ONLEY, Thomas (1523-89), of London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
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, Northants. by Jane, da. of (?Henry) Smith of Sherborne, Warws.; bro. of Edward. educ. I. Temple, adm. Feb. 1550. m. by 15 Jan. 1559, Jane, da. and coh. of Thomas Rigges of Cumberworth, Lincs., wid. of Julian Morgan of Ilford, Essex, 1s. 3da.1

Offices Held


According to notes made by his father in the ‘Belknap Hours’, Thomas Onley’s godfather was Thomas West, 8th Lord la Warr. Just over a dozen years later the dissolution of the monasteries was to arouse la Warr’s hostility but to give John Onley employment, with what consequences to their relationship is not known. On the eve of his early death Onley left Thomas £300 on reaching 22 and entrusted the ‘governance, order, rule and bringing up’ of his two sons to his brother-in-law George Cotton of Combermere and nephew Richard Cotton who was shortly to marry one of Onley’s daughters. Onley seems to have meant Thomas to follow a career similar to his own, but although Thomas entered the Temple at the advanced age of 26 he is not known to have made any mark outside a small circle of friends and relatives. In 1553 he helped Richard Corbet to buy a manor in Yorkshire and after the breakdown of the marriage of his cousin Mary Cotton to the 3rd Earl of Derby, Onley and his brother managed her affairs.2

Onley presumably owed his return at Brackley twice in 1554 to the Earl of Derby, assisted by his family’s ties with Northamptonshire. His appearance for a second time that year as one of the borough’s Members did not comply with the regime’s preference for inhabitants, but it is likely that he met its religious criterion as he did not support his kinsman Sir Ralph Bagnall in refusing the papal absolution from Cardinal Pole. Onley sat for Brackley again under Elizabeth and died in 1589, being buried near his brother at Catesby in Northamptonshire.3

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. Date of birth given in Cat. Lib. Maj. J. R. Abbey (Sotheby and Co., 1 Dec. 1970), 31; Belknap Hours (no. 2869 of preceding sale). Bridges, Northants. i. 35; Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 38-39, 121; St.Ch.4/1/13; CPR, 1558-60, p. 385.
  • 2. PCC 17 Dyngeley; CPR, 1553, p. 60; 1558-60, p. 347; 1560-3, p. 333.
  • 3. Northants. RO, Ellesmere mss box X 465.