Nathaniel Crewe was born in 1633 at Steane in Northamptonshire, the fifth son in a family of six sons and two daughters. His grandfather was Speaker of the House of Commons and his father, John Crewe, was a Presbyterian Member of Parliament who played an important role in bringing about the return of King Charles II for which he was created Baron Crewe of Steane in 1662. After the death of his father and his elder brothers, Nathaniel became the 3rd Baron Crewe in 1697.
After the death of his first wife in 1699, he married Dorothy Forster the next year.
Dorothy and her brother, Tom, were joint heirs to the Forster family estates at Bamburgh, Thornton, Blanchland and Shotley, however in the early 18th century they were laden with debt and the Court of Chancery was petitioned to sell them to pay off the outstanding debts. Over a period, Nathaniel purchased the estates from the Forsters, perhaps as a kindness to Dorothy or perhaps with the establishment of the Charity in mind.
Despite Dorothy being 40 years his junior, she pre-deceased him in 1715 only 6 years before his own death.
Under the terms of his will the charity that bears his name was founded and endowed with his Northumbrian estates. Most of these properties are still being owned by Lord Crewe’s Charity, yielding the income that enables the current programme of grant giving.