WRAY, Sir William (1560-1617), of Ashby, nr. Grimsby, 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



Family and Education

b. 7 Feb. 1560,1 o.s. of Sir Christopher Wray† of Glentworth, Lincs., Speaker of the House of Commons 1571 and c.j.c.p. 1574-92, and Anne, da. of Nicholas Girlington of Normanby, Lincs., wid. of Robert Brocklesby of Glentworth.2 educ. L. Inn 1576.3 m. (1) 6 Apr. 1580,4 Lucy (d. 1 Mar. 1600),5 da. of Sir Edward Montagu† of Boughton, Northants., 8s. (6 d.v.p.) 5da. (2 d.v.p.); (2) c.1600, Frances, da. of Sir William Drury† of Hawstead, Suff., coh. to her bro. Sir Robert Drury* and wid. of Sir Nicholas Clifford† of Bobbing, Kent, 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 1da.6 suc. fa. 1592;7 kntd. c.1596;8 cr. bt. 25 Nov. 1611.9 d. 13 Aug. 1617.10

Offices Held

J.p. Lincs. (Lindsey) by 1583-d., (Kesteven) 1597-d.;11 mayor, Grimsby 1588-9;12 warden, Louth, Lincs. 1591-2;13 commr. gaol delivery, Grimsby 1592, 1598;14 sheriff, Lincs. 1594-5;15 commr. musters, Lincs. 1599,16 oyer and terminer, Midland circ. by 1602-d.,17 sewers, Gt. Fens 1604-5, River Gleane, Lincs. and Notts. 1607, Lincoln, Lincs. 1608, Newark, Notts. 1610, preservation of ditches, Gt. Fens 1605,18 charitable uses, Lincs. 1607,19 inquiry, boundaries of Holland and Kevesten, 1607,20 Admlty. causes, 1608,21 subsidy 1608;22 collector (jt.), aid Lincs. (Lindsey) 1609-11, 1613.23


Wray’s father, a Yorkshireman from the dales, was a lawyer who sat for Boroughbridge in all five Marian Parliaments. He moved to Lincolnshire on acquiring Glentworth by marriage, and represented Grimsby in 1563. After his thankless experience as Speaker in 1571, he became lord chief justice of Common Pleas in 1574, dying in harness 18 years later.24 Wray himself, ‘a simple, honest man’ according to Gervase Holles†, was a strong puritan, and with eight advowsons at his disposal he had much patronage to bestow.25 He took up residence at Ashby, less than seven miles from Grimsby, and acquired property in and around the borough, which he improved by drainage and enclosure. In the process he was held responsible for the destruction of at least a dozen farms, for which he had to answer to the commissioners for depopulation in 1607.26

Wray was elected for Grimsby in 1604, together with his brother-in-law, Sir George St. Paul. On the opening day he was appointed to consider the grievances raised by Sir Robert Wroth I* (23 March 1604), and as an experienced Parliament-man he was also named to the committee to recommend statutes for continuance, repeal, or revival (24 March).27 On 12 Apr. he was one of the Members chosen to present an address of thanks to the king for resolving the Buckinghamshire election dispute.28 Four days later, after the king signified his willingness to allow the Commons to debate religion and the Church, he was among those appointed to the committee to consider a variety of ecclesiastical matters. His interest in such business was considerable, as he was subsequently named to the committee for a bill promoted by St. Paul against scandalous and unworthy ministers (12 June), and to another for a bill to reform abuses in the ecclesiastical courts (16 June).29 Wray was also named to conferences with the Lords on Union with Scotland (14 Apr.) and wardship (23 May),30 and was appointed to committees to consider bills for the restraint of apparel (11 Apr. and 2 June), the preservation of game (23 May), and the recovery of hundreds of thousands of acres of land in the Fens which were subject to flooding (12 May). He was also appointed to committees for measures to strengthen the law against rogues and vagabonds (5 May), and to restrain the obstructions of navigable rivers (23 June).31 The only private bill in which he was concerned was to enable Sir Thomas Monson* to exchange some land with Trinity College, Cambridge (26 May).32

Wray’s appointments in the second session continued to reflect his strongly held religious views. They included bills to improve Sabbath observance (29 Jan. 1606), prevent the haunting of alehouses and theatres during church services (11 Feb., 19 Mar.), reform the ecclesiastical courts (25 Feb.), abolish pluralities and non-residence (5 Mar.), restore deprived ministers (7 Mar.) and encourage a learned ministry (21 March).33 Wray was also chosen to help manage a conference with the Lords on 3 Feb. on strengthening the recusancy laws, and to consider a bill against non-communicants (7 April).34

Wray was a member of the committees for the subsidy bill (10 Feb.) and the free trade bill (3 April).35 No doubt in the interests of his brother-in-law, Sir Robert Drury*, he was chosen to consider a bill authorizing the Middlesex magistrates to levy a rate for the repair and paving of Drury Lane (19 March).36 On the same day, in his first recorded speech, he opposed a private bill preferred by the claimant to a Northamptonshire estate, which was rejected.37 He was ordered to attend the committee on the commission for concealed lands on 12 May with evidence against William Tipper, a notorious Lincolnshire patentee.38 Two days later he was among those selected to attend the king with the Commons’ grievances.39

Wray’s appointments in the third session were for bills to enable Herbert Pelham* to alienate his Lincolnshire estates (20 Feb. 1607), to improve the efficiency of the sewers commissions (12 June), and he was twice appointed to hear a petition from armourers and gunmakers (6 May and 8 June).40 On 16 June 1607 he insisted that a petition for the better execution of the recusancy laws should be read, contrary to the king’s express instructions.41 During the recess he petitioned for the renewal of his leases to the manors of Barlings and Dowood, which had reverted to the Crown on the death of the duchess of Suffolk, and secured a pardon for the depopulation caused by his drainage and enclosure schemes.42

In the fourth session Wray was appointed to prepare two of the bills proposed in the speech from the throne of 21 Mar. 1610. The first of these was aimed at proud and insolent recusants, especially apostates, while the second sought to preserve game (22 March). Wray was also a member of the committee to prevent damage to crops by falconers (17 April).43 On 27 Mar. he was named to consider Drury’s bill for the revocation of a trust, and on 19 Apr. he received two appointments: one was for a bill to confirm contractors for Crown lands in their estates, while the other concerned an explanatory bill to suppress idle rogues (19 April).44 Wray was one of the Members ordered to accompany the Speaker to Whitehall on 28 May with an address for confining and disarming recusants, the close imprisonment of priests and Jesuits, and the prevention of access to embassy chapels.45 On 5 June he was among the first in line to take the Oath of Supremacy, which was sworn by all Members.46 In the supply debate on 11 July he acted as teller in the first division against voting ‘fifteenths’; this was lost, and a further vote was taken in which it was decided to supply the king with one subsidy and one fifteenth.47 He left no trace on the records of the brief fifth session, and does not appear to have stood for Parliament again.

Following the death of St. Paul in 1613, Wray was involved in litigation over the latter’s estate between Sir Robert Rich† and Sir Edward Tyrwhitt*.48 He himself inherited Hawstead in the right of his wife on Drury’s death in 1615.49 Wray died intestate on 13 Aug. 1617, and was buried at Ashby.50 His widow and his eldest son, Sir John*, were granted the administration of his estate.51

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Paula Watson / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. C142/233/114.
  • 2. Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lv), 1322-3.
  • 3. LI Admiss.
  • 4. Lincs. Peds. 1323.
  • 5. G. Holles, Lincs. Church Notes (Lincoln Rec. Soc. i), 63-64.
  • 6. C. Dalton, Wrays of Glentworth, i. 65-70.
  • 7. C142/233/114.
  • 8. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 94.
  • 9. CB, i. 95.
  • 10. C142/386/87.
  • 11. Lansd. 737, f. 145; C231/1, f. 26v; C66/1988.
  • 12. HMC 14th Rep. VIII, 290.
  • 13. R.W. Goulding, Louth Old Corp. Recs. 19, 58.
  • 14. HMC 14th Rep. VIII, 262.
  • 15. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 80.
  • 16. APC, 1599-1600, p. 190.
  • 17. C181/1, ff. 18v, 131v; 181/2, ff. 6v, 284v.
  • 18. C181/1, ff. 75, 112v, 117v; 181/2, ff. 47v, 74v, 119.
  • 19. Lincs. N and Q, x. 113.
  • 20. C181/2, f. 46.
  • 21. HCA 14/39, no. 217.
  • 22. SP14/31/1.
  • 23. SP14/43/107; E403/2730, 2733, f. 40v; Lincs. AO, MM13/2.
  • 24. The Gen. iv. 278-9.
  • 25. Holles, 64; J.W.F. Hill, Tudor and Stuart Lincoln, 112, 116; C. Holmes, Seventeenth-Cent. Lincs. 94; C.W. Foster, State of the Church (Lincoln Rec. Soc. xxiii), 304, 310, 320, 329, 335, 340, 352.
  • 26. Hill, 141; STAC 8/10/4; Sandbeck Park, Lumley ms MDD/B13/7, 8; J.D. Gould, ‘The depopulation inquisition of 1607 in Lincs’, EHR, lxvii. 394.
  • 27. CJ, i. 151a, 152b.
  • 28. Ibid. 169b.
  • 29. Ibid. 173a, 237a, 240b.
  • 30. Ibid. 172a, 222b.
  • 31. Ibid. 167a, 199b, 207b, 224a, 245b, 984a.
  • 32. Ibid. 226b.
  • 33. Ibid. 261b, 266b, 274a, 277b, 279a, 286b, 288a.
  • 34. Ibid. 263a, 294b.
  • 35. Ibid. 266b, 292b.
  • 36. Ibid. 287a.
  • 37. Ibid. 287b; The Gen. i. 49.
  • 38. CJ, i. 308a.
  • 39. Ibid. 309a.
  • 40. Ibid. 338a, 369b, 380a, 382a.
  • 41. Ibid. 1053a.
  • 42. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 499; C66/1770; Lincs. N and Q, xx. 42.
  • 43. CJ, i. 413b, 418b.
  • 44. Ibid. 415b, 419a.
  • 45. Ibid. 433b.
  • 46. ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 15.
  • 47. CJ, i. 448b.
  • 48. STAC 8/279/30.
  • 49. R.C. Bald, Donne and the Drurys, 164.
  • 50. Dalton, i. 70.
  • 51. Lincs. Admons. ed. C.W. Foster (Brit. Rec. Soc. lii), 375.