Chauncy, Henry (DNB00)

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CHAUNCY, Sir HENRY (1632–1719), topographer, born in London in 1632, was the son of Henry Chauncy of Yardley Bury, Hertfordshire, and Anne, daughter of Peter Parke of Tottenham, and great-nephew of Charles Chauncy the nonconformist [q. v.] He was educated at the high school, Bishops Stortford, under Mr. Thomas Leigh, and admitted to Caius College, Cambridge, in 1647. Two years afterwards he entered the Middle Temple, and was called to the bar in 1656. In 1661 he was made justice of the peace for the county of Hertford, and in 1673 justice of the peace and chief burgess for the borough of Hertford. In 1675 he became a bencher of the Middle Temple. He was the last that held the title of steward of the borough court, Hertford, being elected in 1675, and in 1680, when Hertford obtained its charter, he became the first recorder. In 1681 he was made reader of the Middle Temple, and in the same year was knighted at Windsor Castle by Charles II. In 1685 he was chosen treasurer of the Middle Temple, and in 1688 he was called to the degree of serjeant-at-law. The same year he was appointed justice for the cotuities of Glamorgan, Brecknock, and Radnor. He was thrice married: first, in 1657, to Jane, daughter of Francis Flyer of Brent-Pelham, sheriff of Hertfordshire, by whom (d. 1672) he had seven children; secondly, to Elizabeth, daughter and coheiress of Gregory Wood of Risby, Suffolk, and relict of John Goulsmith of Stredset, Norfolk, who died in September 1677; and thirdly, to Elizabeth, daughter of Nathaniel Thruston of Hoxne, Suffolk, by whom he had two children.

His father died in 1681, and he succeeded to the rich family estates. He compiled the history of his ancestral county, which he published in a large folio volume of 620 closely printed pages, entitled ‘The Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire, with the Original of Counties, Hundreds, &c. ... Illustrated with a large Map of the County, a Prospect of Hertford, and the Ichnography of St. Albans and Hitchin, &c.,’ Londion, 1700. This work shows indefatigable research, although pedantic in style. Only five hundred copies were printed, and it has now become highly valuable. The engravings are very curious. An analysis of the book is in Savage’s ‘Librarian’ and Upcott's ‘English Topography.’ Chauncy left many additions, which the Rev. Nathaniel Salmon incorporated in his ‘History of Hertfordshire,' London, 1728, fol. In 1827 Mr. Robert Clutterbuck published a new edition, entitled ‘History and Antiquities of the Count of Hertford,’ which includes additions by Blore. The Rev. Thomas Tipping of Ardeley had a copy full of manuscript notes, which another han had carried further down to 1790. From this book Mr. John Edward Cussans has taken every note of value for his ‘History of Hertfordshire,’ 3 vols. London, 1870, fol. There is an exact reprint of the original work in two octavo volumes issued at Bishops Stortford by J. M. Mullinger in 1827. There are three interleaved folios in the British Museum (Add. MSS. 9062–4) entitled ‘Chauncy and Salmon's History and Antiquities of Hertfordshire, illustrated with a great variety of Prints and Drawings, and some MS. Notes and Papers by the late Thomas Baskerfield, Esq.,’ presented by Mrs. Baskerfield in 1832. Chauncy died at Yardley Bury (now called Ardeley) on 21 May 1719, and is buried in the church there. Chauncy mentions in his preface that he was prevented from carrying out his original design by having to spend money in resisting the ruinous machinations of a degenerate member of his family and his malicious accomplices. The reference is to his eldest surviving son, Henry, who died in 1703, after going to law with his father. The litigant's son Henry succeeded on his grandfather's death in 1719 to a life interest in the family estates, and died childless in 1722. Several books upon witchcraft which appeared in 1712 were occasioned by the apprehension, under Chauncy's warrant, of an old woman, Jane Wenham of Walkern, for bewitching sheep and servant girls. She was found guilty at Hertford assizes and sentenced to death, but the queen granted her a free pardon.

[Chauncy's Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire, 1700; Salmon's History of Hertfordshire, 1728; Clutterbuck's History and Antiquities of the County of Hertford, 1815–27; Cussans's Hertfordshire, i. pt. ii. 137, pt. iii. 87, 89; Savage's Librarian, i. 49–63; Upcott's English Topography, i. 333–8; Gough's British Topography, i. 419; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 132, iii. 179; Nichols's Illust. iv. 79; Discovery of Sorcery and Witchcraft, 1712.]

J. W.-G.