The Gresleys of Drakelowe

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Surname/tag: Gresley
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More faithful than fortunate
Arms: Vairy, ermine and gules.
Crest: lion passant argent, gutte de sang, collared, gules.
Motto: Meliore fide quam fortuna.
Seats At: Drakelow, in Derbyshire, and Knipersley, in Staffordshire.[1]


What I have done, and why

I'll start with the why, and there are two reasons:

  • I love steam trains, especially the A4 pacifics like Mallard created by Nigel Gresley.
  • I grew up in South Derbyshire, not far from Castle & Church Gresley, Drakelow, and Overseal & Netherseal. The spellings have altered over time and county borders have moved, but their location hasn't - all within a stone's throw of my childhood.

That leads to the what... I have a few books about Gresley and the Mallard and using these as a start have created Sir Nigel and gave him, what I like to think, is a pretty decent profile. I know that he has living grandchildren, not so sure about children, so to complete the family started working backwards.

From local knowledge, the Gresley were "Sirs" long before Nigel got his Knighthood in the 1930s, and Drakelow and Netherseal Halls were big manor houses (unfortunately neither now exists.) This leads to a quick aside and another half-why... a few years before my dad passed away, he went on a short break with my mum to Oxford, and I met them to visit Blenheim Palace. As we were "doing the tour" dad mentioned that he'd been here before, many many years ago and that in the Library the first book he saw was "The Gresleys of Drakelowe" and was impressed that his corner of South Derbyshire was mentioned in a palace library. We scoured the library on our visit that day ........ The book is now copyright free and available to download. I have a copy and that is what I have used.

What I have done so far is:

  1. Use Falconer Madan's 1899 book "The Gresleys of Drakelowe" to establish the male line back from Nigel to Sir George, the first baronet. I have also combined the Drakelow and Netherseal branch pedigrees from Madan to create an image and added it to this site.
  2. Use Debrett and Cokayne to establish profiles for the Baronets alive up to when the books were published. These profiles are a bit wordy.... I've linked them to this page so hopefully this explanation will satisfy anyone curious. (These profiles also, currently, contain a lot of details about the spouses and children of the person in question. I'll copy the onto new profiles of the family members concerned when they are created.)
  3. Use Wikipedia (for now) to establish profiles for the later Baronets. [I'm sure I have the relationship between 12th and 13th wrong - they can't be father/son but as yet to find if they are brothers, cousins or another relation. Wilkins-1208 15:01, 15 June 2015 (EDT)]
  4. I have considered The Peerage page for the Gresleys but have rejected this as it contains significant errors.
  5. I've created a public tree on as a place to store documents and sources.

I have started to:

  • Use FamilySearch to link to records that are recent enough for census returns and Birth, Marriage and Death registration.
  • Use a wonderful local resource - South Derbyshire BDM to access transcripts of church records for the relevant parishes, as far back as possible. I am aware that these are transcripts and not the originals.
  • Madan was a librarian at the Bodleian, Oxford and the book is referenced and sourced throughout; I will trawl through his sources which are available- most of which are Gresley family manuscripts, although church memorials are also mentioned.
  • Then referring the South Derbyshire BDM records - capture all of the Gresley's mentioned and bring them into the tree, Madan is certainly thorough in listing marriages and offspring.

Madan Wikipedia states "The Gresleys of Drakelowe, written by Falconer Madan, librarian of Oxford University's Bodleian Library, was published in 1899 and is the accepted history of the family." This comment needs some justification and clarification. The book itself was written for a limited audience and not for general publication - the author states as much in the preface which includes a list of the subscribers. One chapter of the book is credited to Sir Robert Gresley, the then head of the family. Madan explains how he has access to a number of family documents that were amassed "from authentic sources" by Rev John Morewood Gresley, a trained antiquarian.
It must also be noted that Falconer Madan was a published author of works on historical manuscripts, printing and publishing. He is also related to a branch of the Gresley family.[2]

As a footnote, Cokayne states that "A valuable account of The Gresleys of Drakelowe by Falconer Madan, M.A. (Oxford), was issued to subscribers in 1899, from which many of the dates etc in this article are kindly furnished by its editor.[3]

Sources quoted by Madan which have been located:

The Baronets

1st: Sir George Gresley (c. 1580-1651)
2nd: Sir Thomas Gresley (c. 1628-1699)
3rd: Sir William Gresley (1661–1710)
4th: Sir Thomas Gresley (c. 1699-1746)
5th: Sir Thomas Gresley (1722–1753)
6th: Sir Nigel Gresley (c. 1727–1787)
7th: Sir Nigel Bowyer Gresley (1753–1808)
8th: Sir Roger Gresley (1799–1837)
9th: Sir William Nigel Gresley (1806–1847)
10th: Sir Thomas Gresley (1832–1868)
11th: Sir Robert Gresley (1866–1936)
12th: Sir Nigel Gresley (1894–1974)
13th: Sir William Francis Gresley (1897-1976)

1611 May 22:
Bacon, of Redgrave, Suffolk. Hoghton, (now Bold- Hoghton,) of Hoghton Tower, co. Lancaster. Clifton, (now Juckes-Clifton,) of Clifton, Nottingham. Gerard, of Bryn, co. Lancaster. Shelley, of Maresfield, co. Sussex.
1611 June 29:
Musgrave, of Eden Hall, co. Cumberland. Cope, of Hanwell, co. Oxford. Gresley, of Drakelow, co. Derby. Harington, of Ridlington, co. Rutland. Mordaunt, of Maasingham, co. Norfolk. Twysden, of Roydon Hall, East Peckham, co. Kent.

Drakelowe - by Sir Robert Gresley, Bart. (Madan, chapter VIII)

Drakelowe Hall

DRAKELOWE, to which so many references have been made in the previous pages of this book, is situated on a bend of the river Trent, on the borders of Derbyshire and Staffordshire, the river forming a natural boundary between the two counties. In only one sense can it be called historical. It has been the home of twenty-eight generations of one family, from the reign of Henry II to the present day, being mentioned in the Pipe Rolls of 1170-71,1171-72, 1188-89, and 1201-2, as being held by Nigel de Gresley a ; and the manor has been held ever since by his descendants, though their other properties, many of which marched with it, have nearly all passed into other hands. In the reign of King John, William de Gresley holds the manor of the king, by the annual payment of a bow, quiver, and twelve arrows, but how long this ancient tenure was kept up is not known. In the year 1323 a robbery occurs, Johanna Gresley's strong box ' being broken into, though what was taken is not stated. Except the statement, now in the British Museum, that in the year 1548 Drakelowe is a manor (6 messuages, 1000 acres of pasture, 1oo acres of land, 5o acres of meadow, 5o acres of wood, and a watermill), held as in 1522, and others of a similar nature which occur from time to time, there are scarcely any facts from an historical point of view worth chronicling, and one may be permitted to regret that the ancient privilege of gallows, and all that it implied, which was granted to Sir Geoffrey Gresley in 1330, has passed into desuetude, and is now, like many other good old customs, more honoured in the breach than in the observance.' If this had not been the case there would in all probability have been a few incidents worth relating!

Leland in 1540 records that Sir George Gresley dwelleth at the Manor Place of Colton, and hath a great park there upon Trent a mile lower than Haywood, he bath upon Trent a mile lower than Burton town a very large manor place and park at Draekelo.' This park (including the pleasure grounds and that part now called The Warren,' and in old times The Hare Park ') is nearly 580 acres in extent, of which the Deer Park contains 207 acres ; it is fairly well wooded, and in spite of the gales which in recent years have done much damage, there are still a good many fine old trees dotted about it, especially beeches and oaks, while some of the limes near the house are really very fine trees. But it is the pleasure grounds and gardens which are the chief beauty of the place, many of the hollies and yews lining the walks being well over 30 feet in height. Most of the latter are 'faced' in the old-fashioned way. When these were laid out is not known, but the rose garden and round garden have an eighteenth-century air about them, and probably date from that period, if not before.

With regard to the present house, it is not known when it was built, nor is it easy, even to the architect's eye, to determine the point, the fact being that it has been much altered and added to at different times. It is probable, however, that the greater part as it stands is of no very great antiquity, much of it being built in 1723, a date which appears on the head of an old leaden water-pipe ; but it is on exactly the same site as the ancient building, portions of which are incorporated in the present structure, and when some restorations were being done in Sir Roger's time, some work was come upon said to be Norman. It was he who built the present billiard-room, and the bed-room and dressing-room over it, and he also partially refaced the west front of the house, and in fact altered it considerably. Probably the most interesting room in the house is that known as the large dining-room ; it is, roughly, 42 feet in length, by 25 in width, and 20 feet high. The walls and ceiling are entirely painted over, and represent the scenery near the Peak in Derbyshire. A wooden palisade, painted green and fixed against the wall, does duty for the modern dado, and makes the entire circuit of the room, with gates for the doors, and the mantelpiece is composed of Derbyshire spar, with a masque in the centre. The design, which is a bold, not to say an ambitious one, including as it does trees almost life-size, a river meandering between rocks and under wooded banks, is carried out in a masterly manner, and while the proportions of the room are not interfered with, an impression of size is produced in harmony with such a scene. It was executed in about 1790, it is believed, by Paul Sandby, a well-known artist ; and a kind of distemper, not oils, is the medium employed. The other rooms are not particularly remarkable in any way ; most of them are panelled, and they contain a good deal of antique furniture, china, and tapestry, also a small collection of bronzes and ivories. Some of the old beds are very handsome, and the carving elaborate, yet with a certain rudeness about it. Five of them are oak and two of ebony ; of these one of the former undoubtedly dates from the time of Queen Elizabeth, the other four are only a few years later, one bearing the date 1620 let into the head. The two ebony beds are quite different in character, being Portuguese or Spanish work of the seventeenth century. Apparently there is no record as to where they came from, or when they were first put in the house ; possibly they may have been procured by Walsingham Gresley when he went to Spain in Charles the First's reign. Amongst the objects of interest in the house is a beautiful contemporary model of a 74-gun ship of the earlier part of the eighteenth century ; it has no name, but it has always been said to be a model of one of the ships in which Sir Nigel Gresley served before he succeeded his brother and retired. There are also some few pieces of armour and some sixteenth and seventeenth century swords. But probably the most interesting relic of the past in the possession of the family is the jewel, said to have been given by Queen Elizabeth to Catherine Sutton (daughter of Lord Dudley, K.G., and wife of Sir George Gresley, K.B.). It is a beautiful specimen of sixteenth-century work, and forms a pendant which when open shows two miniatures, of which one is a portrait of herself, and one of her husband. There is no picture of this Lady Gresley at Drakelowe, but there is one of her grand-daughter-in-law, Katherine Walsingham, the wife of Sir Thomas Gresley, who is portrayed wearing this identical jewel, which has remained an heirloom ever since, and happily escaped being stolen with the rest of Lady Sophia Gresley's jewels in the great robbery which occurred in 1829. Besides pictures of members of the family, many of which have been reproduced in collotype in the special edition of this book, there are pictures of various historical personages, such as James the First, Prince Maurice, Lady Rich, and others, amongst which the one of Flora Macdonald is especially interesting, as she gave it herself to Sir Nigel Gresley.[5] The one of Sir John Norris is also worthy of remark, chiefly from its quaint inscription in Latin, stating as it does that in every way he was the equal of Cyrus, Scipio, Hector, Hannibal, and Achilles—a very modest statement indeed, but one which history hardly corroborates ! And now little more remains to be said. Drakelowe does not pretend in any way to be a show place, but few who know it will deny a certain stateliness and air of ancient comfort which seems particularly its own, and when on a hot summer's day one strolls about its ancient grounds, imagination peoples them with its old owners, long since dead and buried, whose lives have been briefly described in this book. Knights of the Middle Ages, cavaliers, roundheads, gentlemen and ladies of Queen Anne's time in wigs and patches, fox-hunting, port-loving squires, like those depicted by Addison, and dandies of the beginning of the century pass before us, and one feels that they too have all in their turn owned it as their home, and have spent here a portion at least of their brief span of life, many of which lives were begun and ended in the old house hard by; and it is these old associations which, linked to personal memories and future hopes, form that charm which makes these old country houses so dear to Englishmen, and which coupled with their love of sport and a country life, has helped in no small degree, to form that patriotic spirit in which, in times of stress and danger, the gentlemen of England have never been found wanting.

Other useful stuff

Drakelow in the Doomsday book = "Drachelauue: Nigel of Stafford. Mill site."

Family Estates: These, in 1883, consisted of 3,241 acres in Derbyshire, and 506 in Leicestershire. Total, 3,747 acres, worth £8,511 a year.
Principal Residence: Drakelowe Hall, near Burton-on-Trent. [6]

Drakelow Park

Images of Drakelow Hall

High Sheriffs

The relationship between Sir Nigel Gresley, Engineer and Sir George Gresley, 1st Baronet.

G2G's on this and similar subjects:
Correct use of Name Fields
Amount of detail and use of sources

Sources that need more investigation stumbled on when looking for something else! Cases in the High Court of Chancery 1818

The Churches Netherseal - St Peter

Church Gresley - St Mary & St George

"putting the church back into Church Gresley"

The Parishes of South Derbyshire


  1. Debrett, 1840, pp246-7
  2. Who Was Who: Falconer Madan
  3. Cokayne, 1900, page 40, footnote (b)
  4. Debrett, 1840, page xi
  5. The inscription on the back says : ' This portrait of Flora Macdonald was given by herself to Sir Nigel Gresley, captain in the Royal Navy, who captured her in her flight from Scotland to France, from whom she experienced every civility, and as a mark of her gratitude presented him with this picture, 1747.'
  6. Cokayne, 1900, pp40-41
  • Madan, Falconer. The Gresleys of Drakelowe. Oxford, 1899. Accessed via Internet Archive
  • Cokayne, G.E. The Complete Baronetage - Volume I (1611-1625). Exeter, 1900. Accessed via Internet Archive
  • Debrett, John & Collen, George William. The Baronetage of England. London, 1840. Accessed via Google Books

Images: 3
Sir Peter de Gresley
Sir Peter de Gresley

The Gresley Pedigree
The Gresley Pedigree

Drakelowe Hall
Drakelowe Hall