GIBSON, Richard (by 1480-1534), of London and New Romney, Kent.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1480. m. Alice, da. of Sir William Bayly of London, 3s. 2da.2

Offices Held

Yeoman tailor, the great wardrobe 1501-d., porter 1504-d.; yeoman of the tents by 1513, serjeant by 1518; serjeant-at-arms by 1521-d.; warden, Merchant Taylors’ Co. 1518, master 1530; jurat, New Romney by 1524-d.; commr. sewers, Kent 1526, for return of aliens, London 1528; City’s bailiff, Southwark and swordbearer, London 1528.3


A Merchant Taylor of London, Richard Gibson was to cut a considerable figure in the City, rising to the mastership of his company and becoming both swordbearer and bailiff of Southwark; his marriage to the daughter of an alderman and future lord mayor doubtless promoted his advancement. He was also for 33 years an official of the royal household, rising from a relatively modest position to become serjeant-at-arms, one of the select body of men in personal attendance on the King. Throughout his career his official duties tended to be linked with his business activities, and as serjeant-at-arms he continued to provide the court with garments for masques and canvas for tents and pavilions as he had done, in peace and war, since the beginning of the reign.4

In 1513 Gibson went with the expedition to France led by the King in person, and on Henry VIII’s arrival it was Gibson who recounted to him the repulse of a French raid. His task was to house the army and to clothe the royal retinue, but his accounts also cover such items as the banquet held at Tournai on 12 Oct. to celebrate the capture of that town. It may have been on this, or on a later visit to Tournai, that Gibson acquired the deeds of some property there belonging to John Norey, ‘knight at arms’ to the King, which he was afterwards sued in Chancery for detaining. In the summer of 1514 he spent five weeks at Calais supervising the repair of the King’s tents, but his most memorable (and doubtless most taxing) overseas engagement was to come six years later, with Field of Cloth of Gold and the subsequent meeting of Henry VIII and Charles V: at the first of these Gibson met with interference from the French nobleman Châtillon, who threw down four pennons with which he had marked the kings’ meeting place, and the earl marshal had to smooth out the resulting quarrel. Gibson’s last such commission was in October 1532 when he was one of the 12 serjeants-at-arms who accompanied the King on his visit to Calais to meet Francis I. His expertise in costume and spectacle evidently made Gibson a man to be sought out by theatrical producers: in 1527 he was consulted about the apparel for the St. George’s play at Lydd.5

Gibson’s interest in Romney dates from 1513, the year of his first mission abroad, of which it may have been a by-product. It began with his leasing of land there and was strengthened by purchases of tenements in 1521-2, one of which provoked another lawsuit. He was already a jurat when, in 1524, the Brotherhood of the Cinque Ports chose him and two others to be solicitors to the King and Council ‘in all causes and matters concerning the ports and their members’. Romney may, indeed, have already returned him to the Parliament of the previous year, for which the name of only one of its Members is known. When it did so in 1529, the purpose was clear. Not only could Gibson, with his residence in London and position at court, be expected to serve without payment (which the town records show him to have done), but he might serve the town’s interests well. Romney was preparing a private bill for the inhabitants of the neighbouring marsh, a copy of which was to reach Cromwell by 1533. By that time the town had seen what a well-placed advocate could do for it when Gibson took the opportunity of the King’s visit to Calais to submit to him a petition ‘for the bailiwick of the new town of Romney Marsh’. Even so, the bill was to fail: introduced into the Commons, probably during the fifth session early in 1533 (when Romney gave Speaker Wingfield 6s.8d. ‘to be good to us for our marsh’), it did not pass the House until the next session a year later, and was then thrown out by the Lords at the instigation of Archbishop Cranmer, who objected to its effect on tithes.6

It is less easy to decide whether Gibson had any share in another legislative project of this time, the ‘bill concerning cities, boroughs, towns and fairs’ of which the surviving copy bears the name ‘Mr. Gybson’. If this is a bill intended for reading, perhaps even read, in Parliament, its sponsor is likely to have been Richard Gibson, the only man of that surname known to have sat in this Parliament; if, on the other hand, it is to be regarded as a doctrinaire project put into quasi-parliamentary form, a different man, Thomas Gibson, has at least as good a claim to be thought its begetter. Designed to check the decay of towns by confining industry to them, the ‘bill’ is redolent of the ‘commonweal’ thought of Hugh Latimer, John Rastell and Clement Armstrong, a trio with whom both Richard and Thomas Gibson were associated. Richard Gibson had worked with Rastell and Armstrong on campaigns and pageants, Thomas Gibson was a protégé of Latimer’s and was to be executor of Armstrong’s will; but no tie, either of kinship or any other kind, is known between the two Gibsons themselves. Richard Gibson is not known to have shared his namesake’s zeal for reform in Church and State, but in this last year of his life he may have caught something of the fervour of Rastell and Armstrong: in any case a project to arrest urban decay would not have been foreign to one familiar with the problems of the Cinque Ports.7

Rastell and Armstrong were, like Latimer, budding Protestants, but Richard Gibson’s religious views remain unknown. His arrest of Robert Barnes at Cambridge in 1526 was a piece of professional duty, even if carried out with an eye to effect, and his befriending six years later of Nicholas Hancock, the displaced prior of Christ Church Aldgate, perhaps no more than the act of a Samaritan; yet his son Richard was to die a Marian martyr. His will, made on 4 Oct. 1534, is uninformative in this respect. He asked to be buried in his parish church, St. Thomas the Apostle. His serjeant’s mace, ‘which I have used to bear afore our sovereign lord the King’, he left to his eldest son, who was to inherit his lands in Kent with the exception of some of those in Romney, which were to go to his two younger sons. The residue of his goods he left to be divided among his wife and children ‘according to the laudable use and custom of this honourable city of London’. He bequeathed a silver cup to the Merchant Taylors and named as one of the overseers of his will Paul Withypoll; the other overseer was Thomas Ward, almost certainly his colleague of that name in the royal service and his fellow-Member in the Commons. The will was proved on 19 Dec. 1534 by Gibson’s executors, his widow and his eldest son; he had died shortly after making it, for his successor as serjeant-at-arms was appointed on 28 Oct. On 22 Apr. 1535 his widow was granted a life annuity of £13 6s.8d., to be held jointly with Randolph Allet, a sewer of the chamber. Richard Gibson was succeeded as Member for New Romney by John Marshall.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. PCC 21 Hogen.
  • 3. CPR, 1494-1509, pp. 221, 350; LP Hen. VIII, i, ii, iv, vii; HMC 5th Rep. 550; H. L. Hopkinson, Anct. Recs. Merchant Taylors, 116, 117; Cinque Ports White and Black Bks. (Kent Arch. Soc. recs. br. xix), 190, 191, 193, 209, 217; City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 8, f. 3; D. J. Johnson, Southwark and the City, 46-47.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, i-vii.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, i, iii, v; C. G. Cruickshank, Army Royal, 13, 15, 42, 47, 48, 68; English Occupation of Tournai, 26; Hall, Chron. 539-40, 608; C1/544/27; HMC Bath, iv. 3; Lydd Recs. 346.
  • 6. HMC 5th Rep. 550-1; C1/675/26; Cinque Ports White and Black Bks. 191; LP Hen. VIII, vi, vii; Romney chamberlains’ accts. 1528-80, f. 16; LJ, i. 79.
  • 7. SP2/P, ff. 133-6; LP Hen. VIII, vii; Elton, ‘Parl. Drafts 1529-40’, Bull. IHR, xxv. 122-3, 126; Reform and Renewal, 20, 63.
  • 8. Foxe, Acts and Mons. v. 416; viii. 436-43; LP Hen. VIII, v, vii; Machyn’s Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii), 157; PCC 21 Hogen.