When Sir Gervase died in 1391 he was succeeded by Sir John Clifton, probably the son of that Sir Robert who, as mentioned above, had pre-deceased his father. By his marriage with Catherine, the sister and co-heiress of Hugh de Cressi, Sir John obtained for his family, when Hugh died, the manor of Hodsock and other lands of the de Cressi inheritance. He sat in parliament in 1402, in which year he was also made Sheriff of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire,1 and was slain at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 fighting for King Henry IV against the Percies, having (according to Holinshed) beer knighted by the king that morning, but this, if the story is true, must have been the dignity of Banneret for it is clear that he was a knight long before the battle.2
The next head of the family seems to have been another Gervase Clifton. The first mention I have found to him is in 1416 when he is spoken of as "Gervase Clifton Esquire," but by 1422 he is described as Chevaler or Knight.3 He represented the county in the parliament of 1425-6 and was in the Commission of the peace for Nottinghamshire 1422, 1439, 1441, 1443, 1444, 1448, 1449, 1451. He died in December, 1453 leaving a son, Robert, to succeed him. This Robert, aged thirty, who was knighted by 1462, took an active part in the affairs of the county. He sat on various commissions for financial and military purposes;4 was High Sheriff 29 and 38 Henry VI and 7 Edward IV;5 member of parliament 31 Henry VI; and in the Commission of the peace 1454-5-6-8-9, 1460-1-2-3-6-7-8, 1476. He was one of the executors of Richard Willughby Esquire, who in 1470 were empowered by King Henry VI to found a perpetual chantry of one chaplain to celebrate divine service daily at the High Altar in the parish church of St. Leonard, Wollaton, and in 14766 he and his son Gervase were also given license to establish a perpetual college of a warden and two chaplains to celebrate divine service daily in the Chapel of the Holy Trinity within the Parish Church of St. Mary, Nottingham "for the good estate of the king and his consort Elisabeth and the said founders and for their souls after death and the souls of William Bothe, late Archbishop of York, Dame Alice Clifton, late the wife of the said Robert . . . and the ancestors and kinsmen of the said Robert and Gervase."7 Although he lived in difficult times when the county was torn by the squabbles of the Lancastrians and Yorkists he was apparently astute enough to stand well with both sides and to transfer his allegiance with foresight and discretion ; and his son Gervase, who took his place when he died in April, 1478, showed equal skill in the difficult game of fence-jumping which the circumstances of the time imposed upon a prominent land-owner.
Brass of Sir Gervase Clifton (died 1491).
He was forty years of age when he succeeded his father and was already a prominent supporter of the Yorkist cause. Edward IV appointed his "trusty and well-beloved squire Gervase Clifton" to be receiver-general of all the royal manors and lordships in the counties of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, and he was Sheriff three times in that king's reign (1472, 1477 and 1482).8 Richard III heaped still greater favour upon him. He was made a Knight of the Bath at the Usurper's coronation,9 was a commissioner of array for Nottinghamshire and for the East and West Riding of Yorkshire in 1484,10 and in the same year was rewarded for his services against the rebel Duke of Buckingham by a grant of the Manor of Ratcliffe-on-Soar and lands in Kingston and Kegworth formerly belonging to Buckingham, the Manor of Overton Longevile in Huntingdon forfeited by Sir Roger Tocotes, and the Manor of Dalbury and lands in Etwall and Wirksworth, Derbyshire, part of the escheated estates of Henry, Duke of Exeter.11 That he was one of the king's trusted supporters is proved by the fact that in 1483-5 he was in the commission of the peace for Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Staffordshire and the East and West Riding. Sir John Beaumont in his poem on the Battle of Bosworth said that Sir Gervase Clifton was slain there fighting for Richard III, and that only the intercession of his friend Sir John Byron saved his estates for his son, but this is a fiction. He not only survived the change of dynasty in 1485, but managed by some means to procure the favour of the new king. Perhaps like Lord Stanley he changed sides in time to secure a hold on Richmond's gratitude. He was Sheriff of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in 1488 and in the commission of the peace until he died in London in 1491.12 As one of the executors of Laurence Bothe or Booth, Archbishop of York, he was responsible for the founding in 1481 of two perpetual chantries of two chaplains for divine service daily in the Chapel of St. John the Baptist in the Collegiate Church of St. Mary, Southwell "for the good estate of the king and his consort, Elisabeth, Queen of England, and for their souls after death, and the souls of the said Archbishop and his parents and benefactors."13
His eldest son, Robert, was a priest and he renounced his temporal inheritance in favour of a younger brother Gervase, who was made a Knight of the Bath by Henry VII October 31st, 1494.14 He was Sheriff of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in 1502, and in the following year was one of those who accompanied the Princess Margaret to Scotland for her marriage to King James IV, out of which came the ultimate union of the two crowns.15 He died in 1508 leaving two sons whom we know of: Robert and Hugh. Robert, his heir, only survived until 1517 and died when his son and successor, Gervase, was still under two years of age; but by his (second) marriage to Anne, the daughter of Henry Lord Clifford, he had added, as Holles says "the greatest lustre of nobility" to his family, for she was lineally descended through the lines of Clifford Percy and Mortimer from Lionel Plantagenet, third son of King Edward III.
His son Gervase lived until 1588 and was a loyal servant of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elisabeth. He was knighted November 15th, 1538,16 and seems to have enjoyed considerable favour with Henry VIII who granted to him the Yorkshire manor of Armyn, belonging to the dissolved monastery of the Virgin Mary in York, and the two profitable wardships of Gervase Boswell and Thomas Fairfax, both of Yorkshire.17 In 1544 we find him appointed to go in person with the king to France, taking fifty horse with him from Nottinghamshire, and he served in the siege and capture of Boulogne in that year.18 According to Holinshed he was present at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547; and he was also in the army which besieged Leith in 1560.19 Nine years later, at the time of the rebellion of the northern earls, he was ordered by Queen Elisabeth to go in person to the defence of Doncaster.20 During nearly the whole of his long active life he was a Justice of the Peace, and was Sheriff of the County in 1540, 1546, 1554 and 1572. With the neighbouring town of Nottingham his relations appear to have been uniformly amicable and there is an air of old time cheer about some of the entries in the Borough Chamberlain's accounts which relate to him. Thus in 1572 the corporation spent 3s. 4d. on "iii pottells of Claret wyne and one pottell of Muskedyne that wase caryed to Clifton when Maister Maire and his brethren dyd dyne with him in Crystemas laste." There is a similar entry for 1580, and in 1573 17s. 6d. was expended on Capons and Sugar given as a present for the marriage of Lady Clifton's daughter.21 Despite his martial inclinations Sir Gervase possessed a courteous and mild disposition which earned for him the title of Sir Gervase the Gentle; a character which according to tradition in Gervase Holles's time Queen Elisabeth herself gave him in a distich which she composed about four of her Nottinghamshire knights:—
Gervase the Gentle,
Stanhope the Stout,
Marcham the Lion,
and Sutton the lout.
He was twice married, first in 1530 to Mary, daughter of Sir John Neville of Cheet, Yorkshire22 and secondly to Winifred, daughter of William Thwaytes, of Owlton, Suffolk.23 Of the five children whom his first wife bore him only Elisabeth the eldest daughter survived childhood and by her marriage with Peter Frescheville of Staveley became the great grandmother of Gervase Holles ; but George, his son by his second wife Winifred, lived to marry, though he died when he was twenty, only a few weeks before his father, August, 1587. After his death his wife gave birth to the child Gervase, who succeeded his grandfather when the old man died in January, 1588.
(1) See List of Sheriffs in the Public
(2) He is so called in 1400. Patent Rolls, 1309-1401, p. 411.
(3) Patent Rolls, 1416-22, pp. 71, 457.
(4) e.g., commission for raising a loan, 1453; commission for the supply of archers, 1457; commission of array, 1472.
(5) List of Sheriffs at the Public Record Office.
(6) Transactions of Thoroton Society, Vol. XVIII, p. 90 ; Patent Rolls, 1467-77, p. 231.
(7) Patent Rolls, 1467-77, p. 600. Alice the wife of Sir Robert Clifton was the sister of William and Laurence Booth who were both Archbishops of York, William, 1452-64, Laurence, 1476-80.
(8) List of Sheriffs at the Public Record Office.
(9) Shaw, Book of Knights, II. p. 21.
(10) Patent Rolls, 1476-85., pp. 489, 492.
(11) Ibid., pp. 399, 439-40,
(12) He first appears as a J.P. in 1466-7 during his father's life-time. Patent Rolls, 1461-7, p. 569. J.P. for the E. Riding, 1485-6.
(13) Patent Rolls, 1476-85 p. 255.
(14) Shaw, Book of Knights, I, p. 144.
(15) Hist. MSS. Comm., Rutland Manuscripts, I, p. 18.
(16) Shaw, Book of Knights, II, p. 51.
(17) Holles MS.
(18) Henry VIII. Letters and papers, 1544, part I, p. 161.
(19) Holles MS.
(20) Hist. MSS. Comm., Salisbury Manuscripts, I, p. 444.
(21) Records of the Borough of Nottingham, IV, pp. 138, 147, 194.
(22) There is an interesting account of the expenses of this wedding in Peck Desiderata Curiosa, pp. 248-9.
(23) From his letter to the Earl of Rutland, May 23rd, 1584 (Hist. MSS. Comm., Rutland Manuscripts, I, p. 166) it looks as though his second wife had Popish inclinations, but in spite of the threats of the Archbishop of York to commit her to prison Clifton said he " would not leave her company as long as she keeps herself a trew woman to her Prince".