William Bury (1698 - 1777)

Alias Henry Parminter, indicted for marrying Mrs Sarah Proctor, a second wife,
27 September 1739, his former wife being still alive and convicted of bigamy
- sometime resident in Ebisham

On 30 October 1727, William Bury married Anna Maria Fleetwood at St Saviour's, Southwark; the bride was little more than 20 but the groom eight years older.

Sir Thomas Bury of Exeter is supposed to have been of the Bury family of Doniton in Swimbridge; his elder son left a daughter, married to Wells, the ancestor of Edmund Wells Fortescue, Esq. A younger son of Sir Thomas Bury settled in London and left male issue*. Although unnamed, the latter is thought to have been William, the principal character in this piece. Thomas Bury, a prominent merchant, had bought Duryard (now Thomas Hall on Exeter University campus) in 1700 and, as 'Citizen and Merchant of the City of Exon', was knighted at Windsor Castle, 18 July 1708. By 1733, however, Sir Thomas had been declared bankrupt.

Anna Maria Fleetwood [born 18 August, baptised 4 September 1707 at Charterhouse Chapel] came from Banstead, her father John Fleetwood, former British Consul at Naples, having acquired the Tadworth Court estate in 1722 before dying in the manor house there during 1725. His coat of arms forms part of the elaborate plasterwork which adorns the main entrance hall of the house.

The exterior of the Tadworth Court
The exterior of the Tadworth Court now used by The Children's Trust
Image courtesy of The Children's Trust, Tadworth © 2011
To donate to this worthy charity click on the image.

Fleetwood Coat Of Arms
The Fleetwood Coat Of Arms in the paster work in the main entrance hall
Image Courtesy of Brian Bouchard © 2011

Tadworth Court on the northern border of Walton Heath, but within the parish of Banstead was devised to his sons John and Gerard Dutton Fleetwood in tail male with reversion to his daughter Anne Maria, later wife of William Bury, or his sons' daughters. The second John Fleetwood died in 1752 leaving an only child Emilia, wife of Giuseppe Calenda. The Calendas and the Burys in 1755/6 conveyed their interest to Gerard Dutton Fleetwood, who was unmarried, and he in 1756 procured an Act of Parliament enabling him to sell the manor to William Mabbot.

Wife Of John Fleetwood?
The lady in this painting is thought to be the Italian wife of
John Fleetwood, junior, who probably died in Naples, whilst the
figure peering over her shoulder is thought to be her deceased
mother in law Anne Fleetwood, formerly Bird, deceased 1721
Image Courtesy of Brian Bouchard © 2011

Meanwhile, two sons had been delivered to William and Anna Maria Bury - William, junior, [born 9 March, baptised 16 March 1728 at St Mary Abchurch] and Fleetwood Bury [born 9 October baptised 15 October 1735 also at St Mary Abchurch].

On 3 June 1742, William Bury, alias Henry Parminter, was indicted for marrying Mrs Sarah Proctor, a second wife, 27 September 1739, his former wife being still alive.

The Counsel for the Prosecution in opening the Charge, took Notice that Mrs. Proctor came from her Brother's in Somersetshire, and lodged at Mrs. Davidge's a Milliner in Covent Garden, where the Prisoner came acquainted with her and married her, and pretended to be a Person of very considerable Fortune; that as he understood her Fortune was not very large, and that as he had a Dependence on an Uncle, therefore desir'd it might be kept a Secret; he promised he would bring a Friend to be Witness of the Marriage; but when he came there was no body in the Coach with him, and the only Reason he gave for not bringing his Friend was, his Fear that his Uncle might know it. Mrs. Proctor was over persuaded, and went with him to Chelsea, and there was married. He took Lodgings for her, and owned her for his Wife, and wrote a Letter to the Brother of this Lady, in which he calls himself his Brother; as one Artifice always wants another to support it, he thought proper to produce a Ring, in which was the Name of Parminter which he said was his Brother, deceased, this Crime is of a deep dye; because he had as good and virtuous a Wife as any Man. We shall bring the strongest Evidence to prove the Fact upon him, and doubt not but the Jury will find him guilty, of the Indictment.
Full details of the case may be read at Old Bailey online. Bury's defence was directed at proving the lady a "Mistress of the town" intent on extorting money from him. She, on the other hand, presented herself as having been duped into a sham marriage; a conjugation from which a daughter, Anne Camilla Parminter, had been born in October 1740. The real Henry Parminter, who may have been related to William Bury gave evidence. Matters seem to have been brought to a head after the involvement of Bury's brother in law, Gerard Dutton Fleetwood, Member of the Inner Temple, who had been called to the bar in 1731.

One might wonder how a 'wedding' in a private room, without licence or witnesses, conducted by a 'clergyman' called Ripley, who might not have been a real Parson, could have any legal effect. Prior to Hardwicke's Marriage Act of 1753, however, a marriage was valid under English common law if each spouse had merely expressed to the other an unconditional consent to their union. Clandestine remarriage amounted to the offence of bigamy punishable as a felony by civil courts. In the event, Bury was found guilty and sentenced to be 'Burnt in the hand'. The punishment should have involved 'F' for 'felon' being branded into his thumb but, in the 18th century, 'cold branding' or branding with cold irons became the mode of nominally inflicting the punishment on prisoners of higher rank.

During the proceedings, William Bury was described as a 'Fair trader" with a 'compting house' in his residence on Abchurch Lane which suggests that he had been a merchant. His absence in Exeter can be explained by his leased interest in the Manor of Thorverton, Devon, and an estate there called 'Higher Yellowford'.

The family may have retreated to Epsom to distance themselves from the scandal: certainly, they were present in the town before baptism of a third son, Bion Bury, was registered at St Martin's on 1 January 1748.

Extract From 1843 Tithe Map for Plot - Click to Enlarge
Extract From 1843 Tithe Map for Plot 1514 - Click to Enlarge

According to Lehmann, 13B10,
"William Bury in 1755 held by free deed a messuage, coachhouse, stables and other outhouses, also two other small tenements and a slaughterhouse, yard and garden, about half an acre, abutting on the road leading to Upper Woodcote Green on the north-west part, on land of William Belchier on the south part, on the estate of Nightingale on the east part and on the estate of Mr Northey on the west part".
The building abutting the Chalk Lane Hotel
The building abutting the Chalk Lane Hotel on the same footprint as in the 1843 map
Image courtesy of Brian Bouchard © 2011

Mrs Anna Maria Bury, wife of William Bury, died at his house in Epsom on 29 October 1757.

In his last Will and Testament, dated 3 July 1771, William Bury continued to rail against the perceived injustice of his conviction 39 years earlier: -
"...so do I most solemnly declare, as a dying man in the presence of God, that I am wholly innocent of that foul imputation laid to my charge of having married two wives, but as I hope for forgiveness in the next world so have I freely forgiven my unjust Judge and all my enemies in this, and having patiently submitted to the many insults and bitter reflections of those I have never injured I trust their malice and uncharitable censure may dye with me and that my children may never hereafter suffer the unjust reproach of their injured father.
My burial I direct as follows, my body to be wrapped in one of the blankets of my bed without a shroud and put in a shell with a lead and elm coffin covered with grey cloth to be buried at twelve o clock at noon in the same manner as my dear departed wife and laid by her coffin in the vault under my pew in the Church..."
The burial of 'Mr Wm. Bury' is recorded to have taken place at St Martin of Tours parish church, 31 January 1777, following his death on 4 January.

William and Anna Maria Bury
Plaque in St Martins Church to William and Anna Maria Bury
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert © 2011

As kindly translated by Jeremy Harte, Curator of Bourne Hall Museum: -

Below the mortal remains are laid
Of Anna Maria, wife of William Bury, gent.
And daughter of John Fleetwood, gent.
Who in every kind of excellence
That pertained to her sex and rank
Had few that were her equal,
Scarce any that exceeded her;
She rendered up to God her gentle soul
On the 29th October 1757
In the 51st year of her age

Here also rests
William Bury, husband of the above
And son of Sir Thomas Bury.

In manner upright and with pleasing grace,
A friend to honest men, he was, alas!
The butt of many injuries on earth;
Let Him alone who knows each mortal's worth
Bestow as many gifts on him in heaven,
Whereto, in seventeen hundred seventy-seven,
24 Jan, he smiled things mortal to resign,
And died at seventy years of age and nine.

[Jeremy Harte comments "Evidently the two epitaphs were composed, not only at different times, but by different people (one rendering 'twentieth' by vigesimus, the other by vicessimus) The stonemason has made havoc of the Latin in the second text, mistaking the f of fuit for a long s, and misreading the minims of vicessimo as vicessiuco."]

His will was proved by the Executors, William's surviving sons Fleetwood and Bion Bury, on 3 February 1777. Gerrard Dutton Fleetwood, his 'good brother', had been asked to accept £20 'for mourning'. The latter, having bought Effingham Court in 1793, died aged 85 on 20 December 1795 and was laid to rest in Leatherhead Church.

The Fleetwood Memorial
The memorial for Gerrard Dutton Fleetwood in Leatherhead Church
Image courtesy of Brian Bouchard © 2011

There had been generous provision in the Will 'in regard to the long and faithful service of my honest and trusty servant Mary Gibbons' - in particular she was given 'during her natural life my four cottages adjoining to my dwelling house...let at sixteen pounds ten shillings per annum as she may incline to live in one of them herself..' Mary did not survive her master long as her burial in St Martin's graveyard may be found recorded on 20 April 1777.

Brian Bouchard © 2011

* General history: Gentry, Magna Britannia: volume 6: Devonshire (1822), pp. CXXXII-CLX. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=50553

The Children's Trust is a national charity working with children who have multiple disabilities and complex health needs. They are based at a 24 acre site in Tadworth, Surrey but offer their services to children from across the UK. For more information visit their website

EW Martin
EW Martin
HEM Douglas
HEM Douglas
W Bury
W Bury
Holman Hunt
Holman Hunt
Epsom Monuments
Epsom Monuments
Hale White
Hale White
Barnards of Epsom
Barnards of Epsom