GILL, Sir John (c.1567-1651), of Blackford, Som. and the Mews, Westminster
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Family and Education
b. c.1567,1 2nd s. of John Gill (d.1600) of Wyddial, Herts. and his w. Joan.2 educ. Clare, Camb. 1582.3 m. ?by 1613, Joan, da. of Hugh Trevelyan of Yarnscombe, Devon, wid. of Cyprian Lucar (d.1611) of Blackford, Som., s.p.4 kntd. 26 Nov. 1613.5 admon. 29 May 1651.6 sig. John Gylle.
Gill’s ancestors settled in Cambridgeshire by 1278. In the early sixteenth century his great-grandfather and namesake, a government clerk, was granted half the Hertfordshire manor of Wyddial by Henry VIII, and obtained the other half by marriage.13 Gill’s father, a prominent county figure who served both as sheriff and as a local magistrate, built a small secondary seat at Buntingford, near Wyddial.14 This house, named Little Court, a compact proto-Jacobean design, was already Gill’s home when he was admitted to Cambridge, and under the terms of his father’s will he was allowed to live there until his mother’s death, and for seven years thereafter.15 However, he was described as ‘of Somerset’ when he received his knighthood in 1613, which suggests that by this time he had married Joan Lucar, a widow with a life interest in the house and demesne lands of Blackford manor, Somerset.16
Gill was certainly one of the king’s equerries by 1621, but judging from a letter he wrote from London to his wife’s kinsman, John Trevelyan of Nettlecombe, Dorset, he may have held this post as early as October 1618. In this letter Gill recounted the latest Court gossip, including the recent suicide of the 1st Lord Clifton, a Somerset man who, ‘being weary of living, hath stabbed himself in three or four places’, the fatal wound coming when ‘he thrust a pen-knife into his belly which could not be got out’. Evidently possessing a taste for morbid news, he added a postscript about a German town destroyed by a landslide: ‘there is not a man, woman or child that did escape ... [f]or those hills devoured them all’.17 Gill gave the Court as his principal address for tax purposes in 1624.18 However, he and his wife were bequeathed a life interest in the whole of Blackford manor when his stepson, Anthony Lucar, died in the following year. This greatly enhanced his standing in Somerset, and he was named to the county bench in the following year.19
Gill sat for Minehead in 1626. Several possible factors lay behind his election. His seat at Blackford was only three miles from the borough, so he would have been well known in Minehead. He probably also relied on a nomination from Minehead’s principal patrons, the Luttrells of Dunster Castle, to whom he was distantly related through his Trevelyan kinsmen. As a magistrate he had extensive dealings with both George† and Thomas Luttrell*, and was described in the latter’s will as a ‘good friend’.20 Gill’s religious inclinations would certainly have recommended him to the Luttrells, who tended towards puritanism. Gill’s family background was Calvinist, as both his father and uncle, Edward Gill, subscribed to the doctrine of election in their wills. Moreover, he had a longstanding dislike of Arminianism, and in his 1618 letter to John Trevelyan he reported with satisfaction (albeit inaccurately) the arrest and death of the Dutch Arminian leader, Oldenbarneveldt, whom he regarded as an ally of Spain, and a traitor to the Protestant cause.21
Gill received four committee nominations during the 1626 session, all of them concerned with private bills (1 and 28 Mar.; 29 Apr.; and 1 June). It is unclear whether he had a personal interest in any of these measures.22 His only recorded speech, delivered on 15 Mar., was an ambiguous interjection that probably reflected his status as a junior officer under the master of horse, the duke of Buckingham. Five days earlier, Clement Coke* had obliquely attacked Buckingham by alluding to oppressive government. On 11 Mar., most likely with a view to reviving such complaints, Sir Walter Earle moved for a debate to clear up any misunderstanding about Coke’s words. This suggestion fell on deaf ears, but when the king condemned Coke’s speech as seditious on 14 Mar., the House was forced to address the incident. The next day, as Members searched for a tactful way to excuse the offending remarks, Gill ‘calls up and points at Sir Walter Earle’, inviting him to ‘stand up and accuse’ Coke. Presumably Gill was attempting to identify Earle as another troublemaker, and to force him to declare his own loyalties, though in the event, Earle blustered his way out of the situation.23
By 1635 Gill was receiving an official salary of £100 a year, quite apart from any incidental rewards from his position at Court. However, there is no evidence that he invested significantly in property, and he therefore never became a leading gentry figure in Somerset.24 In later life he apparently spent more time at his Blackford estate, and in 1636, somewhat surprisingly, he supplied a certificate of good character for a local recusant who had made potentially treasonable remarks.25 Gill was already in his mid-seventies when the Civil War broke out, and although he went through the formalities of offering his services to the king and queen, he was allowed to retire to Blackford. He subsequently declined to assist his kinsman, George Trevelyan, who was mobilizing the royalist forces in Somerset, though this show of neutrality was not enough to prevent him being assessed by Parliament in 1645 at £1,000. He suffered at least a temporary sequestration of his estates, though the assessment demanded of him was respited at the end of that year.26
By the time Gill made his will on 10 Aug. 1650 he was living in London, having evidently fallen on hard times. When he came to dispose of ‘the final worldly goods’ that God had left him ‘in these distracted times’, his itemized legacies amounted to just £42, though he was not heavily in debt. His residual legatees and joint executors were two of his kinsmen, Sir John Wirley and John Camocke, who proved the will on 29 May 1651. Gill’s precise date of death and place of burial have not been established. No further members of this branch of the Gill family subsequently sat in Parliament.27
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: George Yerby / Paul Hunneyball
- 1. Age estimated from date of admiss. to Camb. univ.
- 2. Coll. Top. et Gen. viii. 276.
- 3. Al. Cant.
- 4. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 736; PROB 11/118, f. 117v.
- 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 154.
- 6. PROB 11/216, f. 265.
- 7. E115/171/125; E179/70/136.
- 8. SP16/154/77; E403/3041, pp. 299-300.
- 9. E163/18/12, f. 69; SP16/212, f. 54; C231/5, p. 156; C66/2859.
- 10. C231/5, p. 108; SP16/405, f. 85v; C66/2859.
- 11. C181/4, f. 191.
- 12. Northants RO, FH 133.
- 13. J.E. Cussans, Hist. of Herts. (Edwinstree Hundred), 117-18.
- 14. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 64; SP12/145; PROB 11/96, f. 171; VCH Herts. iv. 80.
- 15. Cussans, 83; Al. Cant.; PROB 11/96, f. 171.
- 16. Shaw, 154; PROB 11/145, f. 378; 11/118, f. 117v.
- 17. Som. RO, DD/WO/54/1/54;Vivian, 736; Vis. Som. (Harl. Soc. xi), 112; CP.
- 18. E115/165/48.
- 19. PROB 11/145, f. 378.
- 20. Vis. Som. 112; Q. Sess. Recs., Chas. I. ed. E.H. Harbin (Som. Rec. Soc. xxiv), 60, 131; PROB 11/198, f. 166v.
- 21. PROB 11/96, f. 171; 11/127, f. 455; Som RO, DD/WO/54/1/54.
- 22. Procs. 1626, ii. 158, 385; iii. 97, 340.
- 23. Ibid. ii. 250, 258, 284, 289, 292.
- 24. E403/3041, pp. 299-300; T.G. Barnes, Som. 1625-40, p. 27.
- 25. CSP Dom. 1635-6, pp. 550-1.
- 26. Som. RO, DD/WO/54/1/96; CCAM, 497.
- 27. PROB 11/216, ff. 264v-5.