GOURNEY, Thomas (-d.1625), of Dartmouth, Devon

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

1st s. of John Gourney of Dartmouth, chandler and Thomazin, da. of Richard Smith of Milton, Devon. m. (1) 9 Apr. 1592, Juliana (bur. 21 Oct. 1613), da. of John Gould of Totnes, Devon, 1da.; (2) lic. 9 Feb. 1614, Grace (bur. 1 Jan. 1660), da. of William Bodley of Dunscomb, Devon and wid. of one Ellecott of Exeter, Devon, 2s. 2da. suc. fa. 1600 or 1603. bur. 19 July 1625.1 sig. Tho[mas] Gourney.

Offices Held

Recvr. Dartmouth 1598-9,2 alderman by 1604,3 mayor 1604-5, 1614-15, 1621-2.4


Gourney’s grandfather and namesake sat for Dartmouth in three Elizabethan Parliaments. Although not accounted one of the borough’s wealthiest residents, judging from his typical subsidy assessment of £5, Gourney was a successful merchant and brewer, featuring regularly in the corporation accounts from 1603 as the supplier of wine for important occasions.5 During his first mayoralty he was briefly imprisoned by Devon’s vice admiral, Sir Richard Hawkins*, who was seeking to enforce his authority over the port of Dartmouth. Unbowed by this treatment, however, Gourney sued Hawkins in Star Chamber for wrongful arrest.6

Elected to represent Dartmouth in the first Jacobean Parliament, Gourney left barely any trace on its records. He is not known to have spoken in the Commons, and received just one committee appointment, to consider the bill to prevent the subdivision of tenements (15 May 1607).7 This issue was of particular concern to Dartmouth’s corporation, which during his mayoralty had agreed a new bye-law against the disorderly ‘taking of under-tenants’. Nevertheless, he made good use of these visits to London. Following the first session he remained in the capital with William Nyell*, Dartmouth’s town clerk, to negotiate a new borough charter. His accounts for this exercise show that he advanced over £130. Similarly, during the 1605-6 session he delivered a petition to lord treasurer Dorset (Thomas Sackville†), requesting the enforcement of an annuity of £40 due to the town from the local customs farmers. He is known to have received parliamentary wages in 1606 and 1610.8

In early 1614 Gourney signed a letter from the corporation, rejecting the earl of Northampton’s request to nominate a candidate in the forthcoming parliamentary election. He was himself then re-elected, but left no mark on the Commons’ records.9 During his second mayoralty the corporation made a certificate of losses suffered by the port at the hands of North African corsairs.10 Gourney may well have been directly affected, for he was actively engaged by now in the typical Dartmouth trade of exporting Newfoundland fish to France and Spain. As the owner of three ships he contributed substantially in 1619 towards the cost of the fleet that was shortly thereafter sent against Tunis and Algiers.11 In the following year, he confirmed his status as a gentleman by entering his pedigree with the heralds during their visitation of Devon. He died, apparently intestate, in July 1625, and was buried at St. Saviour’s, Dartmouth. No further members of the family are known to have sat in Parliament.12

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: George Yerby / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 433; Devon RO, St. Saviour’s, Dartmouth par. reg.
  • 2. Devon RO, DD 61619.
  • 3. HMC Hatfield, xvi. 128.
  • 4. Dartmouth Corporation, Provisional List of Mayors.
  • 5. HP Commons, 1558-1603, ii. 210; Devon RO, DD 61621, 61650, 61730.
  • 6. STAC 8/154/19.
  • 7. CJ, i. 374a.
  • 8. Devon RO, DD 61666; DD 61708; DD 67913; DD 61461, f. 129; J.J. Alexander, ‘Dartmouth as a Parliamentary Borough’, Reps. and Trans. Devon Assoc. xliii. 352.
  • 9. Devon RO, SM1989, f. 34.
  • 10. Western Antiquary, ii. 185.
  • 11. E190/942/12; Devon RO, DD 61979, 61981, 62038, 62056; Early Stuart Mariners and Shipping ed. T. Gray (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. n.s. xxxiii), 103-4.
  • 12. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 433; Devon RO, St. Saviour’s, Dartmouth par. reg.