Manuscripts and Special Collections

Biography of Sir Gervase Clifton, 1st Baronet (1587-1666)

Gervase was the posthumous son of George Clifton and his wife Winifred. He was four months old when he succeeded his grandfather, Sir Gervase Clifton (d 1588) to the Clifton estates in Nottinghamshire. His guardians were his uncle, William Thorold, and Lord Burghley. He was educated at St John's College, Cambridge, and at the Inner Temple.

He was made a Knight of the Bath in 1603 at King James I's coronation. On 22 May 1611 King James created him a Baronet, one of the first ever created. Sir Gervase was a prominent office-holder and politician, and was known as 'Gervase the Great'. He served as M.P. for Nottinghamshire in 1614, 1621, 1624 and 1625, for the Borough of Nottingham in 1626, for Nottinghamshire in 1628, for East Retford from 1640-1646 (he attended the Oxford parliament in 1644), and for Nottinghamshire from 1661 to his death in 1666. He was a Justice of the Peace for Nottinghamshire between 1609 and 1646, and again from 1660 to 1666. He was High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire from 1610-1611, High Steward of East Retford from 1616-1647 and 1660-1666, County Treasurer from 1625-1626, and Deputy Lieutenant from 1626-1642 and 1660-1666.

During the Civil War Sir Gervase was a Commissioner for the King at Newark and Oxford, and a Commissioner of Array for Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire in 1642. He did not take up arms, but lent money to the Royalists. His estate was worth £3,000 before the Civil War. He was fined £7,625 for delinquency, and had paid off half of this amount by 1650 when the sequestration of his estates was ended.

The Nottinghamshire historian Dr Robert Thoroton, who attended him in his last illness, described him as follows in his History of Nottinghamshire (1676):

  This Sir Gervase was certainly more gentle than his grandfather being generally the most noted person of his time for courtesy, he was very prosperous and beloved of all. He generously, hospitably and charitably entertained all from King Charles himself (of whom he was an active supporter) to the poorest beggar. He served eight times in several Parliaments. He was an extraordinary kind landlord, and good master. His hospitality exceeded very many of the Nobility, and his continuance in it, most men; being almost fourscore years Lord of this place, of a sound body, and a cheerful facetious spirit.

In 1648 the decision was taken to disinherit Gervase, his eldest son, from succession to the estates.


Photograph of the monument erected by Sir Gervase Clifton in memory of his first 3 wives

Monument erected by Sir Gervase Clifton
In memory of his first 3 wives in St Mary's Chapel, Clifton, Nottinghamshire c.1620 


He was married seven times:

1stly Lady Penelope (d 1613), daughter of Robert Rich, 1st Earl of Warwick, and had:

  • Gervase (c.1612-1676), later 2nd Baronet

2ndly Lady Frances Clifford (d 1627), daughter of Francis, 4th Earl of Cumberland, and had:

  • Clifford (1626-1670)
  • Margaret (d 1698), m 1stly, in 1636, Sir John South of Kelstern (d 1648); 2ndly William Whichcote of Lincolnshire (d c.1657); 3rdly Robert Carey, 6th Baron Hunsden (d 1692)
  • Frances, m 1stly Richard Tempest of Bracewell, Yorkshire, 2ndly Anthony Eyre of Rampton, Nottinghamshire (son of Anthony Eyre of Laughton-en-le-Morthen and Rampton, and brother of her step-mother Jane Eyre)
  • Anne, m Sir Francis Rodes, 2nd Baronet (d 1651), of Barlborough, Derbyshire
  • Lettice (d 1659), m Clifton Rodes of Stourton, Nottinghamshire (brother of Sir Francis Rodes)
  • Elizabeth

3rdly Mary (d 1630), widow of Sir Francis Leeke, Baronet, of Sutton Scarsdale, Derbyshire, and daughter of John Egioke of Egoike, Worcestershire. No issue.

4thly Isobel Meek (d 1637), widow of John Hodges, Alderman of London. No issue.

5thly Anne (d 1639), daughter of Sir Francis South of Kelstern, Lincolnshire. No issue.

6thly Jane (d 1655), daughter of Anthony Eyre of Laughton-en-le-Morthen and Rampton, Nottinghamshire, and had:

  • Robert, of Blyth (b 1641), m 1661 Sarah, daughter of Nathaniel Parkhurst of Woodford, Essex, and had:
    • Gervase, later 4th Baronet
    • Robert (d 1715), m his cousin Frances, daughter of Christopher Packe of Prestwold, Leicestershire, and Jane Clifton. His descendent Francis Clifton claimed the Clifton baronetcy in 1880 after the death of the 9th Baronet. Another descendent the Rev. William Clifton (1749-1830) was Rector of Clifton 1803-30
  • Charles, unmarried
  • Mary, died in infancy
  • Jane, m in 1665 Christopher Packe (1642-1699) of Cotes and Prestwold, Leicestershire

7thly Lady Alice Hastings (d 1666), daughter of Henry, 5th Earl of Huntingdon. No issue.

Archive Collections

  • Title deeds, settlements, estate and legal papers relating to Sir Gervase Clifton's ownership of his estates are part of the Clifton collection held in Manuscripts and Special Collections at the University of Nottingham. In particular, there is an extensive series of family correspondence from the time of Sir Gervase Clifton (series Cl C).

Published Sources

  • P.R. Seddon, 'Sir Gervase Clifton and the Government of Nottinghamshire 1609-1640', in Transactions of the Thoroton Society, vol. XCVII, 1993, 88-98
  • Basil Duke Henning (ed), 'Sir Gervase Clifton', in The House of Commons, 1660-1690 (London: Published for the History of Parliament Trust by Secker & Warburg, 1983)
  • P.R. Seddon, 'Marriage and Inheritance in the Clifton Family during the 17th century', in Transactions of the Thoroton Society, vol. LXXXIV, 1980, 33-43
  • A.H. Tricomi, 'Identifying Sir Gervase Clifton, The Addressee of [John] Marston's Letter, 1607', in Notes and Queries, 222 (1977), 202-203
  • W.H.G. Flood, 'A John Marston Letter' [to Sir Gervase Clifton], in The Review of English Studies 4 (1928), 887-88
  • F.W. Dobson, 'Note on a Letter of Cardinal Richelieu in the Clifton MSS', in Transactions of the Thoroton Society 16 (1912), 155-158
  • Lady E.M. Bruce, 'Ancient Documents and Letters [of Sir Gervase Clifton] at Clifton Hall', in Transactions of the Thoroton Society 15 (1911), 161-173



Manuscripts and Special Collections

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