GAWDY, Thomas I (by 1509-56), of Shotesham and Redenhall, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Oct. 1553

Family and Education

b. by 1509, 1st s. of Thomas Gawdy of Harleston by 1st w. Elizabeth Hellows; half-bro. of Thomas Gawdy II and Francis Gawdy. educ. I. Temple. m. (1) by 1530, Anne, da. and coh. of John Bassingbourne of Woodhall, Hatfield, Herts., 2s. inc. Bassingbourne 1da., (2) Elizabeth, da. of John Harris of Radford, nr. Plymouth, Devon, wid. of Walter Staynings of Honeycott, Som., 2s.; (3) settlement 9 July 1554, Catherine, da. of Robert Lestrange, wid. of Sir Hugh Hastings of Elsing, Norf.; 1da.3

Offices Held

Steward, I. Temple 1541, treasurer 1542, 1544, 1547, 1549, Lent reader 1548, bencher 1550.

J.p. Norf. 1540-d.; counsel to Norwich 21 Sept. 1544; recorder, Lynn 29 Aug. 1545, Norwich 3 May 1550-d.; commr. relief, Norf. and Norwich 1550, goods of churches and fraternities, Norwich 1553; other commissions, 1542-55; serjeant-at-law Oct. 1552.4


Thomas Gawdy was the eldest of three half-brothers all of whom attained eminence in the law. In adopting this profession they continued a family tradition, for their grandfather, another Thomas, was probably the ‘Gawdie’ who had taken part in the series of readers’ and moot cases of the 1480s which came to form part of the misnamed ‘Keilway’s Reports’. This Thomas Gawdy’s second son, who because his elder brother also bore the patronymic was known until 1541 as Thomas Gawdy junior, may also have trained and practised as a lawyer, for in July 1538 he was on a commission of oyer and terminer to try treasons in Norfolk, and it was probably he rather than either of his sons of the same name who in the following December was named to a commission of sewers.5

Gawdy himself was then on the threshold of a career which was to bring him preferment at his inn and in his profession, and employment in both central and local government; but for his early death he would probably have been made a judge, as were both his half-brothers. The demand for Gawdy’s services is reflected in the number and eminence of his patrons and clients, who included the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, the 16th Earl of Oxford and the 1st and 2nd Earls of Sussex. It may also have been for professional help that the 12th Earl of Arundel gave Gawdy the ring which he bequeathed to his third wife. An executor of several important wills, including Archbishop Holgate’s, and a feoffee to numerous uses, he was also consulted or retained by such diverse litigants as Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley, Bishop Barlow and the city of London. He was one of the circle of members of the Inner Temple who compiled or transmitted law reports and after becoming a serjeant he took part in discussions at Serjeants’ Inn; he was particularly associated with John Caryll, whom he was to appoint overseer of his will. Another influential friend was Nicholas Hare, who married Catherine Bassingbourne, Gawdy’s first wife’s sister.6

Gawdy’s parliamentary career presents a number of interesting features. If his returns for Lynn and Norwich were a natural outcome of his standing in those communities, the same cannot be said of his first election, for with Salisbury he had no known connexion. He and his fellow-Member John Story were not that city’s first choice—indeed, they were not its choice at all. In January 1545 Salisbury had chosen Robert Keilway II and Edmund Gawen to sit in the Parliament summoned to meet that month. Keilway’s concurrent election for Bristol promptly created one vacancy, but the second might have been avoided if Parliament had not been prorogued until November. Then, on 19 Nov., four days before the session opened, Salisbury elected Gawdy and Story; in doing so the city assembly noted that Keilway was no longer available and that Gawen was too ill to serve, ‘as by the King’s writ directed to the shire more plainly appeareth’. Whether or not Gawen needed persuading to withdraw, the circumstances in which two nominees, one of them a complete stranger, were foisted on the city provoked the assembly into resolving that ‘henceforth no stranger shall be chosen burgess for this city but such as be inhabiting within the same city’. To whom Gawdy owed his nomination is uncertain: if Keilway, the fellow-Inner Templar whom he replaced, had a hand in the matter, the necessary pressure is likely to have come from the Earl of Hertford, Keilway’s master and a local magnate.7

Gawdy was already recorder of Lynn during his Membership of this Parliament and it was that borough which on 26 Sept. 1547 elected him to its successor. Unlike Salisbury, which—not surprisingly—seems to have paid him no wages, Lynn did so at least for the final session of 1552, for which he received £10 ‘burgess money’. He and his fellow-Member William Overend had certainly served the town well by their opposition to the Chantries Act of 1547 (1 Edw. VI, c.14): through concerted action with their colleagues of Coventry they had forced the government to buy them off with a grant to their town of the lands of its guilds appropriated under the Act. The only other glimpse to be obtained of Gawdy’s activity in this Parliament is the committal to him and George Willoughby on 26 Jan. 1549 of the bill regulating military conduct which became the Act 2 and 3 Edw. VI, c.2.8

Before the summoning of the next Parliament in March 1553 Gawdy had added the recordership of Norwich to that of Lynn, yet on this occasion neither returned him. His friendship with Norfolk and Bishop Gardiner, both of whom were now in prison, would not have commended him to the Duke of Northumberland, who may indeed have taken steps to exclude him. What role, if any, Gawdy played in the succession crisis which followed does not appear—his suing out of a general pardon in October 1553 was probably a routine precaution—but with Queen Mary on the throne, and both Norfolk and Gardiner released and restored to power, his election for Norwich to the first Parliament of the new reign might well have been a foregone conclusion. Yet in this Parliament, Gawdy was to be numbered, with his half-brother Thomas, among the Members who ‘stood for the true religion’, that is, for Protestantism. This may account for Gawdy’s disappearance after 1553 from the Commons, although his retention on the commission of the peace and on local judicial commissions shows that the government still had a use for him. So did the Duke of Norfolk who by his will of July 1554 (which Gawdy witnessed) made him joint guardian of a child to whom he bequeathed £100. Gawdy seems also to have remained on good terms with Gardiner. Shortly after Norfolk’s death he discussed the will and the funeral arrangements in a letter to his son Bassingbourne, who was at the lord chancellor’s house and may have been a member of his household.9

Gawdy, who made three advantageous marriages, also seems to have grown rich through his profession and to have invested his wealth in further land. In 1548 he and Osbert Monford purchased from the crown the manor of Well Hall Norfolk, and other lands late of the chapel of St. Stephen, Westminster. In March 1553 he bought and quickly re-sold other former monastic lands in Norfolk. His will shows him possessed of lands he had purchased in Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, but he probably made settlements of most of them before his death as few are mentioned in his inquisition post mortem. He made his will a short time after the dissolution of his last Parliament: it is dated 1 Feb. 1554 at Serjeants’ Inn. He divided most of his purchased lands between his two younger sons and left those held in fee simple in Hertfordshire and Norfolk to his eldest son, Thomas: all passed in tail male with detailed remainders. The bulk of his chattels went to his eldest son, with smaller bequests to his other children and stepchildren and to his father: his law books went to his son Anthony whom he designed to follow him in the profession. He named as executors his father and his eldest son. After making this will Gawdy married for the third time and in a codicil of 3 Aug. 1556 he bequeathed to his wife all his purchased lands in Norfolk for life.10

Gawdy died on 4 Aug. 1556 and the will was proved on the following 12 Oct. Edmund Plowden notes in his Commentaries an obituary in Latin hexameters on the deaths of Gawdy and Serjeant Richard Catlyn who died in the same month. Gawdy’s father outlived him by a few weeks, his widow by less than a year. His son Thomas had licence to enter on his inheritance on 14 Nov. 1556.11

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Salisbury corp. ledger B, f. 300v.
  • 2. Only Gawdy’s surname and style remain on the indenture (C219/19/65); his christian name is known from Hatfield 207.
  • 3. Date of birth estimated from marriage. Norf. Arch. xxvi. 339 seq.
  • 4. Norwich ass. procs. 2, ff. 187v, 216; 3, f. 26v; Lynn congregation bk. 5, ff. 33, 247; LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xvi, xvii, xx; CPR, 1547-8 to 1554-5 passim.
  • 5. Readings and Moots at Inns of Court in 15th Cent. i (Selden Soc. lxxi), p. xlvii; LP Hen. VIII, vi, xiii.
  • 6. PCC 14 More, 1 Alen, 33 Wrastley, 16 Ketchyn; Essex RO, D/DPr/141; LP Hen. VIII, xx; CPR, 1549-51, p. 222; 1555-7, p. 342; Coll. State Pprs. ed. Haynes, 73, 91; P. M. Hembry, Bps Bath and Wells, 1540-1640, pp. 118-20; City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 11, f. 405; 13(1), f. 108; L. W. Abbott, Law Reporting in Eng. 46, 122.
  • 7. Salisbury corp. ledger B, f. 300v; HMC Gawdy, 3.
  • 8. Lynn congregation bk. 5, ff. 68, 167; Eng. Econ. Hist. Select Docs. ed. Bland, Brown and Tawney, 291-4; W. K. Jordan, Edw. VI, i. 183-6; CJ, i. 7; APC, ii. 243-5.
  • 9. CPR, 1553-4, p. 443; Bodl. e Museo 17; Strype, Eccles. Memorials, iii(1), 440; HMC Gawdy, 3.
  • 10. CPR, 1547-8, p. 397; 1553, pp. 110, 156; C142/110/123; PCC 16 Ketchyn.
  • 11. E. Plowden, Commentaries (1779), 180; Norwich consist. ct. 192 Jagges; Norwich city lib. Gressenhall mss, MR337/242 X 6; CPR, 1555-7, p. 242.