GAWDY, William (1612-69), of West Harling, Norf. and Bury St. Edmunds, Suff.

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



1661 - Aug. 1669

Family and Education

bap. 24 Sept. 1612, 1st s. of Framlingham Gawdy, barrister, of West Harling and Gray’s Inn by 1st w. Lettice, da. and coh. of Sir Robert Knollys of Westminster. educ. Bury St. Edmunds g.s.; Caius, Camb. 1629, BA 1632; I. Temple 1633. m. 1 Sept. 1636, Elizabeth (d.1653), da. and h. of John Duffield of East Wretham, Norf., 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 1da. suc. fa. 1654; cr. Bt. 13 July 1663.1

Offices Held

J.p. Norf. July 1660-d., Thetford 1666-d.; dep. lt. Norf. c. Aug. 1660-d., maj. of militia ft. 1661-d.; commr. for assessment, Norf. and Thetford 1661-d., Suff. 1663-4, corporations Norf. 1662-3.2


Gawdy’s ancestors were minor landowners in the Waveney valley until the middle of the 16th century, when they rose to wealth and eminence in the law, and represented King’s Lynn and Norwich under Edward VI. His father sat for Thetford, six miles from West Harling, in seven Parliaments. A passive Parliamentarian in the Civil War, he was secluded at Pride’s Purge, and did not sit on local commissions after the execution of Charles I. Gawdy himself took no part in public life during the Civil War and Interregnum. After succeeding to the estate he became a flockmaster on a large scale and kept methodical records of all his business transactions, though he seems to have resided chiefly at Bury. On the eve of the Restoration he attended Charles II at The Hague.3

Gawdy began his search for a seat before the dissolution of the Convention, and was advised by Sir John Holland to apply to the Duke of Norfolk’s brother, ‘disclaiming any interest of his own to be considerable’. However, he was returned for Thetford at the general election of 1661. An active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was appointed to 141 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in six sessions, and acted as teller in five divisions. He was in London almost throughout the first session, being named to the committees to inquire into the shortfall in revenue, and to consider the security, corporations, and uniformity bills, and the bill of pains and penalties. He was also appointed to the committee on the bill to repair Wells quay, and after the recess to two others of local interest, those to confirm the restoration of the dukedom of Norfolk and to regulate the manufacture of Norwich stuffs. He acted as teller on 16 Dec. to lay aside all the remaining provisos to the bill for confirming incumbents, and a month later he was added to the revived committee for the execution of the remaining regicides. In 1663 he was appointed to the committees for hindering the growth of Popery and providing remedies against meetings of sectaries. He helped to consider the bill produced by the latter committee, and, doubtless under the influence of the tolerant Holland, acted as teller for a proviso which allowed for the duties of servants. He was already described in the Journals as ‘Sir William’, although the patent for his baronetcy did not pass the seals until the following month. He was given leave to go into the country on 10 July, but this appears to have been a tactical move in a factional struggle with Sir Ralph Hare, for five days later they were on opposite sides in a division on striking out commissioners from the subsidy bill, which was followed by the omission of one of the Norwich names. Still in accord with Holland over the Triennial Act in 1664, he acted as teller against a proviso to the bill of repeal. In the same session he helped to consider the revived conventicles bill, and in the autumn he was among the Members appointed to consider two more bills of special interest to his county, those to resolve disputes over the lading and unlading of herrings at Yarmouth, and to settle the estate of Sir Jacob Astley. For the remainder of the Clarendon administration he was less active, and he probably did not attend the Oxford session during the plague. But he was named to the committee on the bill for the illegitimization of Lady Roos’s children (21 Jan. 1667). On the fall of Clarendon he was appointed to the committees to inquire into the miscarriages of the Dutch war and the sale of Dunkirk, and to consider the charges against Lord Mordaunt. In the same session he was among those to whom were committed private bills to enable Lord Townshend (Sir Horatio Townshend) to exchange some of his land with the East Raynham glebe, and to provide for the repair of Yarmouth harbour. His last committee was on the bill to prevent the refusal of writs of habeas corpus (24 Apr. 1668). He was buried at West Harling on 18 Aug. 1669. Both his surviving sons were deaf-mutes, and he was the last of this branch of the Gawdy family to enter Parliament.4

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Norf. Arch. xxvi. 352-3.
  • 2. HMC Gawdy, 195, 196.
  • 3. Norf. Arch. xxvi. 335; Keeler, Long Parl. 184; Add. 27396, f. 363; Add. 36990, ff. 145-98; HMC Gawdy, 189.
  • 4. HMC Gawdy, 190, 192; CJ, viii. 514, 524, 538; Norf. Arch. xxvi. 371-2.