The De Gresle family held the Barony of Manchester for two centuries. Albert De Gresley received the land as William Peveral, a natural son of William the Conqueror took over the lands of the out of favour Roger De Poitiou in 1102.
His son Robert set up the abbey at Swineshead in Lincolnshire and gave the mill at Mancestre to them. He died around 1135 and his son Albert acquired further lands around Manchester. He married a daughter of William Fitz-Nigel Baron of Halton and is thought to have died in 1166, succeeded by Albert Junior who married Isabel daughter of Thomas Basset.
On his death in 1182, the fifth Baron Robert was just seven years of age and the barony was placed under the guardianship of his mother and her brother. He came of age in 1195 and was probably the first Baron to live in the town, possibly where Chetham’s now stands.
Robert was among the group of barons who revolted against King John and demanded the signing of Magna Carta and would obtain a grant for Manchester’s yearly Fayre of two days from the new King Henry III.
There are various references to the family through the thirteenth century. Around 1253 Henry III took the lands of the Gresley’s as punishment for the Baron not supporting the Kings project for an expedition to Gascony and another Holy Crusade. In 1259 the Baron Thomas was appointed Justiciar to the King’s forests south of the Trent, most probably as reward in fighting the Welsh.
In 1262 Robert Gresley succeeded to the Barony on the death of his Grandfather Thomas but being a minor, his guardian being the Earl of Lancaster while his uncle Peter became custodian of the church. Robert died in 1282 and with his son Thomas just three at the time, custody was given to Amadeus of Savoy.
Thomas would be the last Gresley Baron of the Town but under his rule, Manchester was be given its first charter in 1301. For reasons uncertain he formally granted the manor to Sir John Warre and his wife in 1309, Sir John, the husband of his only sister Joan, in return for an annuity of sixty six pounds, 13 shillings and 4d. He died four years later.