GILBERT, Anthony (?1499-1555), of East Coker and Corton Denham, Som.

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. ?1499, 2nd s. of Robert Gilbert (d.1537) of Corton Denham by Margaret, da. of one Bamfield. educ. M. Temple, adm. 2 Nov. 1520. m. Anne. s.p.1

Offices Held

J.p. Som. 1538-46, 1551-d.; commr. benevolence 1544/45, relief 1550.2


Anthony Gilbert is not included in the visitation pedigree of the Gilbert family of Witcombe in Corton Denham, but his place in it is established by his will in which he asked to be buried in Corton Denham church near his parents. He was probably born in 1499; he is not mentioned in his grandfather John Gilbert’s will, dated 20 Apr. of that year, but in the following September he was left 12d. by Alice, widow of William Montague, who called him her godson. He must have been a younger brother of George (born c.1497), the only one of Robert’s children mentioned in the pedigree; in 1531 his name was to follow those of Robert and George Gilbert in an enfeoffment made by his ‘cousin’ John Speke of Somerton.3

Gilbert probably followed a family tradition in making the law his career. He was pardoned the office of butler when admitted to the clerks’ commons of the Middle Temple in 1520, provided that, if he lost any vacation, he should keep another of similar length. He was to be mentioned in the records of the inn only once more, on 3 Nov. 1551, and then merely as a nominee for the stewardship at Christmas if another should default. In the early years of his career Gilbert incurred the enmity of a neighbour Sir William Carent of Henstridge, who attacked him at South Cheriton when he was riding towards London and continued to threaten him, although no reason was given except that, as a ‘learner’ of the laws, Gilbert would be ‘of counsel’ against Carent. After the death of his father in 1537 Gilbert was put on the Somerset bench, and from 1538 he was active with George Gilbert (probably his brother but possibly his cousin) in judicial business in the region. It was also with George Gilbert that he was summoned to join the army for France in 1544. He may then have lived at East Coker, but he was to move from there before he made his will in 1555.4

Until his election as one of its Members Gilbert had no known connexion with Wells: it was on 9 Jan. 1545, the day on which he was elected, that he was admitted to the freedom on payment of a 10s. fine. His fellow-Member was John Mawdley II, a lawyer from the same inn, who had sat for Wells in at least two earlier Parliaments. The choice of Gilbert and Mawdley was a departure from the custom of choosing two residents, and it points to outside influence. Besides having professional friends in London, Gilbert was associated with men of standing in the south-west who themselves had affiliations at court. Through his kinsfolk the Spekes of Somerton he was doubtless known to Sir Thomas Speke of White Lackington, a knight of the shire for Somerset in the same Parliament, and the marriage of his sister Radegund to Henry Ashley of Wimborne St. Giles brought him into the circle of foremost Dorset families: Ashley’s friend Sir Thomas Arundell of Shaftesbury sat in this Parliament. Gilbert may also have owed something to the patronage of William Paulet, Baron St. John, chamberlain of the Household; Paulet’s cousin, (Sir) Hugh Paulet, who succeeded his father Sir Amias as chief steward of the estates of the bishopric of Bath and Wells, had been Gilbert’s contemporary at the Middle Temple and was to be an overseer of his will.5

For some unknown reason—his presumed attachment to Catholicism may have been a contributory cause—Gilbert’s name was omitted from the commission of the peace at the beginning of Edward VI’s reign, but he was active again by September 1551 when deeds were enrolled before him at East Coker. Two years later he was involved in a lawsuit over the will of his ‘cousin’ Elizabeth, widow of Sir John Fitzjames, in which he and his fellow-executors were described as men of great wealth, well friended and allied in the county.6

Gilbert’s death occurred in 1555, between 12 Mar., when he made his will, and 18 Aug., the date of its probate. He provided for ten priests to say masses at his funeral and bequeathed money to a number of churches and the poor. From his personal possessions he left two religious pictures to his cousin John Speke, a gold ring to his cousin James Gilbert, residentiary at Wells, and all his books of law and other things in his study in London to John Billing, presumably a fellow-lawyer. Gilbert assigned 100 rams to his wife and remembered his nephews Sir Anthony Ashley and Anthony Ashley. He named as executors his cousins John Wadham and Nicholas Gilbert, and as overseer with Sir Hugh Paulet his kinsman (Sir) William Portman.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. K. Dale


  • 1. Som. Med. Wills (Som. Rec. Soc. xxi), 176.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, xiii-xviii, xx; CPR, 1553, p. 359; 1553-4, p. 23; 1554-5, p. 296.
  • 3. Vis. Som. ed. Weaver, 109; Som. Med. Wills (Som. Rec. Soc. xvi), 376, 385; (xl), 27; CFR, 1485-1509, nos. 645, 661; LP Hen. VIII, i; VCH Hants, v. 216; C142/60/109.
  • 4. M.T. Recs. i. 63, 82; St.Ch.2/16/391; C142/60/109; Som. Med. Wills (Som. Rec. Soc. xxi), 176; Som. Enrolled Deeds (Som. Rec. Soc. li), passim; LP Hen. VIII, xix, xx.
  • 5. Wells act bk. 2, pp. 464-5; The Gen. n.s. ii. 221; Cat. Anct. Deeds, ii. 168; P. M. Hembry, Bps. Bath and Wells, 1540-1640, pp. 46-47; N. and Q. (ser. 5), viii. 135.
  • 6. CPR, 1547-8, p. 89; Som. Enrolled Deeds, 71; Req.2/15/19.
  • 7. Som. Rec. Soc. xxi. 716-8.