Sir Edward BRAY of Vachery Park, Knight

Born: BEF 1492, Henfield and Selmeston, Suss. & Vachery, Surr.

Died: 1 Dec 1558

Father: John BRAY

Mother: ¿?

Married 1: Elizabeth LOVELL

Married 2: Beatrix SHIRLEY (dau. of Ralph Shirley of Wiston, Sussex and Jane Bellingham) (w. of Edward Elrongton)


1. Edward BRAY (Sir Knight)

2. Owen BRAY

3. Beatrix BRAY

Married 3: Jane BROWNE BEF May 1539

The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.

Sir Edward Bray of Henfield and Selmeston, Sussex and the Vachery, Shere, Surrey (b. by 1492 - d. 1558). Member of Parliament for Lewes 1529, Surrey Oct 1553, Apr 1554. Born by 1492, second son of John Bray of Eaton Bray, Beds. Educ. M. Temple, adm. 1509. Married first, Elizabeth, dau. and coheir of Henry Lovell of Harting, Sussex, divorced, she espoused, secondly, Sir Anthony Windsor. Bray married second, by 1518, Beatrix, dau. of Ralph Shirley of Wiston, Sussex, widow of Edward Elrington of London and Udimore, Sussex; married third, by May 1539, Jane, dau. of Sir Matthew Browne of Beetchworth, Surrey, widow of Sir Francis Poynings. Knighted 13 or 14 Oct 1513; Capt. Mary Rose 1513, Magdaleyn of Founteraby 1514; Justice of the Peace, Sussex 1524-1540, Surrey 1554-death; commissioner subsidy, Sussex, 1523, 1524, tenths and spiritualalities, Surrey 1535, musters, Surrey 1539; sheriff, Surrey and Sussex 1539-1539; Lieutenant Calais Castle 1541-1552; high treasurer, the army against France 1545; constable, the Tower 1556-1557. Sheriff of Surrey and Sussex in the 30th of Henry VIII. Represented Surrey in the two Parliaments of Queen Mary. Purchased the Manor of Shere in 1535 from his elder brother Sir Edmund Bray, to whom it had been bequeathed by his uncle Sir Reginald Bray.

Edward Bray could not hope to emulate his uncle Sir Reginald Bray in the political field, but in his youth he cut a figure as a naval and military commander.

In May 1513 Thomas Howard, the lord admiral, appointed Bray captain of his flagship Mary Rose; the importance of this command implies some previous naval experience, perhaps in the attack upon Brest earlier in the year, when Howard's brother Sir Edward, then lord admiral, had been killed. Bray did not go with Howard in the autumn to the northern marches, but instead he served in France where his valour at Tournai earned him a knighthood. In the following year he helped patrol the Channel while George, Lord Abergavenny moved his forces to the defence of Guisnes, and he joined the Admiral for the attack upon Normandy. In Aug 1522 Bray accompanied the Admiral to Calais for a campaign through Picardy. His continuing association with Howard, who in 1524 succeeded to the dukedom of Norfolk, eventually in 1541 brought him a lieutenancy at Calais, where he was to remain for nine years. Sir Edward, who appears to have been bred a soldier, was one of the knights appointed to accompany King Henry to Calais to meet the French monarch.

In Nov 1544, when William, 13th Lord Grey of Wilton was appointed captain of the army in Calais and Guisnes, it was to Bray and Sir John Wallop that he was advised to turn for direction ‘in any great enterprise’. In the following year Bray was appointed treasurer of the army, and early in 1546 he commanded Guisnes town and castle in the temporary absence of Lord Grey. Bray's services in France ended in 1552, when he exchanged his lieutenancy of Calais castle for the constableship of the Tower in reversion. In 1557 the council at Calais advised Queen Mary to put him in charge of Guisnes during Grey's further absence in England, but it is not known whether he took up the appointment.

When not involved in military or naval campaigning Bray took part in the administration of Sussex and Surrey. Sir Reginald Bray had left the reversion of his lands in Sussex to those of his nephews who married his wards Elizabeth and Agnes Lovell. Sir Edward Bray married Elizabeth, but they were later divorced and both remarried; although it is not clear how far Bray benefited under his uncle's will, in 1524 he was assessed at £100 in lands at Henfield. As Sir Edward Bray ‘of Selmeston’, near Lewes, he bought a manor from Sir John Gage in 1532, and in the following year the Duke of Richmond's accounts show Bray as lessee of the demesne lands at Newhaven. In 1535 Bray's brother Edmund sold him the manors of the Vachery, Cranleigh and Baynards, a valuable nucleus of estates in south-west Surrey. After the Dissolution he bought one ex-monastic manor in Surrey and two others in east Sussex, and in 1545 he offered to supply wood under contract to the city of London. This was also the year in which he acquired the reversion of the Staffordshire lordship of Madeley, previously owned by his third wife's late husband: this he reluctantly sold to a London merchant in 1547, although William, Lord Paget, had asked that he might purchase part of it.

After his return from Calais, Bray settled in Surrey and acted in local government only in that county. He was in favour under Northumberland. The Council instructed the commissioners for the sale of crown lands to ensure that he acquired lands from them to the value of £80 a year, and in Sep 1552 he purchased numerous pockets of chantry land scattered in various counties, which he presumably resold at a profit. Bray nevertheless avoided implication as a partisan of Northumberland in the succession crisis, and after Mary's accession he was returned as senior knight of the shire for Surrey in Oct 1553. That he was not an enthusiast for the restoration of Catholicism is shown by his inclusion among the Members of this Parliament who ‘stood for the true religion’, that is, Protestantism, but his loyalty to the Queen was affirmed at the time of Wyatt's rebellion. As master of the Ordnance under the Earl of Pembroke, Bray commanded a force in London with Sir Henry Jerningham which routed a band of rebels at Charing Cross: he received a reward of 200 marks from the Queen and £20 from the City. In the Parliament which followed the rebellion Bray sat as junior knight of the shire for Surrey, the senior seat being occupied by Sir Anthony Browne. It was to be his last appearance in the Commons, perhaps because of the political embarrassment caused him by his nephew John, 2nd Lord Bray, who was implicated in the Dudley conspiracy and spent nearly a year in the Tower.

Bray made his will on 16 Aug 1558 and died on the following 1 Dec. He appointed as executors his wife and his brother-in-law George Browne, and as supervisor John Caryll. He asked to be buried in Cranleigh church, of which he was patron, and that all the poor folks for whom he had made houses should carry his body to the church, and have for their reward twelvepence each. The will then proceeds, after some minor legacies, to affirm the settlement of divers manors and lands for his wife's jointure, and to state that "she should quietly enjoy the same without interruption of his son Edward". It further provides, in case the said Edward, or his heirs, should attempt to disturb the quiet possession of his step-mother, that that lady should have all the testator's fee-simple lands, tenements, rents, reversions, and hereditaments whatsoever. Lady Bray survived for several years, and resided at the mansion-house at Vachery, where she carried on the iron forge which had been established there, and soon took occasion to quarrel with Sir Edward, her step-son. Amongst other things, she wrote to William More of Loseley, that he, Sir Edward, had summoned her workmen there to her great damage, and she desired Mr. More's favour. At another period she complained that he had broken down the head of her pond, and at other times had been guilty of such like disturbances; under cover of which she availed herself of the power so improperly given by her husband's will, and sold great part of the estate in Cranley and Ewhurst for little more than nominal considerations, as appears by several deeds, in many of which were conveyances to her own relatives and dependents. What remained of Sir Edward Bray's great estates at the decease of his widow, devolved on his son, Sir Edward.
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