GORGES, Henry (c.1665-1718), of Eye and The Mynde, Much Dewchurch, Herefs.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. c.1665, o. s. of Ferdinando Gorges, merchant, of St. Bartholomew by the Exchange, London and Eye, by Meliora, da. of William Hilliard of St. John’s, Barbados. educ. St. John’s, Oxf. matric. 31 Mar. 1683, aged 18; L. Inn 1683. m. (1) bef. 1696, Elizabeth (d. 1709), da. and event. h. of Robert Pye of The Mynde, 2s. 2da., 5 other ch. d.v.p.; (2) Dorothy, wid. of one Shatterden, ?s.p. suc. fa. 1701.1
Freeman, Hereford 1701.
Gorges’ father, a distant cousin and possibly a godson of the colonial pioneer Sir Ferdinando Gorges†, was the youngest of four brothers who all sought their fortunes in westward enterprises. John† served as governor of Derry; Robert was secretary to Henry Cromwell† in Ireland; Thomas† was for a time deputy-governor of Maine. Ferdinando went out to Barbados as a factor, and married his employer’s daughter. Some of his children, including Henry, may have been born on the island. Returning to London, he prospered as a slave trader to such an extent that he was nicknamed ‘King of the Blacks’, and by 1680 had purchased an estate in Herefordshire and built a house there. By his daughter’s marriage to Thomas Coningsby*, while the bridegroom was still a minor, he acquired what was to prove a powerful connexion for the family, but it was a connexion clouded with complications, for Coningsby was deeply suspicious of his father-in-law’s administration of his estate and believed himself to have been defrauded, with the result that the two men quarrelled bitterly.2
Ferdinando Gorges stood unsuccessfully at the neighbouring borough of Leominster in 1690, when one of his opponents was Coningsby, while Henry himself first ventured into politics in 1698, probably in response to a lawsuit mounted against him by his wife’s cousin for possession of her father’s estate, worth £1,200 p.a., which Gorges had obtained ‘under pretence of encumbrances’. He had already put off the hearing by various strategems and was now in all likelihood seeking the ultimate delaying tactic, parliamentary privilege. Gorges’ two opponents in Herefordshire in 1698 were Tories like him, Hon. James Brydges* (another of Gorges’ cousins) and Henry Cornewall*, but each candidate stood ‘on our own legs’. Despite the uneasiness in the family relationship, Gorges seems to have been in some degree under his brother-in-law’s tutelage, for Coningsby was able to promise Brydges on his behalf that Gorges ‘should not join with anybody’. Tories like Robert Price* were moderately pleased with him, at least as an alternative to one of the outgoing knights, Sir Herbert Croft, 1st Bt.*, but had hoped ‘to amend that membership likewise with a better [man] than Gorges’. Classified as a supporter of the Country party in a comparative analysis of the old and new Commons, and forecast as a probable opponent of a standing army, in general he ‘behaved himself unexceptionally’ in this Parliament, according to the High Tory Lord Chandos (James Brydges’ father), who recommended his candidature at the next general election. On that occasion Gorges opposed his brother-in-law’s wishes and joined Sir John Williams*. With the support of Tory stalwarts like Chandos and Robert Price, the two men were returned unopposed. Gorges’ close alignment with the Tory interests in Herefordshire was illustrated by his intervention in the Commons on 16 Apr. 1701, in the wake of the Leominster election case, when he moved
to have some part of the Leominster report read in which it appeared that one Bub, an agent of Mr [John Dutton] Colt’s*, had not obeyed an order of the chairman of the committee of elections, in giving copies of some levy, and it was said to make the thing worse that he had spoken scandalously of the House, so that being seconded, he was ordered to be take[n] into custody.3
Gorges and Williams were re-elected in December 1701, again without opposition, and Gorges was listed by Robert Harley* among the Tories, with whom he appeared on 26 Feb. 1702 in favour of the motion vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachments of the four Whig lords. On 18 Apr. he reported on a private bill, and on the 24th acted as a teller in favour of the exemption of the port of Great Yarmouth from the duties to be imposed in the Whitby harbour bill. He was a teller again on the 30th, against giving leave for a bill to relieve the Earl of Athlone from the effects of the Irish Forfeitures Resumption Act, but on 2 May presented a bill himself for the relief of another petitioner, one Thomas Lee. He and Williams maintained their electoral compact in the 1702 general election, and once again were untroubled by opposition. Gorges voted on 13 Feb. against agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration, and in mid-March 1704 he was listed as a supporter of Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) over the Scotch Plot. At the beginning of the 1704–5 session he was forecast as a probable supporter of the Tack, and despite being lobbied on behalf of the Court by Coningsby, voted for it on 28 Nov. 1704. With other Tackers he was marked as ‘True Church’ in a list of the Parliament of 1705, to which he was returned as knight of the shire with a new partner, Lord Scudamore (James). He voted on 25 Oct. against the Court candidate for Speaker, but on 28 Jan. 1706 was given leave of absence to recover his health. In a list dating from early 1708 he was once more classed as a Tory.4
In the 1708 election Gorges lost his seat for Herefordshire to another Tory, John Prise, who was standing at Scudamore’s instigation. Since the suit over his father-in-law’s estate had never been settled, exclusion from Parliament was of potentially pressing concern, and Gorges seems to have made some attempt to find an alternative constituency, ‘stirring up’ opposition to Edward Harley* in Leominster and to Thomas Foley II* in Hereford, much to the disgust of Robert Harley. ‘What were Mr Gorges’ motives to insult a whole family I do not trouble myself to guess’, he wrote. ‘I am sure we have deserved better usage from him; but this is plain, that he did not think our interest worth his acceptance.’ However, Gorges was returned in a contested by-election in Weobley in December 1708. Despite a report that Gorges had boasted previously ‘that he had spewed up all the Whig principles’ and would ‘with the dog return to his vomit’, he continued to act as a Tory, being listed as having voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. His main concern, however, was probably the legal proceedings over The Mynde, which had begun again in earnest after his wife’s death in 1709. A petition to the Commons from the plaintiffs, against Gorges’ claim of privilege, was rejected on 11 Feb. 1710. At the 1710 general election he challenged the two outgoing Members in the county, where all three candidates were described by Dyer as ‘loyal gentlemen’, and by way of insurance canvassed in Weobley, where a major obstacle to his return had arisen in the shape of a former Member for the borough, Henry Cornewall, who had reappeared on the electoral scene. In spite of the fact that not long before Gorges had been ‘very liberal in his epithets’ on Robert Harley, he approached the new chief minister to intercede for him with Cornewall, claiming that whichever of the two were to be chosen would make no difference to the overall strength of the Tory representation from the county. But the Harleys believed that Gorges’ election would ‘do a great deal of mischief in the House’, and not only refused to help him at Weobley but deplored his persistence in the county election.
As I take it [wrote Thomas Harley*, Robert’s cousin’], Mr Gorges . . . would be satisfied with nothing less than everyone’s yielding to him, and if it had been possible for people to have brought themselves to that pass they would have found worse quarter with him so, than it is.
Deterred at Weobley, he was also defeated for the county, where his short-lived petition alleged bribery ‘and other illegal practices’ including the dispersal by his opponents of ‘scandalous libels . . . reflecting upon the privileges of the House of Commons’. Out of Parliament, Gorges was powerless to prevent a resolution of the lawsuit against him which (on appeal to the House of Lords in 1712) returned The Mynde to his wife’s family. However, by allowing his petition over the county election to drop, in response to a request from James Brydges, he perhaps helped his own return to Parliament in 1713, when he defeated John Dutton Colt for the second seat at Leominster behind Edward Harley. In the Worsley list he was marked as a Tory.5
Gorges was defeated in the 1715 election, when he contested Leominster against Coningsby and Edward Harley, and again, even more heavily, in a by-election in 1717. He died on 14 Mar. 1718, leaving property in Herefordshire, Monmouthshire and Radnorshire valued at approximately £1,800 p.a. His will included bequests of £4,000 and £3,000 respectively to his two surviving daughters. A grandson, Richard, sat for Leominster between 1754 and 1761, as a Tory.6
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. R. Gorges, Story of a Fam. through 11 Cents. 200–2, 204; W. R. Williams, Herefs. MPs. 58; V. L. Oliver, Caribbeana, iii. 298; Mar. Lic. Vic.-Gen. (Harl. Soc. xiii), 237; CJ, xvi. 309; C. J. Robinson, Mansions and Manors of Herefs. 88; Duncumb, Herefs. Wormelow pt.2, pp. 100–1; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 26(1), James Brydges’ diary, 19 Nov. 1701.
- 2. Gorges, 200–2, ped.
- 3. HMC Portland, iii. 443; iv. 10, 12; Add. 70014, f. 287; 70117, Abigail to Sir Edward Harley†, 10 July 1698; 70019, ff. 59, 259; 70020, ff. 35, 38; Stowe mss 57(1), p. 5; 26(1), 14 Feb., 3 Aug. 1698; 26(2), 16 Feb. 1702; Bath mss at Longleat House, Thynne pprs. 24, f. 331; 25, ff. 53–54; Cocks Diary, 98–99.
- 4. Add. 70254, John Prise* to Robert Harley, 28 Mar. 1702; Bull. IHR, xxxiv. 96.
- 5. HMC Portland, iv. 486, 513; Add. 70236, Edward to Robert Harley, 25 Apr. 1708, 13 Oct. 1710; 70254, Robert Harley to Robert Price, 27 May 1708; 70421, Dyer’s newsletter 31 Oct. 1710; 70226, Thomas Foley II to Robert Harley, 12 Aug. 1710, 5 Sept. 1713; 70278, Gorges to [same], 3 Aug. 1710; 70240, Thomas Harley to same, 13 Oct. 1710; Stowe mss 57(2), pp. 120, 159; 57(5), p. 135; Hereford and Worcester RO (Hereford), Pakington mss b705/349/4657/iii/29, Robert Trahern to [Sir John Pakington, 4th Bt.*], 22 Dec. 1708; HMC Lords, n.s. ix. 204; Gorges, 204.
- 6. Hist. Reg. Chron. 1718, p. 11; Bodl. Rawl. B.518, ff. 181–2; Gorges, 204.