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OFFLEY, Sir THOMAS (1505?–1582), lord mayor of London, born at Stafford, apparently about 1505, was eldest son of William Offley, a native of Staffordshire, who afterwards migrated to Chester, and became sheriff there in 1517. His mother's maiden name was Cradock. He was sent up to London at the age of twelve, and went to school under William Lily [q. v.], ‘then newly elected schoolmaster of Jesus School in Pauls Church Yard’ (Hunter, Chorus Vatum, v. 542). Under Lily he became proficient in grammar, and, having a good voice, ‘was put to learn pricksong among the choristers of Pauls’ (ib.) He was apprenticed at an early age to a merchant-taylor and merchant of the staple, named John Mechels, described as an intimate friend of Lily. Taking up his freedom, he rose in time to be master (1547) of the Merchant Taylors' Company. In 1549 he was chosen alderman of Portsoken Ward; in 1553 he was sheriff, and in 1556 lord mayor. The year of his mayoralty was memorable for its ‘burning fevers’ (Grafton, Chronicle, 1569, p. 1351), seven aldermen dying within two months. The useful institution of nightbellmen originated with Offley (Stow, Survey, ed. Strype, ii. 133). On 7 Feb. 1556–7 he was knighted by the queen at Greenwich. About the same time he was mayor of the staple, and corresponded in this capacity with Sir W. Cecil (Cal. State Papers, 1547–80, pp. 241, 312, &c.). His residence was at first in Lime Street, but afterwards in the parish of St. Dionis Backchurch. He died on 29 Aug. 1582, and was buried, at his own request, in the church of St. Andrew Undershaft, where his monument still remains. By his will, dated 5 Aug. 1580, he made many charitable bequests. In public life he was so generous that he is called by Fuller 'the Zacchæus of London, not for his low stature, but for his high charity.' But the simplicity of his private tastes was the subject of a popular rhyme (Machyn, Diary, p. 363):

Offley three dishes had of daily rost,
An egge, an apple, and (the third) a toast.

By his wife Joan (d. 1578), daughter of John Nichells or Nichols (perhaps the same person as the John Mechels above mentioned), he had three sons, of whom one only, Henry, survived him. It was to a son of this Henry Offley, Sir John Offley of Madeley, that Izaak Walton dedicated his 'Compleat Angler' in 1653.

[Hunter's Chorus Vatum, as above, quoting a manscript History of the Family if Offley in possession of Mr. Martin of Worsborough; Clode's Early Hist. of the Guild of the Merchant's Company, pt. ii. pp. 172-3, and Addenda, p. v (where, in the epigraph, 'Stafford' is a mistake for 'Stratford'); Index to the Remembrancia, by W. H. and H. C. Overall, p. 37; H. B. Wilson's Parish of St. Lawrence Pountney, p. 230; Visitation of London, 1568, p. 64; Erdeswicke's Survey of Staffordshire, p. 17; Harwood's Survey of Staffordshire, p. 87; information from C. Welch, esq., librarian of the Guildhall.]

J. H. L.