GERARD, Sir Thomas (d.1601), of Bryn, Lancs. and Etwall, Derbys.
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Family and Education
1st s. of Sir Thomas Gerard of Bryn by Jane, da. of Sir Peter Legh of Haydock, Lancs. and Lyme, Cheshire. m. Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir John Port† of Etwall, Derbys., 2s. inc. Thomas II 3da. suc. fa. 1553. Kntd. Oct. 1553.
Sheriff, Lancs. 1557-8; j.p. Derbys. 1564, Lancs. by 1570, prob. rem. from both commissions 1571.
Gerard succeeded to large estates in Lancashire, centred on the main family seat at Bryn, near Wigan. He also had property in Cheshire, and in November 1558 came into possession of Etwall in Derbyshire by right of his wife, who shared her father’s lands with her two sisters, Margaret, who later married Sir Thomas Stanhope, and Dorothy, wife of Sir George Hastings. Gerard often lived at Etwall, and it was probably here that his younger son, John Gerard the Jesuit, was born in 1564. Both Sir Thomas and his wife were Catholics, and he employed men of his own faith, Edmund Lewknor and William Sutton, as tutors to his sons. He apparently remained on the commission of the peace for some years, in counties where it is unlikely that justices were compelled to take the oath of supremacy, but neither he nor his fellow-Member, Sir John Southworth, was again elected to Parliament. Apart from his membership of the succession committee on 31 Oct. 1566, and of the delegation summoned on 5 Nov. 1566 to hear the Queen’s message on the succession, the only reference to Gerard as an MP is a privilege case concerning one of his servants.1
Little is known of him before 1571, when he was implicated in a half-hearted plot to free Mary Stuart from Tutbury castle, a few miles from his seat at Etwall. By this time he was heavily in debt, which he advanced as an excuse, hoping, as he put it, to escape his English creditors by accompanying Mary to Scotland. Gerard now wrote to Mary ‘offering to her a device that she should come away disguised, and so to escape after a time’, a plan which Mary ‘utterly misliked’. Next, Gerard was arrested on a charge of treason. From the Tower in July 1571 he petitioned Elizabeth for mercy, maintaining that he ‘never had evil thought against her royal person’. Released after two years, he had to sell lands—some to his relative Sir Gilbert Gerard—to pay a heavy fine. Recusancy fines added to his financial difficulties. Between 1574 and 1598 he made a number of enfeoffments and settlements of his property, perhaps to avoid forfeiture, and in March 1586 offered to compound for his fines by an annual payment of £30. But the activities of his younger son, the Jesuit, made it unlikely that he would be granted favourable terms, and after the Babington plot he was again under suspicion of treason. After periods of imprisonment in the Tower and the Wood Street Counter he finally ‘made show of conformity’ and in November 1594 he received a full pardon ‘for all treasons heretofore committed’. He died in September 1601, and on 28 Oct. was buried at Winwick, Lancashire.