Sir Thomas STANHOPE of Shelford

Born: ABT 1540, Shelford, Nottinghamshire, England

Died: 3 Aug 1596, Shelford, Nottingham, England

Buried: 27 Sep 1596, Shelford, Nottinghamshire, England

Father: Michael STANHOPE (Sir)

Mother: Anne RAWSON

Married: Margaret PORT (dau. and coh. of Sir John Porte of Etwall, and Elizabeth Gifford)


1. John STANHOPE (Sir)


3. Edward STANHOPE

4. Thomas STANHOPE

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

First s. of Sir Michael Stanhope and bro. of EdwardEdwardJohn and Michael Stanhope. Married Margaret, 3rd dau. and coh. of Sir John Porte of Etwall, Derbys. by Elizabeth, only dau. of Sir Thomas Gifford of Chillington, Staffs., 3s. 1da. Suc. fa. 1552. Kntd. 1575.

J.p.q. Notts. from c.1561, sheriff 1562-3, 1574-5, 1587-8, dep. lt. by 1591, custos rot. from c.1594; j.p.q. Derbys. from c.1561, sheriff 1562-3.

After the execution of Stanhope’s father a small portion of his estates was leased to his widow, and in 1555 Queen Mary confirmed the manors in fee to the family. Further large grants in fee of manors in Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire were made at the time to Lady Anna Stanhope with remainder to her eldest son Thomas, who also received an immediate grant of the manors of Gonwardby and Manthorpe in Lincolnshire. When Lady Stanhope died in 1588, Thomas was living at Shelford, the principal seat of the family, his mother probably having given him the control of the property long before her death.

These extensive estates, and the protection of William Cecil, would have allowed Stanhope to have indulged himself in a career at court had he wished. He was related to Burghley’s second wife, Mildred, the daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke. Sending Burghley a New Year’s gift in Dec 1579, he acknowledged he had received ‘more good and grave counsel and advice from you in my time than from any other man (good Sir Anthony Cooke except), I mean when I was very young. I have had more commodity by your free gift than of all persons now living’. Though he remained a country gentleman Stanhope solicited occasional favours from Burghley, such as the wardship of his nephew Thomas Cooper in 1570. He was appointed to a number of local commissions and was active against suspected Roman Catholics. Sir Gervase Clifton, who had been described as a good subject ‘and necessary for service in [his] country but in religion very cold’ in the bishops’ letters of 1564, wrote in May 1584 to Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland, complaining that Stanhope had threatened to ‘come to Clifton, and he would have me and all my whole house, man, woman and child at the church’.

Though Stanhope could clearly have maintained an independent position in Nottinghamshire, he chose rather to associate himself with the earls of Rutland. He loaned John Manners, 4th Earl, £200 in Jun 1587, was among the chief mourners at his funeral in 1588, and invited the young Roger Manners, 5th Earl, to the wedding of his daughter in May 1591. It is not surprising, therefore, that when he decided to stand for Nottinghamshire in 1586 he should have asked for support from the Earl of Rutland. In the House he is known to have been a member of only one committee, that to decide on the motion to be made to the Queen regarding Mary Queen of Scots, 4 Nov. At the time of the 1588 elections Stanhope was sheriff; he stood for the county unsuccessfully in 1593 in the following circumstances.

The death of the 3rd Earl of Rutland in 1587 and of his brother John in the following year, left an heir who was only eleven, Roger. Into this vacuum moved, in 1590, Gilbert Talbot, 7th Earl of Shrewsbury, an irascible man with several family quarrels already to his discredit. Stanhope had a similar reputation. In 1577, for example, he had been engaged in a quarrel with Sir John Zouche, who accused Stanhope in Star Chamber of attacking his followers in Derby. At the beginning of Michaelmas term 1577 the two parties were called before the Privy Council, and with their mutual agreement the case was removed from the Star Chamber to be settled by the Council, where Stanhope came off second best. In 1578 Stanhope quarrelled with another local gentleman, Henry Sacheverell, and between 1578 and 1580 with John Molyneux of Mullenwoods, the two being bound in bonds of £200 in Apr 1579 to keep the peace. It may have been because of one of these disputes that Stanhope was committed to the Fleet by the Council in Jun 1578.

Sir George Chaworth writes to the Earl of Rutland in 1586, mentioning his uncle Thomas and Sir Thomas Stanhope:

"I enclose the answers of Retford and Nottingham. I lie at your disposition concerning the election of knights for this shire. Sir Thomas Stanhope would willingly supply one place as associate with Sir Thomas Manners or any other."

Thus it was predictable that Shrewsbury, as the most powerful nobleman in the county, should quarrel with Stanhope, the principal supporter of a family in eclipse. One occasion for recrimination between them was the marriage in 1591 of Stanhope’s daughter to John Holles. There had been an understanding between Sir William Holles and George, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, that John should marry a kinswoman of the Earl, but after Sir William’s death Holles chose Stanhope’s daughter instead, ‘which the Earl took as the greatest affront in the world’, and described Stanhope as ‘one of the most ambitious, proud, covetous, and subtle persons that ever I was acquainted with’. Things began to heat up in 1592 over a weir Stanhope had built about 15 years earlier on the Trent at Shelford, to provide power for his corn mills. Shrewsbury organized a petition signed by 500 of the villagers living close to the river, which Stanhope countered with a paper signed by Shrewsbury himself, by his father, and other gentry of the county, testifying to the necessity for the weir. The Privy Council decided that the matter should be settled by the commission of sewers, and instructed the lord keeper to have particular care in appointing the commissioners to decide the matter. At this moment the writs were issued for the 1593 parliamentary election. It was at this very period that Thomas Markham stood in the disputed Nottinghamshire election of 1593 in harness with Sir Thomas Stanhope. The details of this campaign appear elsewhere, but the upshot was that Shrewsbury won, and determined to finish off Stanhope and his weir in a carefully planned commando operation just before Easter 1593. Twelve of Shrewsbury’s henchmen erected on his own ground at one end of the weir a prefabricated ‘timber house in manner of a fort’, which they manned and equipped with armour and weapons so as to cover the building of a trench 60 yards long to divert the Trent and render the weir useless. Stanhope’s faction called a special sessions at Nottingham to punish the offenders, but the sheriff, Shrewsbury’s man, refused to attend and convened the other justices at Newark, where Stanhope’s weir was presented as a nuisance. The Queen refused to allow Stanhope to prosecute Shrewsbury, but 13 of those who had actually taken part in the weir’s destruction were fined. In Oct of the same year Shrewsbury’s forces pulled down the wall of Stanhope’s park at Horsley, Derbyshire.

Stanhope died ‘after many years worshipfully spent’ at his house in East Stoke on 3 Aug 1596, and was buried at Shelford on 27 Sep. His heir was his eldest son John.



Mimardière. A. M.: STANHOPE, Sir Thomas (c.1540-96), of Shelford, Notts.

Stanhope, Michael: The history of the Stanhope family:

to Bios Page to Family Page
to Peerage Page to Home Page