Mervyn family at the Fonthill Estate, Wiltshire

The majority of Funstons who trace their roots to Northern Ireland are descendants of the Funston family who came to Ireland with the Mervyn family during the Ulster Plantation in the early 1600’s. Prior to settling in Ireland, the Funstons were presumably yeoman farmers with a leasehold from the Mervyn family at the Fonthill Gifford Estate in County Wiltshire.

Some history of the Mervyn Family at the Fonthill Estate:

From: ‘Parishes: Fonthill Gifford’, A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 13: South-west Wiltshire: Chalke and Dunworth hundreds (1987), pp. 155-169. URL: Date accessed: 22 December 2011.

In 1533 Lord la Warre sold Fonthill La Warre manor with land in Tisbury to John Mervyn (d.1566).

The estate thus reunited by inheritance and purchase by Sir John Mervyn (d. 1566) was centred on Fonthill Gifford and comprised nearly all the parish and much land in nearby parishes. Immediately on Sir John’s death the whole manor passed to his son James, despite claims by his relict Elizabeth to hold it for life and by his grandsons John, Edmund, and Richard, sons of Edmund Mervyn, to succeed in turn to the parts of it which Sir John had bought. James (knighted in 1574, d. 1611) settled the estate on himself for life and afterwards on his granddaughter Christine Tuchet and her husband Henry Mervyn, knighted in 1619. In 1620 Henry sold it to Christine’s brother Mervyn Tuchet, earl of Castlehaven, who was attainted and executed for felony in 1631. The estate escheated to the Crown and in the same year Lord Castlehaven’s son James, earl of Castlehaven, from 1633 Baron Audley, conveyed it to representatives of the Crown including Francis Cottington, Baron Cottington, Chancellor of the Exchequer. Charles I granted it to Cottington in 1632.

Sir John Mervyn (d. 1566) lived at Fonthill Gifford in a house surrounded by a park. That Fonthill House was damaged by fire in 1624 or 1625. It was bought by Lord Cottington in 1632 and had been restored by 1637. A painting of c. 1700 shows Cottington’s house, of freestone, to have consisted of a north—south hall range of five bays with eastwings: much of Mervyn’s house apparently survived as the south part. The hall range was entered at the centre of its east front, there was a gateway in the centre of a wall linking the ends of the wings, and, further east on the line of the entrance and gateway, there was a gatehouse with circular corner turrets. In 1637 a kitchen court, of which one side or more was built by Cottington, adjoined the north side of the house. By then Cottington had also built a stable block, comparable with one at Wilton House designed by Isaac de Caux, and a wall, of squared stoneblocks laid dry and with coping, 3 miles long around the park which had presumably already been extended to include the two parks, the old one westand the new one south of the house, referred to in the late 17th century. Cottington may also have built the north gateway, over the road from Fonthill Bishop to Semley, the design of which is closely related to that by Inigo Jones of the royal stables at Newmarket (Suff.). In the late 17th century there was an ornamental canal east of the house. It was crossed by a bridge on the line of the east entrance, gateway, and gatehouse, and was joined to a watergarden at its south end. On the top of the hill west of the house a raised summer house or gazebo then stood in another garden.

Painting ca. 1700 of the Fonthill Estate from the History of the Fonthill Estate