GREY, Sir Thomas II (1549-90), of Chillingham, Northumb.

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. 1549, 1st s. of Sir Ralph Grey of Chillingham by Isobel, da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Grey I of Horton. m. Nov. 1585, Lady Catherine Neville, da. of Charles, Earl of Westmorland, s.p. suc. fa. 1564. Kntd. 28 Aug. 1570.1

Offices Held

J.p. Northumb. from c.1573, sheriff 1574-5, commr. to survey forts and castles 1581.2


On his father’s death Grey became ward of his uncle, Sir John Forster, warden of the east march. For at least the latter part of his wardship, he was placed in Cecil’s household, where he shared with the Earls of Oxford and Rutland and Lord Zouche its ‘unique educational opportunities’ and ‘attractive prospects of advancement’. He was probably accompanied there by his younger brother Ralph, who was described as a ‘servant’ of Cecil in 1570. Their admission to such a select establishment is a measure of the importance and prestige of the Forsters and Greys, and an indication of Cecil’s reliance on such families to fill the vacuum left in Northumberland by the waning power of the Percys.3

On attaining his majority in April 1570, Grey left Cecil House to take up his estates in the north. According to a muster return of 1580, these comprised 17 villages or manors, including Chillingham itself, Wark, Mindrum, Doddington and Hawkswell, and part-ownership of Fenton, Nesbett, Cheswick and Howick. Elsewhere he is recorded as holding lands at Shotton, Elsdon, Trollop, Bamburgh, Antechester and Yevering. A man of such substance could afford to make an unprofitable marriage. Lady Catherine’s Catholicism brought Grey many problems, though her husband’s influence afforded her protection from prosecution during his lifetime.4

The Chillingham estates were exposed to incursions by the Scots. In 1570 raiders entered Mindrum and carried off 5,000 sheep and over 100 head of cattle. Three years later, Grey himself seized many sheep and cattle which he claimed to have found grazing on English land. His action causing some embarrassment, Sir Valentine Browne wrote to Burghley: ‘Sir Thomas Grey has done very much good upon the borders of late, by seeking out and taking thieves, and maintaining good order, wherein he wishes he were encouraged’. Encouragement, however, was not essential, for on the question of border security, the landowners’ interests coincided with those of the Crown. Grey, for example, owned—while the Queen manned—several castles and fortified houses in the east march, including the tower at Doddington, which he built in 1584, and Wark castle, an older link in the chain of defences against Scotland. It was there, in 1575, that Grey stood on guard against attack; and in 1584 it gave shelter to Angus and Mar, the conspirators against James of Scotland.5

Grey is not named in the parliamentary journals of 1586. By virtue of his position as first knight of the shire he was entitled to attend the subsidy committee (22 Feb. 1587).

Grey died in April 1590 and was buried in the family vault at Chillingham. In his will, drawn up in the previous December, he named his brother Ralph as heir, and left his widow a life interest in Chillingham. Life grants were also made to his brothers Edward, Henry and Roger. He left £10 for repairs to the parish church and £6 13s.4d. and 40 ‘boolis’ of beer to the poor.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: B.D.


  • 1. Northumb. Peds. ed. Foster, 62; Hist. Northumb. (Northumb. Co. Hist. Comm.) xiv. 328-9. Shaw, following Harl. 6063, f. 24, names Henry Grey of Northumb. as knighted in 1570. As Thomas does not appear in his list, and no Sir Henry Grey can be traced for the period, it seems reasonable to assume an error in the manuscript list.
  • 2. Lansd. 21, f. 187; Egerton 2345, f. 27; Border Pprs. i. 35.
  • 3. Wards 9/375/56, 376/53; SP15/19, f. 78; CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, p. 321; J. Hurstfield, Queen’s Wards, 255 seq.
  • 4. Border Pprs. i. 14-19; Hodgson, Hist. Northumb. pt. iii, vol. iii, p. lxiii; Hist. Northumb. (Northumb. Co. Hist. Comm.), xi. 82 et passim; C142/231/82; SP15/29, f. 210; Depositions and Eccles. Proc. (Surtees Soc. xxi), 332-6; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 326; Strype, Annals, iv. 480-2.
  • 5. Hist. Northumb. (Northumb. Co. Hist. Comm.), xi. 69-71, 82-3; CSP For. 1572-4, pp. 429-30; Reg. Council Scot. ii. 622-3, 639-40; Proc. Soc. Antiq. Newcastle, iii. 342.
  • 6. D’Ewes, 409; Surtees Soc. xxxviii. 172-5.