GRESLEY, Thomas (1552-1610), of Drakelowe, Derbys.
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Family and Education
b. 3 Nov. 1552, 1st s. of Sir William Gresley of Drakelowe by Katherine, da. of Sir Edward Aston of Tixhall, Staffs. m. (1) c.1573, Elizabeth, da. of James Harvey, citizen and merchant of Lime Street, London, s.p.; (2) Katherine (d.1585), da. of (Sir) Thomas Walsingham of Scadbury, Kent, 5s. 3da.; (3) aft. 1595, Mary (d.1622), illegit. da. of Sir Richard Southwell of Woodrising, Norf., wid. of Henry Paston, William Drury, master in Chancery, and Robert Forthe, DCL, s.p. suc. fa. 1573. Kntd. 1603.
J.p. Staffs. from c.1583-c.1600, Derbys. from c.1583; sheriff, Staffs. 1583-4, Derbys. 1591-2, 1603-4; capt. Derbys. horse 1587-1602; dep. lt. Derbys. 1600.
Gresley’s family had been prominent in Derbyshire since the reign of Henry III, and throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries provided a number of MPs for both Derbyshire and Staffordshire. Gresley himself inherited the manors of Drakelowe and Caldwell in Derbyshire, valued by the court of wards at £40 a year; the manors of Colton and Kingston, Staffordshire, value £48; those of Cooton, Castle Gresley, Lullington, Rostlaston and Overseale, Derbyshire; Morton and Huxton, Staffordshire, worth £89 4s.4d.; together with a few small properties in Tutbury, Staffordshire. He took a leading part in the administration of both Derbyshire and Staffordshire, and was referred to in 1589 by the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury as ‘one in whom I put special trust in general county affairs’. He lived only four miles from Tutbury, and in 1586 was one of those who escorted Mary Queen of Scots from Tutbury to Fotheringay. In 1589 he was one of four commissioners for raising a forced loan of £2,000 from the shire, and three years later he was one of three appointed to administer the oath of supremacy to the Derbyshire j.p.s. In 1600 the Privy Council chose him, as a ‘gentleman of good calling’, to investigate whether a certain Mr. Langford was harbouring recusants.
Gresley’s election as knight of the shire in 1597 was due to the 7th Earl of Shrewsbury. To the preceding Parliament one of the Earl’s relatives had been returned, and the choice of two dependants rather than two relations of the Earl in 1597 may have been a reflection of the quarrels which were dividing the Talbot and Cavendish families. Gresley had several relatives in the House of Commons, including his brothers-in-law, Sir Thomas Walsingham and Sir Robert Southwell, and his fellow-Member for Derbyshire, John Harpur, whose son married Gresley’s daughter. At the time of the Essex rebellion the Earl of Shrewsbury was summoned to London, and Gresley, as a deputy lieutenant, was one of those left in charge of the county. Although he is not mentioned by name in the parliamentary journals for 1597, he was eligible, by virtue of his position as knight of the shire, to attend committees concerning enclosures (5 Nov.), the poor law (5, 22 Nov.), the penal laws (8 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.) and the subsidy (15 Nov.).
After 1600 Gresley’s interest in Staffordshire declined. In November 1602 he petitioned the Privy Council to delete his name from the ‘bill’ for sheriffs as he had conveyed ‘all the little land’ he had there to his son. He died in September 1610, having made his will the previous 20 July. Apart from small bequests to servants, he left all his goods, plate and jewellery to a daughter, Dorothy, whom he appointed sole executrix, with his brother-in-law William Horton and his son-in-law Bartholomew Hales as overseers. As his first son, Henry, had predeceased him, he was succeeded by his second son, George, one of the first baronets and Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme 1628-9.2