GAGE, John (by 1537-98), of Firle, Suss.

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. by 1537, 1st s. of Sir Edward Gage of Firle, by Elizabeth, da. of John Parker of Willingdon. educ. ?L. Inn. m. (1) settlement 28 May 1559, Margaret, da. of Sir Roger Copley of Gatton, Surr. and Roughey, Suss., s.p.; (2) by 1581, Elizabeth, da. of John Shelley of Michelgrove, Suss., wid. of (Sir) Thomas Guildford (d. June 1575), of Hemsted, Kent, 6da. suc. fa. 26 Dec. 1567.1

Offices Held


It was as well for him that John Gage sat in the last Parliament of Mary’s reign, for the Catholicism which he shared with his whole family was to debar him from any public service thereafter. He was joined in the House by his cousin Thomas Parker II. Nothing is known about Gage’s part in Parliament, but it was perhaps his meeting there with Thomas Copley that led to his marriage to Copley’s sister, a niece of (Sir) Richard Shelley, prior of the order of St. John of Jerusalem. On inheriting his extensive patrimony Gage was charged by his father with the upbringing of his younger brothers ‘in learning and virtue and in the fear and love of God and of his Catholic church’, but he was to have little opportunity of fulfilling this duty in person. He spent several years abroad with his wife and his brother-in-law Thomas Copley: he was an executor of Copley’s will and adopted his daughter Margaret, who later married Gage’s nephew John Gage of Haling, Surrey.2

After his return to England early in 1576 Gage was soon in trouble for his faith. In August 1580 he was committed to the Fleet with William Shelley for ‘obstinacy’ in popery, while his brother Edward languished in the Marshalsea. He procured his own release on bonds, but was confined to a house in London, with occasional visits to Sussex but also recurrent spells in close custody. In Armada year he was removed with many others to the bishop’s palace at Ely, and after a sojourn at Leyton in Essex he was brought back there in 1590 when another Spanish invasion was rumoured. Only in 1593, when weakened by illness, was he allowed to go to Firle, and three years later it cost him 20s. a day to have a London doctor certify that he could not obey a summons to wait upon the Council. In 1592 his servant Henry Collins had been committed to the Marshalsea for plotting to kill the Queen.3

Gage was also heavily mulcted in fines and obliged to part with some of his lands to pay them. That the estate none the less bore much the same aspect on his death as it had on his succession was probably due to his second fortunate marriage, to a lady whose name indicates an (undiscovered) relationship to his first wife. All the same, when he made his will in January 1596 Gage instructed his executors to pay all his debts, ‘which are great and many by reason of my troubles’. Neither of his marriages had produced sons, and his heir was his nine year-old nephew John, son of Thomas Gage of Firle. Family legacies included £1,500 each to the younger John Gage’s two sisters and £200 each to five other nieces, whose marriages were to be arranged by Gage’s brother-in-law (Sir) Edward Stradling. The executors were Henry Guildford, Edward Gage of Bentley, Ralph Hare of Bolney and Francis Eyerman, and the overseer Anthony Browne I, Viscount Montagu. Gage died on 10 Oct. 1598 and was buried in West Firle church beside his two wives beneath a monument erected under his own supervision and carved by the eminent sculptor Gerard Johnson.4

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: R. J.W. Swales


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/152/144. Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 8, 22; Surr. Arch. Colls. xi. 153-5; Barbican House, Lewes, Gage mss 8/13, 21/40.
  • 2. Gage ms 21/40; C142/152/144; F. Skeet, Angmering, 42-43; SP15/23, f. 24; 24, ff. 14-17, 171; CSP For. 1575-7, p. 21; Surr. Arch. Colls. xi. 164, 166, 171; Strype, Annals, ii(2), 22.
  • 3. R. B. Manning, Rel. and Soc. in Eliz. Suss. 136, 138; APC, xii. 150, 153; xiii. 94, 148-9; xviii. 415; xxiv. 229; xxv. 208, 234, 294; CSP Dom. 1591-4, pp. 21, 282; Cath. Rec. Soc. xxii. 128.
  • 4. Manning, 139, 143, 155; Cal. Assize Recs. Suss. Indictments Eliz. I, ed. Cockburn, 1224; Gage mss 7/12, 22; 8/13; 19/28; 35/16, 19, 20, 25; 43/36; SP12/189/54, 231/115; PCC 43 Kidd; Suss. N. and Q. ii. 176; C142/257/88; Nairn and Pevsner, Suss. 623.