EYRE, Gervase (1669-1704), of Rampton and Wheatley, Notts. and Sandbeck, Yorks.
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Family and Education
bap. 20 Aug. 1669, 1st s. of Anthony Eyre† of Rampton by 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Pakington, 2nd Bt.†, of Westwood, Worcs. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 1683; I. Temple 1686. m. 26 May 1687, Catherine, o. surv. da. and event. h. of Sir Henry Cooke, 2nd Bt., of Wheatley, 7s. (2 d.v.p.) 6da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. Nov. 1671.1
Sheriff, Notts. 1696–7.
Ranger of Sherwood forest.2
The Eyres of Rampton were descended from a branch of a prominent Derbyshire family which became established at Laughton, Nottinghamshire. Eyre’s great-grandfather sold some of the family’s Yorkshire estates to Sir Edward Osborne† and bought a moiety of the manor of Rampton. The other moiety was obtained through the marriage of his grandfather, Sir Gervase Eyre†, to a coheiress of the Babington family.3
Apart from the fact that Eyre succeeded his father at the age of two, nothing is known about his early life. However, his status in the county was deemed sufficient to warrant his appointment as a deputy-lieutenant in 1692 and he served his turn as sheriff in 1697, when a warrant was issued permitting him to live outside the county. His political outlook at this time can be gauged from a series of letters he sent to the 2nd Marquess of Halifax (William Savile*), which, among other things, details his criticism of the county Members for Nottinghamshire during the last session of the 1695 Parliament, particularly in relation to their attitudes to a standing army and taxation. In one letter he referred to himself as a ‘fellow huntsman’ and in another revealed his prejudice against court life after attending a local gathering of courtiers in which he noted
how unfit I was for court attendance, and when they talked of coming down every year they frightened me almost as bad as [sic] for fear they should debauch the county with formality, as he might fear they would disorder his family.
Eyre took comfort from this prospect: ‘when I considered that it was said by courtiers, I recovered my spirits and believed there was no great danger of their performing their promise’.4
In the 1698 election Eyre joined with another young Tory, Sir Thomas Willoughby, 2nd Bt.*, to defeat the outgoing county Members by ‘a great majority’. Unfortunately, his career in the Commons is obscured by the presence in the chamber of the Wiltshire Members John and Robert Eyre, most of the references to activity in the Journals being ascribed to the latter. Not surprisingly, given his criticisms of his predecessors, an analysis of September 1698 included him as a supporter of the Country party, and he was also forecast as likely to oppose a standing army. Although re-elected in January 1701, with the support of zealous Country Tories like Thomas Coke*, he seems to have lost his place in the county lieutenancy, perhaps because he had alienated prominent Whigs such as the Duke of Newcastle (John Holles†). He was listed as likely to support the Court in February 1701 over the ‘Great Mortgage’. However, he refused to sign the Nottinghamshire address promoted to entice the King into a dissolution and perhaps as a consequence lost his seat at the December election after a concerted Whig campaign to keep him out. In January 1702 he wrote to his cousin, Sir John Pakington, 4th Bt.*: ‘I should have been tempted to a petition, but the charge of it frightened me.’ In the election of 1702, Willoughby refused to stand, allowing Eyre a clear run, which resulted in victory by over 1,000 votes. Judging from two recommendations for military employment that he signed early in Anne’s reign, he maintained significant contacts with the Yorkshire and north country Tories, perhaps in consequence of the fact that he resided for part of the year at Sandbeck.5
Eyre died in London, probably from smallpox, on 16 Feb. 1704 and was buried in the chancel of All Saints’, Rampton. A monument erected by one of his daughters bears an inscription extolling his conduct as ‘having always been such as entitled him to the favour of all true friends of our Church and constitution’ and including references to his ancestors’ loyal service under Charles the Martyr.