Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Bunting, Percy William

BUNTING, Sir PERCY WILLIAM (1836–1911), social reformer and editor of the 'Contemporary Review,' born at Ratcliffe, near Manchester, on 1 February 1836, was only son of Thomas Percival Bunting by his wife Eliza Bealey, whose mother carried on the family business of bleachers at Ratcliffe. Bunting's father, third son of Jabez Bunting [q. v.], was a solicitor in Manchester. His sister, Sarah Maclardie (d. 1908), who married Sheldon Amos [q. v. Suppl. I], joined Mrs. Josephine Butler [q. v. Suppl. II] in her strenuous agitation against the state regulation of vice.

After education at home he became in 1851 an original student at the newly founded Owens College, Manchester, and survived all of his companions save one, graduating there as an associate in 1859. Meanwhile he obtained a scholarship at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and graduated B.A. as twenty-first wrangler in 1859, developing during his university career unusual musical gifts. Called to the bar in 1862 at Lincoln's Inn, he gradually acquired a large practice as a conveyancer and at the chancery bar. After 1882 he grew less active in his profession in the presence of new interests, and finally retired from practice about 1895.

From an early age Bunting devoted himself to social reform, political liberalism, and the welfare of modern methodism. He was an active promoter of the forward movement in methodism, and he aimed at the organisation of nonconformity as a national religious force. In 1891 the National Free Church Council was founded at his house, and he was long the lay secretary of the committee of privileges for methodism. He sought to stimulate the educational and social as well as the religious activity of the free churches, and was a founder in 1873 and thenceforth a governor of the Leys School at Cambridge. With Hugh Price Hughes [q. v. Suppl. II] he was a projector and founder in 1887 of the West London Mission, of which he acted as treasurer.

The promotion of moral purity was the social reform which engaged much of his adult energy. He frequently visited the Continent in the cause, becoming an apt French and a moderately good German scholar. The repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts was finally achieved in 1886. From 1883 until his death Bunting was also chairman of the National Vigilance Association, which he helped to found, employing his continental influence to extend its operations to every capital in Europe. In politics Bunting was a zealous liberal and admirer of Gladstone, serving on the executive committee of the National Liberal Federation from about 1880 till his death, and interesting himself in the National Liberal Club ; in 1892 he unsuccessfully contested East Islington as a Gladstonian liberal.

Meanwhile in 1882 Bunting became editor of the 'Contemporary Review,' founded in 1862 by the publisher, Alexander Strahan, and first edited by Dean Alford [q. v.], and subsequently from 1870 to 1877 by Sir James Knowles [q. v. Suppl. II]. Bunting remained editor until his death, conducting the 'Review' on liberal lines. He enlisted the services of foreign contributors with whom his endeavours in social reform had brought him into touch, and he encouraged all writers, whether or no of established fame, who could adequately present salient phases of contemporary theology, science, art, literature and politics. He maintained in the 'Review' a moderately advanced religious tone and gave topics of social reform a prominent place in its pages.

In 1902 Bunting succeeded Hughes as editor of the 'Methodist Times' and carried on the work concurrently with the 'Review' until 1907.

A firm believer in international amity, he joined in 1907 the journalists, and in 1909 the representatives of the churches, on visits to Germany, and he aided in the formation in the summer of 1911 of the Anglo-German Friendship Society. He was knighted in 1908. Subsequently his physical powers slowly failed, and he died somewhat unexpectedly on 22 July 1911 at 11 Endsleigh Gardens, N.W. Bunting married on 21 June 1869 Mary Hyett, daughter of John Lidgett of Hull, a London shipowner, and aunt of the Rev. John Scott Lidgett, president of the Wesleyan Conference 1908-9. Lady Bunting, who survived her husband with two sons and two daughters, was a co-worker with him in many of his activities. Bunting contributed to the volumes entitled The Citizen of To-morrow' (1906) and 'Christ and Civilisation' (1910), and wrote many pamphlets concerning the movements in which he was engaged. To the 'Contemporary Review' he was an occasional contributor, his articles including 'Reminiscences of Cardinal Manning' (1892), 'Nonconformists and the Education Bill' (1902), 'The White Slave Trade' (1902), 'The Journalistic Tour in Germany' (1907), 'Convocation and the Bishop of Hereford' (1911).

[Information from relations; personal knowledge; The Times, 24 July 1911; Contemporary Review, August 1911; Manchester Guardian, 24 July 1911; Methodist Times, 27 July and 3 Aug. 1911.]

J. E. G. de M.