CRAWLEY, Thomas (d.1559), of Elmdon and Wenden Loftes, Essex.

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

Offices Held

?Household official by 1559.


The Crawley pedigrees are confused, and there were several men of this name living in Essex in 1559. One, the head of the family, who died in September 1559, had been escheator of Essex and Hertfordshire in 1553, and was a wealthy speculator in chantry lands in Essex. A second, assumed to be the 1559 MP, was this man’s grandson and heir apparent, who died in February 1559, leaving the eventual succession to be carried on through women. The family wills mention another Thomas, still a minor in 1559.

The Crawley who was returned for Aylesbury on 17 Jan. 1559 was probably the man mentioned in an Essex inquisition of 1556 as having ‘fled beyond’ seas in the first year of Mary’s reign, and presented as owning a tenement in Elmdon valued at £7. The jury claimed not to know whether he had left the country for religious reasons, or whether he had a licence for foreign travel, but they stated that he had received the profits of his Elmdon property while he was abroad. A certain Thomas Meade was at the time of the inquisition claiming the lands ‘in fee simple by bargain and sale of the said Thomas Crawley’.

What is known of Crawley’s career abroad suggests that he left England on account of his religious opinions. In 1555 he settled in Frankfurt, where in January 1557 his property was valued at 700 florins. Later in the same year he signed the ‘new discipline’, and he was one of those to whom Richard Chambers addressed his letter of justification. Among those living in his Frankfurt house in June 1557 were Thomas Wilson, a son of George Wilson of Kendal, and a minister, James Peers or Pers, both mentioned later in Crawley’s will.

At Elizabeth’s succession he returned to England, and was probably the man of this name who became a member of the royal Household. The exact office concerned has not been found, but he was assessed on £20 in fees for the court subsidy of 1559. His family was related to Francis Walsingham, John Tamworth of the Household, Peter and Paul Wentworth, and other prominent Elizabethan Members of Parliament, and although no connexion has been found with the Pakingtons, owners of the borough of Aylesbury, the Crawley family presumably had enough friends at court to secure a seat in the first Parliament of the reign.

Crawley’s will, drawn up on 5 Feb. and proved on 18 May 1559, has a short but devout preamble: ‘First and principally I commend my soul to Almighty God my maker and to Jesus Christ my redeemer, by whose merits I trust only to be saved and have forgiveness of all my sins’. Among the beneficiaries were Crawley’s ‘cousin’ or kinsman Thomas Meade, doubtless the man referred to in the Essex inquisition, as well as James Peers, ‘my minister’, and Thomas Wilson, who was to have the use of Crawley’s books until the coheirs, the testator’s daughters Anne and Jane, should be older. The books, ‘worth £100 or better’, were to go to the daughter ‘that shall be better learned’ at the age of 20. John Tamworth is mentioned as owing Crawley 900 marks. The executors were Francis Walsingham and John ‘Wentforth’ [Wentworth], Crawley’s ‘cousin’, and Thomas Wilson. The widow’s name was Mary, but the will refers to an earlier wife, whose christian name is not given. The overseer, Sir Thomas Wroth, was asked to look after the interests of the coheirs. The elder of these was the Anne Crawley who became the ward of George Penruddock in 1562 and married Edward Penruddock. Jane apparently died before May 1560, when Anne (then aged six), was declared the sole heir to the property.

On the whole, a man with such important court connexions seems the most likely member of his family to have been a Household official, even though, when he died on 6 Feb., his name should still appear on the Household list for the first collection of the subsidy in April. About the termination of his Membership of Parliament no similar difficulty arises. The Originalia Roll list of Members shows that he had been replaced by 23 Feb.

Morant, Essex, ii. 593 et passim; Add.5811, ff. 42-3; C142/125/40, 46; Lansd. 3, f: 195; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 318, 346; PCC 15, 47 Chaynay; Bull. IHR, xxxv. 88-9, 93; C. H. Garrett, Marian Exiles, 113, 137; CPR, 1560-3, p. 240; E371/402(1); CJ, i. 55.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.