PLEYDELL, Gabriel (by 1519-90/91), of Midgehall in Lydiard Tregoze, Wilts.

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 1519, 4th s. of William Pleydell of Midgehall and Coleshill, Berks. by Agnes, da. and coh. of John or Robert Reason of Corfe Castle, Dorset; bro. of John. m. (1) Anne, da. and coh. of Henry Stocks (Stokes) of Suss., 1s. d.v.p. 1da.; (2) by 17 Nov. 1563, Elizabeth, s.p. (3) Jane, s.p.2

Offices Held

Chief ranger and keeper, Savernake forest, Wilts. by ?1554; receiver-gen. for Anne, Duchess of Somerset, in 1554.3


A younger son of a Berkshire man who had settled in Wiltshire, Gabriel Pleydell had presumably come of age by 1540, when he was holding land at Eisey, near Cricklade, from Sir Anthony Hungerford. In 1545 he was assessed at Midgehall to pay 26s.8d. towards the benevolence and four years later his father was licensed to settle on him the remainder of the manor of West Ilsley, Berkshire. Under his father’s will, proved in May 1556, he received the remainder of a 95-year lease of Midgehall, which eventually passed to him after his mother and next elder brother Virgil had died and 11 years after his eldest surviving brother Tobias had settled at Chipping Faringdon, Berkshire.4

Pleydell’s three elections to Parliament are explained in part by his standing as a local landowner. Midgehall lay one mile north of Wootton Bassett, where Pleydell was to buy and sell property under Elizabeth, and although his christian name alone survives on the return to the Parliament of March 1553 it was a sufficiently uncommon one to leave no doubt that he was the man elected. He was likewise no stranger to Marlborough: in 1559, while his mother still occupied Midgehall, he sued out a pardon as of Chippenham alias of Preshute, a parish on the outskirts of that town, where his father may have had interests earlier. To this contiguity Pleydell could add influential connexions. The link with the Seymours, known from several cases in the Star Chamber under Mary, may have been of long standing; Pleydell’s father held lands at Eastrop and elsewhere of Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley, who had also alienated lands at Eisey to his younger brother Zachary in 1541. The Protector Somerset’s widow appointed him chief ranger of Savernake forest in succession to John Berwick. He also attached himself to Somerset’s former steward (Sir) John Thynne, a rising figure in the county whom he was to support in a contest for the knighthood of the shire in 1559.5

Pleydell was seldom out of the courts. Towards the end of Edward VI’s reign he brought a suit in the Star Chamber against a number of defendants who had expelled him from the Gloucestershire manor of Withington which he had leased. There followed a series of actions before the same court, Pleydell being usually a defendant. He was accused of helping John Berwick to expel the occupant of Somerset’s former manor of East Grafton in the autumn of 1553 and of procuring an amenable jury at Marlborough which found that there had been no breach of the peace; he claimed to have acted on the orders of the duchess and denied interfering with the jury. At about the same time he was sued for forcible entry and seizure of goods at Little Bedwyn and for similar offences at Collingbourne Ducis, where he maintained that he was only distraining for unpaid rent.6

It may have been on one of these charges, or on yet another, that in Michaelmas term 1555 Pleydell and other defendants were found guilty in the Star Chamber. His accomplices in what was described as a riot were presumably sentenced forthwith, but Pleydell, who was then sitting in Parliament for Marlborough, claimed privilege and was bound in £500 to appear as soon as Parliament was dissolved. This recognition by the court of a Member’s immunity from legal proceedings—at least at suit of party, as the case against Pleydell must have been—was evidently outweighed in the minds of at least some of his fellow-Members, when the decision was reported to the House, by the suspicion that it was meant to intimidate Pleydell and, by implication, other figures in the parliamentary opposition. On 6 Dec. the House resolved to send a deputation, headed by Sir Robert Rochester, to declare to the Lords the opinion that the court had infringed Pleydell’s privilege. After the Lords had replied by requiring six Members to attend to receive the answer, Rochester, Sir William Petre and four others unnamed heard, and reported to the House, that the chief justices, the master of the rolls and the serjeants held the recognizance to be no breach of privilege. Although this was undoubtedly correct in law, the fact that the Commons, to judge from the Journal, took the matter no further does not imply that they were satisfied with the ruling; it may mean only that further action was blocked by the dissolution which followed three days later.7

Pleydell had supported Kingston in the House and his committal on the morrow of the dissolution suggests that he too was regarded as a ringleader. Kept in the Fleet until after Christmas, he was released on 28 Dec. after giving another bond for £500 to attend the Star Chamber on the first day of the following term. This he appears to have done, being then fined £40 with £5 costs, but he also spread it abroad ‘that he was not punished in the Fleet at his last being there for any matter depending in the court of Star Chamber but for speaking his conscience in the Parliament in a bill concerning the commonwealth’. True as this may have been, it was an impudence which the Star Chamber treated as a slander to be inquired into, although with what result is unknown. The proceedings may have been overlaid by the next case against Pleydell, that arising from his alleged protection of two of his servants in the rangership of Savernake after one of them had been convicted of murder and the other of abetting a robbery. Here his opponent was his former associate John Berwick, with whom he was in perpetual conflict over rights in Savernake forest. In spite of being under recognizance to appear regularly before the Council, in July 1557 Pleydell secured a commission from the Star Chamber empowering William Button, Henry Clifford, Griffith Curteys and John Hooper to examine his own and Berwick’s witnesses, and then appeared at Marlborough with a list of 240 articles and a host of people to be examined on behalf of his two servants. For this attempt to ‘deface’ the Queen’s justices and abuse the Star Chamber ‘by colour of a commission ... to try a riot’, he was indicted in that court by Edward Griffin, the attorney-general, in Michaelmas term 1557. The court sent him to the Tower and fined him 1,000 marks by forfeiting the recognizance which he had given to that amount. On 19 Dec. 1557 he was allowed to leave the Tower for the house of Thomas Garrard, a merchant taylor, after entering into a further bond of £1,000 for his good behaviour.8

Pleydell always replied to his local accusers that he acted within the law as receiver-general for the Duchess of Somerset or as ranger of Savernake forest. Possibly he was in part the victim both of those who hoped to encroach on the Seymours’ rights and of the jealousy of Berwick, the previous ranger. None the less he came from a family enriched by monastic spoils, he opposed Mary’s government in the Commons and rashly claimed that he had been victimized for this. The revival of his fortunes after Elizabeth’s accession, perhaps aided by Sir John Thynne, was to be followed by his second term for Wootton Bassett and by his implication in the alleged forgery of the will of Andrew Baynton. This charge and a further series of lawsuits, while confirming for Gabriel Pleydell a niche in parliamentary history, detract still further from his reputation. He died between 19 Dec. 1590 and 3 Feb. 1591, the dates of the making and proving of his will.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. C219/282/11.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv, cvi), 153; Wilts. N. and Q. v. 175; PCC 12 Sainberbe.
  • 3. St.Ch.4/1/33, 5/13, 8/48.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, xv; Two Taxation Lists (Wilts. Arch. Soc. recs. br. x), 21; CPR, 1548-9, p. 240; Wilts. N. and Q. v. 89-90, 129-3; VCH Berks. iv. 33; Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvi), 47.
  • 5. Wilts. N. and Q. iv. 505, 559, 561-2; v. 175; CPR, 1558-60, p. 149; LP Hen. VIII, xvi; Marlborough corp. gen. entry bk. 1553-4, f. 1; Cat. Anct. Deeds, i. 358.
  • 6. St.Ch.3/2/22. 4/1/33, 8/48, 49.
  • 7. APC, v. 202, 210; Harl. 2143, ff. 3-3v; CJ, i. 46.
  • 8. Guildford mus. Loseley 1331/2; APC, v. 202, 209, 210; vi. 67-68, 75, 125, 165, 217-19; Harl. 2143, ff. 3-3v, 7; St.Ch.4/3/72, 5/13, 96.
  • 9. PCC 12 Sainberbe.