GARGRAVE, Thomas (1494/95-1579), of North Elmsall and Kinsley, Yorks.

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



? Mar. 1553
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. 1494/95, s. of Thomas Gargrave of Wakefield by Elizabeth, da. of William Levett of Normanton. educ. ?G. Inn or M. Temple. m. (1) by 1540, Anne, da. of William Cotton of Oxenhoath, Kent, 1s. Cotton; (2) by 1549, Jane, da. of Roger Appleton of Dartford, Kent, wid. of John Wentworth of North Elmsall, s.p. Kntd. (?3 Mar.) 1549.4

Offices Held

?Escheator, Yorks. 1519-20; steward, household of Thomas, Lord Darcy 1521-37; j.p. Yorks. (W. Riding) 1542-53, q.1554-d., Yorks. (E. and N. Ridings) 1547-61, q. 1562-d., Cumb., Durham, Northumb., Westmld. 1561, q. 1562-d.; member, council in the north by Aug. 1544, v.-pres. by 1557-d.; treasurer, forces of Earl of Warwick against Scotland July 1547, in the north July 1557; commr. chantries, Yorks. 1548, relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553, fortifications on Scottish border 1555, offences against the Acts of Uniformity and Supremacy 1561, border causes 1561, musters, Yorks. 1569; dep. constable, Pontefract castle, Yorks. by 1556; steward, York minster 9 June 1557; sheriff, Yorks. 1565-6, 1569-70; steward, lordship and soke of Doncaster, Yorks. by 1571; receiver, Exchequer, Yorks. temp. Eliz.; master in Chancery temp. Eliz.; recorder, Kingston-upon-Hull.5

Speaker of House of Commons 1559.


Thomas Gargrave’s family took its name from a village in Craven but it had been settled at Wakefield for over 40 years by the time he was born there. He may have received his legal education at Gray’s Inn, where his son Cotton and his relative Richard Bunny were later to go, or at the Middle Temple, where he entered his stepson Hector Wentworth. Either he or his father could have been the Yorkshire escheator of 1519, but it was almost certainly he who inaugurated his appointment as steward of Lord Darcy’s household on 4 June 1521 by compiling a list of Darcy’s servants. His first wife was presumably the Mistress Anne who attended Darcy’s second wife, a lady who had several ties with Kent, and his second wife was the widow of one of Darcy’s dependants. Gargrave was not harmed by Darcy’s part in the Pilgrimage of Grace; in 1541 he was to be employed as counsel for the crown in the trial of traitors at York and a year later he was named to the bench in his home riding. His legal career came to an end in 1544 on his appointment to the vacancy on the council in the north caused by the death of Sir Thomas Tempest. To his annoyance he at first received only half the fee of 100 marks enjoyed by Tempest as a ‘knight that was learned’, but on receiving his own knighthood he asked the 5th Earl of Shrewsbury for an increase and this was evidently given. In 1571 he was to complain to Burghley of the lack of persons on the council who knew any law, ‘for that little that I had is forgotten, because it is 28 years since I left the study of the law and so long have I remained here of this council.’ Gargrave was none the less praised in 1559 for his knowledge of ‘the laws of this realm’ and his papers were used by (Sir) James Dyer in preparing his reports.6

In 1547 Gargrave served as treasurer to the forces led by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, against the Scots and he fought at Pinkie. On the following 2 Oct. the aldermen of York agreed that if he became free of the city he would be ‘meet and able to be one of the citizens of the King’s Parliament’ due to open a month later, and on the next day he was elected with William Holme after taking his oath as a freeman to uphold the city’s privileges. He was knighted shortly before the close of the second session of the Parliament, perhaps at the same time as the Venetian ambassador Domenico Bollano, but whether the services thus rewarded included any rendered in the House does not appear. During the third session he and Holme were asked by York to seek a commission of inquiry into the decay of the woodlands in its neighbourhood. Although Gargrave was not to sit for York again, its citizens acknowledged his help on various later occasions, and under Elizabeth they twice tried to secure him as one of their Members. His series of elections as one of the knights for Yorkshire may have begun with the Parliament of March 1553 summoned under the aegis of Dudley, by then Duke of Northumberland, but only the christian name of Sir Robert Constable’s fellow-knight survives on the return.7

During the 1540s Gargrave began to buy land in Yorkshire, and by his death he had acquired a substantial estate. His stake in the county and his seniority in the council in the north suffice to explain his election to two of Mary’s Parliaments. In the first of them he was not among the Members who went home without leave before the dissolution, and it was to him that on 14 Jan. 1555 the bill to punish these defaulters was committed after its second reading, only to lapse two days later. In the early days of the following Parliament he had two more bills committed to him, an unsuccessful one that no man who served anyone except the King or Queen should be made a justice of the peace, and another, which passed, for strengthening the fortifications on the Scottish border—this one presumably because he had served on the recent commission to view the defences in question. It was for some recognition of his services that the Earl of Shrewsbury recommended Gargrave to Sir Robert Rochester in a letter which on 14 Nov. Gargrave told the earl he had delivered, but his chance of promotion or reward cannot have been improved by his part in the later proceedings of the Parliament. His name appears on the list of upwards of 100 Members who voted against one of the government’s bills which then came down to the Commons. If, as is possible, this was the bill for first fruits and tenths which was forced through at its third reading on 3 Dec., Gargrave’s letter to the earl of the following day, in which he reported its passage and forecast the dissolution of Parliament within a week, may imply that he himself had already set out for home, being written from Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire, and that he was not present in the House on 6 Dec., when Sir Anthony Kingston retaliated by engineering the defeat of the bill to penalize fugitives from the realm. It was certainly to one or the other of these episodes that he was referring when, on his return to York, he wrote to the Earl of Shrewsbury

And right sorry I am that my only sitting still in the passing of a bill in the Parliament without any obstinacy or other doing or speaking should be so taken and that also I should be so reported in religion. My doing and saying wherein I refer to the judgment of all that hath heard me or seen my conversation, but howsoever I be taken or reported I shall God willing to my power be ready with my service to the King and Queen’s majesty as I shall at all time be appointed or commanded and to the best of my knowledge at all times show myself a true and obedient subject to their majesties.

It was perhaps Shrewsbury’s protection which saved Gargrave from anything worse than adverse comment. Within two years he had become vice-president of the council in the north and treasurer of the army against Scotland, and it may have been the pressure of his duties there rather than his earlier dereliction which prevented him from being re-elected for Yorkshire to the last Parliament of the reign.8

Under Elizabeth, Gargrave cut an even more impressive figure in the north and he was to sit in every Parliament until his death. In 1564 he was rated ‘a favourer of religion’ and later he advocated stricter measures to enforce the ecclesiastical settlement. He made his will on 27 Mar. 1579 at Nostell priory, where he had settled from 1567, and died on the following day, being buried at Wragby.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Authors: M. K. Dale / A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. C219/20/44 is mutilated so that only ‘Thomas’ of the first knight’s name survives.
  • 2. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 3. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 4. Date of birth estimated from inscription on portrait, R. C. Strong, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 126. DNB; Vis. Yorks. (Harl. Soc. xvi), 133, 341; Vis. Yorks. ed. Foster, 69; Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. lxxiv), 42; J. J. Cartwright, Chapters in Yorks. Hist. 2-3; J. Hunter, S. Yorks. ii. 214; CPR, 1548-9, p. 196; 1553-4, p. 410; C142/185/84, 223/80.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, iii, xvi, xx, xxi; CPR, 1548-9 to 1572-5 passim; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 336; J. H. Gleason, J.p.s. in Eng. 1558-1640, p. 224; CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, pp. 318, 424, 521; APC, vi. 123, 147, 197; R. R. Reid, King’s Council in the North, 169, 183-4, 337, 492; Somerville, Duchy, i. 515; York chapter archs. W6, ff. 86v, 87 ex inf. D. M. Palliser; VCH Yorks. (E. Riding), i. 125; Recs. Doncaster, ii. 220; HMC Shrewsbury and Talbot, i. 47.
  • 6. Misc. Gen. et Her. i. 226; HP, ed. Wedgwood 1439-1509 (Biogs.), 362; LP Hen. VIII, iii, xvi, xx; R. B. Smith, Land and Politics, 138; HMC Shrewsbury and Talbot, ii. 28; CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, p. 424; CJ, i. 53; L. W. Abbott, Law Reporting in Eng. 172.
  • 7. York Civic Recs. iv (York Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cviii), 164; v (ibid. cx), 24, 89, 163, 164; vi (ibid. cxii), 21-23, 148, 169; C219/20/44.
  • 8. CPR, 1547-8 to 1572-5 passim; CJ, i. 41, 43; Guildford mus. Loseley 1331/2; HMC Shrewsbury and Talbot, i. 114, ii. 43, 59, 61, 79, 325; E. Lodge, Illustrations, i. 259; Lambeth palace ms 704, f. 102 ex inf. E. G. W. Bill.
  • 9. Cam. Misc. ix(3), 70; C142/185/84, 223/80; J. T. Cliffe. The Yorks. Gentry, 15; C. Jackson-Stops, Nostell Priory, 4; Hunter, ii. 212, 214.