GAWDY, Sir Bassingbourne (1560-1606), of Bardwell Hall, West Harling, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



1604 - 17 May 1606

Family and Education

b. 1560, 1st s. of Bassingbourne Gawdy† of West Harling and his 1st w. Anne, da. of John Wootton of Tuddenham, Norf.; bro. of Philip†. educ. Clifford’s Inn; I. Temple 1578.1 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 and Culford, Suff., 2s. 3da.2 suc. fa. 1590;3 kntd. 1597.4 d. 17 May 1606.5 sig. bassingborne gaudy.

Offices Held

Capt. militia ft., Norf. 1588,6 lt.-col. ft. 1599,7 dep. lt. 1605-d.;8 j.p. Norf. by 1591, Thetford 1603-d.;9 sheriff, Norf. 1593-4, 1601-2;10 commr. subsidy, Norf. 1596, 1598-1603,11 musters 1599,12 lic. passage overseas 1599,13 oyer and terminer, Norf., Suff., Cambs., Hunts., Beds., Bucks. 1601-d.,14 piracy, Norf. 1602, 1604,15 sewers 1604, Fenland 1605, Norf. and Suff. 1605.16

Master of game to Thomas Howard, 21st earl of Arundel, Norf. 1603-d.17


The Gawdy family traced its ancestry to a French knight named Sir Brews Gawdy, who settled in England after being captured during the Hundred Years War.18 The main family originally resided in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, but a junior branch was established in Norfolk in the fifteenth century. The family rose to prominence under the later Tudors, when three of the sons of Thomas Gawdy of Harleston all achieved senior legal positions. The family was inevitably drawn into Court circles, and their enhanced local status saw them conclude various marriage alliances with old East Anglian gentry families, such as the Cokes of Holkham and Bacons of Harleston.19

The West Harling branch of the family was founded by Gawdy’s father, Bassingbourne. As one of Norfolk’s more godly Protestant magistrates, the elder Gawdy was in constant conflict with his neighbours, the pro-Catholic Lovell and Heveningham families, a feud continued by his son after his death.20 In 1591, Thomas Lovell’s attempt to block the appointment of a precisian as a subsidy collector was thwarted through the Court influence of Gawdy’s younger brother, Philip, and the opposition of the Bacons and Sir Edward Coke*. In this dispute Gawdy may also have benefited from the patronage of the 2nd earl of Essex, for in June 1591 Gawdy appointed Essex’s chaplain, Master Greenwood, minister of West Harling after Essex wrote that he had heard ‘very well’ of Gawdy’s ‘good disposition to honest and godly ministers’.21 Gawdy’s Court contacts included not only Essex but also the earls of Kent and Sussex.22 Moreover, when Gawdy was pricked as sheriff in 1593, he was informed that it was through ‘my lord keeper’s (Sir John Puckering†) aid and Her Majesty’s special own liking and commendation’. Gawdy was also beholden to the lord admiral, the earl of Nottingham (Charles Howard I†), and the lord chamberlain, Henry Carey†, 1st Baron Hunsdon.23

Gawdy remained in close contact with Essex during the late 1590s. In 1599 he sent the earl two geldings as a present, and in reply received a letter of thanks and an offer of future assistance.24 Nevertheless, Gawdy was not involved in the earl’s rebellion in 1601, and thus remained in favour with Sir Edward Coke, receiving an invitation to the wedding of Coke’s daughter in 1602.25 He soon found new patrons in the form of the Howards. Appointed master of the game to the earl of Arundel in 1603, he was made a deputy lieutenant by Henry Howard, earl of Northampton two years later.26

Gawdy sat in the Commons twice under Elizabeth, and on the second occasion, in 1601, had served as senior knight for Norfolk. In 1604, however, he was content to let his cousin Sir Nathaniel Bacon take the county seat, while he himself served for Thetford, the borough he had represented in 1593. In the opening session of James’s first Parliament, Gawdy was named to two legislative committees, both of which interested him. The measure to assure the manors of the late Christopher Le Grys (15 May) concerned lands around Thetford, while the bill to restore Lord William Howard (15 May) involved the family of his new patron the earl of Northampton.27 While at Westminster, Gawdy received a letter from Sir Edmund Moundeford* requesting a copy of the ‘statutes as are to be debated upon this present Parliament’.28

Gawdy made strenuous attempts to be spared from contributing £40 to the 1604 Privy Seal loan, possibly even to the extent of seeking to become collector of the Loan in Norfolk.29 In the second session of Parliament (1605-6), Gawdy again concentrated on local issues, being appointed to the Thetford school bill (23 Jan.) and the measure for the maintenance of Norwich ministers (13 February).30 His other legislative committee was for a bill to naturalize Sir David Foulis (18 April).31 Ill health probably forced Gawdy to leave Westminster shortly afterwards, as he died at West Harling on 17 May 1606. In his will, dated on the day he died, he left the majority of his goods and property to his eldest son, Framlingham*, who inherited the lands at West Harling as well as other manors and lands in Norfolk and Suffolk. Gawdy’s executors, his uncle Anthony Gawdy and his brother-in-law Edmund Bacon, were instructed to sell Brettenham manor to pay his debts.32 An inventory of Gawdy’s goods reveals that Framlingham inherited 5,480 sheep worth £1,390 and Bardwell Hall itself, which contained 26 bedrooms.33 Framlingham continued the family tradition of representing Thetford in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Chris Kyle


  • 1. HMC 7th Rep. 518; I. Temple Admiss.
  • 2. P. Millican, ‘Gawdys of Norf. and Suff.’, Norf. Arch. xxvi. 350-4; Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 126.
  • 3. Norf. RO, West Harling par. reg.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 94.
  • 5. C142/293/9.
  • 6. HMC Gawdy, 30.
  • 7. Norf. RO, WLS XVII/1, bk. 2, f. 10.
  • 8. Norf. RO, PHI/583.
  • 9. C181/1, ff. 66, 103.
  • 10. Norf. Official Lists ed. H. L’Estrange, 20.
  • 11. Norf. RO, WLS XVII/1, bk.1, ff. 22v-3, 27v-8; bk.2, ff. 41v, 168v.
  • 12. Ibid. bk.1, f. 1v.
  • 13. Ibid. bk.2, ff. 12-14.
  • 14. Ibid. bk.2, f. 56; C181/1, ff. 16, 30, 38, 52, 76v, 96, 116.
  • 15. C181/1, ff. 21, 76v.
  • 16. Ibid. ff. 78, 112v, 125.
  • 17. Add. 64868, ff. 66-7.
  • 18. Millican, 336; J. Barnes, Hist. Edward III, 651.
  • 19. Millican, passim.
  • 20. HMC Gawdy, passim.
  • 21. Norf. RO, WLS XVII/1, bk. 1, f. 11.
  • 22. Ibid. ff. 11v, 13v.
  • 23. HMC 7th Rep. 522.
  • 24. Norf. RO, WLS XVII/1, bk. 2, ff. 6v-7.
  • 25. Ibid. ff. 82v-3.
  • 26. Add. 64868, ff. 66-7; Norf. RO, PHI/583.
  • 27. CJ, i. 210b, 211a.
  • 28. HMC Gawdy, 92.
  • 29. Ibid. 94-7.
  • 30. CJ, i. 259a, 267b.
  • 31. Ibid. 300a.
  • 32. PROB 11/109, f. 227.
  • 33. Add. Ch. 16549.