WRAY, William (c.1555-1617), of Glentworth, Lincs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1555, o.s. of Christopher Wray by Anne, da. of Nicholas Girlington of Normanby, Yorks. educ. L. Inn 1576. m. (1) 1580, Lucy (d.1599), e. da. of Sir Edward Montagu of Boughton, Northants., 10s. 5da.; (2) Frances, da. of Sir William Drury, wid. of Sir Nicholas Clifford, 3s. 1da.; 3 other da. suc. fa. 1592. Kntd. 1596; cr. Bt. 1611.1

Offices Held

J.p.q. Lincs. (Lindsey) from c.1583; mayor, Grimsby 1588; warden, Louth 1591; sheriff, Lincs. 1594-5; commr. musters 1600, for aid to knight Prince Charles 1603, subsidy 1609.2


The son of an eminent father whose considerable estates in the county included property at Ashby cum Fenby, close to Grimsby, Wray was a natural choice to represent the borough in the 1584 Parliament. He inherited Glentworth and his father’s other properties in 1592; continued to hold the former monastic properties of Barlings (until selling them in 1614) and Dowood; and continued his father’s dispute with Richard Topcliffe over leases of the episcopal rectories of Stow and Corringham. On this last matter, when Sir William and Topcliffe appeared before the Privy Council in 1596, the Council expressed the hope that the difference ‘might be ended without suit in law in some friendly and loving sort between them’.3

The development of his estates, and especially of the rich marshlands near Grimsby, seems to have been Wray’s chief concern. It involved the enclosure of common lands, and some depopulation, and not surprisingly provoked opposition.4 But more serious trouble arose nearer home. The Glentworth estate lay close to Gainsborough where the new owner of the manor and market tolls, the London merchant Sir William Hickman, was allegedly levying excessive toll of corn. Wray, his brother-in-law Sir George St. Poll, and Lord Willoughby of Parham, all justices, were ordered in February 1598 to inquire into the complaints. The whole thing snowballed; the peace of the neighbourhood became disturbed; one of Hickman’s servants was killed in a riot; and Wray, his cousin Nicholas Girlington, and St. Poll were accused by Hickman of fomenting the trouble and impeding the course of justice. Again the Privy Council advised ‘mediation by some persons of credit’, and referred the matter to the good offices of Lords Willoughby and Sheffield. How it all ended is not known.5 Incidents such as this were commonplace in the life of the Elizabethan country gentleman, and Wray, though a lesser man than his father, was no worse than others of his standing in the county.

Possibly he was better. Gervase Holles, who must have been familiar with his reputation in the Grimsby area, thought him amiable, decent, timid, and somewhat dull. Attaining a county seat for the 1601 Parliament, he could have served on committees considering the order of business (3 Nov.), the better keeping of the Sabbath (4, 6 Nov.), the abbreviation of the Michaelmas law term (11 Nov.), two private bills (19, 23 Nov.), monopolies (23 Nov.) and the drunkenness bill (28 Nov.), which he reported to the House. He intervened (20 Nov.) in the debate on the 1s. fine for recusants, to explain that, when the bill was in committee, it was not the intention that recusants should pay 1s. per week in addition to £20 per month.6

In religion Wray was a radical. John Smith, the preacher or lecturer in Lincoln and later minister of a separatist congregation in Gainsborough, dedicated to him an exposition of Psalm xxii

because I have experienced yourself to be, under the King’s Majesty, a principal professor and protector of religion in these quarters (for what a multitude of faithful ministers are debtors to you in the flesh), and for that I, among the rest, have rested under your shadow.7

Wray died intestate on 13 Aug. 1617 at Ashby cum Fenby.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: D.O.


  • 1. Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lv), 1322-3; GEC, Baronetage, i. 95; C. Dalton, Wrays of Glentworth, i. 65-70.
  • 2. HMC 14th Rep. VIII, 290; R. W. Goulding, Louth Old Corp. Recs. 19, 58; APC, xxx. 190; NRA Lumley, no. 946b.
  • 3. John Rylands Lib. Handlist iii (1937), nos. 2501-3; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 499; APC, xxvi. 57-8.
  • 4. NRA Lumley, nos. 977, 987; J. W. F. Hill, Tudor and Stuart Lincoln, 141, citing J. D. Gould, EHR, July 1952.
  • 5. APC, xxviii. 342; xxix. 202; xxx. 140-1; HMC Hatfield, xiv. 93.
  • 6. Holles’ Church Notes (Lincoln Rec. Soc. i), 64; D’Ewes, 624, 628, 635, 642, 649, 657; Townshend, Hist. Colls 228.
  • 7. Hill, 112.