ONLEY, Thomas (1523-89), of London and Charwelton, Northants.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. 24 Nov. 1523, 4th but 2nd surv. s. of John Onley of London and Catesby by his 1st w.; bro. of Edward. educ. I. Temple 1550. m. by 15 Jan. 1559, Jane, da. and coh. of one Rigges of Cumberworth, Lincs., wid. of Julian Morgan of Ilford, Essex, 1s. 3da.1

Offices Held


Onley, who held a lease of pastures in Catesby from his brother Edward, married an heiress and secured the wardship of his stepson. Through their close relatives the Cottons of Combermere he and his brother were probably already acquainted with the 3rd Earl of Derby before 1561 when Derby married their cousin as his third wife. When the marriage broke down the Countess turned for help to the Onleys, to whom the wardship of her brother George had recently been committed. Thomas Onley travelled north to bring the lady home, and during the next 12 years he and his brother supported the Countess (whose husband died in 1572), claiming to have incurred debts of over £3,000 on her behalf. Thus it is curious to find Onley in 1572 returned for the third time for the Earl of Derby’s borough of Brackley. The Earl, however, was neglecting his patronage in the borough at this period, while the Countess was endeavouring to acquire it as part of her dower. In any case local influence would probably have sufficed to obtain Onley’s election. He was named to committees on wool (13 Feb. 1581) and navigation (15 Mar. 1581). He acted as collector of part of the subsidy granted by that Parliament.2

The Derby settlement of 1574 was to be the cause of a further 15 years’ litigation, carried on by Edward Onley, on whose death Thomas Onley, as executor and the guardian of his children, revived the suit and, with the advice of men such as Yelverton and Pickering, pressed it with vigour. It was apparently nearing a favourable conclusion when he addressed his last surviving letter on the subject in 1588. Onley evidently died early in 1589. A letter of condolence from a nephew to his son, dated 27 Feb. 1589, ends, ‘I am very well contented, for that it was also my father’s desire as well as his own, that he should lie by him in Catesby church’.3

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. Cat. Lib. Maj. J. R. Abbey (Sotheby and Co., 1 Dec. 1970), 30-2; Baker, Northants. i. 287; Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 38-9, 121; Bridges, Northants. i. 35.
  • 2. C142/196/30; CPR, 1558-60, pp. 175, 347; 1560-3, p. 333; Wards Pleadings, 14; PCC 17 Dyngeley; Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe; CP, iv. 210; Add. Ch. 89968(6); CJ, i. 125, 134.
  • 3. Northants. RO, Ellesmere mss; SP15/34/58, f. 196.