GERRARD, Sir Thomas, 1st Bt. (c.1560-1621), of Bryn, Lancs.
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Family and Education
b. c.1560, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Gerrard† of Bryn, and Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir John Port† of Etwall, Derbys.1 educ. Exeter Coll. Oxf. 1575 aged 15; Clement’s Inn, I. Temple 1579;2 embassy, Paris, 1585.3 m. (1) c.1580, Cecily, da. of Sir Walter Maney of Staplehurst, Kent, 1s. 1da.;4 (2) aft. c.1608, Mary, da. of Sir James Hawes, wid. of Sir John Smyth and Sir Robert Lee, ld. mayor of London, s.p.;5 (3) 19 Feb. 1614, Mary, da. of Sir William Dormer†, wid. of Anthony Browne and Sir Edmund Uvedale†, s.p.6 suc. fa. Sept. 1601.7 kntd. 18 Apr. 1603;8 cr. bt. 22 May 1611.9 d. 16 Feb. 1621.10 sig. Tho[mas] Gerard.
Member, Virg. Co. 1612.18
The Gerrards of Bryn were notorious for their devotion to Catholicism.19 Gerrard’s father, who maintained priests at Bryn and Garswood, was arrested in 1571 for complicity in the Ridolfi Plot, and was again detained in 1586.20 Gerrard’s younger brother, John, was one of the Jesuits linked to the Gunpowder plotters.21 Gerrard himself outwardly conformed, but his first wife Cecily was a devout Catholic, and in 1592 he was reported for keeping ‘a notorious recusant [as] his schoolmaster’.22 With estates including the manors of Bryn, Highley Carr, Ashton in Makerfield, Windle and Garswood in Lancashire, and Etwall and Hardwick in Derbyshire, he ranked among the wealthiest Lancashire gentry despite the alienation of the family’s Staffordshire holdings as a result of his father’s imprisonment.23 He should not be confused with his distant kinsman Thomas Gerard†, who was ennobled in 1603 and was the son of Sir Gilbert Gerard† of Ince.24
Described by the newsmonger John Chamberlain as an ‘old dancing courtier’, Gerrard frequently appeared at official functions; however, his decades of service at the Courts of both Elizabeth and James plunged him deeply into debt.25 He twice married wealthy widows, but neither marriage brought him sufficient funds to restore him to solvency. His financial embarrassment was apparent by 1611 when, in order to demonstrate his loyalty to the Crown and to distance himself from his brother and the plotters, he purchased a baronetcy despite being unable to pay more than the first instalment.26 It was presumably the need for protection from his creditors which motivated Gerrard to seek election to Parliament in 1614, in which assembly he was appointed to only one committee, for the conference with the Lords on the Palatine marriage (14 April).27
James granted Gerrard a patent for ‘certain marsh grounds in Lincolnshire’ in 1615, and with his son’s aid he borrowed £5,000 in expectation of the patent’s profit; however, it yielded nothing.28 In 1619 the marquess of Buckingham helped him to procure an interest in a new corporation with the sole monopoly of making and selling tobacco pipes.29 He invested £3,000, hoping thereby to raise an income of £500 a year.30 However, it produced no immediate return, and by this time Gerrard’s debts had brought him into litigation which he could ill afford.31 He avoided bankruptcy only by entailing virtually all of his estates upon his son.32 Buckingham intervened, and asked the lord chancellor, Sir Francis Bacon*, and Sir Humphrey May*, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, to show favour towards Gerrard in the courts.33
Gerrard was returned for Wigan at the next general election, but he fell ill within days of arriving in Westminster and made no recorded contribution to the proceedings of the 1621 Parliament. In his will, dated 13 Feb. 1621, he attempted to convey his interest in the doomed tobacco pipes patent to his son, Sir Thomas*, whose heavily encumbered estate he acknowledged would be insufficient to afford the ‘great sums’ for which he was already engaged.34 Gerrard died a few days later, and was buried at St Margaret’s, Westminster.35 His son sat for Liverpool in 1624.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Rosemary Sgroi
- 1. VCH Lancs. iv. 144; Bibliographical Dict. of Eng. Catholics ed. J. Gillow, ii. 433-4.
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- 23. B.G. Blackwood, ‘The Lancs. Gentry 1625-60’ (Oxf. D.Phil. thesis, 1973), pp. 28-9.
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- 26. Lansd. 163, f. 404; P. Croft, ‘The Cath