Thomas ELRINGTON of Willesden

Born: ABT 1520

Died: 1566

Father: Thomas ELRINGTON

Mother: Alice MIDDLETON

Married: Beatrix BRAY BEF 1549







The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.

Thomas Elrington of Lincoln's Inn, London and Willesden, Middlesex. Member of Parliament, New Shoreham, Oct 1553, Bramber, Nov 1554. b. ?1520, first son of Thomas Elrington of Willesden by Alice, dau. and coh. of John Middleton of London. Educ. L. Inn, adm. 12 Nov 1540, called 1548. Married by 1549, Beatrix, dau. of Sir Edward Bray. Suc. fa. Sep 1523/Jan 1524. J.p. Mdx. 1554-d.; commr. survey possessions, bpric. of London 1559, benevolence to rebuild St. Paul's 1564.

It was Sir Thomas More's marriage to Alice Middleton which was to link Thomas Elrington with the More household. In 1517 More arranged a marriage between his step-daughter Alice, an orphan of the city of London, and Thomas Elrington senior, the son and heir of Simon Elrington of Essex, and three years later the first child was baptized Thomas.

More had brought up his step-daughter, 'in other things and learning both', as if she were his own, and the early death of her first husband, followed by her marriage to Giles Alington, meant that her son spent his formative years in the More household. He followed both More and his father to Lincoln's Inn, where he received a special admission in 1540. His comparatively late admission is suggestive of an earlier education at one of the universities, but of this no trace has been found. Youthful exuberance rather than a more deep-seated unrest may explain Elrington's involvement in several escapades at the inn. In Jul 1546 he was put out of commons for removing the light of St. John placed in the hall for the vigil on that saint's eve and putting a horse's head in its place: he confessed his error and escaped the brief imprisonment which two other culprits received. A few months later Elrington was examined on suspicion of having nailed up in the hall a lampoon against the benchers, and the next year he was again in disgrace for fighting at the gate. In spite of all this he was called to the bar in 1548. Although with so many influential relatives a legal career must have promised well, Elrington chose to become an ironmaster.

To his substantial patrimony in Hertfordshire, Kent, Middlesex and Sussex Elrington added the well-wooded and iron-rich land near Dorking and Guildford in Surrey, which he bought in conjunction with his kinsman Edward Elrington from Sir Humphrey Stafford. He built a new mill at Abinger, and used his woodlands as a source of fuel for his works there and elsewhere, obtaining permission from the crown in 1560 to continue felling wood despite the Act of 1559 against deforestation (I Eliz. c.15). A sharp businessman, who on one occasion persuaded several ironmasters at East Grinstead to deliver him a consignment before an earlier order elsewhere had been fulfilled, he so incensed the authorities at Guildford that they had a bill introduced into the Parliament of 1563 to close the mill at Shere. His close supervision of his works meant that although his home was in Middlesex he spent much of his time in Surrey. His Membership of two Marian Parliaments was doubtless the work of his father-in-law Sir Edward Bray, perhaps assisted by the Shirley family of Wiston; Bray, who had a seat at Henfield, near both Shoreham and Bramber, was himself elected for Surrey in Oct 1553. Unlike Bray, Elrington did not oppose the first steps towards the restoration of Catholicism in the autumn of 1553. His experience of the House and his legal training were to serve him when in 1563 Guildford sought to close his mill; he asked for a copy of the bill before appearing at the bar with Edmund Plowden to argue his case.

Elrington retained his place on the Middlesex bench at the accession of Elizabeth, and although in 1564 Grindal reported that he was 'not persuaded in religion' the Bishop added that he conformed in 'his outward doings'. Elrington made his will on 10 Jul 1566. He asked to be buried at Willesden as 'befits a good Christian man', and after leaving rings to his stepfather Sir Giles Alington, his brother-in-law Sir Edward Bray and several others, whom he exhorted to pray for him, he provided for his wife, children and servants. As executors he named his cousins Thomas Fortescue, George Monoux and William Say, and as supervisors Sir William Cordell and Sir James Dyer. A month later he added a codicil repeating his wish to be buried at Willesden and was dead before the end of Aug. His heir was his 17-year-old son Edward.
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