Drew, eldest son of Thomas Drew (b. 1519), by his wife Eleanora, daughter of William Huckmore of Devon, appears to have been born at the family seat of Sharpham, in the parish of Ashprington, near Totnes, and spent some time at university. An entry in the register of Exeter College, Oxford, records the payment in 1557 by a Mr. Martyn of 2s. for the expenses of Drew, a scholar of the college. He does not appear to have taken a degree, but proceeding to London devoted himself to the study of the law, and was admitted a student of the Inner Temple in November 1560, being then probably of the usual age of eighteen. He obtained a lucrative practice both in London and in his native county, and rapidly attained high legal distinctions. He became a Master of the Bench of the Inner Temple in 1581, and Lent Reader in 1584; his shield of arms with this date still remains in Inner Temple Hall.
Offices and political career
In Michaelmas term 1589 Drew, with seven other counsel, was appointed Serjeant-at-law. Two of his associates in the honour of the coif (John Glanville and Thomas Harris) were like him natives of Devon, and Fuller has preserved a popular saying about the three serjeants, current in their day, that ‘One gained, spent, gave as much as the other two’. Drew seems to answer best to the first description, his success in pleading enabling him to purchase large estates in Combe Raleigh, Broadhembury, Broadclyst, and elsewhere.
In 1586 he was co-trustee, with other eminent lawyers, of certain manors belonging to George Cary of Devonshire. He was elected member of parliament for Lyme Regis in October 1584, and for Exeter in 1586 and again in November 1588; in 1592 he was appointed Recorder of Exeter. On 17 June in the same year he succeeded Chief-justice Coke as recorder of London, and became M.P. for the city. A speech of the usual fulsome kind is preserved in Nichols' ‘Progresses of Queen Elizabeth’ (iii. 228), made by Drew to the queen in 1593 when presenting the newly elected Lord Mayor, Sir Cuthbert Buckle, for her majesty's approval. On 27 March 1594 Drew resigned the recordership, having been appointed justice of assizes and gaol delivery for Essex and Kent, and was presented by the city for his faithful service with ‘a basin and ewer of silver-gilt containing one hundred ounces.’
Later career, family and death
Drew became Queen's Serjeant in 1596, and was much employed about this time by the Privy Council in the examination of political prisoners and in various legal references. Risdon, his countryman and contemporary, writing some fifteen years after Drew's death, says that his ‘knowledge and counsel won him a general love’. His death appears to have been sudden, and is ascribed by Chamberlain, in a letter dated 4 May 1598, to gaol fever caught while riding the northern circuit with Mr. Justice Beaumont, who also died on 22 April. His will was signed, probably in extremis, on 25 April 1598, and proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 16 May following. Drew sold the family seat of Sharpham for £2,250, and erected a mansion at Killerton on the site of some monastic buildings in the parish of Broadclyst. Here he lived, and was buried in the parish church, where a sumptuous monument remains in the south aisle, erected to his and his wife's memory in 1622, with a Latin inscription in prose and verse. By his wife, Bridget Fitzwilliam of Lincolnshire, he had four sons and three daughters, all of whom survived him. Thomas, his eldest son and heir, was knighted by Charles I, and removed the family mansion from Killerton to Grange in the parish of Broadhembury, which has ever since remained the seat of the family.
- Worthies of England, 1811, i. 283