GAWDY, Bassingbourne II (1560-1606), of West Harling, Norf.

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. 1560, 1st s. of Bassingbourne Gawdy I of West Harling by his 1st w. Anne, and bro. of Philip. educ. I. Temple 1578. m. (1) Anne (d.1594), da. of Sir Charles Framlingham of Crow’s Hall, Debenham, Suff., 3s.; (2) Dorothy, da. of Nicholas Bacon of Redgrave, 2s. 3da. suc. fa. 1590. Kntd. 1597.

Offices Held

J.p. Norf. by 1591, q. 1596, sheriff 1593-4, 1601-2, commr. musters 1599, dep. lt. 1605.


As a young man, Gawdy became involved in the faction fights of Elizabethan Norfolk. His father had risen to importance at the expense of the Lovells, and Gawdy renewed a quarrel with Thomas Lovell of East Harling, the dispute extending to rivalry over county offices and religion. Gawdy and the Bacons supported the puritan faction when Lovell, a conservative, joined with the unpopular Sir Arthur Heveningham. In 1591 the puritans complained to Gawdy that Lovell had tried to prevent the appointment of a ‘precisian’ in religion as subsidy collector. This subsidy dispute in turn exacerbated a struggle between the two men over the musters, Lovell consistently refusing to send his men to serve in Gawdy’s company. A reorganisation of 1596 gave each a company of his own, but this arrangement was rescinded in 1599, when Gawdy became a commissioner for musters. Relations became so strained that Lovell was summoned before the Privy Council, who reminded him that Gawdy was ‘an especial honest and good commonwealth’s man’. Heveningham had supported Lovell over the musters, and it is therefore not surprising to find Gawdy backing Edward Flowerdew, who was carrying on a personal vendetta against Heveningham. These factions were reflected in the last two Elizabethan elections for knights of the shire. Up to 1597 no Gawdy had achieved a county seat, Gawdy himself having been content to be returned for Thetford, where his family had influence, and where his brother Philip had been returned in 1589. No doubt he could have had a Thetford seat again in 1597 had he wished: during the period since the 1593 election he had helped the mayor over a lawsuit and received a letter of thanks from the town. Instead he promoted Philip’s candidature at Thetford and that of his cousin Henry Gawdy and (Sir) John Townshend for the county seats. Sir Arthur Heveningham intended to stand, but did not risk an actual contest.

In the summer of 1600, when a new Parliament was expected, Gawdy aimed for the shire, canvassing the local landowners himself, while Philip canvassed in London. An unwise decision to pair with Sir Robert Mansell might have cost Gawdy the seat, as Nathaniel Bacon warned him. In November 1600 a dispute over the appointment of the sheriff weakened Heveningham’s position, and Richard Jenkinson, Henry Gawdy’s son-in-law, was picked instead. This strengthened the Gawdy faction so much that their opponents withdrew and Bassingbourne was returned, not with Mansell (with whom he was still paired three days before the election), but with Henry Gawdy, who took the junior seat.

Gawdy is not mentioned by name in the Elizabethan parliamentary journals. The burgesses for Thetford were included in a committee concerning cloth and kerseys (23 Mar. 1593), and in 1601 his position as knight for Norfolk made him eligible to attend committees concerning the reform of the penal laws (2 Nov.), the order of parliamentary business (3 Nov.), monopolies (23 Nov.), the payment of tithes in Norwich (27 Nov.) and the reform of the abuses of the clerk of the market (2 Dec.).

Throughout his adult life Gawdy kept up a regular correspondence with Philip, who was always ready to further his elder brother’s career. One of his letters, after Bassingbourne had been made sheriff for the first time, assured him that ‘my lord keeper’s aid and her Majesty’s own liking and commendation’ had been factors in the choice. Other useful friends were the Earl of Sussex and (Sir) Edward Coke, who in 1594 agreed to hold the assizes at Thetford for Gawdy’s convenience. Gawdy died 17 May 1606 and was buried at West Harling. By his will, signed on the day of his death, his son Framlingham, then 16, received a rich inheritance. Gawdy’s moveable goods, presumably including his 5,000 sheep, were valued at £2,312 3s.11d., and in addition he had acquired the Suffolk lands of Sir Charles Framlingham, his first wife’s father, and his own father’s lands near West Harling, including Bardwell Hall itself, which had at least 26 bedrooms and two galleries as well as the usual chambers and outhouses. Gawdy’s brother-in-law Edmund Bacon, and his uncle Anthony Gawdy, were to sell the manor of Brettenham to pay his debts and divide the surplus among his four younger children. The executors were Framlingham and Anthony Gawdy.

Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 126; Norf. Arch. xxvii. 354-6; A. H. Smith thesis, 103, 120-46; HMC 7th Rep. 522; HMC Gawdy, 73; D’Ewes, 507, 622, 624, 649, 654, 663; Neale, Commons, 58-60; Letters of Philip Gawdy (Roxburghe Club), 142 et passim; Add. 36989, f. 11; PCC 30 Huddleston.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.H.


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.