BLAGRAVE, Thomas (c.1522-90), of Great Bedwyn, Wilts. and Revels Office, London.
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Family and Education
b. c.1522, 1st s. of Richard Blagrave of Uttoxeter, Staffs. m. Joan, da. and h. of William Bellamy of Hadley, Mdx., 1s. 1da.
Servant to Sir Thomas Cawarden by 1546; auditor for Wilts. property of Earl of Hertford by 1569; dep. clerk of the revels from c.1551, clerk from 25 Mar. 1560, acting master Nov. 1573-July 1579; surveyor of the Queen’s works from Nov. 1578.
Blagrave entered the revels office from the service of Sir Thomas Cawarden, of whose will he was an overseer. From about 1551 Blagrave did the effective work for the official clerk of the revels, Thomas Phillips, finally achieving the office itself in 1560, at a fee of 8s. a day, with 24s. p.a. for livery, and accommodation consisting of a ‘hall, seven chambers and stables’ at the revels office in the old hospital of St. John of Jerusalem near Smithfield. Next he became acting master, in which capacity he addressed a memorandum to Lord Burghley, stressing his 28 years’ service (‘the ancient of the office by at least 24 of those years’), and asking for more money:
I have hitherto without recompense, to my great charge and hindrance, borne the burden of the master and taken the care and pains of that others have had the thanks and reward for.
Though prepared to ‘serve for as little as any man that means to deal truly, so I be not too great a loser by it’, he drew remuneration for both offices. After Edmund Tilney was appointed master over his head in 1579, Blagrave avoided carrying out any duties at all, but he held the clerkship until his death.
Blagrave had always spent some time at his estate at Great Bedwyn where he was assessed at £20 in lands for the 1576 subsidy. From time to time messengers were sent to him there to summon him to London. He sat once in Parliament for the borough, no doubt with the agreement of the Earl of Hertford, whose auditor Blagrave was, and who had just been restored to favour after the death of his first wife, Lady Catherine Grey. However, by 1575 Hertford was suing Blagrave in Chancery for abusing his position during the Earl’s imprisonment and consequent long absence from his Wiltshire estates, for misappropriating the tithes of Bedwyn parsonage, and for conspiring with William Drury, the Earl’s receiver (now discovered to be a ‘very simple man’), to embezzle £800. Hertford claimed that Blagrave owed all his advancement to him, Blagrave that his acceptance of the post of auditor to Hertford was a ‘stooping in countenance’ on his part. While the Hertford case was still pending the dean of Windsor accused Blagrave of defaulting over his rent for property which he held from ‘the college of Windsor ... whereby the poor knights there stand unrelieved’. To extract money from Blagrave for any purpose seems to have been difficult: one of his surviving letters objects to a government demand for a £50 loan. Yet there can be no doubt that he was a wealthy man. He had property in right of his wife in Hadley, Barnet and elsewhere in Hertfordshire and Middlesex as well as his own lands, his revels office salary and allowances, and the profits of his surveyorship of works.
He died 18 June 1590 and was buried at St. James’s, Clerkenwell. His will, made in April 1590 and proved the following 10 Nov. left all to his son and heir John.
The King’s Works, iii. 92-3, 406; E. K. Chambers, Eliz. Stage, i. 73, 83, 85, 89; C3/18/61, 202/58; Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvii), 70; HMC Bath, iv. 150, 208, 345; CSP Dom. Add. 1547-65, pp. 448, 501; 1547-80, p. 377; 1591-4, p. 553; A. J. Kempe, Loseley Mss, 178; Lansd. 86, ff. 151 seq.; St. Ch. 5/K9/32; APC, ix. 63-4; xi. 69; Two Taxation Lists (Wilts. Arch. Soc. recs. br. x), 78; PCC 75 Drury.