GAPE, Thomas (d.1678), of the Middle Temple, London and Porton, Wilts.

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



16 May 1660

Family and Education

3rd s. of Hugh Gape, weaver, of Dorchester, Dorset. educ. M. Temple 1648, called 1667. m. Anne (d. 29 Apr. 1686), da. of William Backhouse of London, 2s. 4da.1

Offices Held

Servant to the Mq. of Hertford (later 2nd Duke of Somerset) 1646-Oct. 1660, to the dowager duchess Oct. 1660-74; commr. for assessment, Wilts. Aug. 1660-1, 1664-9; clerk of the peace, Som. Aug. 1660-?73.2


Gape’s father was a craftsman in a small way who never achieved municipal office. But Francis Gape, the royalist clerk of the peace for Dorset, was probably a kinsman and brought him to the notice of the Seymours. In 1646 he entered the service of the Marquess of Hertford, who doubtless paid for him to improve his knowledge of the law at the Middle Temple. No less an authority than Sir Orlando Bridgeman commended his work, and by 1660 he was steward of the manorial court of Great Bedwyn. Commanded by his employer to stand at the general election, he was blamed by the friends of Sir Ralph Verney for the ‘hot contest’ and double return that followed. But his refusal to compromise was no doubt dictated by his loyalty to the Seymour interest. Gape was allowed to sit on the merits of the election, and marked by Lord Wharton as a friend. In the House he concerned himself exclusively with his employer’s interests, though doubtless voting with the Court. On 25 June he asked the House not to trouble Hertford, in his capacity as chancellor of Oxford, with the petition of the intruded dons. He was named to committees for two private bills, one of which was for breaking the Seymour entail. When Hertford was appointed custos rotulorum of Somerset, he made Gape clerk of the peace.3

Gape was unable to attend the general election of 1661, and was defeated at Bedwyn by Henry Clerke I, although still supported by the Seymour interest. His affairs had not prospered, and in 1666 he wrote that he dared not stir from his employer’s town house for fear of a debtors’ prison, but his belated call to the bar a year later will at least have enlarged his confines. ‘In above twenty years’, he wrote on 18 Jan. 1667, ‘I have not been able to make any considerable provision for my wife and children, notwithstanding my diligent performances in this noble family. But my deceased brother-in-law left a debt of near £1,500 upon the estate, and all that I have got in my lifetime (except my office) will hardly serve to pay it off.’ When his daughter married in 1669, her uncle, a successful apothecary, had to find most of her dowry. Thereafter his circumstances improved; the dowager duchess of Somerset owed him £1,250 at her death, and in 1677 he was able to lay out £3,750 on the purchase of land in Wiltshire. He died at Porton in 1678, leaving £1,000 portions to his two unmarried daughters, and his coach and horses to his wife. Both his sons were entered at the Middle Temple; one apparently died young, the other became a lunatic, and nothing further is known of the family.4

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Dorchester Bor. Recs. ed. Mayo, 410; Hoare, Wilts. Everley, 30; PCC 97 Reeve; M. Temple Reg. i. 175, 184.
  • 2. HMC Bath, iv. 219, 227; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 627; E. Stephens, Clerks of the Counties, 155.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1640, p. 323; HMC 5th Rep. 586; Cal. Comm. Comp. 1468; HMC Bath, iv. 258, BL, M636/1; Bowman diary, f. 25.
  • 4. Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 10, f. 104; HMC 7th Rep. 460, 462, 488; PCC 97 Reeve, 25 Vere.