DE GREY, Thomas (1717-81), of Merton, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



11 Apr. 1764 - 1774

Family and Education

bap. 29 Sept. 1717, 1st surv. s. of Thomas de Grey, M.P., of Merton, by Elizabeth, da. of William Windham of Felbrigg, Norf., and bro. of William de Grey. educ. Bury St. Edmunds; Christ’s, Camb. 1735. m. 1746, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Samuel Fisher of Bury St. Edmunds, s.p.

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The de Grey family, while not outstandingly wealthy, was of high standing in Norfolk. Thomas de Grey himself acquired a considerable estate on his marriage in 1746, and shortly afterwards seems to have taken over the management of his father’s Norfolk estates.

When in 1764 George Townshend, Member for Norfolk, succeeded his father in the peerage, he recommended de Grey as his successor. De Grey at first professed reluctance to stand, but assured of the support of both the Townshend and the Walpole families, was even ready to face a contest.1 Eventually, after some preliminary alarms, he was returned unopposed.

In Rockingham’s list of July 1765 he was classed as ‘contra’; he voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act, 22 Feb. 1766, and, writes James Harris, on 27 Feb. spoke ‘for the first time and well’ against repeal. In Rockingham’s list of November 1766 he is classed as ‘Swiss,’ i.e. prepared to support every Administration. He voted against Administration on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767.

At the general election of 1768 de Grey was returned again for Norfolk after a long and very expensive contest. During this Parliament he seems generally to have supported the Grafton and North Administrations, though on 31 Jan. 1770 he told Members that he was ‘not accountable to any one in this House’. He spoke in favour of annulling Wilkes’s election for Middlesex, 17 Feb. 1769; voted with Administration on the Middlesex election, 8 May 1769, and spoke against inquiring into the causes of arrears in the civil list, 1 Mar. 1769. In the debate on the Address, 9 Jan. 1770, he denied that there was any substantial discontent in the country, attributing the Westminster petition to ‘a few despicable mechanics, headed by base-born people, booksellers, and broken tradesmen’. In the debate of 31 Jan. 1770 he demanded whether ‘the people’ were not rather the ‘men of great property’ with ‘a great stake to lose’. He voted for committing Brass Crosby to the Tower, 27 Mar. 1771, and on 16 Mar. 1772 spoke in favour of the royal marriage bill.2

Increasingly disabled by gout, and unwilling to face another contest, de Grey decided before February 1773 not to stand again.

He died 23 June 1781.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Brian Hayes


  • 1. Walsingham mss; draft of a speech in Thomas de Grey’s hand.
  • 2. Cavendish’s ‘Debates, Egerton 3711, ff. 212-13; 218, f. 250; Parlty. Hist. xvi. 696.