighbours. John Gunter was the tenant of the neighbouring manor house, known as the Swan (121 now 120a High Street) . Thomas Dyer had not remade the pales by March 1632 and was threatened with a 20s fine if he did not do so by 7th April.
In 1633-64 John Gunter, gent, appears to have been at 124 High Street.
John Gunter was one of the original trustees of the Free Grammar School in The Croft, set up in 1634. "In 1645 Thomas Smith the elder, of Milton in Wiltshire, eldest son of Vincent Smith and executor of his father's will, granted an annuity of 40 shillings "for the advancement of the then new erected school in Hungerford for the teaching and instruction of two poor children or youth males [sic] of Hungerford yearly." The trustees were Francis Goddard of Standen Hussey, John Clarke the new vicar, John Gunter gent, Richard Goddard of Hidden gent, Jehosophat Lucas (a son of John Lucas the benefactor who died in 1626) and Nicholas Burch, both these latter of Hungerford."
- Law Suits connected with the Town and People of Hungerford, Court of Chancery (3 Volumes) - see links in Archives