GWYN, Rice (c.1554-1629), of Bodfeddan, Anglesey; Snoring Parva and Baron's Hill, nr. Fakenham, Norf. and the Inner Temple; later of Serjeants' Inn, Fleet Street, London

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

b. c.1554,1 s. of John ap Rhys Wynn of Bodynchem, Anglesey and his 1st w. Margaret, da. of William Wood of Tal-y-llin, Llanbeulan, Anglesey.2 educ. Clifford’s Inn; I. Temple 1582, called 1591.3 m. bef. 1589, Mary, da. of Edward Thorsby of Doreward’s Hall, Bocking, Essex, 1s. 1da.4 d. Dec. 1629.

Offices Held

J.p. Norf. 1601-d.,5 Thetford, Norf. 1604-29,6 Gt. Yarmouth, Norf. 1611-25;7 commr. oyer and terminer, Norwich, Norf. 1607-d.,8 subsidy, Norwich and Thetford 1608,9 Norf., Gt. Yarmouth, Norwich and Thetford 1621, 1624, 1628,10 aid, Norf. 1609,11 sewers, Norwich 1611, 1621, gaol delivery 1618, swans, Norf. 1619,12 charitable uses 1629.13

Auditor treas. accts. I. Temple 1603-4, steward’s accts. 1604-5, 1613-14, bencher 1605-23, Lent reader 1606, treas. 1616-17;14 recorder, Thetford 1610-d., Gt. Yarmouth 1610-25, Norwich 1612-d.;15 sjt.-at-law 1623-d.16


Gwyn was the son of John Gwyn, Sheriff of Anglesey in 1542 and 1577, and grandson of Rice Gwyn, who reputedly led 300 men to fight for Henry Tudor at Bosworth and for his services became sheriff of Anglesey for life.17 Gwyn’s early links with Norfolk are unknown, but he achieved sufficient local standing to be added to the commission of the peace in 1601. Three years later he also became a magistrate at Thetford, a borough some distance from his residence of Little Snoring and Baron’s Hill, suggesting that he may have been the town’s legal counsel.18 In 1610 he became recorder at both Thetford and Great Yarmouth, and two years afterwards was appointed to the same office in Norwich. He resigned as Yarmouth’s Recorder in 1625, recommending Miles Corbet* in his place as ‘young in years’ but ‘of great discretion’.19

Apart from acting as legal counsel in Norfolk, Gwyn was active in the administration of the Inner Temple. He occupied various minor offices before being appointed Lent reader in 1606, and ten years later served as treasurer. His status was such that his son, Rice, was admitted by a special decree in 1611.20 In 1619 Gwyn was involved in discussions on how best to supply the Temple with water, either by restoring the old spring within the grounds or negotiating with Hugh Myddelton* to install lead pipes and bring up water from the New River head.21

In 1614 Gwyn, now aged 60, stood for election to Parliament at both Thetford and Norwich. He failed dismally at Thetford, where he received only one vote, but gained the second seat at Norwich.22 Although this was his first Parliament, he was added to the committee for privileges on 9 April.23 He made three recorded speeches, all on the subject of impositions. On 6 May, after the House ordered that all records on impositions should be collected and brought in, Gwyn suggested ‘that there may be a short collection of the arguments and objections for and against impositions and a short relation of it in the House; that they of this House now [and] not [in] the last Parliament may first understand and then judge’.24 Ten days later Gwyn again asked for further clarification after a long debate on impositions, noting ‘that he was unsatisfied and yet is satisfied’.25 His third speech (18 May) showed that he had mastered the subject. Thomas Hitchcock had defended the king’s right to impose, citing the precedent of Marshal, an alnager.26 The judge in this case, Sir William Gascoigne, had declared that the king had the right to grant an individual the authority to collect an imposition, without the assent of the Commons, if the grant benefited the subject, as was normally the case with murage, pontage and passage. Gwyn replied that

in the case of pontage, where a man builds a bridge for the common good, the king might grant that party a pontage because it was for the profit and not for the hurt of the subject. That the book of 13 H[enry] IV is no more but that the king had such a custom; but whether the king had it given him by the town, that’s not known - neither does it make that the king did impose it.27

Gwyn was also appointed to two committees during the Parliament, one to enfranchise county Durham (31 May) and another to investigate the problem of legislating in respect of old debts (31 May).28

Gwyn, who was created a serjeant-at-law in 1623, drafted his will on 17 Dec. 1629, in which he complained that he was ‘subject to many infirmities’. He settled his manor of Fakenham on his son, Rice, on condition that his widow was to live at Fakenham for the remainder of her life. His grandson, also named Rice, was bequeathed his law books ‘if it please God to direct him to the study of the Common Law’. Gwyn left 40s. for the repair of Fakenham church, £4 to the poor of the town and 40s. annually for the next three years. He added that he was ‘ever minded to have increased [these amounts] to a greater sum but that I found them unruly and evil disposed people, not regarding me or anything I did or could do for them’. His remarks probably relate to a dispute between him and various malefactors in Fakenham, who had pulled down his enclosures.29 He died before 26 Dec. and his will was proved on 6 May 1630.30 A portrait of Gwyn, dated 1600, survives in a private collection at Fakenham.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Chris Kyle


  • 1. W. Rye, ‘Mantelpiece at Fakenham’, Norf. Arch. xiv. 341-2.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. I. Temple database of admiss.; W.R. Prest, Rise of the Barristers, 365.
  • 4. W. Rye, Norf. Fams. 282-3.
  • 5. A.H. Smith, County and Court, 364.
  • 6. C181/1, f. 103; 181/2, f. 155v; 181/3, f. 198; 181/4, f. 4.
  • 7. Norf. RO, Y/C18/1, ff. 100-7.
  • 8. C181/2, ff. 29, 349; 181/3, ff. 14, 241; 181/4, f. 7.
  • 9. SP14/31/1.
  • 10. C212/22/20, 23, W. Rye, Norf. State Pprs, 137.
  • 11. E179/283.
  • 12. C181/2, ff. 148v, 319v, 342v; 181/3, f. 41.
  • 13. C192/1.
  • 14. CITR, ii. 3, 6, 10, 22, 75, 98.
  • 15. Norf. Official Lists ed. H. L’Estrange, 127, 170, 235.
  • 16. Order of Sjts.-at-Law ed. J.H. Baker (Selden Soc. suppl. ser. v), 181.
  • 17. Rye, ‘Fakenham’, 342.
  • 18. C.J. Palmer, Hist. Gt. Yarmouth, 341.
  • 19. H. Manship, Hist. Gt. Yarmouth ed. C.J. Palmer, 372.
  • 20. CITR, 62.
  • 21. Ibid. 113-14.
  • 22. Norf. RO, T/C1/3, p. 38.
  • 23. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 41.
  • 24. Ibid. 166.
  • 25. Ibid. 262.
  • 26. Year Book, 13 Henry IV, Hilary, pl. 11.
  • 27. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 286.
  • 28. Ibid. 389, 391.
  • 29. Stowe 150, f. 186.
  • 30. PROB 11/157, f. 393v.