Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Richard Gunter (d. 1552/3)

Mayor of Oxford 1545/6 and 1546/7

Richard Gunter (or Gounter or Gonter) was an immigrant from south Wales, and by 1524 was Manciple (or “victualler”) of Gloucester Hall. He lived in the parish of St Peter-le-Bailey.

Richard Gunter married Mrs Johan Reeve, the widow of a wealthy brewer who had a son called Thomas Reeve, and in order to take up brewing in the city he became a freeman of Oxford. He was also a fishmonger by 1544.

Gunter was elected a Chamberlain on 29 September 1525.

On 18 August 1526 the council enrolled a grant to Gunter, who is described as a gentleman, of “all lands, tenements, tofts, gardens, formerly Robert Slymbrige’s, clerk, within the town of Oxon”.

In September 1529 Gunter was appointed Bailiff. The following May proceedings against him and the other bailiff were instigated in the University Court for closing the doors of the Guildhall and preventing the holding of a Court Leet by the University, under the charter granted at the instance of Cardinal Wolsey. Shortly after this, Gunter was excommunicated from the church for contumacy:

Ricardus Gunter alter Ballivorum ob suam contumaciam in non comparando alio tempore suspenditur ab ingressu ecclesiae, circa idem negotium Willielmo Watts [William Watts, the Chaplain of St Martin’s Church] capellano seculari divi Martini publice in ecclesia hanc suspensionem denuntianto.

In December 1530 he was discommoned (i.e. deprived of the privilege of dealing with the undergraduates) by the University:

Md that the vj daye of December last passed, John Cottysford, Commysarye, and the ij Proctors of the Unyversite, sent for on Richard Gounter, that tyme beyng oon of the Bayllyffs of the Towne of Oxford, and wolde have had hym sworne to privyleges of the Unyversite, which was repoungnant to the othe that he toke to the Kyngs grace for the executyng of hys office. And theruppon the sayd Commysarye and Proctors, wt the hedds of the Unyversite, called a counsell in Saynt Mary’s Churche, and ther dyscoumenyd him, and commaunded all the mansebylls, cocks, and all others of the Unyversite, that they shulde nother bye nor sell wt hym. In so moche that he had watered … lyngs and saltfyshe, and brewed xxxti quarters malt which they had warnyd for, and so they wold not receyve theyr ale at the tyme it was sent to them, which was to the gret hurt, losse, and hynderance of the sayd Richard Gounter.

The Commissary and Scholars of the University had this to say about a Bill of Complaint lodged against them by the Mayor and Burgesses:

To the xxj article the said Comyssarye saithe, that he requyred none other othe of Gunter, then Gunter beyng a mancyple to scolers, then he did of all other mancyples of scolers yn the towne, which othe ryght well stondith wt the othe he toke to ye Kyngs grace for thexecuting of hys offys of the baylywyke, and which oth every Baylyff before hym tyme owt of mynd have taken, beyng Baylyffs of Oxford, altho’ they were no mancyples to scolers; but bycause he dyd transgresse the said Unyversytie priveledges, beyng oon of or mancyples, and dyd wylfully anoye, vex, and troble the hole Unyversytie, otherwyse then any bayly had doon yn or tyme before hym; therfore it was decrede by the hole body of the Unyversytie, in penam peccati sui, that he shuld no more serve any scolers of vytaylle unto the tyme he were reformed, and he had warnyng therof many tymes, and gentylly desyred to [abstain] from such wylfull doyngs, or suche decre passed use, and were dreven therunto by the said Guntors’ manyfold ymportune dealyngs, whych was yn maner untollerable, and over that by expresse charters grauntyd unto the said Unyversytie by the Kyngs grace most noble progenytors, and confyrmed by hys most noble grace the Chaunceler and Comyssarye of hys Unyversytie, may correcte the Baylyffs of Oxfords transgressyng the said priveleges yn ther tyme.

The University replied to a second Bill of Complaint, suggesting that Gunter and three others were guilty of negligence towards the inhabitants of the town, involving

forstallying and regratyng of markett and sellyng of moche corrupte vitalls, and non yn Oxford so myche as they beforenamyd, nor wyllyng to be reformyd not only to the greatt hurte and hynderans of the said Universite, but also to the greatt hurte of the comen welthe of the Towne and the countrye. And the said inhabytaunts, vytaclers of Oxford, estsons of ther perverse mynds, do sell unto there neyboures townsmen good wyne, and to scollers wyne that is corrupte and noughte, and one of them schall bye so moche beffe or motton for iijd as the scollers schall pay iiijd for, and a payer of schoys for viijd that scollers schal not have under xd, wt sich lyke of all other merchaundyze and vytaylls.

On 8 October 1531 proceedings in a cause of defamation for maintaining the good name of Richard Gunter, late Bailiff of Oxford, commenced. Robert Golsroppe and his wife and Thomas Mocche had been spreading a rumour that Gunter’s servant had not died from the plague, but had been murdered by Gunter. Alderman William Fleming declared:

That oon Richard Gounter, late on of the Bayllyffs of the foresayd Towne of Oxford, cam unto hym the xxv day of September, in the xxiiiti yere of the reigne of or sayd soueraigne lorde at Oxford aforeseyd, and then and ther shewd unto hym that he had a servaunt named William Acrygge, departed in hys howse, syttyng and being in the paryshe of Saynt Peter-in-the-Bayly, in Oxford aforesayd, of the pestylence, and that Robt Golsroppe, and Margaret hys wyffe, and Thomas Mocche, evylwyllers of and to the sayd Richard Govnter, intendyng of malyce prepenced to putte the same Richard Govnter to wrongfull trobyll, vexacion, eiuste beynes falsely and untruly dyd common and talk that hys sayd servaunt at that tym had not ne dyd not dye of the pestylense, but of a certen punnyshement which the sayd Richard dyd execute in hym. In consyderacion wherof, and to thentent the trewthe myght be knowen, the sayd Richard Govnter desyred the foresayd Mr William Flemyng, Crowner [coroner], to loke uppon and vewe the ded corpus before he wer buryd, and to testefye the trewthe concerning the premysses. And the said Mr William Flemyng answrd and sayde that he was lothe to goe and see the ded corpus yf he dyed of the pestylence, bout he sayd he wolde doe hys dewtty for hys owne dyscharge. And soe forthewith the sayd Mr William Flemyng, Crowner, dyd sende for one Henry Colt, constabyll of the southe west warde, wher the ded corpus was, and commaundyd hym to take certayne honest men wt hym, and suche as he coulde gett and vewe the ded corpus, and certefye hym the trewthe therof. And soe the sayd constabyll toke wt hym William Fallofelde, mercer, and late one of the Bayllyffs of the Towne of Oxford aforesayd, Richard Westecrosse, one of the Chamberlyns of the same Towne of Oxford, Richard Cotterell, late one of the Chamberlyns of the same Towne, Edward Trayford, Robt Knyght, William Benbowe, William Raulyns, William Symson, Robt Holland, William Myddylton, and John Cowper, wt many other, and soe they viewed and serched the ded corpus, and after a dylygent and a dewe vewe and serche of the ded corpus by them had, they certefyed to the sayd William Flemyng, Crowner, that they had sene the sayd corpus, and that he had a pestylensse sore in hys throtte, and a blayne under hys lefte erre, and also was full of Godys markys, and had noe nother hurte nor blemyshe to be senne hurtfull uppon hys body. And, moreover, the sayd Richard Govnter at the foresayd day of ellection brouzght wt hym to the foresayd Guyldehall, of the foresayd Towne of Oxford, before the sayd Mayre, Aldermen, Baylyffs, and Bourgeses syttyng in thyr judicall auctorities, a grette multytude of men and women that had sene the sayd ded corpus. That is to saye, Henry Coke, Richard Smythe, Thomas Lorde, John Thomas, Walter Golding, Joanne Glympton, Margret Symson, and Mother Gryffythe whiche dyd kepe and wynde the sayd corpus, wt many other. And desyred the sayd Mr Mayre wt all the benche, that they wolde of theyr goodnes here all thes persons speke the trewthe, what they dyd see and perceyve uppon the sayd corpus, wheruppon Mr Mayre and the benche dyd examen the foresayd Walter Goldying, John Thomas, William Myddylton, Mergret Symson, and Mother Gryffythe, uppon theyre fydelities and other examened on theyr othes made toe and for the lyberties of the sayd Towne of Oxford, to shewe the very trewthe. And soe they then reported as the constabyll and the other persons before named reported in every thyng. And soe all the resydue dyd wt on voyse, saying that it was shame that ever a honeste man as Mr Richard Govnter ys shulde be putte to any trobyll or sklavnder by a false suggestion by iij or iiij malicious persons falsely imagened and publyshed, the contrary of theyr false suggestyons evydently proved and knowen the same. And that don, the sayd Richard Gounter, then and ther desyred and also requyred the sayd MMayre wt all the bench syttyng in theyr judicially auctorytye, that all thes the premysses and every parcell therof myght be recorded in and amongyst the recordys of the sayd Towne of Oxford….

Anthony Wood records that in 1531 Alderman Gunter sold to the Queen’s College a parcel of ground in the parish of St Peter-in-the-East “lying on the west part of Gutter Hall”.

On 30 November 1532 it was agreed that Gunter should be one of the six people who went to London to deliver the submission of the town of Oxford to the King (Henry VIII)’s grace.

In January 1533/4 Gunter paid £20 cash to Antony Bishop for a tenement in St Martin’s parish called the Red Lion, which was in Fish (St Aldate’s) Street. Around this time (following the dissolution of the monasteries), he leased the churchyward of the Grey Friars for 3s. 4d per annum.

In 1534 various parcels of land in Oxfordshire, including Trentle Hall, were demised to Gunter by the Abbot of Eynsham.

In 1539 Richard Gunter was elected Member of Parliament for Oxford.

On 29 September 1540 Gunter was selected as an Alderman and a Coroner, and the following February was appointed as one of the seven City Arbitrators to act in disputes between the City and University.

On 25 March 1544 Richard Gunter and his wife took on two apprentices from Brecon: David [?ap] Thomas and Richard Parry. Gunter was then described as an alderman, fishmonger, and brewer.

In September 1545 Gunter was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1545/6), and he was elected again the following year (for 1546/7). He was thus Mayor at the time of the Coronation of King Edward VI on 20 February, but it is not clear whether he attended the Coronation or performed the Oxford mayor’s traditional role of butler at the Coronation feast.

In October 1548 a dispute is minuted between Alderman Irish and Alderman Gunter, as to which of them was senior: the council decided that it was Irish.

† Richard Gunter appears to have died around 1552/3, as his will was proved on 1 April 1553. He requested that he should be buried within St Peter-le-Bailey Church.

He left legacies to his wife Johan, his son Richard, and his two daughters.

In 1581 he is listed as a benefactor of the City:

Item, for Richard Gunton [sic], late Mayor, who gave unto the use of this Cytie one garden grounde lieng and adjoyninge to the towne howse in Catestreate, and xls in reddye money.

Gunter’s son of the same name

On 7 September 1560 Richard Gunter junior sold a tenement in St Martin’s parish (on the site of the present 141/142 High Street) to Walter Baylie of New College; on 18 July 1561 he granted Thomas Atwood, baker, a tenement and garden in St Ebbe’s (later the site of 36–38 Church Street); and on 19 March 1563 he granted Richard Edgys a tenement and garden in St Ebbe;s (later 29–31 Church Street)

On 3 May 1587 Richard Gunter junior was admitted free for a silver penny.

On 26 October 1596 it was agreed that Richard Gunter junior was to be an almsman of St Bartholomew’s, and on 7 June 1605, “It is agreed that old Gunter being in great miserye shall have the eight pence weekley that Mr Redshawe had, so long as he shall lyve.”

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©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 29 September, 2018

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