GOUGH, Sir Henry (1650-1725), of Perry Hall, Staffs.
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Family and Education
b. 3 Jan. 1650, 1st s. of John Gough of Oldfallings, Staffs. by 2nd w. Bridget, da. of Sir John Astley of Wood Eaton, Oxon.; bro. of Sir Richard Gough†. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1666; M. Temple 1667. m. 10 Sept. 1668, Mary, da. of Sir Edward Littleton, 2nd Bt.†, of Pillaton Hall, Staffs., sis. of Edward Littleton†, 11s. (8 d.v.p.) 5da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1665; kntd. 7 Apr. 1678.1
Sheriff, Staffs. 1671–2; freeman, Smiths’ Co. Lichfield 1681; gov. Birmingham g.s. 1685–?91.2
Gough’s grandfather was the heir to four successive generations of merchants (three of whom were based in Wolverhampton). His grandfather had purchased Oldfallings, Staffordshire and was apparently a zealous adherent of Charles I. His father continued to purchase land in Staffordshire, thus paving the way for his son’s eventual parliamentary career. Gough himself also entered the property market to purchase Perry Hall and a moiety of the manor of Perry Barr on the banks of the River Tame (both of which are now in Warwickshire).3
After having sat in James II’s Parliament and the Convention of 1689, Gough faced a close contest in his quest for re-election in 1690. His joint interest with Michael Biddulph* was threatened first by the indecisiveness of Viscount Weymouth (Thomas Thynne†) and then by a strong challenge from Thomas Guy* and Sir Charles Wolseley, 2nd Bt.† His name appears as a Tory and probably a Court supporter on a list of the new Parliament annotated by the Marquess of Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†). He was appointed to one important drafting committee during the first session on 24 Apr. 1690, to draw up the oath of abjuration. In the second session of the 1690 Parliament he was named to a single drafting committee, to regulate the militia, and figured on a list analysed by Carmarthen in December, probably indicating that Gough would support the Marquess in the event of an attack on him in the Commons. In April 1691 Robert Harley* classed him as a Country supporter.4
In the 1691–2 session Gough became embroiled in the controversy over the charter of Birmingham grammar school, and the management of its affairs. Gough had been appointed under a charter granted by James II following the surrender of the original. After the Revolution the new charter was challenged in the courts and annulled by the Lords in 1691, despite vigorous efforts by Gough and his associates. If this local distraction impeded his involvement in the House it was not for long. On 8 Jan. 1692 Gough spoke against the bill for lessening interest, in company with Tory stalwarts such as Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt.* On 13 Jan. Gough supported the Commons’ amendments to the treason trials bill. After some of these amendments had been rejected by the Lords, he was the first to speak on 25 Jan. in a rather confused procedural debate, in which, while clearly in favour of the bill as a whole, he proposed unsuccessfully that the House reject the Lords’ original amendment.5
Gough’s commitment to Tory principles is highlighted by his contribution on 14 Dec. 1692 to the debate over the bill for preserving their Majesties’ person and government. He considered the proposal for a new oath for all office-holders, to defend the government against James II, to be simply a device to remove scrupulous Tories, and was among the majority which refused to commit the bill. In response, the future bishop, George Smalridge, thanked him, through his son, Walter, ‘for the great service he did us against a bill which would have swept our universities’. On 2 Feb. 1693 Gough showed concern for the traditional pursuits of his neighbours in moving for a bill to preserve game from poachers. He presented the bill the following day. He was also keenly involved in local administration and not averse to voicing his discontent with other local officers, especially his political opponents. Thus, in July 1693, he wrote to the Treasury criticizing the conduct of two fellow land tax commissioners in Staffordshire, one of whom, Humphrey Wyrley, was later a Whig candidate at Lichfield.6
Gough also took the Tory side in the Staffordshire by-election of 1693, speaking to the freeholders in favour of the candidature of Sir Walter Bagot, 3rd Bt.*, signing a circular letter in Bagot’s support, and apparently preparing to delay the issue of the writ. On 23 Nov. 1694 he was teller against an address asking for an estimate of the costs of the war for 1695; on 5 Feb. against a motion that Ralph Standish, suspected of involvement in the Lancashire Plot, be sent for in custody to answer questions; and on 20 Feb. against allowing Nathaniel Palmer* leave of absence. He was himself granted leave on 9 Mar. 1695.7
The 1695 election at Tamworth passed off without incident, Gough being returned after what may have been an agreement to avoid a contest. In the first session Gough told on four occasions: on 24 Jan. 1696, in favour of giving leave for a clause to take away the duties on waterborne coal, a measure of some significance to Staffordshire since many industrial enterprises there used local supplies; on 17 Feb., against a motion that all committees be adjourned; on the 18th, against a motion that the Whig Maurice Thompson* had been duly elected for Bletchingley; and on 20 Feb., against committing a bill confirming the Earl of Torrington’s (Arthur Herbert†) grant in the Bedford Level. On national issues, he remained firmly critical of the ministry. He was forecast as likely to oppose the Court in the divisions on 31 Jan. 1696 over the proposed council of trade, an assessment confirmed in the debate when he was the first speaker against the proposal that councillors swear that William III was the ‘right and lawful’ king. Opposition to such oaths was a consistent feature of his political career, and it led him to refuse the Association in February. He also voted in March against fixing the price of guineas at 22s. In the following session he does not appear to have been quite so active, although he was present to vote on 25 Nov. against the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. He acted as a teller only once, on 22 Feb. 1697, against the second reading of a general naturalization bill. His local importance was again manifest on 26 Feb. when the Treasury lords indicated that if one of the men appointed receiver of the land tax in Staffordshire should refuse to serve, ‘Sir Hugh [sic] Gough . . . and other gentlemen’ would be asked to name a successor. On 6 Mar. he received leave to go into the country.8
During the session of 1697–8 Gough took part in the debate of 8 Jan. 1698 on an instruction to be given to the committee of supply relating to the charge of guards and garrisons. More specifically, he was ‘for the words’, pursuant to the vote of 11 Dec. 1697, which tied the House to disbanding all the forces raised since 1680. During April 1698 his involvement in the administration of local taxes spilled over into Parliament when on the 19th Richard Turner, receiver in Staffordshire, was ordered into custody for breach of privilege in distraining his goods. He acted as a teller on 3 May 1698 against engrossing a bill for the better recovery of wages due to servants, seamen and miners.9
Gough was inevitably drawn into the confused election for Staffordshire in 1698. Although in February he had indicated that he was not ‘pre-engaged’, the suspicion was that he had sought to promote the candidature of Hon. Robert Shirley. In any case, he had enough problems of his own at Tamworth, where he was defeated, apparently because his father-in-law had campaigned against him. Undeterred, he petitioned and on 17 Mar. 1699 was declared duly elected. Although he had missed the great debates on the standing army there is little doubt where he would have stood on the issue, especially as a list drawn up in about September 1698 had marked him as a Country supporter. After taking his seat he acted as a teller on 26 Apr. 1699 in favour of an unrecorded amendment to the paper duty bill. In the following session he seems to have been inactive and was certainly absent for part of the time, receiving leave for ten days on 26 Feb. 1700.10
On hearing rumours of a dissolution in November 1700, Gough wrote anxiously to Lord Weymouth (Thomas Thynne†) to ensure that he could count on Weymouth’s interest, and in an attempt to secure the support of his own father-in-law. Both must have been forthcoming, for he was returned with ease. In his letter to Weymouth, Gough had given his views on one matter likely to cause controversy in the new Parliament, the East India trade. He was in favour of an ‘open trade’ but since this was not possible was inclined to favour the New Company over the Old, as it ‘has so far exceeded the other in that encouraging and employing two of my sons to China that as far as honour, honesty and my country’s favour will permit, I will do them all the faithful service I am able’. He might also have added that his brother Richard was heavily involved in the New Company. In February 1701 Gough was listed among those thought likely to support the Court over the ‘Great Mortgage’. Later he was blacklisted as having opposed preparations for war, to which he responded by signing the Tory denial of these charges, the Answer to the Vine Tavern Queries. His not being returned for Tamworth at the election of November 1701 probably had more to do with Weymouth wanting the seat for his son, Hon. Henry Thynne*, than to the black list. Although it was reported in January 1702 that Gough would ‘try his friends’ at Tamworth in case a new election was called, he stood at Lichfield in the general election later that year. The decline in his interest at Tamworth was emphasized by his failure to obtain Weymouth’s backing at the by-election of December 1702. Thereafter, his political interest switched to Lichfield where he had hopes of election should Sir Michael Biddulph, 2nd Bt.*, be forced to resign from the House on account of financial troubles.11
While out of Parliament, Gough concentrated on local administration. In June 1704 he demanded action from Secretary Harley over the misconduct of a recruiting officer in his neighbourhood, and in the following month pressed for the removal of a collector of the window tax for oppressing the poor. Backed by Lord Stanhope and Lord Gower (Sir John Leveson Gower, 5th Bt.*), Gough re-entered Parliament for Lichfield in 1705 in place of Biddulph. He was marked on one list as a churchman and Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) duly marked his election as a ‘loss’. This assessment was confirmed by his vote on 25 Oct. 1705 against the Court candidate for Speaker. He does not seem to have been very active during this first session, possibly due to a complex dispute with the Treasury over the recovery of a debt from Lord Griffin’s estate. In 1706–7 he was involved in the successful promotion of a bill for the better support of the minister of Tettenhall, Staffordshire, which he presented on 24 Feb. 1707 and reported from committee on 7 Mar. He remained a Tory, being classed as such on a parliamentary list of early 1708. He did not stand at the 1708 election, and in 1710 made a late decision to put up at Tamworth but polled poorly against two other Tory candidates.12
Despite his retirement from national politics, Gough kept a keen interest in local affairs, acting as a justice against rioters in Staffordshire in 1715, and launching one notable tirade in January 1716 against the disorders of the previous year and the Jacobite rising:
It seems a just judgment on the mob for their wantonness and wickedness in raising such tumults among us. I cannot but pity many of the poor and ignorant but wish the first promoters were well known and punished . . . God grant the rebels may be everywhere suppressed, and the King and government no more forced to extremity which must be when no other method will do.
The recipient of this letter, his second son, Henry†, sat as a Whig for Bramber. Gough himself died on 24 Jan. 1725 and was buried in Bushbury parish church, where a monument was erected, praising his probity, wisdom and incorruptibility. He left most of his estate to his eldest surviving son, Walter.13
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. IGI, Staffs.; Burke, Commoners, ii. 394; info. from Dr D. F. Lemmings; Shaw, Staffs. ii. 188.
- 2. LJ, xv. 22.
- 3. Burke, LG, 393–4; Nichols, Lit. Hist. iii. 233.
- 4. Bath mss at Longleat House, Thynne pprs. 24, ff. 134–5, 144, 148, 150, 172; 28, ff. 266–8, 270, 272–4, 276.
- 5. HMC Lords, n.s. iii. 341–4; iv. 51–53, 252–4; Luttrell Diary, 117, 128, 153.
- 6. Luttrell Diary, 316, 395; Nichols, 242–3; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 298.
- 7. Hereford and Worcester RO (Hereford), Foley mss, Philip Foley* to [–], 5, 10 Oct. 1693; ‘Gents. letter to the country’, 1693; HMC 5th Rep. 298–9.
- 8. HMC Hastings, ii. 253; Cal. Treas. Bks. xi. 357–8.
- 9. Cam. Misc. xxix. 360.
- 10. Wm. Salt Lib. (Stafford), Bagot mss D/1721/3/291, J. Vernon to Edward Bagot*, 11 Feb. 1697[–9]; Egerton 2540, f. 111; Thynne pprs. 25, ff. 4–5.
- 11. Thynne pprs. 25, ff. 34, 100; HMC Cowper, ii. 447; Add. 29579, f. 407; BL, Lothian mss, Ld. Stanhope to [Thomas Coke*], 12 Oct. 1702.
- 12. HMC Portland, viii. 123–4; Add. 70289, Gough to [–], 8 July 1704; Lothian mss, Stanhope to Coke, 30 Mar. ; Staffs. RO, Gower mss D593/P/13/4, Gough to Ld. Gower, 3, 31 Mar. 1705; Cal. Treas. Bks. xx. 192–3; Post Boy, 12–14 Oct. 1710.
- 13. Boyer, Pol. State. x. 177–8; Nichols, 234; Bushbury Par. Reg. 58; King Edward’s Sch. Recs. (Dugdale Soc. xii), 186; PCC 133 Rowney.