Gorges, Robert (c.1626–1699), civil servant and revenue farmer, was the third of four sons of Henry Gorges of Batcombe, Somerset. His mother, Barbara, was the daughter of Thomas Baynard of Colerne, Wiltshire, and Ann (née Hyde) Baynard. In 1647 he was a delegate of the parliamentary visitors at Oxford, where in 1648 he was created MA from St Edmund Hall (incorporated at Cambridge in 1652) and elected a fellow of St John's College. In 1649 he was admitted to the Inner Temple, and in 1651 was probably a member of the Experimental Science Club at Oxford.
His appointment about 1655 as secretary to Henry Cromwell (qv) brought him to Ireland, where he received the degree of doctor of laws (at an unknown date) from Trinity College, Dublin, and was admitted to the King's Inns 28 January 1656. He was appointed auditor general, foreign accounts, 6 December 1655 and 10 December 1658, and became clerk of the Irish privy council. In 1659, with James Stopford (qv) and others, he was charged with investigating revenue arrears. He formed a close association with Henry Cromwell's friend, Roger Boyle (qv), later earl of Orrery, whose niece he married.
In 1660 he sat for Leitrim in the Irish general convention, which put him on a committee (as the privy council had done in 1658) to consider the question of a second college for Dublin. He sat for Bandon Bridge, a Boyle borough, in the Irish house of commons (1661–6).
He belonged to several of the syndicates which farmed the Irish revenue in the 1660s and 1670s, and was appointed to the revenue commission, 2 September 1662 and 7 December 1675. He was sent to Ireland by King Charles in 1668 to ascertain the arrears of revenue since the restoration; his estimate (nearly half a million pounds) was vigorously disputed by the lord lieutenant, the duke of Ormond (qv), but was damaging nonetheless. On the recommendation of his cousin Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon, he was appointed principal agent in Ireland to the duke of York (qv) in 1665, to the management of whose enormous Irish estates he applied himself with great energy. He was a sub-commissioner on Prince Rupert's commission of inspection of catholic land claims (1671–3).
He received large grants of land in 1667, in several counties, but does not appear to have retained most of these. A regular visitor to England, he had a house in York Street in Dublin and established his seat at Kilbrew in Co. Meath. From at least 1685 Patrick Barnewall, whose grandfather and namesake had been the original proprietor, was suing for the restitution of the Kilbrew estate, taking forcible possession in 1688, but Gorges was restored after the war.
During the war he was in the service of King William's (qv) general, the duke of Schomberg (qv), who retained him at first to collect the revenue in Ulster and from October 1689 as his secretary. He was one of the commissioners for the management of the forfeited estates in 1690, and sat in the Irish commons in 1692. He petitioned a good deal in his later years for various official payments he alleged were due to him, and complained of his money troubles. These were probably one of his motives for retiring in 1695 to his old college of St John's in Oxford, where he assisted the cipher expert, John Wallis, in deciphering the correspondence of suspected Jacobites.
During his long career numerous memoranda and reports (not all of them solicited) issued from his pen. The subjects included revenue matters, the land settlement, the lessons of the Cromwellian period in Ireland for conduct of the war of 1689–91, and methods of collecting political intelligence.
He died in November 1699. He married Jane Loftus (1643–1728), daughter of Sir Arthur Loftus and Dorothy (née Boyle) Loftus. They had two sons and two daughters. The surviving son, Major-General Gorges Richard (1662–1728), a soldier and a member of the Irish house of commons in every parliament between 1692 and 1727, was a friend and correspondent of Archbishop William King (qv). General Gorges's first wife, Nichola, was a daughter of Hugh Hamilton (qv), Lord Glenawly; his second wife, Dorothy, was a daughter of James Stopford (qv). Two of his sons and two of his grandsons sat in the Irish commons during the eighteenth century.
Dr Gorges's elder brother, Gorges John (c. 1621–1680), soldier and politician, was engaged early in the English civil war, being in the service of the earl of Essex in 1642 and subsequently enjoying a series of military and official appointments in England. Like his brother Robert, he was a presbyterian, and he came to Ireland in the army of Oliver Cromwell (qv). He sat in the protectorate parliaments for Somerset in 1654 and 1656, and for Derry, Donegal and Tyrone in 1659. He was governor of Derry in 1656 or 1657 and, having taken a leading role in securing the province for the forces intent on the king's restoration, enjoyed the title of governor of Ulster in 1660. He was one of the aldermen named in the charter granted to the city of Londonderry in 1662, was elected mayor in January 1664 and again in January 1667 and was returned as the city's member of the Irish commons at a by-election in October 1665. He was one of the tormentors of John Wilson (qv), the beleaguered recorder of the city.
He was appointed commander and governor of the city and county of Londonderry in 1663, was dismissed by court martial during the lord-deputyship of Ossory (qv), and was said to have regained the position by paying £400 during the viceroyalty of Lord Berkeley (qv). Controversy followed him through different offices: he was criticised by the English commons in 1653 for his conduct as a commissioner of sequestrations in Somerset, and related charges were revived in 1671, but he obtained a pardon. In 1670 he was appointed governor of Culmore Castle near Derry but was ousted in 1672, in part because he had improperly had the patent made out in the name of his son, also John, a minor. He was by 1669 (and probably earlier) general agent to the Irish Society of London, and had the farm of their fisheries on the Foyle. He fell out with them about 1675, and thenceforth took the side of the bishop of Derry in the long-running dispute between the episcopal see and the Society.
He built Somerset House on his estate, near Coleraine, Co. Londonderry, and also had a house in the city of Derry. He married first Edith Symes (or Simmes) of Somerset, with whom he had two sons, and secondly Jane Blayney, youngest daughter of Henry, 2nd Baron Blayney, a soldier, and his wife, the Hon. Jane Moore. The only surviving son, Henry (1667–96), was of the second marriage and served in Ireland in the army of King William.
John's eldest brother, Thomas (c. 1618–70), a member of the English house of commons in the protectorate parliaments was married to a daughter of Sir Jerome Alexander (qv), who sat in the Irish convention of 1660 and was an associate of Robert Gorges. The youngest Gorges brother, Ferdinando, was father-in-law to Thomas Coningsby (qv). Samuel Gorges (1635–86), a justice of the common pleas from 1684, was related, as were the Barons Gorges of Dundalk who, despite their Irish peerage, appear to have had little or no involvement in the country.