HOLCROFT, Thomas II (1557-1620), of Vale Royal, Cheshire.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 17 July 1557, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Holcroft of Vale Royal by Juliana, da. of Nicholas Jennings of London. m. (1) Elizabeth (d.1595), da. of Edward Fitton of Gawsworth, Cheshire 1s.; (2) Elizabeth (d.1612), da. of Sir William Reyner of Orton Longueville, Hunts., wid. of Henry Talbot, 3rd s. of George, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. suc. fa. 1558. Kntd. 1603.1

Offices Held

J.p. Cheshire from c.1587, commr. musters 1596, sheriff 1598-9; gent. of privy chamber by 1613.2


Holcroft’s father (descended from the Lancashire Holcrofts) entered royal service, became knight marshal to Queen Mary and speculated in monastic lands, obtaining, among other grants, one of Vale Royal. A minor when his father died, Holcroft’s wardship was granted with a £10 annuity to his future father-in-law. For many years after he came of age, he was unable to play his full part in county affairs owing to lack of money, his father having left all his movable property to his widow, who survived until 1595. On a list of county justices, drawn up in 1587, there was a comment that he was worth no more than £10 a year, ‘because the Lady Holcroft his mother is yet alive’. The situation was aggravated in 1590 by their quarrel over some land in Streatham, Surrey, a dispute in which the Queen eventually intervened.3

Holcroft’s kinsman Thomas Holcroft I was a servant of Lord Burghley, and Holcroft was himself evidently known to the lord treasurer, being one of a number of gentlemen admitted to Gray’s Inn at the latter’s request in February 1588. The connexion was strengthened a year later by the marriage of the daughter and heiress of the 3rd Earl of Rutland, Holcroft’s niece, to Burghley’s grandson, William Cecil. Even after her death in 1591 the link was maintained, Thomas Cecil, 2nd Baron Burghley, recommending him to his brother, Sir Robert Cecil, both in 1600 and 1604.4

As knight of the shire for Cheshire Holcroft was appointed to committees on a legal matter (9 Mar. 1593), the subsidy (26 Feb. 1593), main business (3 Nov. 1601), monopolies (23 Nov. 1601), fines in Chester (25 Nov.), and the vicarage of Rotherstone (2 Dec.). His only mention by name in the journals for 1593 is his appointment to a committee on recusancy (4 Apr.). On 11 Nov. 1601 he was appointed to the committee dealing with Rochdale, Lancashire, and spoke twice. On 13 Nov. he raised the subject of the Denbighshire election, saying that ‘there had need be speed made, otherwise there can be no election this Parliament’. On 27 Nov. he intervened in the debate on the serving of subpoenas on Members: ‘many complaints were made but none punished: many sent for but none appeared’.5

Over the years, he was involved in a number of disputes, the most serious being a duel in which the eldest son of the 4th Lord Burgh was killed and Holcroft himself severely wounded: a few days later he was found guilty of manslaughter. In 1592 he was himself the victim, being assaulted by Sir Richard Bulkeley in the house of the bishop of Chester. The matter was taken to the Privy Council. Holcroft also pursued at least two family vendettas; in 1598 with the 7th Earl of Shrewsbury over the wardship of his second wife’s two young daughters by her first marriage, and in 1600 with the widow of his kinsman, John Holcroft, when he appears to have had the case moved to the Lancaster assizes to suit his own ends. After disposing of most of his property between 1611 and 1616, Holcroft retired to London, where on Saturday, 19 Feb. 1620, ‘he fell down a pair of stairs at his lodgings in the Strand and so bruised his skull that he died the next morning’. No will has been found.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Patricia Hyde


  • 1. DL7/10/13; Ormerod, Cheshire, ii. 154; Funeral Certificates 1600-78 (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. vi), 110.
  • 2. Lansd. 53, f. 178; Vis. Cheshire (Harl. Soc. lix), 127.
  • 3. Ormerod, ii. 154; CPR, 1558-60, p. 35; Lansd. 53, f. 178; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 669; PCC 11 Stevenson, 21 Drake.
  • 4. G. Inn Adm. Reg. 66; HMC Hatfield, x. 236, 253; xvi. 243.
  • 5. D’Ewes, 474, 496, 517, 624, 634, 637, 649, 654, 655, 657, 662.
  • 6. CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, pp. 530, 532; APC, xxiii. 249, 359; xxx. 492-4, 526; Lansd. 86, f. 10; DKR, 39, pp. 152-3; Chamberlain Letters ed. McClure, ii. 291.