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Sir Vere Hunt, 1st Baronet, also known as Aubrey de Vere Hunt (1761 – 11 August 1818), was an Irish politician, landowner and businessman. He is chiefly remembered for founding the village of New Birmingham in County Tipperary, for his ill-advised purchase of the island of Lundy, and for his entertaining diary. He was a colourful character, noted for his heavy drinking and gambling, but also for his intellectual interests, and his stern criticism of his own class.


He was the son of Vere Hunt of Curragh Chase, County Limerick and Glengoole, County Tipperary, by his second wife, Anne Browne, daughter of Edmund Browne of New Grove. His father was the eldest son of the Reverend Vere Hunt (died 1759), and his wife Constantia Piers, granddaughter of Sir Henry Piers, 1st Baronet. He was a descendant of the Earls of Oxford through Jane de Vere, a granddaughter of the 15th Earl, who married Henry Hunt in 1572.[1] His own son changed the family name to de Vere. Sir Vere's great-great grandfather, yet another Vere Hunt, was an army officer who served with Oliver Cromwell and who settled in Ireland in 1657.[2]

The Hunt/de Vere family estate, which they owned for 300 years (1657–1957), including the period of the de Vere Baronetcy of Curragh, is the present day Curraghchase Forest Park, in County Limerick.

Hunt was created a baronet, in the Baronetage of Ireland, in 1784 and was appointed High Sheriff of County Limerick the same year.[3][4] Hunt raised and commanded three regiments of foot during the French Revolutionary Wars, including the 135th (Limerick) Regiment of Foot. He was a member of the Irish House of Commons for Askeaton from 1798 to 1800.[5]

He married Hon. Eleanor Pery, daughter of William Pery, 1st Baron Glentworth and his first wife Jane Walcott: they had one son, Sir Aubrey de Vere, 2nd Baronet. The marriage is said to have been unhappy, although he always referred to his wife with respect. They mostly lived apart.[6] She died in 1821. He was the grandfather of the poet and critic Aubrey Thomas de Vere and the politician and social commentator Sir Stephen de Vere, 4th Baronet.


Against his political inclinations, he voted for the Act of Union 1800, apparently in the hope of recouping the enormous expenses (estimated at £5000) which he had incurred as an MP (the Crown was shameless about bribing politicians to vote in favour of the Union).[7] He was never a good man of business, as shown by his unwise purchase in 1802 of the island of Lundy, which attracted him because the owner was not liable to pay taxes. Here he settled an Irish colony, with its own constitution, laws, and coinage. However the colonists were unable to make a profit, due to agricultural problems, and the venture cost him so much money that he spent years pleading with the British Crown to take it off his hands; it was only many years only after his death that his son was able to dispose of it.[8]

Lundy Island, which Sir Vere purchased in 1802, an act he quickly regretted.
Lundy Island, which Sir Vere purchased in 1802, an act he quickly regretted.

He was also a very heavy gambler, and his debts became so large that he was forced to spend much of 1803 in the Fleet Prison, despite his claims that the Crown owed him large sums of money.[9] On the other hand he was a good landlord, who was always anxious to improve the condition of his tenants. He opened a coal mine at Glengoole, County Tipperary, and for the benefit of the miners he founded the village of New Birmingham, near Thurles, with the help of the local priest Fr. Meighan (who was a personal friend, despite Hunt's general suspicion of Catholic priests).[10] He obtained a charter to hold regular markets and fairs in the village.[11] He evidently hoped to turn New Birmingham into a major manufacturing centre, but failed in this aim, as in many of his other business ventures, although the village itself survived.[12]


His entertaining diary, of which several extracts have been published, shows him as an eccentric character with a great ability to enjoy of life, especially the pleasures of good food and drink, music and theatre. The diary gives a valuable glimpse of social life in the Dublin of the early nineteenth century, with its fashionable taverns, eating houses and theatres. He managed a touring theatrical company, and founded at least one newspaper.[13] He had some of the normal tastes and prejudices of his class- for example, he was addicted to duelling, fighting his first duel at the age of eighteen. He was in general hostile to Catholic priests, although he was a strong supporter of Catholic Emancipation, and numbered some priests among his friends, notably Fr Meighan of Glengoole.

In other respects however he has been described as a "maverick", hostile to his own class, the Anglo-Irish elite, which was centered on Dublin Castle, "this fallen and degraded sham-court", as Hunt described it. On 4 June 1813 he was at an official reception at Dublin Castle which he described in scathing terms as being attended by "pimps, parasites, hangers-on....spies, informers...alas poor Ireland".[14]


  1. ^ John Burke, A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire (Volume 1, H. Colburn, 1833), 351.
  2. ^ Limerick City Archives Reference IE LA P22
  3. ^ "No. 12604". The London Gazette. 14 December 1784. p. 1.
  4. ^ John Burke, A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire (Volume 1, H. Colburn, 1833), 351.
  5. ^ Irish House of Commons 1692–1800
  6. ^ Lenox-Conyngham, Melosina Diaries of Ireland Lilliput Press Dublin 1998 p.128
  7. ^ Lenox-Conyngham p.128
  8. ^ Lenox-Conyngham pp.128-9
  9. ^ Lenox-Conyngham pp.128-9
  10. ^ Lenox-Conyngham p.128
  11. ^ Lewis, Samuel Topographical Dictionary of Ireland 1837
  12. ^ Lewis Topographical Dictionary
  13. ^ Limerick City Archives
  14. ^ Lenox-Conyngham p.133
Parliament of Ireland
Preceded by
Sir Joseph Hoare, Bt
John Stewart
Member of Parliament for Askeaton
With: Sir Joseph Hoare, Bt
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Baronetage of Ireland
New creation Baronet
(of Curragh)
Succeeded by
Aubrey de Vere
This page was last edited on 30 January 2019, at 13:48
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