Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gawdy, Thomas

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GAWDY, Sir THOMAS (d. 1589), judge, is said by Blomefield (Norfolk, ed. Parkin, x. 115) to have been the son of John Gawdy of Harleston, Norfolk, by Rose, his second wife, daughter of Thomas Bennet, with which the pedigrees in the Harleian MSS. agree, except that they give Thomas as the christian name of the father. The minute in the Inner Temple register of the admission of the judge to that society also describes him as ‘son of Thomas Gawdy, senior.’ This Thomas Gawdy, senior, was identified by Foss with a certain barrister of that name, who was appointed reader at the Inner Temple in Lent 1548; was called to the degree of serjeant-at-law in 1552; was reappointed reader in Lent 1553, when he was fined for neglecting his duties; represented King's Lynn in parliament in 1547 (being then recorder of the town), and Norwich in 1553 (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. pt. ii. 174); was appointed recorder of Norwich in 1563, and dying on the same day as his colleague, Serjeant Richard Catlin, in August 1566, shares with him a high-flown Latin epitaph in hexameter verse (author unknown) preserved in Plowden's ‘Reports’ (p. 180). If, however, any faith is to be placed in the pedigrees in the Harleian MSS., Thomas Gawdy the serjeant was not the Thomas Gawdy, senior, of the Inner Temple register, but his son by his first wife, Elizabeth. We learn from Strype (Mem., (fol.) iii. pt. i. 265) that Serjeant Thomas Gawdy was in the commission of the peace for Essex in 1555, and distinguished himself from his colleagues as the ‘only favourer’ of the protestants. From him descended the family of Bassingbourne Gawdy. Thomas Gawdy the younger received, according to ‘Athenæ Cantabr.’ p. 36, ‘some education’ in the university of Cambridge, ‘probably at Gonville Hall.’ He entered the Inner Temple on 12 Feb. 1549, and was elected a bencher of that society in 1551, being then one of the masters of requests. He was returned to parliament for Arundel, Sussex, in 1553, and was summoned to take the degree of serjeant-at-law in 1558, but the writ abating by Queen Mary's death he was not called on the accession of Elizabeth. He was elected reader at his inn in Lent 1560, and treasurer in 1561, and in Lent 1567 he was called to the degree of serjeant-at-law (Harl. MSS. 1177 f. 174 b, 1552 f. 161, 4755 ff. 87, 88, 5189 f. 26 b, 6093 f. 79; Addit. MSS. 27447 ff. 89, 91, 27959 f. 1; Lists of Members of Parliament (Official Return of); Horsfield, Sussex, App. 32; Dugdale, Chron. Ser. pp. 91, 93, Orig. p. 165). There is preserved among the Gawdy MSS. a draft of a curious petition addressed by him to the queen in council, begging that he might be excused contributing a hundred marks to the exchequer on the three following grounds, viz.: (1) that he had never received payment of a loan of 10l. made by him to the late queen; (2) that he was in embarrassed circumstances from having built too much on his estates; and (3) that he was ‘no great meddler in the law.’ It bears no date, but that of April 1570 has been conjecturally assigned to it (Hist. MSS. Comm., Rep. on Gawdy MSS. 1885, p. 5). Gawdy was consulted by Dr. George Gardiner in 1573 with reference to a dispute concerning the title to an advowson (Strype, Ann., (fol.) ii. pt. i. 300). In November 1574 he was appointed justice of the queen's bench, and he was knighted by Elizabeth at Woodrising, on occasion of her Norfolk progress, on 26 Aug. 1578 (Dugdale, Chron. Ser. p. 94; Nichols, Progr. (Eliz.) ii. 225; }Metcalfe, Book of Knights). Disputes being chronic between Great Yarmouth and the Cinque ports as to fishing rights, which not unfrequently led to a kind of private warfare, a royal commission was appointed in 1575 to investigate and if possible adjust them, over which Gawdy presided (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. App. 307 a, 316 b; Manship, Yarmouth, ed. Palmer, i. 186–9). On 9 Oct. 1578 he was nominated one of a commission to inquire into certain matters in controversy between the Bishop of Norwich and his chancellor, Dr. Becon; in 1580 he gave an extra-judicial opinion in a case between the Earl of Rutland and Thomas Markham ‘touching the forestership of two walks in Sherwood’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547–80, p. 601; Addenda, 1580–1625, p. 23). He was one of the commissioners who tried Dr. Parry for conspiracy to assassinate the queen in February 1584–5, and William Shelley for the same offence a year later. He also sat at Fotheringhay in October 1586 on the commission for the trial of the Queen of Scots on the charge of complicity in Babington's conspiracy. He assisted at the trial of the Earl of Arundel on 18 April 1589 for the offence of intriguing with foreign catholics to subvert the state (Fourth. Rep. Dep. Keep. Publ. Rec., App. ii. p. 273; Cobbett, State Trials, i. 1095, 1167, 1251). He amassed a large fortune, which he invested in the purchase of land, chiefly in his native county. In 1566 he bought the manors of Saxlingham and Claxton, and in 1582 that of Coldham, all in Norfolk. At his death, which took place on 4 Nov. 1589, he held besides Claxton, where he usually resided, and Gawdy Hall in Harleston, some twelve other estates in different parts of Norfolk, and also estates in Suffolk and Berkshire. He was buried in the north chapel of the parish church of Redenhall, near Harleston.

Coke describes Gawdy as ‘a most reverend judge and sage of the law, of ready and profound judgment, and of venerable gravity, prudence, and integrity’ (Reports, pt. iv. p. 54 a). He was succeeded on the bench by his half-brother Sir Francis Gawdy [q. v.] Gawdy married first, in 1548, Etheldreda or Awdrey, daughter of William Knightley of Norwich; secondly, Frances Richers of Kent (Hist. MSS. Comm., Rep. on Gawdy MSS. 1885, p. 2). By his first wife he had issue one son, Henry, who survived him, was high sheriff of Norfolk in 1593, and was created a knight of the Bath by James I in 1603. Many letters of Sir Henry Gawdy to his cousin Sir Bassingbourne and others are calendared in the report on the Gawdy MSS. issued by the Historical Manuscripts Commission. The judge also left three daughters, Frances, Isabell, and Julian, of whom the last named married Sir Thomas Berney of Park Hall, Reedham, Norfolk, and died in 1673.

[Foss's Lives of the Judges; Blomefield's Norfolk, ed. Parkin, iii. 269, 277, 358, v. 215, 364, 370, 499, x. 115, xi. 128.]

J. M. R.