GORE, Richard (c.1554-1622), of Bow Lane, London; later of Hamburg

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press




Family and Education

b. c.1554, 1st s. of Gerrard Gore of London, alderman and Merchant Taylor and Helena, da. of John Davenant of Essex.1 educ. Clare, Camb. 1581. m. by 1583 (with £500) Mary (bur. 15 Sept. 1623), da. of William Albany of London, Merchant Taylor, 6s. (1 d.v.p.) 10 or 11da. (at least 2 d.v.p.).2 suc. fa. 1607. d. c.Oct. 1622.

Offices Held

Freeman, Merchant Taylors’ Co. 1575, liveryman 1581, 4th warden 1589, asst. 1590, 1st warden 1595, master 1602-3;3 dep. gov. Merchant Adventurers by 1601-at least 1606,4 dep. at Hamburg by 1614-at least Jan. 1622;5 member, Spanish Co. 1605, French Co. 1611.6

Dep. alderman, Cordwainer Street Ward, London 1590-at least 1598,7 auditor 1601-3, 1606-8;8 commr. charitable uses, London 1604;9 gov. Christ’s hosp., London by 1604-at least 1607.10


Gore should be distinguished from the Richard Gore, labourer, who was suspected of having set fire to the Banqueting House in 1619.11 His father, Gerrard, was a Merchant Taylor resident in St. Stephen Walbrook, London by 1564. In 1574 Gerrard became a London alderman, and in the following year Gore, the eldest of eight sons, was admitted by patrimony to the freedom of the Merchant Taylors, having presumably attained the required age of 21.12 During the mid-1580s Gerrard and some of his sons imported sugars from Barbary.13 Gore was probably among them, as he and one of his brothers are known to have bought a house with their father in Algiers.14 Trade made him wealthy: in 1588 he invested £25 in the forthcoming naval expedition to Lisbon,15 and in the following year he was rated at £70 by the subsidy commissioners.16 Such prosperity brought with it responsibility. After serving as a junior warden of the Merchant Taylors in 1589, and as prime warden in 1595, he was appointed master of the Company in 1602. He also entered City government, serving as a deputy alderman for eight or nine years before becoming one of the corporation’s auditors. In addition, he was a deputy governor of the Merchant Adventurers by June 1601. However, in the late 1590s he evidently experienced some financial difficulities: in 1596-7 he and three of his brothers borrowed £700 from London’s Court of Orphans, and in 1598 he was bound over by the Privy Council for his failure, and that of his sick father, to contribute towards a royal loan.17 Nevertheless, he remained a prominent London merchant. When lord treasurer Buckhurst and Sir Robert Cecil† canvassed opinions on a project for preventing the export of specie in 1602, Gore was one of the merchants to whom they wrote.18 Moreover, in 1608 he contributed to London’s loan to the king of £63,000.19

By the time that Gore was returned to Parliament for London in 1604 he may have ceased trading on his own account, although the evidence is far from clear.20 His decision to stand for election was undoubtedly a reaction to the widespread hostility to the London trading Companies, such as the Merchant Adventurers, which subsequently manifested itself in demands in the Commons for free trade. Although not expressly named to the committee for the free trade bill on 24 Apr., Gore was entitled to be regarded as one of its members since the burgesses of all the port towns were appointed en masse. During the third reading debate, on 31 May, Gore and two of his fellow London Members, Nicholas Fuller and Sir Henry Montagu, opposed the bill, which failed to pass the Lords before Parliament was prorogued in July.21 When Parliament reassembled in November 1605, the free-traders in the Commons shifted their attention to the newly created Spanish Company, of which Gore himself was a member. This time the free trade lobby scored a notable success, as a bill throwing open to all-comers the trade to Spain and France was enacted in 1606. Gore was appointed to consider this bill on 5 Nov. 1605, and to consider a second free trade bill on 3 Apr. 1606.22

Free trade was far from being Gore’s only concern in the Commons. As a leading City merchant, he was naturally appointed to committees concerned with legislation submitted by the City livery Companies. In 1604 the Clothworkers, for instance, put in a bill concerning the export of cloth, as did Gore’s own Company, the Merchant Taylors. After examination in committee, these measures, and several other bills concerned with cloth, were reported by Gore on 5 July as fit to sleep.23 In 1606 the Merchant Taylors and the other 11 great livery Companies financed a bill to strengthen the ordinances made by the city livery Companies. On 28 Feb. and Gore and his fellow London Members were named to the committee en bloc. In the following year the Merchant Taylors also helped pay for a bill to confirm the livery Companies’ title to their lands. Once again, Gore was named to the committee (4 May 1607).24 Among the other livery Company bills which Gore was appointed to consider was one submitted by the Painters to prevent interloping by the Plaisterers (8 May 1604), and another to confirm the letters patent of the recently incorporated Pinners’ Company (1 Apr. 1606).25

Many of the mercantile measures in which Gore was interested originated with the corporation of London. On 14 May 1604, for instance, he was named to consider bills concerning the recovery of small debts and the better execution of the Statute of Bankrupts, both of which were introduced by the City corporation. Several other measures probably also had their origin in the City government, among them bills to confirm the official status of London’s wharves and quays and regulate the garbelling of spices. In both of these cases Gore was named to the bill committee (30 May and 20 June 1604).26 On one occasion in February 1606, Gore was obliged to rebuke his fellow Member for London, Nicholas Fuller, after the latter inadvertently criticized a bill submitted by the corporation concerning the manufacture of woollen cloth.27 Among the many measures sponsored by the City was the bill to bring fresh water to north London, which ultimately resulted in the building of the New River. As Gore belonged to the City’s own committee for considering various schemes for bringing fresh water to the capital, it is surprising that he was omitted from the Commons’ committee. However, he did secure nomination that same day (31 Jan. 1606) to the committee for a bill to place London under the jurisdiction of a commission of sewers, a measure which almost certainly originated with the City corporation.28

Concern for trade dominated Gore’s outlook in Parliament, and even informed his approach to the proposed Union with Scotland. This became apparent on 27 Nov. 1606, when he seconded Nicholas Fuller, who argued that London and the other trading towns would not be able to find employment for the expected influx of Scots which the Union would cause. Gore, who had been named on 3 May 1604 to a committee to consider a bill to give those Scots born since James’ accession the same rights and freedoms as Englishmen, observed that ‘the state of merchants’ had already ‘declined by reason of multitudes’. He added that if the Union were enacted it would in all likelihood ruin mercantile activity, since ‘our mariners, shipping and treasure’ would be ‘divided’, by which he appears to have meant ‘reduced’. If this were to happen, he warned, then ‘perchance our ancient enemies shall take new heart to offend us’. It was undoubtedly because of this intervention that Gore was added to the committee to consider the Instrument of the Union two days later.29

It was not only the Scots who posed a threat to England’s commercial prosperity. Impositions also threatened to undermine mercantile activity by placing an unacceptable financial burden on imports. On 19 Mar. 1606 Gore was named to a Commons’ committee to consider the matter, but it was not until 1610 that the Lower House expressed serious concern. Many of those who spoke in the debates were lawyers, and were consequently mainly concerned with the legality of impositions. Gore, however, brought a different perspective to the discussion, by contrasting the English government’s treatment of its merchant community with the concern shown by the United Provinces. ‘In [the] Low Countries’, he remarked, ‘they rather will impose upon themselves than upon merchandises, so that we [have] their butter [and] cheese at an easy a rate as they may have theirs at home’ (2 July 1610).30

Despite his lack of parliamentary experience, Gore was a confident Member who was perfectly prepared to take issue with legislation with which he disagreed. After a bill concerning the export of coloured cloth was reported on 24 Mar. 1606, the clerk of the Commons recorded in his Journal that ‘Mr. Gore did much dispute against it, as against the common conditions of peace with our neighbours’. One year later, following the recommitment of another clothing bill, Gore spoke against the measure and ‘prayeth that more might attend the committee’ (26 May 1607). However, it was against the orders of the House to speak to a bill after commitment and he was evidently reprimanded. Gore also opposed a measure concerned with shipping and mariners, which received its second reading on 28 Feb. 1610.31 Among the many other bill committees concerned with trade of which Gore was a member were those concerned with the abuses of customs officers (5 May 1604), usury (9 June 1604) and the double payment of debts upon shop books (18 Apr. 1606).32

In September 1610, during the interval between the fourth and fifth sessions of Parliament, Gore wrote a paper critical of the Crown’s commercial policy. It was probably prepared for Cecil, now lord treasurer Salisbury, with whom he was well acquainted. After emphasizing the paramount importance of the cloth trade, he sought to explain its decline:

As I in public have spoke [sic], so here again I must say, that those that sit at the helm in the government of this our kingdom are to have the more regard for the maintenance of the trade of our clothes and other woollen commodities, in that we cannot assure ourselves of the continuance thereof, as other nations may do of their commodities, for that the heavens and earth, if I may so say, do promise unto them a certain utterance of theirs, because their merchandises for the most part do not grow elsewhere, whereas all nations, besides their other commodities, have wool as well as we.

Gore included among the causes of England’s decline the ‘great tax’ of £3 per sack of wool imposed by Queen Elizabeth.33 Although he acknowledged that the decline of cloth trade was not entirely the government’s fault, because consumers often bought Italian silks in preference to woollen cloth, he nevertheless thought that the Crown could do much to solve the problem. For instance, it could command ‘that at all funerals women as well as men should be enjoined for to wear cloth, as anciently they have done, and not any silks or stuff as of late they have used to do’.34 However, Gore’s criticisms fell on deaf ears. When, five years later, the government did finally intervene to arrest the decline in the cloth trade, Gore was horrified, as the Merchant Adventurers were dissolved and replaced with a new Company led by alderman Cockayne. In a paper dated January 1616, Gore accurately predicted that this new body would be unable to ‘go forward with the shipping to the merchant towns of white cloths undressed and dressed together, much less to dress and dye all’.35

Sometime between the end of the first Jacobean Parliament and September 1611 Gore, who had regularly visited the marts at Stade over the last few years, left England for Hamburg to take up residence as the Merchant Adventurers’ representative there. Before leaving he called on Salisbury, whom he thanked for his past favours. In reply, Salisbury invited him to write to him occasionally concerning foreign affairs. This meeting suggests that, despite his criticisms of the government’s commercial policy, Gore remained on good terms with Cecil.36 There is no evidence that Gore ever returned to England. In 1616 he was troubled by a dispute with the Muscovy merchant William Russell* over the disposal of the goods of a deceased merchant.37 As this followed a complaint from the Muscovy Company, communicated to Gore at Hamburg by the Privy Council two years earlier, that the Merchant Adventurers living in Hamburg were interloping in the Russian trade, the two issues may well have been connected.38

Gore died at Hamburg in about October 1622, leaving the disposal of his estate to his wife.39 His religious views are unknown, but he was no friend of papists, for the day after Parliament learned of the Gunpowder Plot, it was he who had proposed committing the bill for the better enforcement of the penal statutes against recusants.40 No other member of his family is known to have sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


M. Benbow, ‘Notes to Index of London Citizens involved in City Govt.’ (unpublished list deposited in IHR), 280; St. Mary Aldermary (Harl. Soc. Reg. v), 69, 156.

  • 1. Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xv), 326.
  • 2. PROB 11/75, f. 129v; 11/143, f. 508r-v; Mdx. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lxv), 55; St. Mary Aldermary, 61-9, 143, 149; All Hallows, Bread Street and St. John the Evangelist, Friday Street (Harl. Soc. Reg., xliii), 180; Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 2), ii. 225.
  • 3. C.M. Clode Early Hist. of Merchant Taylors, i. 183, 220; ii. 343; GL, Merchant Taylors’ microfilm M324 (index to freemen).
  • 4. Lansd. 150, f. 23; Bowyer Diary, 34. Bowyer describes him as governor of the Company, but he presumably meant deputy governor, as the governorship was then held by Sir Henry Rowe: LJ, ii. 431.
  • 5. APC, 1613-14, p. 398; 1619-21, p. 38; J. Wing, Jacob’s Staffe: to beare up the faithfull (Flushing, 1621), ded.; SP81/20, f. 223.
  • 6. Spanish Co. ed P. Croft (London Rec. Soc. ix), 96; Select Charters of Trading Cos. ed. C.T. Carr (Selden Soc. xxviii), 64.
  • 7. St. Mary Aldermary, 63-6.
  • 8. A.B. Beaven, Aldermen of London i. 276.
  • 9. C93/2/28.
  • 10. GL, ms 12806/3, ff. 139, 148v.
  • 11. APC, 1618-19, pp. 342, 344; 1619-21, p. 44.
  • 12. St. Stephen Walbrook (Harl. Soc. Reg. xlix), 3; Beaven, ii. 173.
  • 13. APC, 1586-7, p. 287.
  • 14. PROB 11/111, f. 55v.
  • 15. Expedition of Sir John Norris and Sir Francis Drake to Spain and Portugal, 1589 ed. R.B. Wernham (Navy Recs. Soc. cxxvii), 26.
  • 16. Vis. London (Harl. Soc. cix, cx), 156.
  • 17. Benbow, 280; APC, 1598-9, pp. 397-8.
  • 18. Harg. 321, pp. 144-5.
  • 19. C193/5/151; E214/1144; F. Devon, Issues of the Exchequer, 92.
  • 20. Cf. A. Friis, Alderman Cockayne’s Project and the Cloth Trade, 84; HMC Sackville, ii. 174.
  • 21. CJ, i. 183b, 229b, 983a.
  • 22. Ibid. 256b, 292b.
  • 23. Ibid. 252b; GL, microfilm, Merchant Taylors’ accts. vol. 8, unfol. For the London bills referred to in this article, see LONDON.
  • 24. CJ, i. 275b, 1040a; GL, microfilm, Merchant Taylors’ accts. vol. 9, unfol., payment of 27 Oct. 1607.
  • 25. CJ, i. 239b, 291b.
  • 26. Ibid. 209a, 243b, 228b.
  • 27. Bowyer Diary, 34.
  • 28. CLRO, Jors. 26, f. 358; CJ, i. 262a,b.
  • 29. Bowyer Diary, 197n; CJ, i. 197a, 326b.
  • 30. CJ, i. 287a; Parl. Debates, 1610 ed. S.R. Gardiner, 116.
  • 31. CJ, i. 288b, 401b, 1032b.
  • 32. Ibid. 199a, 235b, 300a.
  • 33. Lansd. 152, f. 221.
  • 34. Ibid. f. 222v.
  • 35. Add. 14027, f. 287r-v.
  • 36. W.-R. Baumann, The Merchant Adventurers and Continental Cloth Trade, 150; SP82/5, f. 141.
  • 37. APC, 1615-16, pp. 373, 403.
  • 38. Ibid. 1613-14, pp. 398-9.
  • 39. PROB 11/141, f. 32v.
  • 40. CJ, i. 257a.