The Braunche family
The Braunches were a leading family in Abingdon through several generations. A John Branch (d. 1488) worked from 1438 as a master carpenter on the building of All Souls College in Oxford. He was responsible for selecting and preparing the timber to be felled, and he may have been the designer of the hammer-beam roof in the chapel. Although his pay was only fractionally above that of the more skilled of the half dozen or so other carpenters employed, he was paid by the week and they by the day, so his income was probably more steady than theirs. He was almost certainly the John Braunche who leased property in 1438 from men whom we can recognise as leaders of the Fraternity or Guild of the Holy Cross, at that time not yet a chartered corporation. In 1440, John Braunche and his wife Avise (died 1490) took a house in West St Helen Street. The family’s connection with the Fraternity continued. Their son John (died 1521) carried on the carpentry business and was a Fraternity member. Their grandson Richard (about 1503−1544), who prospered as a woollen draper, was a master of the Guild. At the time of Amyce’s survey in 1554, Richard’s widow Elizabeth (about 1507−1556) was living in the Bury near the end of Lombard Street and deriving income from three adjoining properties in East St Helen Street, two of which, the present Nos. 55 and 51, still exist.
Richard’s elder son Thomas owned the Bull Inn on the corner of Littlebury Street (about where the NatWest Bank is now) but he died in 1565 and left it to his brother William (before 1538−1602), a woollen draper like his father but also a maltster. William continued the family tradition, becoming a governor of Christ’s Hospital, which had been established in 1553 to replace the old Fraternity. He was master four times between 1572 and 1593, as well as being mayor of Abingdon four times between 1563 and 1588. He also represented the town in the short-lived parliament of 1593.
It was in William’s time that factional conflict broke out in both the Corporation and in Christ’s Hospital, and he played a major role in it. This resulted in his oldest son Thomas (1557−1603) having his entry to these bodies delayed, so that he never achieved great distinction in them. Another son, Richard (1560−before 1602), became a clergyman and was rector of Hinton Waldrist and Longworth, while a third, Lionel (1566-1605), moved to London. In the next generation, the name of Braunche no longer appears among Corporation members and Hospital governors. Their position in Abingdon politics was taken up by a son-in-law, Robert Payne, who also inherited the Bull Inn. There was a John Braunche, saddler, who was active in Abingdon in 1637 but is not known to have taken any part in public affairs. Lionel’s offspring emigrated to Virginia and started an American branch of the family.
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