GERARD, Gilbert (1587-1670), of Flambards, Harrow-on-the-Hill, Mdx.

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



1640 (Apr.)
1640 (Nov.)

Family and Education

b. Dec. 1587,1 1st s. of William Gerard† of Flambards and Dorothy, da. of Anthony Radcliffe, Merchant Taylor, of London. educ. ?Harrow sch.; G. Inn 1592, ancient 1610;2 Trin. Coll. Camb. 1602. m. c.1614, Mary (bur. 4 May 1666), da. of Sir Francis Barrington* of Barrington Hall, Hatfield Broad Oak, Essex, 9s. 7da. (at least 1 d.v.p.).3 suc. fa. 1609; cr. bt. 13 Apr. 1620. d. 6 Jan. 1670.

Offices Held

Clerk of the Council, duchy of Lancaster 1609-40, chan. 1648-9, Mar.-July 1660;4 commr. treaty payments to Scots 1641;5 treas.-at-war 1642-5;6 member, Navy cttee. 1642,7 cttee. of safety 1642;8 commr. W. Indies plantations by 1642-at least 1643;9 commr. plundered ministers 1642;10 treas. (jt) London loans 1643;11 member, Council of War 1643,12 cttee. of Both Kingdoms 1644-8;13 cttee. excise 1645;14 trustee, Elector Palatine 1645; commr. abuses in heraldry 1646,15 exclusion from sacrament 1646, compounding 1647, indemnity 1647-9,16 disbanding the Army 1647,17 managing assessment 1647, scandalous offences 1648,18 Army 1648,19 trade 1655-7; treas. relief of Piedmontese Protestants 1655; commr. statutes, Durham Coll. 1656,20 appeals, sale of forest lands 1657;21 member, Council of State Feb.-May 1660;22 gent. privy chamber June 1660-d.; commr. maimed soldiers Dec. 1660-1.23

J.p. Mdx. 1615-21,24 1624-6, 1629-36,25 1641-2,26 1652-?3,27 1656-d.,28 ?Westminster 1660-d.; commr. subsidy, Mdx. 1621, 1624-5;29 commr. sewers, Coln valley 1624,30 Blackwall and Limehouse 1653, Mdx. and Westminster Aug. 1660; dep. lt. Mdx. 1624;31 sheriff, Bucks. 1626-7; commr. oyer and terminer, Mdx. 1636,32 1641-4, 1653-4, 1660-5,33 London 1644-5,34 disarm recusants 1641, assessment Mdx. 1641,35 1643-4, Mdx. and Westminster 1645-8,36 Aug. 1660-d., Bucks. 1644, 1647-8,37 Westminster Mar. 1660, sequestration, Mdx. 1643, levying money (jt.), Mdx. and Westminster 1643, vols. Mdx. 1644,38 maintenance of the Army 1644, execution of ordinances, Bucks. 1644, defence, Mdx. 1644, New Model ordinance 1645, Westminster Abbey 1645, regulate Oxf. Univ. 1647,39 militia, Bucks. 1648, Mdx. 1648, Mar. 1660, Tower Hamlets 1648, Mar. 1660, Westminster, Mar. 1660.40

Dep. gov. Providence Is. Co. 1634-5.41


Gerard’s medieval forebears lived at Ince, Lancashire. His paternal grandfather was William Gerard†, younger brother of the Elizabethan master of the Rolls and duchy of Lancaster official Sir Gilbert Gerard†, who headed the main branch of the family. In 1552 William bought a small estate in Harrow-on-the-Hill from his employer, Lord North, who remained the lord of the manor. He added to this Middlesex property in 1564 when he purchased lands in Harrow, Greenford and Southall, and by 1566 he was living in the mansion house known as Flambards.42 His eldest son, also named William†, inherited the estate and was employed by his uncle Sir Gilbert in the duchy of Lancaster, holding the office of clerk of the Council from 1589 until his death in 1609. It seems likely that Gerard, William’s eldest son, was educated at Harrow School, where his great-uncle was a governor. Certainly, as the registers of Caius College Cambridge reveal, three of Gerard’s uncles and at least one of his brothers were schooled there.43 Gerard’s admission to Gray’s Inn on 3 Aug. 1592, when he was still only four, was undoubtedly arranged by William, who was a barrister there, but he probably did not enter the inn until after he had completed his education at Trinity College, Cambridge.

William secured the reversion to his clerkship for his son in September 1606, by which time Gerard was nearly 19.44 He conducted his official business from a room he had built above his chambers at his own expense, and obtained the agreement of Gray’s Inn to bestow this same room on his son after his death.45 Gerard duly succeeded to the clerkship in 1609, but inherited only a third of his father’s estate.46 The lion’s share of William’s property was left to other members of the family, although the lands bestowed on William’s brother Felix eventually came into Gerard’s possession on Felix’s death in 1636.47 Despite this modest inheritance, Gerard soon acquired additional property, for as a result of his marriage in about 1614 to Mary, the daughter of Sir Francis Barrington* of Hatfield Broad Oak, Essex, he obtained the Buckinghamshire manor of Aston Clinton.48 Apart from producing a close political alliance with the Barringtons, this marriage produced no less than 16 children, of whom only one is known to have died in infancy, a remarkable survival rate which may have owed something to the fact that Flambards enjoyed access to piped water.49 Gerard was returned to Parliament for the first time in 1614, when he sat for Wigan, a constituency which his father, grandfather and great-uncle had all represented. He spoke only once, on 14 May, when he complained about the under-sheriff of Cambridgeshire’s false election return. Although the offence carried with it a statutory fine of £100 and one year’s imprisonment, Gerard considered that this was no consolation to Cambridgeshire’s freeholders, who ‘have now none to serve in Parliament for them’. This assertion was immediately contradicted by Thomas Richardson*, counsel for Sir John Cutts* and Thomas Chicheley*, who claimed that, although the return was indeed false, the election remained valid.50

In December 1620 Gerard, who had recently purchased a baronetcy, was sufficiently prominent to be returned as a knight of the shire for Middlesex. Before sitting he asked Sir Robert Cotton* to lend him a journal of former parliamentary proceedings, ‘to enable myself to do the king and my country the best service I could ... my country having made choice of me to be a Member of the House far besides my expectation’.51 Nevertheless, he played little recorded part in the proceedings of the third Jacobean Parliament, being named to just one conference and nine committees. In his only speech, on 25 Apr., he supported Sir Dudley Digges’s claim that many magistrates were unworthy to sit on the bench by saying that he wanted ‘to have no justice of peace in Middlesex [who] is not a freeholder’.52 Gerard’s concern to restrict membership of the bench to those who were worthy of the honour proved to be ironic, because before the Parliament ended he himself was removed from both the commission of the peace and the subsidy commission for lessening his subsidy assessment without the authorization of his fellow commissioners.53

In the following year Gerard and his father-in-law were summoned before the Privy Council to explain why they had not contributed to the Palatine Benevolence, and as a result Gerard was persuaded to part with £50.54 Gerard’s opposition to the Benevolence may have helped his chances of re-election for Middlesex in 1624, although he himself was so unsure of his support in the county that he also stood at Newtown in the Isle of Wight, a constituency controlled by the Barringtons. He need not have worried, as he ‘carried away the first place’ in the Middlesex election from three other candidates, ‘though he were not present at first nor last’.55 Among those he defeated was the duke of Buckingham’s client, Sir John Hippisley†. Gerard’s assessment of his own chances in the Middlesex election was evidently not shared by the Privy Council, which was concerned that if he stood the privy councillor Sir John Suckling* might be defeated. Three weeks before the election the Council restored Gerard to the bench, presumably in the hope of persuading him to abandon his candidacy. In the event, the Council, like Gerard himself, need not have worried, as Suckling took the first seat.

As in the previous two parliaments in which he had sat, Gerard made little recorded impression on the Commons’ proceedings. On 23 Feb. he was appointed to the committee for privileges (23 Feb.), the first time he had been accorded this honour, and three days later he plumped for Middlesex, having also been returned for Newtown. He made no recorded speeches, and although named to 18 committees and three joint conferences with the Lords his attendance may have been rather poor, for in at least two cases he failed to attend a single meeting. One of his committee appointments clearly interested his constituents, as it concerned the purveyance of carts for the use of the royal Household (8 March). Another dealt with the lands of Sir Thomas Cheke*, who was related by marriage to Gerard’s father-in-law Sir Francis Barrington (9 March). Barrington’s interests may also have lain behind Gerard’s appointment to the bill concerned with the estate of an Essex landowner on 30 April. On 16 Apr. Gerard was appointed to consider the bill for the finding of arms.56 Eight days later he was appointed a deputy lieutenant for Middlesex by the county’s lord lieutenant, the duke of Buckingham, who evidently bore him no ill feeling for having earlier defeated Hippisley.

In the following year Gerard fought another contested election for Middlesex, in which he and Sir John Franklin defeated Sir John Suckling.57 Once again he maintained a low profile in the House, being named to just one committee and one joint conference with the Lords. However, for the first time he publicly criticized the king, who had threatened to refuse the House the right to punish the Arminian Richard Montagu. On 2 Aug. he observed that when James I had promised to punish the privy councillor and Member for Berkshire, Sir Thomas Parry, for interfering in the Stockbridge election of 1614, ‘the House would not consent but put him out’.58 It was probably because of this speech that Gerard was named to the conference with the Lords on religion six days later. Gerard’s desire to have Montagu punished by the House is not surprising. He was clearly a puritan, as his marriage into the Barrington family and his nomination in 1621 to committees to prevent swearing (10 Mar.) and regulate inns and alehouses (24 Apr.) indicates.59 Further evidence of his religious persuasions is provided by his support for the puritan divine Richard Sibbes. In May 1625 Gerard persuaded the authorities at Gray’s Inn to allow Sibbes to occupy the upstairs chamber built by Gerard’s father when he came from Cambridge to preach.60 Like other founder members of the Providence Island Company, Gerard greatly admired Sibbes’s sermons.61

In 1626 Gerard was returned for Middlesex for a fourth time in a row. Once again he was named to the committee for privileges (9 February). Religion seems to have dominated his agenda from the outset. On 9 Feb. he and his father-in-law were appointed to the nine-strong committee for ensuring that every Member received communion. The following day Gerard and Barrington were both named to consider the problem posed by scandalous ministers. On 14 Feb. Gerard and Barrington were appointed to committees for bills to prevent corrupt presentations to benefices and preserve the rights of ecclesiastical patrons, and on 6 May both men were named to consider a measure concerning the requirement that all ministers of the church subscribe to the Canons of 1604.62 Concern for religion almost certainly brought Gerard into conflict with Buckingham, for on 23 Feb. he was named to the recusancy bill committee, which spent its time harassing the duke’s Catholic associates. By the end of the Parliament Buckingham certainly counted Gerard among his enemies, for in July Gerard who had helped present the Remonstrance against him on 5 Apr., was again dismissed from the commission of the peace.63

Although religion was Gerard’s prime concern during the 1626 Parliament, he also took an interest in other matters. On 23 Mar. he moved to fix a time for the committee for grievances to report its finding, ‘that we may present them to the king’, and on 2 May he participated in the debate over the poor relief bill.64 As a deputy lieutenant he was naturally appointed to committees concerned with finding arms (14 Mar.), making them serviceable (25 Mar.) and the provision of muster-masters (28 March).65 On 25 May he was appointed to examine Andrew Pitcairne’s patent for purveying poultry, a matter that undoubtedly interested his constituents, and also to help arrange and draft the grievances that were now ready to be presented to the king.66 Gerard was among those who favoured a late payment of the fourth and final subsidy that the Commons intended to vote the king.67

Following the dissolution, Gerard was included on a list of leading gentry who would be required to lend large sums to the Crown, which was drawn up later that year.68 Gerard sought to revenge himself for his removal from the bench by snubbing Buckingham in the following February when, as sheriff of Buckinghamshire, he failed to attend the duke at Aylesbury. On being demanded to explain his absence by the Privy Council, he reportedly declared that he had set out towards Aylesbury only to turn back after his coachman suddenly fell from his seat. Fearing that the coachman had contracted some contagious disease, he ‘thought it requisite to abstain coming into such company’.69

Gerard appears not to have stood for election to the 1628 Parliament. In a letter written in January 1629 he made it appear that he was indifferent to its affairs, as he referred the letter’s recipient, Lady Joan Barrington, ‘to the Parliament men’ for ‘Parliament news’.70 In fact, he obtained ‘a large folio book’ of the Parliament’s proceedings.71 Gerard’s reasons for not standing are unknown, but it may be significant that he paid his contribution to the Forced Loan,72 whereas at least one of the successful candidates, Sir Henry Spiller, may have earned popularity as a Loan defaulter. Although perhaps disappointed that he was not able to serve in the 1628 Parliament, Gerard took satisfaction from the news of Buckingham’s murder later that year, describing the duke’s assassin, John Felton, as ‘he that hath delivered us’.73

Over the next decade or so Gerard gave plenty of evidence of his wealth. In 1629 he was involved in building property on land owned by Gray’s Inn.74 Ten years later he claimed to have spent more than £3,000 ‘in the re-edifying and beautifying’ of Flambards.75 He was also able to afford to rent a town-house in St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate.76 Nevertheless, his finances were probably damaged by his membership of the Providence Island Company, in which he invested at least £100.77 As early as February 1632 he and the Company’s deputy governor, John Dike, unsuccessfully attempted to extricate themselves from its affairs by offering to sell their shares to the other members.78 Gerard was well placed to gauge the condition of the Company’s finances, for in the previous year he had been twice been called upon to audit its books.79 Having failed to quit the Company, Gerard tried instead to protect his investment. In May 1632 he informed his fellow adventurers ‘that from a friend of his he could procure for their use £1,500 upon reasonable interest’. The identity of this gullible friend is uncertain, but it was probably Sir William Cope*, who in Trinity term 1633 was the only one of the Company’s five creditors who was owed this much.80 Despite Gerard’s good offices the Company continued to lose money, and in February 1636 he was appointed to a committee to investigate the causes of its debts.81 However, by this time Gerard appears to have all but abandoned the Company, whose meetings he largely failed to attend.

The precarious finances of the Providence Island Company were not the only cause of concern to Gerard in the 1630s. In 1631 Harrow and Sudbury acquired a new lord of the manor in the form of George Pitt, the usher of Chancery. According to Pitt, Gerard, who had been involved in a dispute over rectorial rights with the previous lord of the manor, Lord North, not only laid claim to the parsonage, the chancel of St. Mary’s church and the tithe geese, but also went to Christ Church, Oxford to try to enforce his claim. At the same time Gerard allegedly locked Pitt out of his seat in the church.82 The dispute between the two men rapidly developed into a vicious feud, in part perhaps because of the religious differences between them, for while Gerard was a puritan it seems likely that Pitt, who erected altar rails at his own expense, was a Laudian.83 In October 1634 Pitt and a number of armed accomplices are said to have broken into the dwelling of one of Gerard’s sub-tenants.84 Gerard responded by allegedly stealing a large quantity of sand from Pitt’s estate, from which he proceeded to make bricks, ‘and, by underselling my brick at 6d. in the thousand, had the custom of the country’.85 Gerard naturally denied this charge, claiming that he had paid one of Pitt’s employees for the sand even though it was located on common land.86 However, Pitt brought an action against Gerard, who in turn ‘preferred a tedious bill in the duchy’, where he not only had the benefit of free counsel but also the fees arising from the documents which the case generated.87

Gerard’s feud with Pitt extended to the victimization of his enemy’s servants, in particular Pitt’s warrener. Although Gerard evidently hawked ‘all over the manor’,88 he fined the warrener £10 for shooting a woodcock and imprisoned him for providing bowls and selling beer to gentlemen on Whit-Monday. He also committed the warrener’s wife to the house of correction, ‘where by ill usage she miscarried’.89 The feud between Gerard and Pitt reached its climax in 1638, when Gerard sought to sabotage Pitt’s plans to extend the rabbit warren created by Lord North in 1608 by tearing down the newly built warrener’s lodging on the grounds that its erection breached the custom of the manor. Pitt retaliated by felling a row of mature elm trees in front of Flambards which acted as a wind-break, claiming that the custom of the manor entitled him to do so. This so enraged Gerard that he filed a suit in Star Chamber. However, his case ran into difficulties, for in May 1639 the court ruled that the custom of the manor could only be determined at Common Law.90 Before the matter could be decided Star Chamber was abolished, forcing Gerard to turn to the House of Lords instead. However, the Lords, too, required the custom of the manor to be determined at Common Law, and therefore the case was still unresolved in August 1641.91

Gerard was dismissed from the commission of the peace for a third time in 1636, probably because his Ship Money was in arrears.92 He resumed his Middlesex seat in the Short and Long Parliaments, and sided with Parliament during the Civil War. A Presbyterian, he was secluded at Pride’s Purge, and shortly afterwards he lost his office of chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. After sitting in the Convention Parliament for Lancaster in 1660 alongside his eldest sons Francis and Gilbert, he retired from public life and died at Flambards on 6 Jan. 1670.93 He was succeeded by Francis, who acted as his sole executor. In his will of 1668 he bequeathed £100 for a scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford, and a further £100 to the poor of Harrow.94

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. C142/308/156.
  • 2. PBG Inn, i. 188.
  • 3. Mdx. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lxv), 19-20; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 343; D. Lysons, Environs of London, ii. 578. Fourteen of Gerard’s children are named in Regs. St. Mary’s Church, Harrow-on-the-Hill ed. W. O. Hewlett, i. pt. 1, pp. 175, 185, 190, 194, 199, 204, 213, 225, 230, 238, 246, 252, 259, 274; pt. 2, p. 162. Two more are noted in Barrington Letters ed. A. Searle (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xxviii), 223-5.
  • 4. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 2-3, 29.
  • 5. SR, v. 123.
  • 6. A. and O. i. 20, 818.
  • 7. CJ, ii. 728a.
  • 8. Fairfax Corresp. ed. R. Bell, i. 23.
  • 9. CSP Col. 1574-1660, p. 324; A. and O. i. 331.
  • 10. CJ, ii. 909a.
  • 11. A. and O. i. 144.
  • 12. CJ, iii. 191b.
  • 13. A. and O. i. 382, 437.
  • 14. CJ, iv. 107a.
  • 15. A. and O. i. 785, 839.
  • 16. Ibid. 853, 914, 937.
  • 17. CJ, v. 192b.
  • 18. A. and O. i. 1016, 1209.
  • 19. CJ, vi. 83b.
  • 20. CSP Dom. 1655-6, pp. 1, 218; 1655, pp. 182, 196-7.
  • 21. A. and O. ii. 1122.
  • 22. Ibid. 1418.
  • 23. HP Commons 1660-90, ii. 393.
  • 24. C231/4, f. 3v; APC, 1621-3, p. 52.
  • 25. C231/4, ff. 160, 208, 265v.
  • 26. C231/5, pp. 449, 533.
  • 27. C193/13/4.
  • 28. C193/13/6, f. 55; C193/13/7, f. 65v.
  • 29. APC, 1621-3, p. 52; E115/100/52.
  • 30. C181/3, f. 116.
  • 31. C231/4, f. 164.
  • 32. C181/5, f. 57v.
  • 33. C181/7, pp. 3, 67, 122.
  • 34. C181/5, ff. 230, 265.
  • 35. SR, v. 153.
  • 36. A. and O. i. 93, 636, 961, 970, 1078, 1087.
  • 37. Ibid. 536, 542, 961, 970, 1078, 1087.
  • 38. Ibid. 114, 199, 232, 383.
  • 39. Ibid. 400, 456, 556, 622, 804, 927.
  • 40. Ibid. i. 1177, 1234, 1239, 1246; ii. 1435-7.
  • 41. CSP Col. 1574-1660, pp. 178, 206. It seems likely that the Sir Gilbert Gerard who was dep. gov. of the Somers Is. Co. in 1665, 1667 and 1669 was the son of this Member: see H.C. Wilkinson, Adventurers of Bermuda (2nd edn.), 398.
  • 42. VCH Mdx. iv. 209.
  • 43. Harrow Sch. Reg. 1571-1800 ed. W.T.J. Gun, pp. vii, viii, 10. The claim that Gerard’s father (born about 1551) was educated at Harrow is false; the school was not founded until 1571: HP Commons 1558-1603, iii. 188.
  • 44. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders, 29.
  • 45. PBG Inn, i. 170-1.
  • 46. PROB 11/114, f. 314v.
  • 47. PROB 11/173, f. 264r-v; Hewlett, i. pt. 2, p. 167.
  • 48. VCH Bucks. ii. 313.
  • 49. VCH Mdx. iv. 210.
  • 50. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 240.
  • 51. Cott. Julius C.III, f. 176.
  • 52. CJ, i. 590b.
  • 53. APC, 1621-3, p. 52.
  • 54. SP14/127/82; SP14/156/14.
  • 55. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 543.
  • 56. CJ, i. 671b, 674a, 680a, 694b; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 204, 206.
  • 57. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 614.
  • 58. Procs. 1625, pp. 379, 382.
  • 59. CJ, i. 548b, 590a.
  • 60. PBG Inn, 268; W. Prest, Inns of Ct. and Chancery, 207.
  • 61. Barrington Letters, 202.
  • 62. CJ, i. 817b, 819a, b, 856a.
  • 63. Ibid. 824a, 444a; R. Cust, Forced Loan, 189.
  • 64. Procs. 1626, ii. 349; iii. 126.
  • 65. CJ, i. 836a, 841a, 842b.
  • 66. Ibid. 864b, 865a.
  • 67. Procs. 1626, iii. 147.
  • 68. E401/2586, p. 459.
  • 69. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 197; APC, 1627, pp. 53-4.
  • 70. Ibid. 50.
  • 71. CD 1628, i. 7.
  • 72. Birch, i. 197.
  • 73. Barrington Letters, 36.
  • 74. PBG Inn, 286.
  • 75. LMA, Acc. 76/791.
  • 76. Inhabitants of London ed. T.C. Dale, 69.
  • 77. CO124/2, p. 1. Each member of the Co. was required to increase his stake to at least £500, but it is not known whether Gerard did so.
  • 78. Ibid. 52-3.
  • 79. Ibid. 13, 29.
  • 80. Ibid. 59, 177.
  • 81. Ibid. 246.
  • 82. LMA, Acc. 76/826, 828.
  • 83. VCH Mdx. iv. 254-5.
  • 84. LMA, Acc. 76/791. For Pitt’s side of this story, see Acc. 76/832(b).
  • 85. LMA, Acc. 76/827.
  • 86. DL1/339, unnumb. item, petition by Gerard, 6 June 1634; DL1/340, unnumb. item, replication by Gerard, 24 Nov. 1634.
  • 87. LMA, Acc. 76/826; SP46/63, f. 56 (mis-calendared).
  • 88. LMA, Acc. 76/829.
  • 89. LMA, Acc. 76/826.
  • 90. LMA, Acc. 76/793.
  • 91. LMA, Acc. 76/780, 781, 786, 799, 800, 804; HMC 4th Rep. 72, 90-2, 98.
  • 92. CSP Dom. 1636-7, p. 155.
  • 93. Smyth’s Obit. ed. H. Ellis (Cam. Soc. xliv), 85.
  • 94. PROB 11/332, ff. 287v-8.