GORGES, Sir Ferdinando (c.1568-1647), of Plymouth, Devon; later of Ashton Phillips, Som.

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.1568, 2nd s. of Edward Gorges of Wraxall, Som. by Cecily, da. of William Lygon of Worcs. m. (1) 1589, Anne, da. of Edward Ball of Writtle, Essex; (2) Mary, da. of Thomas Fulford, wid. of Thomas Achim of Hall, Cornw.; (3) 1637, Elizabeth, da. of Tristram Gorges of St. Budeaux, Devon; (4) Elizabeth, da. of Hugh Smith, 2s. 2da. Kntd. 1591.

Offices Held

Capt. under Leicester in Netherlands 1587; served under Lord Henry Seymour against the Armada 1588; on Portugal expedition 1589; served under Essex in Normandy 1591; gov. Plymouth 1591; j.p. Devon from 1595, dep. lt. 1595; lt. gov. Brill 1594; capt. Plymouth fort 1595-1601, from 1603; member, Plymouth Co. 1606, New England Co. 1620; commr. Virginia 1623; gov. New England 1637; lord proprietor, Maine 1639.


Soldier, adventurer and colonial pioneer, Gorges came from an old Somerset family connected with the Queen by marriage through the Howards. His father, who died when Gorges was still a child, asked in his will that Sir George Norton and Nicholas Gorges, a relative at court, would be ‘friends and aiders to my little children’. He left Ferdinando a gold chain, £100 and the manor of Bircum, Somerset. By 1591 Gorges was a follower of the 2nd Earl of Essex, who knighted him in the Normandy campaign, and who returned him for Cardigan Boroughs in 1593. He was appointed to a Commons committee on the poor law, 12 Mar. In August 1596 he reported to Burghley from Plymouth on the spoils brought in from Cadiz, but his application for the post of vice-admiral of Devon was unsuccessful, possibly because of his close connexion with Essex. When, restless in Plymouth, Gorges wished to accompany Essex to Ireland, this too was vetoed. Following the Essex revolt of 1601 Gorges was imprisoned in the Gatehouse. He gave evidence against his patron, and was finally released. Gorges played a part in the early colonisation of New England.

His declining years were spent at Ashton Phillips, the home of his fourth wife. He died in 1647.

Except where otherwise stated this biography is based upon R. Gorges, Fam. through Eleven Cents. Other sources are: DNB; Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xi), 42; Clifton Antiq. Club, iv. 241; CSP Dom.1581-90, p. 542; 1591-4, pp. 52, 331-2; Plymouth Recs. 21; G. L. Beer, Origins Bristol Col. System, 308, 322; PCC 17 Babington; HMC Bath, v. 281; A. L. Rowse, Elizabethans and America, 90-2; Cam. Misc.i(4), p. 68; D’Ewes, 499; Lansd. 149, f. 31; J. P. Baxter, Ferdinando Gorges, i. 58; C. M. Andrews, Col. Period Amer. Hist. i. 89-92; Som. Arch. and Nat. Hist. Soc. xiii. 52, 57, 58, 61.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: H.G.O.