Peter Bonnin (of Lisbon, as he was referred to in his will) was born in France. He was naturalized as a British citizen in 1699-1700 (1). His name is given as Peter Bonning, from Bordeaux in the Guiesne, son of Michael Bonning (sic) and his wife Elizabeth.
In November 1699 he married Elizabeth Strang (or Strong), one of the daughters of Mary Strang of Greenwich. They were married by licence in the church of All Hallows the Great in the City of London. The will of David Strang (2), one of the sons of Mary Strang, refers to Peter Bonnin as “my brother-in-law Peter Bonnin”.
Peter’s daughter Elizabeth Bonnin died in 1720, the year after her father. She left a will (12) which included a bequest to her cousin Alice Barrand, who was one of Mary Strang’s granddaughters (3), and the residue of her estate to “my grandmother Mary Strang”.
After the death of his first wife, Peter Bonnin married Jane Stepney, daughter of wealthy merchant Lancelot Stepney and his wife Hannah Monteage, daughter of Stephen and Jane Monteage.
The Monteages were another family of French immigrant merchants, who were engaged in the wine trade (4). Peter Bonnin died in 1719. In his will he described himself as a “merchant of Lisbon”. Lisbon at this time had a flourishing wine trade with Britain, so it is probable that Peter had also been a wine merchant.
Jane Monteage (née Deane), Hannah’s mother, was the sister of Richard Deane, one of the regicides (he was a signatory to the death warrant of King Charles I). He was a successful general and had been “general at sea” in command of the navy.
Hannah Stepney’s sister Jane Monteage married Stephen Poyntz, the son of a London upholsterer: their daughter Margaret Georgiana married into the Spencer family and became the mother of Georgiana Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire (5). Stephen and Jane Monteage’s eldest son Deane, a wine merchant, is recorded in the will of Robert Stepney in 1688(6) as being one of his business partners.
Jane Stepney Bonnin had a brother, George Stepney. He rose to become a Captain in the Royal Navy, probably assisted by the family influence. He was commander of HMS Assistance when he died in 1753 (10) and having no heirs of his own, he left some of his estate to his sister’s children. Peter and Jane Bonnin had two daughters, Jane Bonnin and Hannah Mary Bonnin. Hannah Mary never married. When she died in 1790 in Greenwich, her will (7) asked for her to be buried “with my dear mother in the family vault of the Monteages” at Leigh near Greenwich. Her will is also sealed with the seal of Strang of Balcaskie – she was no direct relation to them, so perhaps it was a family keepsake from her father’s first wife.
Peter’s daughter Jane Bonnin married in 1740 (she was described at her marriage as “Jane Bonnin of Windsor”) to Rev. James Townley MA, a playwright and teacher – he was for some years headmaster of Merchant Taylors School, in addition to being a parson. He owed some of his appointments to his wife’s connections with the Poyntz family. He was a friend of Garrick and is credited with involvement in some of Garrick’s plays. He also wrote several of his own, but his authorship was kept quiet for many years because of his cloth and his school appointment.
Jane Stepney Bonnin’s will (8) originally left the bulk of her estate to her daughter Hannah Mary, but a later codicil changed this to share her estate equally between her daughters. Jane Bonnin Townley must have been a wealthy woman by this time, but her unmarried sister Hannah Mary was possibly not so well off. The family wasn’t poor by any means: Jane Bonnin left diamond rings and a “silver salver with Lord Donegall’s arms”. Her will is also sealed with the Strang of Balcaskie seal. Jane and James Townley had children, but Peter Bonnin left no male descendants, so the Bonnin name in this branch of the family then died out.
- (1) Denizations and Naturalizations 1601-1700 (The National Archives Library)
- (2) Will of David Strang (1719)
- (3) Will of Mary Strang
- (4) Diary of Roger Whitley, August 1685
- (5) Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
- (6) Will of Robert Stepney
- (7) Will of Hannah Mary Bonnin
- (8) Will of Jane Stepney Bonnin
- (10) Will of George Stepney
- (12) Will of Elizabeth Bonnin