GAWDY, Sir John

1639 - 1709

Sir John Gawdy - A self portrait

John Gawdy was born on 4 October 1639, second son of Sir William Gawdy, 1st baronet (24 September 1612–18 August 1669), of West Harling, Norfolk, and was M.P. for Thetford, Norfolk, and his wife, Elizabeth Duffield (died 1663), daughter and heir of John Duffield of East Wretham in the same county, and grandson of Framlingham Gawdy (1585-1655). On the death of his mother in 1663, the family moved to Bury St Edmund's, Suffolk where John was later placed in the workshop of Matthew Snelling (1621-1678), a painter and miniaturist, and later became a pupil of Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680), intending to follow portraiture as a profession. Both John and younger brother Framlingham were deaf mutes, but John is recorded as a handsome and intelligent man with a notable talent for painting. On the death of his elder brothers, William (died February 1660/61) and Bassingbourne (1638-February 1660/61), who were both buried in Temple Church, City of London, John became heir to the family estates and on the death of his father in 1669 became the second baronet. No longer needing to make art his profession, thereafter, painted only for amusement, and took a prominent part in county affairs and the manuscripts of the Gawdy family give an interesting description of the social life of the period. John Evelyn (1620-1706), a founding member of the Royal Society, in his diary 1640-1706, reported having dinner in September 1677 with a deaf knight, Sir John Gawdy, who communicated with his family in signs and described him as ‘a very handsome person…and a very fine painter; he was so civil and well bred, as it was not possible to discern any imperfection by him’. John married at St James's Church, Bury St Edmund's on 6 November 1662, Anne, daughter of Sir Robert de Grey, of Merton, Norfolk, and his wife Elizabeth née Bridon, with whom he had one son, Bassingbourne, and one daughter, Anne (Le Neve 1664-1896)), with two other children dying in infancy. John Gawdy was buried in All Saints Churchyard, West Harling in January 1709. His son remained unmarried, and upon his death on 10 October 1723 the baronetcy became extinct.