Gregory, William (1624-1696) (DNB00)

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GREGORY, Sir WILLIAM (1624–1696), judge, was the second and only surviving son of the Rev. Robert Gregory, vicar of Fownhope and rector of Sutton St. Nicholas, Herefordshire, by his wife Anne, daughter of John Harvey of Broadstone, Gloucestershire. He was born 1 March 1624, and was educated at Hereford Cathedral school. There appears to be no foundation for the statement that he became a member of All Souls' College, Oxford, and was elected a fellow as his father had been before him. He entered the society of Gray's Inn in 1640, and in 1650 was called to the bar. He joined the Oxford circuit, on which, as at Westminster, he soon obtained an extensive practice. He acquired several lucrative stewardships of manors in his native county, became recorder of Gloucester in 1672, and in the following year was elected a bencher of Gray's Inn. In 1677 he was made serjeant-at-law, and at a by-election in 1678 he was returned member of parliament for Weobly, Herefordshire. He was re-elected to the new parliament of 1679, and, after the king had three times refused to confirm the election of Edward Seymour as speaker, was proposed for that office by Lord Russell. Gregory begged the house to select a more experienced member, but when led to the chair by his proposer and seconder offered no resistance. As speaker he is stated to have been firm, temperate, and impartial, but he held the post for a few months only, as on the death of Sir Timothy Littleton in April 1679 he was appointed to his place as a baron of the exchequer, and was knighted. The trial of Sir Miles Stapleton for high treason took place before Gregory and Sir William Dolben [q.v.] in 1681. In Michaelmas term 1685 Gregory was discharged from his office for giving a judgment against the king's dispensing power, and in the next year was removed by royal mandate from his recordership. He was returned by the city of Hereford as a member of the convention of 1689, but gave up his seat on being appointed a judge of the king's bench. As a judge he was distinguished for his firmness and integrity. In his later years he was greatly afflicted with stone, which in the winter of 1694 confined him to his room for three months. He died in London 28 May 1696, and was buried in the parish church of his manor of How Capel, Herefordshire. Gregory had purchased this manor in 1677 and built the southern transept of the church, known as the Gregory Chapel, as a burying-place for himself and his family. He also bought the manor and advowson of Solers Hope, and the manor of Fownhope, but he resided chiefly in London. Besides largely rebuilding the church at How Capel, he gave a garden in Bowsey Lane, Hereford, for the benefit of the Lazarus Hospital. In 1653 Gregory became the third husband of Katharine Smith, by whom he was father of two children: James, who married Elizabeth Rodd and died 1691, and Katharine, who died in infancy. His descendants in the male line failed in 1789.

[Foss's Judges of England, vii. 318; Cooke's additions to Duncumb's Herefordshire, ii. 355, 359, 361, iii. 102, 139, 229; Manning's Speakers, p. 374; North's Examen, p. 460; Kennett's Hist. of England, iii. 372, 528; Cobbett's Parliamentary History, iv. 1112, v. 312; Luttrell's Diary, i. 9, 10, 166, 255, ii. 277, 379, iv. 64; Sir John Bramston's Autobiography (Camd. Soc. publications), p. 221; Pearce's Inns of Court, p. 344.]

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