GOSTWICK, John (by 1493-1545), of Wakefield, Yorks.; Willington, Beds. of London.

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



Family and Education

b. by 1493, 1st s. of John Gostwick of Willington by a da. of one Leventhorpe. m. by 1524, Joan, 1s. Kntd. Aug./Dec. 1540.2

Offices Held

Servant of Wolsey by 1514-29, ?master of horse in 1520, comptroller of household by 1527-9, auditor lordships of Middleham, Richmond and Wakefield, Yorks. 1523; j.p. Beds. 1532-d., Hunts. 1536-?d.; gent. usher extraordinary, privy chamber by 1533, commr. for tenths of spiritualities, Beds., Bucks. and Hunts. 1535, to dissolve monasteries, Beds. 1538, 1539, benevolence 1544/45; treasurer and receiver-gen. first fruits and tenths by May 1535-Jan. 1541; treasurer, ct. first fruits and tenths 21 Jan. 1541-d.; sheriff, Beds. and Bucks. 1541-2; high steward, St. Bartholomew’s hospital by d.3


Gostwicks had been settled at Willington since the reign of Henry III, but although they furnished many local officers no member of the family achieved national importance until the 16th century. John Gostwick was educated at Potton on the borders with Cambridgeshire and entered the service of Thomas Wolsey, perhaps on the recommendation of his kinsman Sir William Gascoigne who later joined him there. As ‘gentleman with my lord cardinal’ he was admitted gratis, in March 1516, to membership of the Merchant Adventurers and a year later was named with several London wax chandlers in a commission to search out abuses in the making of torches, candles and images. There seems no direct evidence for the statement that he accompanied Wolsey, as his master of horse, to the Field of Cloth of Gold, but it is quite likely that he was there in some capacity.4

In 1523 the grant of an auditorship by the King acting on Wolsey’s advice set Gostwick on the road he was thenceforth to follow, that of a financial officer. During the next few years he worked closely with Cromwell, and he shared Cromwell’s advancement following the fall of Wolsey. The pair became friends, and Gostwick was to invite Cromwell to his house at Willington, bought in 1529 from the 3rd Duke of Norfolk. Perhaps in emulation of Wolsey he set about the rebuilding of Willington, which Leland described as ‘a sumptuous new building of brick and timber, a fundamentis, with a conduit of water derived in lead pipes’: Henry VIII was to stay at Willington, on one occasion holding a Council meeting there. Gostwick also built a new chapel in the parish church. By the Dissolution he was wealthy and in a position to speculate on the land market, but unlike some in crown service he seems to have paid market prices for most of his property. From 1526 he had made regular purchases, buying part of the barony of Bedford with property in the borough and elsewhere in the county, amounting to almost fifteen thousand acres. At his death he also owned lands in Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Staffordshire and Yorkshire. The money for these purchases must have come largely from his treasurership of first fruits and tenths. His original annual salary was £100, raised to £120 when his department was reorganized as a court of record in 1540, but supplemented from 1536 by an additional £200 to cover expenses. The post provided large opportunities for perquisites, and Gostwick was no less corrupt than other officials of the time. However, he was a hardworking and apparently efficient treasurer. He was not harmed by Cromwell’s fall: when he realized that Cromwell was irretrievably discredited he wrote to the King in July 1540 to assure him of his loyalty. By the end of the year he had been knighted and on the reorganization of the first fruits and tenths he was to retain his post as treasurer.5

Gostwick is known to have sat in one Parliament but he may have done so in others. Either he or Sir John St. John was probably by-elected in place of George Acworth who died in 1530: their names appear against Bedfordshire on the list of vacancies of late 1532 or early 1533 with preference being given by Cromwell to St. John. If Gostwick was not returned then he could have been found another seat later in this Parliament and so have been re-selected in 1536 in compliance with the request for the return of the previous Members. The private Act (28 Hen. VIII, c.47) confirming his title to the manor of Willington passed during the Parliament of 1536 is a pointer to his having been a Member of it. In 1539 he was to be returned with St. John. It was presumably during the passage of the bill of Six Articles in the first session that Gostwick (whom Foxe rated a ‘man of contrary religion’, that is, a conservative) summarized one of Cranmer’s sermons and accused the archbishop of heresy. Henry VIII insisted upon an apology to Cranmer and at their meeting at Lambeth Cranmer assured Gostwick of his orthodoxy and promised to intercede on his behalf with the King. After the dissolution he and St. John were sent a letter about the collection of the subsidy they had helped to grant. Although not re-elected in 1542, when he had just ceased to be sheriff, he was returned again in December 1544 but died on 15 Apr. 1545 before the delayed opening of that Parliament.6

By his will of 16 May 1543 Gostwick asked for burial beside his wife near the high altar at Willington. After leaving the remainder of a lease to his maternal uncle Thomas Leventhorpe, he remembered two Londoners as well as his brother William and his son of the same name whom he named executor. His son survived him by only half a year, his daughter-in-law afterwards marrying Francis Russell. His brother succeeded to the inheritance.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. This biography rests on H. P. R. Finberg, ‘The Gostwicks of Willington’, Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. xxxvi. 38-72. Vis. Beds. (Harl. Soc. xix), 32-33; C142/73/1.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, ii-v, vii, viii, x, xi, xiii-xv, xx; W. C. Richardson, Tudor Chamber Admin. 337; Trans. R. Hist. Soc. (ser. 4), xvi. 137.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, ii, vii, xiii; VCH Beds. iii. 266; Acts Ct. of Mercers’ Co. ed. Lyell and Watney, 437; Misc. Gen. et Her. n.s. i. 407.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, iii-v, viii-xvi; M. L. Robertson, ‘Cromwell’s servants’ (Univ. California Los Angeles Ph.D. thesis, 1975), 153-283 passim, 362-417 passim, 495; VCH Beds. ii. 219, 221, 266-7; iii. 15, 203, 210, 215, 237, 240; Pevsner, Beds. Hunts. and Peterborough, 163-4; Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, i. 102; Richardson, 337-45 passim.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, vii-56 citing SP1/82, ff. 59-62; Elton, Tudor Rev. in Govt. 192; LJ, i. 89-90; Narr. Ref. (Cam. Soc. lxxvii), 241-4; Strype, Cranmer, ii. 176 seq.; Foxe, Acts and Mons. viii. 27; J. Ridley, Cranmer, 116-17, 186 and n; C142/73/1, 13.
  • 7. PCC 29 Pynnyng.