GREY, Sir Thomas (by 1515-70), of Horton and Newstead, Northumb., and Bethnal Green, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Oct. 1553
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1515, 1st surv. s. of Sir Roger Grey of Horton by Isabel, da. of Sir William Darcy. m. 1527/31, Dorothy, da. of Ralph, 3rd Lord Ogle, wid. of Sir Thomas Foster of Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumb. 1s. d.v.p. 6da. suc. fa. 6 Jan. 1543. Kntd. 23 Sept. 1545.2

Offices Held

?Yeoman of the guard bef. Dec. 1531; j.p. Northumb. 1547-54; treasurer, Berwick-upon-Tweed June 1547-Feb. 1550; sheriff, Northumb. 1547-8, 1551-2, Nov. or Dec. 1558; constable and receiver, Dunstanburgh June 1550, steward May 1555-d.; commr. goods of churches and fraternities, Northumb. 1553.3


Thomas Grey’s father had been knighted at Flodden, and he himself was to combine the roles of squire and soldier in typical border fashion. His early career is difficult to distinguish from those of namesakes.4

The first certain reference found to him is his appointment in 1536 as deputy to his maternal uncle Thomas Lord Darcy, keeper of Bamburgh castle, which lies within ten miles of Horton. After Darcy’s execution in the following year Grey petitioned Cromwell for the keepership: he was passed over, but one of the lists recording the new appointment bears a note ‘to remember Thomas Gray’, and in the same year he was appointed one of the officers of the east march at a salary of £20 a year. His career might have come to an abrupt end when in May 1538 he and his uncle Lionel, porter of Berwick, were arrested on Cromwell’s orders by the captain of Berwick, Sir Thomas Clifford. Lionel Grey was said to have boasted of committing a murder for which he had never been brought to justice, and this was followed by an accusation that he and his nephew planned to kill Clifford and his deputy in church ‘and said they would make the King glad to pardon them or yield the town to the Scots’. Cromwell evidently dismissed the charges as groundless, and four months later, when Clifford’s resignation was imminent, Lionel Grey thanked the minister through an intermediary for having ‘saved his life lately by doing justice to him’ and offered 500 marks for the captaincy. About the same time Thomas Grey was one of those appointed to bring ten men to help put down a threatened revolt by the men of Tynedale.5

In the Scottish campaign of 1542 Grey commanded 100 men and in the following winter he had charge of the night watch at Horton. He took part both in the burning of Jedburgh in June 1544 and in the defeat of the simultaneous Scottish raid into Northumberland. The relationship thus established with the Earl of Hertford, who commanded in the north, was to serve Grey well during the next few years. It was from Hertford that he received his knighthood at Norham in September 1545, on his return from another foray into Scotland, and Hertford’s assumption of the Protectorate in 1547 was followed by Grey’s appointment as treasurer of Berwick and paymaster of the pensioners in the marches. The combined office was an important one, carrying an annual fee of £30 and a seat on the council in the north, although Grey is not recorded as having attended any of the council’s meetings during his tenure. Grey was also brought onto the Northumberland bench and pricked sheriff: as one of the last of the sheriffs of Northumberland who, before an Act of 1549 (2 and 3 Edw. VI, c.34) remedied the situation, did not account to the Exchequer he doubtless made a good thing of his year of office.6

The fall of the Protector cost Grey the treasurership of Berwick, which went to Richard Bunny, but this was partially offset in June 1550 by a grant of the constableship of Dunstanburgh, a coastal fortress south of Bamburgh, and of a 21-year lease of the site and possessions of the monastery of Newminster, Northumberland: the property, which included coal-bearing land, was leased to Grey in consideration of services ‘previously rendered’. This addition to the inheritance at Horton, Newstead and elsewhere in the county which he had received on his father’s death made Grey a substantial figure there. His own interest in the consolidation of the family’s possessions was reflected in the settlement of his lands, after his only son had died in infancy, on whichever of his daughters should marry his kinsman Sir Ralph Grey of Wark and Chillingham: it was his eldest daughter Isabel who did so.7

Grey is first known to have been returned to Parliament on the accession of Mary, but it is possible that he had sat in the Parliament of March 1553, for which the names of the Northumberland knights are lost: his recent shrievalty could have commended him both to the shire and to its titular duke, under whose aegis the Parliament met. As a Member of two Marian Parliaments Grey was to show himself amenable to the new regime, yet at home he seems to have served it without much enthusiasm. In April 1554 the Council exhorted him and other Northumbrian gentlemen ‘to show themselves more forward in service than they have erst done whereby they shall well redub [repair] their former slackness’, and in September 1556 and August 1557 he was summoned before the Council: on the last occasion, having professed himself ‘very willing to serve’, he was commissioned to carry a ‘mass of treasure’ to the north, where he offered to serve against the Scots without pay. He had, on the other hand, won the regard of both John, 3rd Baron Conyers, and Thomas Wharton, 1st Baron Wharton, who intervened on his behalf when he was called before the council in the north in 1554 and 1556. Although Strype was to describe Grey as ‘one of the best reputation in the parts adjoining Scotland’ it is doubtful whether he diverged markedly from the Catholicism of his neighbours: when he and Cuthbert Horsley were returned to Parliament in October 1554 the sheriff described them on the indenture as ‘two of the grave and Catholic persons [within] the said county’, and Grey’s associates and kinsmen were noted for their religious conservatism. If his third shrievalty at the accession of Elizabeth, and his election to her first Parliament, suggest that Grey was not irreconcilable to further change, his disappearance from public affairs during the remaining dozen years of his life reflects the passing of his generation on the Scottish border. He died at Bethnal Green, Middlesex, on 5 Aug. 1570.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: D. F. Coros


  • 1. Grey’s christian name which has been torn off the indenture, C219/21/116, has been supplied from the Crown Office list for this Parliament, Bodl. e Museo 17.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first certain reference. Northumb. Co. Hist. xiv. 240, 242, 243; LP Hen. VIII, xix.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, v; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 87, 232; 1549-51, p. 178; 1550-3, p. 395; 1553, p. 415; 1553-4, p. 22; Somerville, Duchy, i. 537, 538-9.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, v, vii, x, xiv.
  • 5. Ibid. xi-xiii; Northumb. Co. Hist. i. 262-8.
  • 6. HMC Bath, iv. 34, 52, 55, 71; LP Hen. VIII, xix-xxi; Hamilton Pprs. ii. 745; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 87, 232; R. R. Reid, King’s Council in the North, 167, 211.
  • 7. CPR, 1549-51, p. 178; 1550-3, p. 395; 1553, p. 415; Northumb. Co. Hist. xiv. 240; E315/221, f. 194.
  • 8. APC, v. 15, 351; vi. 156-7; HMC Shrewsbury and Talbot, ii. 37, 44; Strype, Eccles. Memorials, iii(1), 153-4; C219/23/95; Cath. Rec. Soc. liii. 56-58; Reid, 192; PCC 34 Lyon; Northumb. Co. Hist. xiv. 240; Surtees Soc. cxxi. 59-61.