GAWDY, Bassingbourne I (d.1590), of West Harling, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

2nd s. of Thomas Gawdy (d.1556) of Shottesham and Redenhall by his 1st w. Anne, da. and coh. of John Bassingbourne of Woodhall, Hatfield, Herts; half-bro. of Anthony. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. ‘impubes’ 1545; I. Temple 1551. m. (1) 1558, Anne (d.1587), da. of John Wootton of Tuddenham, Norf., ?wid. of Henry Reppes, 2s. Bassingbourne II and Philip; (2) Dec. 1588, Margaret (d.1590), da. of Eustace Sulyard, wid. of Thomas Darcy of Tolleshunt D’Arcy, Essex, s.p.

Offices Held

Gent. waiter by 1559; j.p. Suff. from c.1573, Norf. from c.1583 (temp. rem. bet. 1585 and 1587); sheriff, Norf. 1578-9.


As a servant of the Marian chancellor, Bishop Gardiner, whose will he witnessed, Gawdy spent his early life in legal and court circles. A second son, he inherited little land, but he acquired estates in Norfolk through his first wife, and settled at West Harling to administer them, assisted by his half-brother Anthony. He became a respected local figure in both Norfolk and Suffolk, and no doubt kept in touch with some of the courtiers he had known earlier. In 1578, when he was sheriff, Leicester asked him to appoint one of his servants as under-sheriff, and in 1579 Gawdy asked Leicester to intercede for his brother-in-law, Henry Everard, who was imprisoned at Bury.

Despite his early associations, Gawdy belonged to the group of puritan justices in Norfolk and Suffolk, and was generally in alliance with the Bacons. Several deprived ministers appealed to him for assistance, while John Thaxton tried to get him to approve for publication a new catechism used in Thaxton’s own church. For some years much of Gawdy’s time and energy was taken up by a protracted quarrel with his neighbours, the pro-Catholic family of Lovell. Beginning with rival bids for the manor of Eccles (owned by the Bacons), the dispute extended to local administration, Thomas Lovell at first getting himself included in the commission of the peace, with his name appearing above Gawdy’s. In 1586 Lovell suffered a temporary eclipse when he was sent to the Marshalsea for slandering Gawdy’s supporter Nicholas Bacon, but he recovered his position, and in 1588 both men were appealing to their friends at court. Gawdy’s younger son Philip proved a valuable ally, and by 1590 the Lovells conceded defeat over the commission of the peace, until Bassingbourne Gawdy II renewed the quarrel.

Gawdy, unlike other members of his family, was apparently not anxious to sit regularly in Parliament. In 1584 he was suggested as Member for Thetford, Thomas Hayward writing to the burgesses on his behalf and promising that he would serve without wages, but he was not returned, perhaps as a result of an inquiry he had held into a feud in Thetford two years earlier, when he and the other commissioners had censured the ruling faction there for being cold in religion and refusing to appoint a preacher. Instead he sat for Eye, which was under the influence of the Bacon family and where the fact that Edward Bacon of Harleston was his nephew may have helped him. In any case he must have known Sir Nicholas Bacon and the younger Nicholas, whose daughter married Gawdy’s son Bassingbourne II. His health seems not to have recovered after a serious illness in 1582, and he died 20 Jan. 1590. In his will, dated 14 Jan. 1590, he left most of his property to his eldest son Bassingbourne, his executor, and other legacies to his widow, the second son Philip, his half-brother Anthony and to other relatives and servants. He was buried at West Harling.

Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 126; Norf. Arch. xxvi. 350-3; APC, xiii. 143; Lansd. 3, f. 193; 121, f. 65; LC2/4/3, p. 107; PCC 3 Noodes; HMC Gawdy, 3, 6, 22; CSP Dom.1547-80, p. 628; Collinson thesis, 662, 749-51, 872, 878; A. H. Smith thesis, 120-49 et passim; PCC 6 Drury.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.H.