GAWEN, Walter (-d.1633), of Imber, Wilts.

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



Family and Education

2nd s. of John Gawen (d. 20 Nov 1585)1 of Tichborne, Hants, and Norrington, Wilts., and his 1st w. Prothase, da. of Walter Seymour of Imber.2 m. Elizabeth, 1da.3 d. by Apr. 1633.4

Offices Held


Gawen was descended from a Catholic family which had been settled at Norrington, Wiltshire, since at least the early sixteenth century. One of his cousins became a nun in France, while another was repeatedly cited for recusancy.5 However, Gawen himself seems to have conformed to the Church of England. He had already reached his majority by the time of his father’s death in 1585, when he inherited the manor house and 620 acres at Imber, an estate originally derived from his maternal grandfather.6 In 1610 the property was rated at £4 for the subsidy.7

Gawen was returned for Heytesbury, less than five miles from Imber, in 1604, presumably with the backing of the borough’s main patron, Sir John Thynne* of Longleat. Before 1602 Gawen had been granted an annuity of £30 charged on the estate of Sir Walter Ralegh†, the brother of Thynne’s step-father, (Sir) Carew Ralegh*, but no more substantial link between the two men has been established.8 Gawen was appointed to consider a bill for preserving timber and preventing coppices being converted to pasture (28 Apr. 1604), to which Thynne was also named. When this measure was later rejected as unfit to pass, Gawen was commanded by the committee to bring in a new bill to limit the use of wood in the manufacture of glass (4 May 1604).9 His other bill committee appointments concerned measures to remove benefit of clergy from cattle rustlers (4 Apr. 1604); to protect the interests of spinners and weavers (24 Feb. 1606); to restrict the export of undressed cloth (24 Feb. 1606); to enable the sale of the Wiltshire lands of the debtor Thomas Mompesson (1 Apr. 1606); to incorporate the London Pinners’ Company (1 Apr. 1606); to ensure the better execution of penal laws (5 Apr. 1606); to prevent the waste of wheat by turning it into starch (26 Feb. 1607); to encourage husbandry (4 Mar. 1607); and to restrict clerical pluralism (19 Feb. 1610).10 His first two speeches were made in the second session, directed against proposed compositions for purveyance. On 5 Mar. 1606 Robert Bowyer* observed that Gawen’s opposition was ‘with good conceits, himself being a plain man’. Six days later, Gawen argued that the size of the king’s debts, estimated by the government at £770,000, took no account of the subsidies and fifteenths which had been granted to Queen Elizabeth, ‘whereby the debt ought to be so much the less’, and he cautioned that ‘whereas it is moved we should fill the king’s coffers, it would be likewise understood whether they will be filled, for if the bottoms be out then can they not be filled’.11

Gawen spoke again at the second reading of a bill to relieve imprisoned debtors on 27 Mar. 1606. He warned that if the bill passed many would ‘lie in prison and live one year on the alms basket: and afterwards when they are confined to reside within five miles they will remain in London, and their work shall be to stir up suits and to solicit against them at whose suits they were imprisoned’. His objection was clearly based on painful experience, for he went on, ‘myself have been so used therefore I pray you either pass not the bill or confine the parties five miles from London’.12 His only other recorded contributions were in the debate on supply and the Great Contract on 13 July 1610. He favoured offering the crown £180,000 annually by way of ‘support’ in return for the surrender of its feudal rights, and a week later suggested that this sum might be met by a county composition, with Wiltshire’s rate being set at £2,000 a year.13

Re-elected to sit again for Heytesbury in 1614, Gawen is not recorded as having made any contribution to the work of the House during the brief Addled Parliament. Little has been ascertained of his later years. In 1626 he settled his property on his daughter at her marriage; he was dead by 1633 when an inquisition of his estate was taken.14

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Henry Lancaster


  • 1. C142/206/16; PROB 11/73, f. 23v.
  • 2. The Gen. n.s. xii. 89-90; R.C. Hoare, Wilts. (Chalke Hundred), 84-5.
  • 3. Hoare, Wilts. (Heytesbury Hundred), 165.
  • 4. Wilts. IPMs eds. G.S. and A.E. Fry (Brit. Rec. Soc. xxiii), 258.
  • 5. Wilts. RO, 490/2; HMC Hatfield, xvii. 231; H. Foley, Recs. of Eng. Province of Soc. of Jesus, v. 468-9; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 345.
  • 6. Wilts. RO, A1/100, f. 146; PROB 11/73, f. 23v.
  • 7. E179/199/387.
  • 8. SP14/58/78.
  • 9. CJ, i. 189b, 198a.
  • 10. Ibid. 273a, 291b, 294a, 342b, 347b, 396b, 954b.
  • 11. Ibid. 278a, Bowyer Diary, 77.
  • 12. CJ, i. 290b; Bowyer Diary, 94.
  • 13. CJ, i. 449a; ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 27v.
  • 14. Wilts. IPMs, 258.