GORGES, Thomas (1536-1610), of Longford, Wilts.

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. 1536, 5th s. of Sir Edward Gorges of Wraxall, Som. and bro. of Nicholas. m. c.1580, Helena, da. of Ulf Henrikson von Snakenborg of East Gothland, Sweden, wid. of William Parr, 1st Mq. of Northampton, 4s. 3da. Kntd. 1586.1

Offices Held

Groom of privy chamber c.1570; gent. usher and gent. of the Queen’s robes; keeper of Hurst castle in reversion 2 Sept. 1570, keeper by 1589; clerk for issue of subpoenas in Chancery 1575-1607; j.p. Hunts., Wilts. from 1579; ambassador in Sweden 1582; v.-adm. Devon by 1587; keeper, Guildford park 1592-1607, of Richmond House 1597, of Sheen; dep. lt. Wilts. 1608.2


Gorges was returned to Parliament once only, for the borough of Downton, near to his seat at Longford. He made no known contribution to the business of the House. His family was established at Wraxall, Somerset, and at Knighton, Hampshire as early as the fourteenth century. Edmund Spenser, in the dedication to Daphnaida finds the name of Gorges

to be of great antiquity in the realm; and such as have ever borne themselves with honourable reputation to the world, and unspotted loyalty to their Prince and country.

Nothing is known of Thomas Gorges before he became a servant of the Queen apart from a rumour that in early life he served with distinction in Ireland. He established himself in Wiltshire sometime after 1573, when he bought the manor of Longford—the ‘Castle of Amphialeus’ in Sidney’s Arcadia—from John Webb of Salisbury. As far as can be ascertained, Gorges’ duties at court were those of high grade messenger. By his own account, he served in the privy chamber for 31 years, receiving £60 p.a., lodging and diet for himself and three servants, gifts, perquisites and offices. He was fortunate in the extreme that his marriage brought him only a short period of imprisonment, for his wife was the first lady of the Queen’s bedchamber and her marriage was in the Queen’s hands. She had come to England with Princess Cecilia, Margravine of Baden, daughter of King Eric of Sweden, and the Queen had been present at her marriage with the Marquess of Northampton, who died in 1571. She received many marks of royal favour, and, by right of dower, had lands in Huntingdonshire worth £400 p.a. In 1574 she was granted the Huntingdonshire manor of Hemingford Grey, and also received Ashley in Malmesbury hundred, Wiltshire. Gorges’s seat of Longford was not good enough for her and she persuaded him to rebuild until he was almost ruined, though his finances recovered through his perquisites as a courtier. Some of the sums he was dealing with were vast. As vice-admiral, for example, he was in charge of the distribution of prizes on behalf of the Queen. In 1587 he made an inventory of prizes taken by Drake valued at over £100,000. In 1595 he was associated with the preparations for an expedition by Drake and Hawkins, but to their evident relief, as he plainly saw, he did not accompany them. In 1602 he was in charge of making an inventory of a great carrack which was brought into Plymouth. Another lucrative office was that of issuing subpoenas in Chancery. The extortions of his deputies were condemned by Egerton’s commission of inquiry in 1598.3

Gorges died on 30 Mar. 1610, possessed of extensive estates: in Wiltshire, the manors of Longford, Newcote, Hemington, Grimsted and Ashley and property in Salisbury; in Huntingdonshire, the manors of St. Ives, Hemingford Abbots, Hemingford Grey and Houghton. Other property included the manor of Stoke-sub-Hamdon and lands in Banwell, Somerset, the manors of Ilfracombe and West Aishford, Devon and the manors of Milford Bane and Milford Mountague, Hampshire. His London house was in White Friars and he possessed property in Marylebone and Tottenham. He was buried in Salisbury cathedral. In his will, made 15 Mar. and proved 7 June 1610, he dealt liberally with his wife, relatives and servants, including his gentlemen yeomen. His best friends, (Sir) William Killigrew and (Sir) Edward Phillips, were remembered, and his ‘loving old servant’ Sir Richard Grobham. He bequeathed £50 to Salisbury and £30 to Downton to be lent out to industrious persons or to provide stock to keep the poor at work. The gaols at Fisherton and Salisbury received £5 apiece. He was succeeded by his son and heir, Sir Edward.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: W.J.J.


  • 1. CP, ix. 679; R. Gorges, Fam. through Eleven Cents. 86-99; J. M. J. Fletcher, Gorges Monument in Salisbury Cathedral.
  • 2. HMC Hatfield, xv. 375-6; CPR, 1569-72, p. 54; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 640; 1595-7, p. 490; Add. 1580-1625, p. 500; PRO Index 16774, f. 21; HMC 7th Rep. 650, 688-9; PCC 64 Wingfield; VCH Wilts. v. 82.
  • 3. VCH Hants, v. 181, 183; Collinson, Som. iii. 157; Hoare, Wilts. Cawden, 26-9; HMC Hatfield, xii. 30, 226, 261-3, 273, 280, 281-2, 293; xv. 375-6; xviii. 231; VCH Hants. ii. 218, 311; J. Aubrey and J. E. Jackson, Wilts. Colls. 270; E. K. Chambers, Eliz. Stage, iv. 86; VCH Wilts. v. 188 n; HMC 2nd Rep. 82; Biog Britannia, vi. 4142; APC, xiii. 5; xiv. 211, 212, 239; xv. 142, 220; vxi. 39, 131, 184, 185, 189; xxi. 424; xxii, 37, 38, 44; xxiv. 212; xxv. 487-8; xxvi. 186, 275-6, 488-9; CPR, 1569-72, p. 54; Nicholl, Progresses Eliz. ii. 90; HMC 7th Rep. 519, 645; CSP Dom. 1581-90, pp. 428, 640; 1591-4, p. 132; 1595-7, pp. 73, 88-9, 90-1, 282; 1601-3, pp. 4, 208, 226; Add. 1580-1625, p. 462; W. J. Jones 'Eliz. Chancery' (London Univ. PhD thesis 1958), 1542-3.
  • 4. HMC Hatfield, xv. 375-6; PCC 64 Wingfield; VCH Hunts. ii. 218, 311; VCH Hants, v. 111, 117, 123.