Francis Gawdy

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The gatehouse of Wallington Hall in Norfolk. Gawdy's wife inherited the hall which today is in a 580-acre estate.

Sir Francis Gawdy QS (died 15 December 1605) was an English judge. He was the third son of Thomas Gawdy, and was baptised Thomas Gawdy, as were his two older half-brothers.[1] Francis then had his name changed at his Confirmation, establishing legal precedent that a name given at baptism could be changed at confirmation.[2][3] He may have studied at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, matriculating in 1545,[4] and was called to the bar at Inner Temple in 1549, becoming a bencher in 1558 and treasurer in 1571. He served as a reader at Lyon's Inn in 1561 and at Inner Temple in 1566 and 1571. He had an unremarkable parliamentary career, elected to represent Morpeth for the 1571 election, but focused mainly on his legal career. He was made Serjeant-at-law in 1577 and Queen's Serjeant in 1582, and as Queen's Serjeant opened the prosecution against Mary, Queen of Scots. In 1563 he married Elizabeth Coningsby,[1] who was described by Sir Henry Spelman as

"having this manor, in right of his wife, he induced her to acknowledge a fine thereof upon which she became a distracted woman and continued so to the day of her death and was to him for many years a perpetual affliction"

Fincham Hall – just one of the Norfolk houses Gawdy possessed.[5]

Perhaps because she believed (correctly) he had cheated her out of interest from Eston Hall, her ancestral home.[1] He also obtained Fincham Hall[5] and Wallington Hall which had been in the possession of Elizabeth's father, William Coningsby's family.[6] Collinsby had been the recorder in King's Lynn[7]

Gawdy succeeded his elder brother, the middle Thomas Gawdy, as a justice of the King's Bench in 1588, and took part in many of the major trials of this period, including that of Sir Walter Raleigh in 1603, and was knighted the same year. Gawdy apparently expected to succeed Sir William Peryam as Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, but James I informed him he was being saved for a more senior position when it became available, appointing Sir Thomas Fleming instead. In August 1605 Gawdy was appointed Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, a position he did not get to enjoy, dying of apoplexy on 15 December at Serjeant's Inn.[1] He had one daughter who was also called Elizabeth.[6]

After his death his body was brought from London to Wallington and it is said that they could find no place to bury his body as he was refused space locally.[7] (Gawdy had depopulated the town around his hall and converted the church to a dog kennel or hay store.) As the smell of the body became offensive he was eventually buried without ceremony at Runcton church and only paving stones were used to cover the grave. The parish register at Runcton records that he was buried in the chancel by the local parson on 27 February (although the differing calendars would account for much of this apparent delay).[5]

It was noted in 1829 that Wallington church was in ruins although the Hall was well repaired.[6] Wallington Hall which has been described as a "Tudor Rose in Bloom". The house still stands today in nearly 600 acres (2.4 km2) near King's Lynn and was valued at five million pounds in 2006.[7]


Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir Edmund Anderson
Chief Justice of the Common Pleas
Succeeded by
Sir Edward Coke
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Member of Parliament for Morpeth
Succeeded by