GREY (GRAY), Hon. Anchitell (c.1624-1702), of Risley, Derbys.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



16 Feb. 1665
Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1624, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Henry Grey, 1st Earl of Stamford (d.1673), by Lady Anne Cecil, da. and coh. of William Cecil, 2nd Earl of Exeter; bro. of Hon. John Grey and Thomas Grey, Lord Grey of Groby. m. by 1657, Anne (d. 2 June 1688), da. and coh. of Sir Henry Willoughby, 1st Bt., of Risley, wid. of Sir Thomas Aston, 1st Bt. of Aston, Cheshire, 1s. d.v.p. 1da.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Derbys. 1657, Derbys. and Notts. Aug. 1660-80, 1689-90, Leics. Aug. 1660-1, 1677-9, Warws. 1677-80; sheriff, Notts. 1657-8; commr. for militia, Derbys. and Notts. Mar. 1660; j.p. Derbys. Mar. 1660-80, Derbys. and Notts. Feb. 1688-d.; dep. lt. Derbys. July 1660-?81, Feb. 1688-d., Leics. 1667-?81, Notts. 1692-d.; commr. for loyal and indigent officers, Derbys. 1662, oyer and terminer, Midland circuit 1665.2

Gent. of the privy chamber extraordinary June 1660.3


Grey claimed descent from Anchitel de Grai, a Domesday tenant-in-chief in Oxfordshire, and his ancestors were certainly major landowners in Derbyshire in the 13th century. Several branches of the family were called to the House of Lords in the Middle Ages, but the first of his ancestors to sit in the Commons was his great-grandfather, who represented Essex in 1589. His father and his elder brother (who died in 1657) were ardent Presbyterians and Parliamentarians in the Civil War. But by 1659 the family was for ‘King and Covenant’, and Grey was arrested for complicity in the rising of his brother-in-law, Sir George Booth.4

By his marriage Grey acquired an estate at Risley, six miles east of Derby, and he canvassed the borough while Roger Allestry was on his deathbed in 1665. On 4 Feb. he wrote to his brother-in-law, Robert Bruce:

Lord Devonshire gave me his recommendatory letter to the corporation of Derby, which I thought it a respect due to my lord from me to crave at his hands, although the business in effect was concluded some days before. There is some difficulty, which is that Mr [John] Frescheville may be taken off from urging me to stand for knight of the shire. ... Mr Allestry is yet living, but is on the point of expiring every hour, so that while it pleases God to continue him I can make no further progress than give the corporation their fill of sack and tobacco.

He was returned unopposed, and continued to represent the borough, with one interval, for 30 years. He is seldom distinguished in the Journals from his namesakes in the House, but he was probably moderately active as a committeeman in the Cavalier Parliament. He may have been appointed to 78 committees, although few of them were of much political significance. In his only recorded speech, he ‘made a fair excuse’ for the absence of his colleague John Dalton on 18 Jan. 1667, and three days later was appointed by full name to the committee for the illegitimization of the children of Lady Roos, whose husband (John Manners) after his divorce married Grey’s niece, Lady Diana Bruce. On 24 Jan. he carried a local estate bill to the Lords.5

With the proceedings against Clarendon in the next session Grey began the parliamentary diary which constitutes his real title to fame. No other individual has covered single-handed so long a span from 1667 to 1694, though the initial entries are considerably scrappier than the record kept by his colleague for the county, John Milward. Much of the material about Commons debates used by Samuel Starkey for his news-letters about this time was apparently derived from Grey. It would seem that he was one of the country Members who seceded from the House after their defeat in two important divisions on 18 Feb. 1668, but he was noted as a friend of Ormonde, and Sir Thomas Osborne listed him in 1669 among the Members to be engaged for the Court by the Duke of York. His was the first name on the committee appointed to consider a bill to settle the Derbyshire manor of Duffield Frith in 1670, and in the following year he probably carried up two more estate bills, one of which was promoted by his nephew Henry Booth.6

Although others besides Sir Thomas Meres must have observed Grey taking shorthand notes of the proceedings, it was only in 1674 that he was given any opportunity to use them for the benefit of the House by serving on the committee to inspect the Journals. He probably introduced the second bill to enable the spendthrift Derbyshire poet Charles Cotton to sell land in 1675, for he was the first Member named to the committee. In the autumn session he was appointed to the committees for the appropriation bill and the Derwent navigation bill. In retirement many years later he remembered that the latter had ‘passed through my hands so far as twice reading to commitment, and summons to the country to be heard, but was extinguished on prorogation’. The great objection to the bill was that ‘the price of corn in that market will depend wholly upon the Derby traders. ... I confess I could not then balance that objection with any great conveniences to the country in other matters of trade.’ When Coleman, the Duchess of York’s secretary, was being examined by the committee of inquiry into the assault on the Protestant convert Luzancy, he said that he had shown his paper justifying the principal culprit to Francis Hawley and Grey; but (Sir) John Malet suppressed their names in his report to the House. During the subsequent long recess Sir Richard Wiseman described Grey as ‘my ancient acquaintance and friend; but I could never get him to go [right] as yet’, and Francis Gwyn later remembered him as ‘a very angry man’. On 19 Feb. 1677 William Cavendish, Lord Cavendish, informed the House that Grey had ‘business of consequence’ with one of the lords sent to the Tower for insisting that Parliament had been automatically dissolved. He was probably appointed to the committees to inquire into abuses in the collection of the hearth-tax, a particularly vexatious impost in an industrial neighbourhood, and to prevent the growth of Popery. In April 1678 either Grey or his brother was named to two important committees, those to inquire into the dangers from Popery and to summarize foreign commitments. When Grey’s old acquaintance Coleman was arrested during the Popish Plot, he supplied a translation of one of the letters found in his possession, although not a member of the committee. In the Debates it is recorded that the compiler acted as teller for retaining the word ‘traitorously’ in Danby’s impeachment; but in the Journals the name appears as May, thereby misleading Speaker Onslow into attributing at least part of the work to the court supporter, Richard May.7

Grey was re-elected to the Exclusion Parliaments, and marked ‘worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list. He was probably moderately active in 1679, when he may have been sent to the Lords to desire conferences on Danby’s attainder and the disbandment of the army, and served on five committees, including that to consider the bill for security against Popery. He voted for the first exclusion bill. In 1680 he was removed from the commission of the peace by the interest of Sir Henry Every, who had been able to make little opposition in the August election. He may have again been moderately active in the second Exclusion Parliament, with seven possible committees, of which the most important was to take the disbandment accounts. He defeated John Coke II in 1681, and in the Oxford Parliament he may have helped to prepare reasons for a conference on the loss of the bill of ease for Protestant dissenters. The new charter destroyed Grey’s interest at Derby, and in 1685 he stood for the county. A local Tory wrote: ‘I do not find any inclination to Mr Grey in the country’, but he appears to have gone to the poll. In January 1688 he was expected to regain his seat at Derby, and he was restored to local office in the following month; but it seems unlikely that he became a Whig collaborator, since in September Coke replaced him as court candidate. During the Revolution he organized the defence of Derby against the Irish troops, and he was returned to the Convention with Coke, probably unopposed, in 1689. In this Parliament, however, he was for the first time definitely overshadowed by his brother. His account of the debates of 28-29 Jan. 1689 has been unfavourably compared with the notes taken by John Somers. He may have served on as few as seven committees, of which the most important was for the suspension of habeas corpus. He was on leave from the House for the first half of April and almost the whole of July, but the gaps in the Debates suggest considerably longer absences, though he was among those ordered to inspect the Journals for references to the Popish Plot on 12 June. In the second session he was appointed to the committee on the state of the revenue, and supported the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations.8

Grey continued to represent Derby in the next Parliament, despite increasing sufferings from gout. He died of cancer on 8 July 1702 and was buried at Little Wilne, leaving an estate valued at £4,000 p.a. to his daughter, who died unmarried in 1721.9

As a parliamentary reporter Grey lacked the trained analytical mind of Somers and the access to the court caucus of Sir Edward Dering and Daniel Finch. He seldom introduces an aside into his record of speeches, and even less often does he permit himself a comment. There is no doubt where his political sympathies lay, and some of the court spokesmen, such as (Sir) John Berkenhead and Sir Leoline Jenkins, clearly bored him. It must be remembered also that the Debates were not printed till many years after his death, and that we have no access to his manuscript, which has probably perished. Where comparison is possible, it does not seem that he was guilty of the grosser forms of partiality in his reporting, though his principles of selection are open to challenge.10

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: E. R. Edwards


  • 1. Collins, Peerage, iii. 359; IHR Bull. v. 55-56.
  • 2. J. C. Cox, Three Centuries Derbys. Annals, i. 42, 172-3; Yeatman, Feudal Hist. Derbys. ii. 227; HMC Lords, i. 177; HMC Coke, ii. 358; CSP Dom. 1691-2, p. 276.
  • 3. LC3/2.
  • 4. Nichols, Leics. iii. 682-3; D. Underdown, Royalist Conspiracy, 279; Cal. Comm. Comp. 3252.
  • 5. HMC 15th Rep. VII, 174; Milward, 65-66.
  • 6. D. T. Witcombe, Cavalier House of Commons, 99; CJ, ix. 197, 219.
  • 7. Pepys Naval Minutes (Navy Rec. Soc. lx), 122; HMC Ormonde, n.s. vi. 437; HMC Coke, iii. 383-4; Grey, v. 5, 101; vi. 386; HMC Lords. i. 7.
  • 8. CJ, ix. 594, 616; x. 63; 203; HMC Lords, i. 177; Add. 6705, f. 101; HMC Rutland, ii. 86-87; Browning, Danby, i. 426; Simpson thesis.
  • 9. HMC Coke, ii. 449; Jnl. Derbys. Arch. Soc. xxii. 112; Luttrell, v. 194.
  • 10. IHR Bull. v. 56.