CAREW, Gawain (c.1503-85), of Exeter and Wood, Devon and London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



? 1542

Family and Education

b. c.1503, 4th s. of Sir Edmund Carew of Mohun’s Ottery by Catherine, da. and coh. of Sir William Huddesfield of Shillingford. m. (1) lic. 28 Jan. 1531, Anne, da. of Sir William Brandon, wid. of Sir John Shilston of Wood, and Southwark, Surr., s.p.; (2) by July 1540, Mary (d.1558), da. of Sir Robert Wotton of Boughton Place, Boughton Malherbe, Kent, wid. of Sir Henry Guildford of Leeds Castle, Kent and Blackfriars, London, s.p.; (3) by Dec. 1565, Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Norwiche, s.p. Kntd. bet. 29 Mar. and 18 Oct. 1545.3

Offices Held

Keeper, Chittlehampton park, Devon 24 Oct. 1539, Tiverton and Ashley parks Jan. 1553; gent. pens. 1540-47/49; capt. Matthew Gonson 1545; chief steward, forfeited lands of Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter 19 Oct. 1545; commr. chantries, Cornw., Devon, and Exeter 1546, relief, Devon and Bristol 1550, goods of churches and fraternities, Devon 1553, for maritime causes 1578; j.p. Devon 1547-53, 1558/59-d.; sheriff 1547-8; master of henchmen 31 Dec. 1558; dep. lt. Cornw. and Devon 1569.4


Gawain Carew’s father made special provision for his two younger sons in the will which he made shortly before his death in 1513. Both George and Gawain were placed in the custody of their elder brother Nicholas, a man of 30 at their father’s death, who appears to have attached them to the household of Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter, where they received a livery of cloth as household members in 1525. Their father also provided for their maintenance and left each of them £200 in cash to be paid at their marriage.5

Widely connected in Devon by descent and his kinsmen’s marriages, Carew was to be a prominent figure there throughout his life, although his early career centred on the court and the capital. In October 1532 his brother-in-law the Duke of Suffolk recommended him to Cromwell as the next sheriff of Devon, but he was not to have the office for 15 years: instead he had to content himself with minor favours such as licences to import wine and timber in 1536 and to export bell metal in 1540, some grants of land and the lease of Launceston priory in 1540. In April 1538 he was imprisoned in the Compter after he and his servant had killed one adversary and seriously wounded the other in a sword fight, but by January 1540 he was sufficiently in favour to be one of those appointed to receive Anne of Cleves at Blackheath.6

On the outbreak of the war with France Carew was ordered to accompany the 3rd Duke of Norfolk to the Netherlands in 1543, bringing with him four horsemen and four footmen; in the following year he took part in the Boulogne campaign and in 1545 he captained the Matthew Gonson in naval engagements. It was presumably the last of these services which brought him the knighthood conferred on him in 1545: styled ‘armiger’ on the return of the knights of the shire for Devon dated 20 Jan. 1545, by the time the Parliament opened on 23 Nov. he was a knight. During 1542 he had testified against Queen Catherine Howard at her trial and in January 1547 he was to do so against the Earl of Surrey.7

Carew may have first sat in Parliament in 1542: on the damaged return for Devon all that can be made of the second name is ‘Item[?] G ... r.[?] we’, and if the surname is Carew the absence of the suffix ‘miles’ points to Gawain Carew, who was yet to be knighted, rather than to his nephew George Carew, who had been dubbed in 1536. Two years later uncle and nephew were to be elected together for the shire but before the delayed opening of the Parliament (Sir) George Carew was to perish in the capsizing of the Mary Rose. This Parliament was to be dissolved by the death of the King in January 1547, and in the following autumn Gawain Carew was again returned for Devon to the first Parliament of Edward VI, this time as the senior knight. It was a tribute to his local ascendancy, to his powerful connexions at court and perhaps to his Protestantism: in April 1543 he had been among those summoned before the Privy Council to defend their eating of flesh during Lent and reproved for alleging a royal licence to do so. He must have welcomed the new trend in religious policy but the only reference to him in the Journal does not concern reform: on 16 Nov. 1549 he and his fellow-knight, (Sir) John Chichester, were absent from the House when a Devon clothiers’ bill was committed to Carew’s nephew, Sir Peter Carew, then one of the Members for Dartmouth. The ‘answer’ to the bill was to be made when the knights of that shire should return to the House.8

Between the second and third sessions of this Parliament there occurred the western rebellion of June 1549. Carew, who was in London when the first reports of the rebellion arrived, was sent down to Devon by the Duke of Somerset with Sir Peter Carew to help the sheriff, Sir Thomas Denys, restore order by conciliation and without violence, but an attempt to negotiate with the embattled rebels at Crediton ended in a skirmish during which barns were fired and several people died. Although the result was not to appease but to intensify the rebellion Carew still believed a peaceful settlement possible, and with his nephew Denys and Sir Hugh Pollard he approached the rebels a second time at Clyst St. Mary only to be disillusioned by their belligerence. By the time Sir John Russell, Baron Russell, arrived to take command of the situation, he had become an advocate of suppression, and it was he who spurred Russell into attacking the rebels at Fenny Bridges in an attempt to relieve the siege of Exeter. During this successful if pyrrhic action Carew was wounded in the arm by an arrow, but this did not prevent him from taking a leading part in the eventual restoration of order. At about this time Carew and his nephew Peter were appointed to the council in the west but, as Carew wrote to John Thynne on 10 Aug., they were instructed by the Protector to absent themselves from it because the followers of (Sir) William Herbert ‘would find themselves much offended if they should not be the like’. For his efforts Russell rewarded him more practically with the forfeited lands of Humphrey Arundell of Lanherne, a grant confirmed by the King on 5 Mar. 1550, and with the tenure of Tiverton castle. Later in 1550 he shared with Russell, his nephew Peter, and Richard Duke the valuable licence to mine iron and coal on Exmoor and Dartmoor.9

Carew did not sit in the Parliament of March 1553 and in the succession crisis which followed he probably sided with his nephew, who proclaimed Queen Mary in Devon. Within a few months, however, Sir Peter Carew was conspiring against the Queen’s marriage and his uncle was soon drawn into the plan to support Sir Thomas Wyatt II by raising Devon under the leadership of Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon. Nothing came of this beyond the assembly of a tiny force at Mohun’s Ottery, and as soon as the government acted Sir Peter Carew fled abroad and his fellow conspirators were arrested. Gawain Carew was not put on trial: after spending a month in Exeter gaol he was brought on 3 Mar. to the Tower where he remained for another ten. In September a true bill was found against him at Exeter, but on 17 Jan. 1555 he was released on surety of £500; on 22 May he obtained an order staying proceedings against him in the King’s bench, two weeks later he was allowed a short visit to Devon to set his affairs in order, and in July he was pardoned. He was not to play any further part in public life until the accession of Elizabeth.10

Carew lived to be over 80. By the will which he made on 11 Oct. 1582 he asked to be buried in Exeter cathedral (where a monument was later erected) and appointed the 2nd Earl of Bedford overseer. He left his lands, after the death of his widow and executrix, to his kinsman George Carew of Laughline, Ireland. The will was proved on 30 June 1585.11

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. C219/18B/159.
  • 2. C219/282/2; Hatfield 207.
  • 3. Aged 40 ’or thereabout‘ on 24 Jan. 1543, City of London RO, Guildhall, jnl. 15, f. 3v. Vis. Devon, ed. Colby, 40-41; Mill Stephenson, Mon. Brasses, 93; Mar. Lic. London (Harl. Soc. xxv), 8; PCC 34 Brudenell; LP Hen. VIII, xx.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, iv, xiv, xx, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, p. 82; 1550-3, pp. 141, 391; 1553, pp. 317, 351, 361, 414; 1560-3, p. 435; APC, vii. 34; J. Hoker, The description of the citie of Excester (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. xi), 584-97; E315/224, f. 429.
  • 5. C142/30/88; LP Hen. VIII, iv.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, v, xi, xiii, xv, xx.
  • 7. Ibid. xviii-xxi; R. Davey, The Nine Days’ Queen, 84.
  • 8. APC, i. 114; CJ, i. 11.
  • 9. Hoker, 59, 63, 83, 91; Holinshed, Chron. iii. 940; M. L. Bush, Govt. Pol. Somerset, 90; Bath mss. Thynne pprs. 2, ff. 121-2v; W. K. Jordan, Edw. VI, i. 460 seq.; CPR, 1549-51, pp. 340, 345; E315/244, f. 429.
  • 10. LP Hen. VIII, xviii; APC, iv. 403; v. 90, 131, 142; Foxe, Acts and Mons. vi. 348; CPR, 1554-5, pp. 291-2; Machyn’s Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii), 80; D. M. Loades, Two Tudor Conspiracies, 35-44, 105-6, 125.
  • 11. PCC 34 Brudenell.