ELWES, Sir Gervase, 1st Bt. (1628-1706), of Stoke College, Stoke by Clare, Suff.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



28 May 1677 - Jan. 1679
Mar. - July 1679
1680 - Jan. 1681
Mar. 1681
Mar. 1681
1690 - 1698
16 Feb. 1700 - 11 Apr. 1706

Family and Education

bap. 21 Aug. 1628, 1st s. of Sir Gervase Elwes, Merchant Taylor, of Blackfriars, London by Frances, da. of Sir Robert Lee of Billesley, Warws.; bro. of Sir John Elwes†.  educ. travelled abroad (Spain, Italy, France) 1646–51.  m. 2 Mar. 1652, Amy, da. and h. of William Trigge of Chiswick, Mdx., 6s. (5 d.v.p.) 5da.  suc. fa. 1652; cr. Bt. 22 June 1660.1

Offices Held

Prothonotary of c.p., duchy of Lancaster Aug. 1660–d.; steward, honor of Clare 1661–85, 1691–d.; freeman, Preston 1662, 1682.2


Elwes joined with Sir Samuel Barnardiston, 1st Bt.*, in the Suffolk election of 1690 and was returned on the Whig interest, ‘though with great protestations and much assurance of steadiness and firmness for the Church’. Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) listed him as a Whig. On 8 May he was appointed to the drafting committee for a bill to prevent the export of silver and gold. In the second session he was nominated to prepare bills to regulate King’s Bench and Fleet prisons (18 Oct.) and to prevent the export of wool (21 Oct.). He told on 1 Nov. in favour of allowing a hearing at the bar of the House to two men who had been charged with a breach of privilege against the Tory Thomas Christie. In a list of April 1691 Robert Harley* classed him as a doubtful Court supporter. He was a teller on 19 Feb. 1692 with Barnardiston, and probably on the Opposition side, on a motion to adjourn. In 1693 he was included in three lists of placemen, but in respect of the office of receiver-general of the duchy of Lancaster held by his brother Sir John Elwes. On 2 Jan. 1694 he was appointed to the drafting committee for the assize of bread, and at the end of that year (4 Dec.) was nominated to draft a bill on prisons and prisoners.3

Elwes was returned unopposed with Barnardiston at the 1695 election. He was forecast as likely to vote with the Court in the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696 on the proposed council of trade, signed the Association and on 17 Apr. was a teller against adjourning the report of Barnardiston’s garbling spices bill. He voted on 25 Nov. in favour of the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. Granted eight days’ leave of absence on 22 Dec., he was back in the House by 15 Jan. 1697, when he was named to the committee to prepare clauses to explain the Acts for recoinage and to prevent abuses being committed by receivers of public money. On 30 Mar. 1698 he was given another leave of absence.

At the 1698 election in Suffolk Elwes and Barnardiston were on opposite sides, the latter joining with an opposition Tory while Elwes put up as a Court supporter. Elwes and his partner were well beaten. Worse still, Elwes was even defeated by a local Tory in a by-election in his own borough of Sudbury in February 1699, and this after having ‘bribed . . . absolutely’, according to his opponents. They claimed that it was because he had been ‘very free of his money’ that he was ‘ashamed to appear’ and left it to his supporters to petition. The petition was dropped, however, when in the following year another vacancy arose at Sudbury and Elwes was able to secure the seat. Thereafter he gave up all pretensions to the county and was content to be returned for the borough, though not without a contest on each occasion. He was listed by Harley in December 1701 as a Whig. Forecast as likely to vote against the Tack, he did not vote for it on 28 Nov. On 24 Nov. 1704 he had been first-named to the drafting committee on the Stour navigation bill. He took responsibility for its parliamentary management, but the bill did not progress beyond committee. Despite being reported dead in June 1705, Elwes was returned again to the following Parliament, in a list of which he appeared as a ‘Churchman’. He voted for the Court candidate as Speaker on 25 Oct. 1705, and for the Court in proceedings on the regency bill on 18 Feb. 1706. He reintroduced his navigation bill on 29 Nov. 1705, again without success.4

Elwes died on 11 Apr. 1706 ‘at Stoke, about three in the morning’, and was buried there.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. VCH Northants. Fams. 66–69; Evelyn Diary, iii. 31, 38, 58.
  • 2. Somerville, Duchy of Lancaster Official Lists, 110, 123; Preston Guild Rolls (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. ix), 144, 185.
  • 3. Bodl. Tanner 27, f. 110; Somerville, 18–19.
  • 4. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 151; C. F. D. Sperling, Hodson’s Hist. Sudbury, 83–85; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 559, 562.
  • 5. Hervey Diary, 44.