WRAY, Sir John (1586-1655), of Wharton, Lincs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



24 Apr. 1640
Nov. 1640

Family and Education

bap. 27 Nov. 1586, 1st s. of Sir William Wray, 1st bt.*, and his 1st w. Lucy, da. of Sir Edward Montagu† of Boughton, Northants.; bro. of Edward*; half-bro. of Christopher*.2 educ. Sidney Sussex, Camb. 1600; L. Inn 1603; travelled abroad 1604-7.3 m. 7 Sept. 1607, (with £2,000),4 Griselda (bur. 26 Jan. 1653), da. and h. of Sir Hugh Bethell of Ellerton, Yorks., 6s. (2 d.v.p.) 6da. (3 d.v.p.).5 kntd. Sept. 1612;6 suc. fa. as 2nd bt. 13 Aug. 1617.7 bur. 31 Dec. 1655.8

Offices Held

Commr. sewers, Lincoln, Lincs. 1608, 1627, Newark, Notts. 1610, River Gleane, Lincs. and Notts. 1619-25, Holland, Lincs. 1626, Gt. Fens 1629-54,9 swans, Lincs., Northants., Rutland, Notts. 1619, Lincs. and elsewhere c.1629, Lincs. 1635;10 j.p. Lincs. (Lindsey) by 1622-7, 1628-36, 1641-d.;11 commr. subsidy, Lincs. (Lindsey) 1621, 1624,12 oyer and terminer, Midlands circ. 1624-36, 41-d.,13 recusants, Lincs. 1624;14 sheriff, Lincs. 1625-6;15 commr. Forced Loan (Lindsey) 1627,16 exacted fees, Lincoln 1634,17 assessment, Lincs. 1643-9, sequestration 1643, defence of Eastern Assoc. 1643, New Model Ordinance 1645, militia 1648.18

Commr. treaty with Scotland 1643, 1646, 1647.19


After completing his education with three years of travel, Wray returned to England in 1607 to make a fortunate marriage, which brought him £2,000 and two manors in Yorkshire. His father made over sufficient property to the young couple to ensure them an annual income of £300 a year.20 Knighted in 1612, Wray was returned for Grimsby two years later, but he left no trace on the records of the Addled Parliament. For the next few years he seems to have contented himself with local affairs, for example contributing £20 for the repair of the Fosse Dyke. He became a friend of John Williams, bishop of Lincoln, and a notable patron of puritan preachers.21 On his father’s death in 1617 he inherited considerable estates, later valued at £2,600 a year, and the advowsons of eight churches, although some of this property was immediately sold for £8,000.22 In 1624 Wray was one of the referees appointed to mediate a settlement in the dispute between the borough of Boston and the county over payment for the repair of the town’s sluice.23

Returned for the county to the first Caroline Parliament, Wray’s only recorded speech, on 30 June 1625, was to recommend a supply of two subsidies but no fifteenths, presumably because the latter were more burdensome to the poor.24 He was appointed sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1625-6, and was therefore unable to stand at the next election. He refused to pay the Forced Loan, despite pressure from his maternal uncle the 1st earl of Manchester (Sir Henry Montagu*), lord president of the Council, who offered to pay for him. Wray declined to take advantage of the offer, claiming that such a suggestion ‘did him much dishonour’ and threatening that if Manchester persisted the money would not be repaid, ‘neither will he visit him so oft as he has done’.25 Imprisoned in the Gatehouse, Wray’s pleas of ill health secured his discharge into the custody first of Sir William Slingsby* at Richmond and then of the sheriff of Middlesex.26 He was eventually released in January 1628, and re-elected for Lincolnshire a few weeks later.27 He was named to the privileges committee (20 March), and to consider bills to preserve the unity of Church and state (7 Apr.), assert parliamentary privilege (28 Apr.), and provide for the better maintenance of the ministry (7 May).28 On 8 May he proposed doubling the subsidy upon recusants.29 He was added on 21 May to the committee to search for the records and precedents cited by John Selden* concerning the liberties of the subject.30 A week later, he unsuccessfully urged the House to allow him to pursue an action against a servant of Sir Guy Palmes*, by waiving the latter’s privilege.31 In the subsidy debate on 29 May Wray, with rare disinterest, supported the taxation of English baronets as well as the holders of Irish and Scottish peerages at a higher rate. Two days later he joined in the Commons’ prevarications over the rival claims of Oxford and Cambridge for precedence in the bill’s preamble, suggesting that ‘if Oxford will needs have the precedency, I humbly move that she may pay double the subsidy’.32 On 6 June he brought in a witness, Caleb Morley, to give evidence that Sir Allen Apsley, as victualler of the Navy had provided rotten rations for the army at RĂ©, but the charge was not substantiated.33 Wray twice attacked the duke of Buckingham during debates on the Remonstrance, claiming on 5 June that, ‘if we could send posts into all parts, they would tell us the duke were cause of all our miseries’.34 On 11 June added that if the House were reluctant to name Buckingham as the main cause of the evils mentioned, they could refer to him as lord admiral and warden of the Cinque Ports.35 In the second session he was appointed to only one committee, set up on 10 Feb. 1629 to confirm the Somers Island (Bermuda) charter.36

In keeping with his earlier defiance, Wray refused to pay Ship Money, and was again dismissed from the county bench.37 He was re-elected knight of the shire in both the Short and Long Parliaments in 1640, and sided against the king during the Civil War.38 Although he was ejected at Pride’s Purge, his eldest son John sat for the county in the first Protectorate Parliament. Wray died intestate and was buried at Glentworth on 31 Dec. 1655. His estate was eventually inherited by his half-brother’s grandson, Sir Christopher, who was elected for Grimsby in 1675.39

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Paula Watson / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Did not sit after Pride’s Purge, 6 Dec. 1648.
  • 2. Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lv), 1323.
  • 3. Al. Cant.; LI Admiss.; SO3/2, unfol.
  • 4. Lincs. AO, LCS 14/5.
  • 5. C. Dalton, Wrays of Glentworth, i. 148-9, 169-70.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 152.
  • 7. C142/386/87; CB, i. 95-6.
  • 8. Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lv), 1323.
  • 9. C181/2, ff. 76v, 119v, 353; C181/3, ff. 268v, 198v, 228v; 181/4, ff. 16v. 39v, 93v; 181/5, ff. 9v, 223; 181/6, p. 37.
  • 10. Ibid. f. 341v; 181/3, f. 268; 181/5, f. 14.
  • 11. C193/13/1, 2, 3, 4; C231/4, ff. 227, 261; 231/5, pp. 223, 436.
  • 12. SP14/123/77; C212/22/20-23; HMC Rutland, i. 463.
  • 13. C181/3, ff. 108, 258v; 181/4, ff. 10v, 195v; C181/5, ff. 34, 192, 220; 181/6, pp. 15, 118.
  • 14. HMC Rutland, i. 471.
  • 15. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 80.
  • 16. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 145.
  • 17. C181/4, f. 158v.
  • 18. A. and O. i. 92, 114, 149, 232, 294, 539, 622, 641, 968, 1085, 1239; ii. 37, 302.
  • 19. LJ vi. 55b; ix. 500a; CJ, iv. 606a.
  • 20. Lincs. AO, LCS 14/5, 13.
  • 21. J.W.F. Hill, Tudor and Stuart Lincoln, 131; C. Holmes, Seventeenth-Cent. Lincs. 103, 139-40.
  • 22. STAC 8/68/14; HEHL, EL6502.
  • 23. APC, 1623-5, p. 182.
  • 24. Procs. 1625, p. 275.
  • 25. Procs. 1628, vi. 112.
  • 26. APC, 1627, pp. 253, 338, 475.
  • 27. Ibid. 1627-8, p. 217.
  • 28. CD 1628, ii. 29, 323; iii. 122, 301.
  • 29. Ibid. iii. 328.
  • 30. Ibid. 511.
  • 31. Ibid. iv. 11.
  • 32. Ibid. 17, 43, 48.
  • 33. Ibid. 142, 155.
  • 34. Ibid. 128.
  • 35. Ibid. 255.
  • 36. CJ, i. 928a.
  • 37. CSP Dom. 1635-6, pp. 289, 361.
  • 38. M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 400-1.
  • 39. Her. and Gen. ii. 126; Dalton, ii. 15.