Tregunter & William Gunter

For background information see Tregunter (Heritage Trail).

It has been said that Tregunter was owned by a man who had been chef to King George III, there does not appear to be any actual evidence for this story, however it is possible to see something of how it may have arisen.

Sam Nash, local historian left among his notes (now in the Somerset Heritage Centre) a brief account of an interview with  Ruscombe-Emery who at that time (c1970’s) was owner of Tregunter:

He said that a Gunter owned his house at the beginning of the C19th & when I mentioned Mrs Gunter in the 1860’s he agreed & said he could not explain why they were concerned in the property in c1800 and again in the 1860’s, but that other parties appeared to be the owners in the intervening years. 

He showed me, in the conservatory wall, a lead slab set into the wall inscribed in amateur but good lettering to the effect: 

‘This House, rebuilt 1813, by W.Gunter’

The letters were incised in the lead and then infilled with hatching lightly cut in the lead.

In the hall I noticed a cartoon of a man with a legend somewhat thus:

‘William Gunter, chef to His Majesty King George the Third’ 

The plaque that Nash refers to can still be seen, now on the outside wall of the house.

Photo courtesy of Francis Farr-Cox.

Clearly this is J. Gunter not W. Gunter. John Gunter was in fact the son of a William Gunter. William, although related to the famous Gunter family of London confectioners, was not involved in that business. On  his fathers death John, not quite having attained the age of majority , was sent to James Gunter, who then headed the famous confectionery business in Berkley Sq, London, to learn the trade. James’ son Robert later took John into partnership. There is no evidence currently known that John or his family had anything to do with the property on the Tregunter plot before he purchased it in 1843 and built the present house. One has to wonder whether the plaque was incorrectly inscribed possibly due to a mis-interpretation of an unclear date in an original source (i.e. 1813 for 1843). Nash’s mistake about the initial on the plaque may arise from confusing the name with that on the cartoon.

The cartoon itself seems likely to be this one:

Scan courtesy of Francis Farr-Cox

This is the frontispiece from a book entitled ‘Confectioners Oracle’ published by Millers in 1830 and purportedly by a William Gunter. It can be seen that the original contains no claim that he was chef to George III. Nor does the lengthy introduction to the recipes give any account of this Gunter’s credentials or mention any connection to the celebrated Gunters of Barclay Sq., London or King George (1738-1820).  There were a number of Williams in the Gunter family broadly around this time: William, John’s father, an Excise man in Abergavenny; William,  cousin to John’s father, a London draper; and William, cousin to John, who was the son of another James Gunter, a confectioner  involved in a separate less celebrated business in New Bond St, London.  This William became involved in the sugar trade in the Caribbean and spent much time there.  He is the only family member who might possibly  have written this book but even this seems unlikely.

Thanks to Francis Farr-Cox for research.

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