The family is descended from a Norman Baron who arrived in 1066 and came to prominence under Sir John Gage (1479-1556), who was variously Governor of Calais, Vice-Chamberlain to King Henry VIII, Knight of the Garter and Constable of the Tower of London, where he was charged with the imprisonment of Elizabeth.
The family's 500 year history at Firle started when Sir John Gage built a Tudor house in 1473. His son, Sir Edward, had the unpleasant duty of supervising the burning of the "Lewes Martyrs," and his descendants followed his example in remaining true to the Catholic faith, until Sir William Gage (1695-1744) decided to renounce his faith in 1730.
George Gage (c. 1572-1638) was entrusted with the secret negotiations in Rome on behalf of James I to obtain a papal dispensation for the marriage of Prince Charles to the Infanta of Spain. A portrait by Van Dyke of George Gage now hangs in the London National Gallery.
Sir Thomas Gage (1719-1787) entered military service and served alongside George Washington. He served as commander in chief of the British forces in North America where his actions played a role in igniting the American Revolutionary War. Sir Thomas led British forces into a famous defeat at the Battle of Bunker Hill (1775), a pivotal stage in the loss of the American colony.
Another Sir Thomas Gage (1781-1820) was a horticulturalist who introduced the greengage plum to the British Isles. His brother, John, was a Roman Catholic priest who lived near Paris. He purchased “Reine Claude” trees from the monks at Chartreuse. Sending them to England, their labels were lost; the fruit was subsequently named greengage after Thomas.
The 8th Viscount lives at Firle with his family and manages the estate.