GATES, Sir Henry (c.1515-89), of Seamer, Yorks.; Kilburn, Mdx.; Kew, Surr. and Havering, Essex.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

b. c.1515, 3rd s. of Geoffrey Gates (d.1526) by Elizabeth, da. of Sir William Clopton; bro. of Sir John. m. (1) by 1544, Lucy (d.1577), da. of Charles Knyvet, 4s. inc. Edward 4da.; (2) by Dec. 1584, Katherine, da. of Watkin Vaughan of Bredwardine, wid. of James Boyle of Hereford. Kntd. 1547.2

Offices Held

Gent pens. by June 1546; j.p. Suff. and Essex 1547-53; gent usher of privy chamber by June 1551-3; comptroller of petty customs in port of London by 1551-3; receiver, duchy of Cornwall 1552-3; member, council in the north 1558-d.; j.p. Yorks. (N. Riding) from c.1559, (E. Riding) from c.1561, (W. Riding) from c.1569, co. Dur. from c.1561; custos rot. N. Riding 1562; v.-adm. Yorks. by 1565-74; dep. constable and steward of Pickering Lythe (duchy of Lancaster) by 1565; rider of Pickering 1568-79; gov. Scarborough castle c.1570; j.p. Cumb. from c.1569, Northumb. and Westmld. from c.1573.3


Gates originally established himself as an important figure in the south and west of England, where he acquired numerous grants of land and offices. His fortunes were bound to those of his brother, John, captain of the guard to Edward VI, an associate of the Duke of Northumberland and a supporter of Lady Jane Grey. In consequence, he was tried and attainted on the accession of Queen Mary, but escaped execution. On 21 Nov. 1553 he was pardoned and granted his forfeited goods and chattels and some property. In June 1558, together with Thomas Dalton, he received leases of land near Hull and elsewhere in the East Riding of Yorkshire.4

Gates found a seat at the last minute in the 1559 Parliament for Bramber, no doubt through the influence of the 4th Duke of Norfolk. Gates and his brother John had earlier jointly represented New Shoreham, another Sussex borough under Howard control. After being restored in blood during the 1559 Parliament, Gates was granted ex-monastic land at Seamer and elsewhere. He purchased more land in 1564 and completed his Yorkshire estate by buying the manor of Levisham and the forestership of Blakey Moor in 1587. Although he was a member of the council in the north, for which he received an annual fee of £20, Gates was never required to give continual attendance. After a heated dispute he and John Vaughan I succeeded in securing the dismissal from the council of Sir John Constable. In 1564 he wrote to Cecil asking not to be pricked as sheriff.5

The northern rebellion caught the Queen’s representatives unprepared. Gates, Sir Thomas Gargrave and John Vaughan were urgently summoned to attend on the Earl of Sussex. Reaching his house between 5 and 6 a.m. on 8 Oct. 1569 they found the Earl ‘in his nightgown, bare-legged’, after a sleepless night. At this conference it was decided to defend Pontefract castle, Hull and York. In the following months Gates, Gargrave and Vaughan gave constant advice to Sussex in his handling of the crisis. Gates indeed had been pricked as sheriff, but had to be discharged on 16 Nov. 1569 because of illness. By December he had recovered sufficiently to take active measures against the rebels, garrisoning Scarborough castle with his men from Pickering Lythe. Together with Sir Marmaduke Constable and Barwick, master of the Ordnance, he advanced with 600 men and field artillery to occupy Hartlepool, which had been abandoned by the rebels. Gates, with 300 archers and billmen, remained in the town asking that he be supplied with shot in case a defence should prove necessary. The contingency did not arise and he moved to Richmond to begin the examination of captured rebels. Almost immediately however, he was called on to replace Vaughan as messenger to Murray, the Regent of Scotland. Joined by the marshal of Berwick, he journeyed to Edinburgh and then on to Stirling. On 19 Jan. Gates handed over the Queen’s message and exhorted the Regent to deliver up the Earl of Northumberland and other rebels. The mission was, however, disrupted by the Regent’s murder. On his return Gates was entrusted with the delivery of £3,000 to York, for which task he was well rewarded.6

After his loyal service it was hardly surprising that Sir Thomas Gargrave regarded him as a man of ‘weight and knowledge in the law’, whose continued work on the council would be especially valuable if he were regularly attendant at York. Gates considered himself worthy of some reward and detailed a list of lands and leases which would be acceptable, beseeching Cecil and Mildmay to remember his suit to the Queen, else he would be forgotten and ‘run on the rock’. In the end he acquired the lease of a rectory and land at Elvington, Newton and Sutton-upon-Derwent.7

For the remainder of his life Gates continued to be active in the north—sometimes without cause. He had ceased to be vice-admiral in 1574 and had to be ordered by the Privy Council to stop meddling in mercantile matters. Shortly after the rebellion he helped to survey the castle and forts at Hull and in 1583 served on a commission which reported on the state of lands and possessions granted by Edward VI to the mayor and burgesses of the town. Much of his attention was given to Scarborough. In 1584 he was consulted about the repair of a jetty, and in 1587 he urged the Privy Council to re-arm the castle, claiming that his 17 years’ service as governor entitled him to some consideration. In this letter Gates spoke of the ‘unsettled affections of divers of the inhabitants’. Four years earlier he had solicited his relative, Walsingham, to procure a grant of the custody of the castle for his son and heir Edward, in place of Sir Richard Cholmely, deceased. Despite his influence Gates was at loggerheads with the corporation of the borough from 1573 onwards. He had been instrumental in reviving a market at Seamer, three miles from Scarborough, under a lapsed charter of 1383. Gates and the Seamer men contended that Scarborough ought to attend to fishing and overseas merchandise and leave the home market alone. After much litigation the dispute was referred to the 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, but Gates died before any decision could be taken.8

For many years, except during these quarrels with the town authorities, the Gates family dominated the parliamentary representation of Scarborough. Gates himself sat for the borough in 1563 and 1572, and was twice knight of the shire. His only recorded activity in his first two Elizabethan Parliaments is his membership of committees concerned with Marian bishops deprived after the accession of Elizabeth (18 Feb. 1559) and the succession question (31 Oct. 1566). In his remaining three Parliaments however he was appointed to over 30 committees. He is not known to have been active in debate. On 6 Apr. 1571 he was named to a committee to consider William Strickland’s proposals for the reform of the book of common prayer. He was a member of the committee which reported to the House on 21 Apr. their Lordships’ request ‘that as the season of the year waxed very hot and dangerous for sickness ... the House would spend time in proceeding with necessary bills for the commonwealth and lay aside all private bills in the meantime’. He was appointed to the subsequent committee on 26 Apr. to determine which bills ‘shall be first proceeded in, and preferred before the residue, but not to reject any’. Other activity in 1571 included a conference with the archbishop of Canterbury on matters of religion (25 Apr.), and attendance at committees concerning the maintenance of the navy (21, 25 May) and the river Lea (26 May).

In the Parliament of 1572 he was extremely active. During the first session he attended committees concerned with Mary Queen of Scots (12, 28 May), fraudulent conveyances (16 May), private bills (21, 22 May) and the poor law (22 May). In 1576 his committee work included topics such as the petition for ports (13 Feb.), the suppression of double double beer and ale (17 Feb.), sheriffs (18 Feb.), the butlerage and prizage of wines (21 Feb.), fraudulent conveyances made by the northern rebels (25 Feb.), church reform (29 Feb.), unlawful weapons (2 Mar.), justices of the Queen’s forests (8 Mar.), benefit of clergy (12 Mar.), wharves and quays (13 Mar.) and Lord Stourton’s bill (13 Mar.). In the last session of this Parliament he was appointed to a committee to investigate the Arthur Hall case (4 Feb. 1581); he was also one of those appointed to examine all the returns for the session (24 Feb.). He was named to the subsidy committee (25 Jan.), and others concerning slanderous words and practices (1 Feb.), the Scottish border (25 Feb.), Carlisle (27 Feb.) and the preservation of the Queen’s honour (14 Mar.). As first knight for Yorkshire in the Parliament of 1586 he was eligible to attend the subsidy committee (22 Feb. 1587), and he was named to two committees on 4 Nov. 1586 concerning privilege and Mary Queen of Scots.9

He died 7 Apr. 1589. The will, made 20 Dec. 1588 and proved 12 May 1589, deals with small matters but suggests wealth. Bequests included an annuity of £5 to his friend and legal adviser John Savile I, and £10 to be divided between his two nephews Geoffrey Gates and Anthony Gates. Provision was made for his servants and £10 given to the poor of Seamer. To his ‘approved good friend’ Mistress Blanche Parry, the Queen’s gentlewoman and a relative by marriage, he gave a ‘little ring with a turkey stone in it’, and to the Earl of Huntingdon, his supervisor, a standing cup of silver. His son and heir Edward was appointed executor.10

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: W.J.J.


  • 1. Loseley mss. box I no. 6.
  • 2. VCH Yorks, N.R. ii. 488; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 215; Dugdale, Vis. Yorks. ed. Clay, iii. 311; Coll. Top et Gen. i. 396-7; Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. xcvi. 20-3.
  • 3. Stowe 571, ff. 6-7, 11, 30; CSP For. 1558-9, p. 55; CPR, 1560-3, pp. 436, 437, 445; APC, vii. 231; viii. 343; CSP Dom. Add. 1547-65, p. 568; Add. 1580-1625, p. 231; Somerville, Duchy, i. 536.
  • 4. Stowe 571, ff. 51, 56; CPR, 1550-3, pp. 237, 386; 1553, pp. 99, 101; 1553-4, p. 55; 1555-7; passim; 1557-8, pp. 288-9; APC, iv. 425.
  • 5. CJ, i. 55; EHR, xxiii. 670; CPR, 1560-3, p. 11; Surtees Soc. cxxi. 140-2; Dugdale, loc. cit.; VCH Yorks. N.R. ii. 431-2, 451; HMC Bath, ii. 19; Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 71; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 321; Add. 1566-79, pp. 61, 464.
  • 6. CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, pp. 91, 93, 95, 96, 109-10, 146, 154, 157, 168, 182-3, 206, 210, 291; HMC Hatfield, i. 462.
  • 7. CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, pp. 266, 267, 291, 424, 428, 463; J. J. Cartwright, Chapters of Yorks. Hist. 19; Surtees Soc. loc. cit.
  • 8. APC, viii. 343; CSP Dom. 1581-90, pp. 169, 173; Add. 1566-79, p. 512; Add. 1580-1625, pp. 96, 231, 343; A. Rowntree, Hist. Scarborough, 222-4; VCH Yorks. N.R. ii. 484.
  • 9. CJ, i. 55, 83, 85, 86, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 103, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 112, 114, 115, 119, 121, 122, 129, 134; D’Ewes, 48, 127, 157, 178, 179, 181, 187, 189, 206, 207, 212, 213, 219, 225, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 255, 259, 262, 288, 291, 300, 301, 306, 393, 394, 395, 409.
  • 10. Surtees Soc. loc. cit.