Thomas Horsley was a successful corn merchant. In the 16th century “Corn” was a term used to describe a wide variety of agricultural products. Corn exchanges could also take the form of early stock exchanges where merchants made investments, took risks on future harvests and provided capital. A corn merchant could, therefore, have many interests and roles in local economies.
Thomas was the Mayor of Newcastle five times (1514, 1519, 1524, 1525 and 1533) as well as serving as the Sheriff of Newcastle in 1512. He helped reinforce Newcastle’s position as an important centre of trade in the North East; playing a central role in Newcastle’s society, politics and economic growth, which in turn, made him extremely affluent.
Thomas made provision in his will that upon the death of his wife, his estate would be used to establish a school in Newcastle. Newcastle Royal Grammar School was established as the Horsley School in 1545 next to St. Nicholas’ Cathedral in the centre of medieval Newcastle. The school has moved a total of five times since then but since 1906 resides in Jesmond. Since 1930, Horsley House was named in honour of the school's founder.