Gayer, John (d.1649) (DNB00)

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GAYER, Sir JOHN (d. 1649), lord mayor of London, belonging to a family originally seated at Liskeard, but afterwards at Trenbrace, in the parish of St. Keverne, Cornwall, was the eldest son of John Gayer (d. 1593), a merchant of Plymouth, Devonshire, by his wife, Margaret, daughter of Robert Trelawny of ‘Tidiver’ (Tideford), Cornwall (Vivian, Visitations of Cornwall, ed. 1887, p. 172; Visitation of London, 1633–5, Harl. Soc. i. 306; will of the elder John Gayer, P. C. C. 86, Nevill). He settled in London, and was admitted to the freedom of the city as a member of the Fishmongers' Company. He was prime warden of that company in 1638. A prominent director of the East India Company, he was frequently chosen to serve on their committees, and probably visited India (Cal. State Papers, Col. East Indies, 1625–1629). In 1626 he gave land to the Orphan Boys' Asylum at Plymouth, founded by Thomas and Nicholas Sherwell. With Abraham Colmer and Edmund Fowell he founded in 1630 a charity called the Hospital of the Poor's Portion in Plymouth (Lysons, Magna Britannia, vol. vi. pt. ii. pp. 404–5). Gayer was chosen sheriff of London 24 June 1635, and alderman of Aldgate ward 27 Oct. 1636 (Overall, Remembrancia, pp. 9–10). As sheriff he was active in enforcing the payment of ship-money. He also allowed many of the ships in which he had a share to be ‘taken up’ for the king's service, but in January 1636–7 requested the lords of the admiralty not to use this concession too frequently (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1635–7). On 3 Dec. 1641 he was knighted at Hampton Court (Metcalfe, A Book of Knights, p. 197). His name was removed from the committee for ordering the militia of the city of London, 21 Sept. 1642 (Lords' Journals, v. 366). He was one of the gentlemen called in by the commons, 24 Dec. 1642, and asked to lend 1,000l. upon the security of the public faith for the purpose of maintaining the army during negotiations for peace (Commons' Journals, ii. 901), but he refused. He was, however, elected lord mayor on 29 Sept. 1646. During his mayoralty the king was brought to Hampton Court. On 23 July 1647 parliament passed an ordinance for compulsory service in the militia, which caused such disturbances among the city apprentices that it was annulled on the 26th. The commons, however, acting on the report of the common council and committee of the militia, resolved on 24 Sept. to impeach Gayer and four aldermen of high treason for abetting the tumult (Commons' Journals, v. 315–16). They were committed next day to the Tower. Gayer protested in an ably written tract issued on 28 Sept., ‘Vox Civitatis, or the Cry of the City of London against the tyranny … of the … Army, with the Vindication of those five worthy Patriots of this City,’ &c. (anon.) On 29 Sept. he was ordered to deliver his ensigns of office to Alderman John Warner, who had been elected lord mayor in his place (ib. v. 318, 320). At the end of October the prisoners contrived to have printed and distributed a formal ‘declaration’ of their innocence, which appears to have been chiefly composed by Gayer. The articles of impeachment were not carried up to the lords until 13 March 1647–8 (ib. v. 494). On 15 April the lords ordered Gayer to be brought to the bar. In the interval he addressed a spirited protest to the lieutenant of the Tower, in which he demanded to be tried by a jury. He managed to have this letter published as ‘A Salva Libertate sent to Colonell Tichburn, Lieutenant of the Tower, on Monday, April 17, 1648. … Being occasioned by the receipt of a Paper sent unto him by the said Lieutenant wherein the said Lieut was seemingly authorised to carry him before the Lords on Wednesday next, being the 19th of April;’ the printed sheet contained an eloquent appeal to the reader, urging that Gayer was defending the liberties of all Englishmen. A man distributing the sheet was sent to Newgate charged with being concerned in a plot to rescue Gayer. Gayer refused to kneel at the bar as a ‘delinquent,’ and for this contempt was fined 500l. He demanded a jury without success. Counsel were ordered to be assigned to him, and he was recommitted to the Tower (Lords' Journals, x. 196, 201, 208, 219, 221). On 23 May the lord mayor (Warner) petitioned the lords for the unconditional release of the imprisoned aldermen (ib. x. 276, 278), and on 3 June the commons resolved to proceed no further upon the impeachment (Commons' Journals, v. 583, 584). Three days afterwards the prisoners were discharged (Lords' Journals, x. 307, 308). Gayer was removed from his office of alderman by order of the parliament on 7 April 1649 (Commons' Journals, vi. 181). The year before, on being elected president, he presented Christ's Hospital with 500l. He died on 20 July 1649. In his funeral sermon by Nathaniel Hardy at his burial in St. Catherine Cree Church on 14 Aug. following he is stated (p. 25) to have been over sixty. By his wife, Katharine, daughter of Sampson (not Samuel) Hopkins of Coventry, Warwickshire, who died before him, he left issue John, Robert, Katharine (‘now wife of Robert Abdy, marchant’), Mary, Sara, and Elizabeth. In his will, dated 19 Dec. 1648 (P. C. C. 133, Fairfax), he gave large bequests to numerous charities, including 500l. to Plymouth, and 200l. to the parish of St. Catherine Cree to provide for an annual sermon on 16 Oct. The story ran that he had once been lost in a desert, when a lion had passed without hurting him in consequence of his prayers and vows of charity. The sermon is therefore known as the ‘Lion Sermon.’ He gave 100l. to the Fishmongers' Company to provide for a yearly distribution to the poor of St. Peter's Hospital at Newington in Surrey, also 25l. in money to make ‘a faire guilt standing cupp with a cover,’ and his arms engraven thereon. What is said to be a good portrait of Gayer by Lely was in 1870 in the possession of Henry Godolphin Biggs of Stockton House, Wiltshire. A fine specimen of his autograph is preserved in the British Museum Addit. MS. 19399, vol. ii. 1646–1768, No. 171, f. 13.

[Smyth's Obituary (Camd. Soc.), p. 27, where Gayer's death is said to have occurred on 12 April 1649; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. x. 128, 175, 238, 251; Stow's Survey (Strype), bk. v. pp. 59, 144; A. E. Gayer's Memoirs of Family of Gayer, 1870; Hatton's New View of London, i. 182; Report of Charity Commissioners, 1830, xii. 197.]

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