GAPE, John (1623-1703), of Harpsfield Hall, nr. St. Albans, Herts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1679

Family and Education

b. 5 Dec. 1623, o.s. of John Gape, tanner, of Fishpool Street, St. Albans by Joan, da. of Giles Marston of Hillend. educ. St. Albans g.s. 1631. m. 9 Apr. 1646, Anne (d. 31 Dec. 1682), ?da. of Thomas Oxton of St. Albans, 2s. 4da. suc. fa. 1625.1

Offices Held

Alderman, St. Albans 1655-d., mayor 1658-9, 1668-9, 1679-80; jt. farmer of excise, Herts. 1658- 9, 1668-74; commr. for assessment, St. Albans Aug. 1660-1, 1664-9, 1673-4, Herts. and St. Albans 1679-80, 1689, Herts. 1690; j.p. Herts. 1697-d.2


Gape’s ancestors, tanners of St. Albans, had held property there since the middle of the 15th century, and became prominent in local politics from the mid-16th century onwards, frequently serving as mayors. Though Gape may have had royalist sympathies he held municipal office during the Interregnum, and even, for a time, supplemented the profits of the family business with the county excise farm. This he resumed after the Restoration with a single partner at an annual rent of £8,800. He was able to purchase the manor of Harpsfield Hall in 1676, and three years later he became the first of the family to enter Parliament, defeating the sitting Member, Samuel Grimston, at the first general election of 1679. Shaftesbury surprisingly marked him ‘honest’, but he was totally inactive in the first Exclusion Parliament, and absent from the division on the bill. He is not known to have stood again, and may have been glad to return to local politics, for he became mayor for the third time later in the year. He was granted arms in 1684, contributed to the restoration of the Abbey church and became a governor of the local grammar school. As one of the aldermen who surrendered the borough charter, he retained his seat on the bench under the 1685 charter and was named a standing justice of the peace. He seems to have accepted the Revolution, becoming a county magistrate in 1697. In addition to his Hertfordshire estates, Gape acquired lands in Cambridgeshire worth at least £150 p.a., and property in Lincolnshire. He died on 20 Apr. 1703 and was buried in the Abbey. His eldest son, John Gape, who succeeded to most of the estate, sat as a Tory for St. Albans in six Parliaments between 1701 and 1715.3

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: E. R. Edwards / Geoffrey Jaggar


  • 1. VCH Herts. Peds. 159-60; St. Albans Abbey reg.
  • 2. A. E. Gibbs, Corp. Recs. of St. Albans, 7, 75, 85, 101; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 153; iii. 833, 836; vi. 861; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 73; Clutterbuck, Herts. i. 72; Herts. Recs. vi. 522.
  • 3. VCH Herts. ii. 401-2, 416; A. Kingston, Herts. during the Civil War, 131; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 153; iii. 833; Grantees of Arms (Harl. Soc. lxvi), 97; Clutterbuck, i. 71-72, 111; appendix, 32; ii. 192; Gibbs, 85, 86; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 73; VCH Herts. Peds. 160; PCC 91 Degg.