CLIFTON, Gervase (1516-88), of Clifton, Hodsock and Wilford, Notts.

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



Family and Education

b. 26 Mar. 1516, 1st s. of Robert Clifton of Clifton by 2nd w. Anne, da. of Henry, 10th Lord Clifford. m. (1) 17 Jan. 1530, Mary (d. 10 Apr. 1564), da. of Sir John Neville II of Chevet, Yorks. and Mile End Stepney, Mdx., 3s. d.v.p. 2da.; (2) by Sept. 1565, Winifred, da. and h. of Sir William Thwaites of ‘Mallowtree’ (?Manningtree), Essex, wid. of Sir George Pierrepont of Holme Pierrepont, Notts., 1s. d.v.p. suc. fa. 3 Sept. 1517. Kntd. bet. Aug. 1540 and Feb. 1541.2

Offices Held

J.p. Notts. 1537-d., q. by 1564, Yorks. (W. Riding) 1538-47, northern circuit 1540; commr. musters, Notts. 1539, 1569, 1577, 1580, benevolence 1544/45, contribution 1546, chantries, Southwell 1546, 1548, Notts. and Derbys. 1548, relief, Notts., Yorks. (W. Riding) and Nottingham 1550, goods of churches and fraternities, Notts. and Nottingham 1553, subsidy, Notts. 1581; other commissions 1545-d.; sheriff, Notts. and Derbys. 1540-1, 1546-7, 1554-5, Notts. 1572-3; duchy of Lancaster steward, manor of Snaith, Yorks. June 1538-50; master of game, Conisbrough and Hatfield, Yorks. by 1553; collector for loan, Notts. 1562.3


A child of 17 months when his father died, Gervase Clifton became a ward of Wolsey and, after the cardinal’s fall, of the King, who sold the wardship to Sir John Neville. The inheritance, a group of manors in Nottinghamshire, with outliers in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, was then valued at £269 a year, and Neville paid £333 for the wardship. As Neville’s son-in-law and the 1st Earl of Cumberland’s nephew, Clifton had powerful patrons both at court and in the north, and his own claim to notice was strengthened by his part in suppressing the rebellion of 1536. Scarcely of age when brought on to the Nottinghamshire bench in 1537, he was correspondingly young at his election early in 1539 as first knight of the shire. He took the place of Sir John Markham, who as sheriff ought not to return himself but came in for Nottingham, and who must have been responsible for his choice. (As sheriff in 1547 Clifton was to reciprocate by returning Markham.) The dissolution of this Parliament was to be followed within a year by the disgrace and death of Clifton’s father-in-law, but his own position was enhanced—doubtless of set purpose—by the King’s visit to his home at Hodsock in the summer of 1541 during his first shrievalty, and the knighthood which either preceded or accompanied it.4

Clifton was to serve the crown in war and peace for nearly 40 years more. He was present at Boulogne in 1544, at Pinkie in 1547 and at Leith in 1560, and last took the field when he helped to defend Doncaster against the 1569 rebels; to his lifelong membership of the Nottinghamshire bench he added three further terms as sheriff of that county and Derbyshire, and a variety of other duties. Yet after perhaps being re-elected to the Parliament of 1542, for which the Nottinghamshire names are lost, he was not to reappear in the Commons. He may have felt better suited to action than to debate, although Elizabeth would not have called him ‘gentle Sir Gervase’ if he had been a swashbuckler, and by her time his religion was probably a deterrent. In 1564 the archbishop of York judged him ‘necessary for service’ but ‘in religion very cold’, and towards the end of his life his loyalty to his recusant wife was a cause of embarrassment. His friendship with successive earls of Rutland doubtless stood him in good stead.5

Clifton died on 20 Jan. 1588. In his will, made on the preceding 15 Oct., he bequeathed the manors of Carlton and Hodsock and all his other lands in that area to his wife, who was also to keep the jewelry and apparel then in her possession. His many charitable bequests included one of £13 6s.8d. for the poor in the parishes of Broughton, Clifton, Stanton and Wilford, another of the same amount for the poor in Blyth parish, and £6 apiece towards the repair of highways and the county gaol. He named as executors Francis Beaumont and John Harpur, who had married his stepdaughters, and his ‘trusty servant’ Gervase Neville, and as overseers his stepson Henry Pierrepont and (Sir) Anthony Thorold.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: C. J. Black


  • 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-21.
  • 2. Date of birth given at fa.’s i.p.m., E150/736/4. Vis. Notts. (Harl. Soc. iv), 17-18; Thoroton, Notts. ed. Throsby, i. 112, 114-115; C142/216/22.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xii-xvii, xx, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 75, 77, 92, 416; 1548-9, p. 137; 1550-3, pp. 141, 395; 1553, pp. 353, 357, 362, 415-16; 1553-4, pp. 22, 29; 1554-5, pp. 109, 110; 1560-3, p. 440; 1563-6, pp. 25, 42; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 332, 342, 650; HMC Rutland, i. 112, 124, 126; Trans. Thoroton Soc. xv. 157; Somerville, Duchy, i. 523; Stowe 571, f. 69v; Osborn coll. Yale Univ. Lib. 71.6.41.
  • 4. E150/736/4; Wards 9/129/126; LP Hen. VIII, ii, xi, xii, xvi; Index 10217(1), f. 9v.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, xix; Trans. Thoroton Soc. xv. 162; xxxvii. 35; CSP Scot. i. 387, 393, 441; HMC Hatfield, i. 444; iv. 52; v. 276; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 72; HMC Rutland, i. 166, 214, 233; HMC Middleton, 418, 456.
  • 6. C142/216/22; York wills 23, f. 686; Pevsner, Notts. 50.