Elrington, Thomas (1688–1732), actor and theatre manager, was born near Golden Square Lane, London, in June 1688, one of four sons of Thomas Elrington, an employee of the duke of Montagu. His father may have been the Thomas Elrington engaged as a scenekeeper in the King's Company in the 1660s. Like his brothers, Francis, Joseph and Ralph, Thomas became an actor. As a young man he was apprenticed to a French upholsterer in Covent Garden, in whose premises he and his friend William Rufus Chetwood (qv) secretly performed plays. In the final year of his apprenticeship he overcame the opposition of his employer and began acting in amateur productions. Spotted by Theophilus Keene, he was introduced to the professional stage and made a successful debut in the title role of ‘Oroonoko’ at Drury Lane on 2 December 1709. His good figure and strong speaking made an immediate impression on London audiences.
Having remained with the Drury Lane company for two seasons, adding to his repertoire, he was invited by Smock Alley's manager, Joseph Ashbury (qv) in 1712 to move to Dublin, where he rapidly made a name for himself as one of Ireland's foremost tragedians. Within his first year in Dublin he secured his position with the company by marrying Ashbury's daughter Frances, and by becoming one of its four directors. Of their children, one daughter, Nancy (Wrightson, later Ward), and two sons, Richard and Joseph, would also become actors. In 1713 he and other Smock Alley managers helped to set up the first professionally run theatres in Cork and Waterford. In the years that followed he was frequently in London, but his commitments in Dublin were always a major priority. He acted for four months in 1715 in Lincoln's Inn Fields theatre, he was back in Smock Alley in May 1716, and he then returned for the 1716–17 season to Lincoln's Inn, where he played Hamlet. After doing the 1717–18 season in Smock Alley, he returned to London's Drury Lane. His favoured roles in Ireland included Brutus, Timon, Cassius, Hotspur, Bajazet in ‘Tamerlaine’ and Lord Townly in ‘The provok'd husband’.
Following Ashbury's death in 1720, Elrington succeeded him not only as manager of the theatre, but as deputy master of the revels in Ireland and as steward of the King's Inns. Until the rise to prominence of Thomas Sheridan (qv), Elrington was Ireland's most prominent theatre manager. He derived further income from his ownership of the Three Crown Inn and from two sinecures, one as gunner to the train of artillery and the other from a post in the quit-rent office. These, combined with the successful management of the theatre, left him comfortably off and provided him with a sufficient income to maintain a coach. He was responsible for training young actors at Smock Alley; among his most successful protégés was Dennis Delane (qv).
Elrington made his final return to Drury Lane for the 1728–9 season, when he was specifically engaged to replace the ageing Barton Booth, whom he greatly admired. He evidently impressed the theatre's managers, as they offered him a permanent job, but he chose to return to Ireland, where he recognised he had an established following. This is borne out by accounts of his landing in the Dublin Weekly Journal (May 1729), which refers to the bell ringing, bonfires and ‘rejoicing at the houses of many of our principal citizens’ that marked his return. He continued to take on other projects, including leasing a property in Cork for theatrical productions, and rebuilding the Smock Alley theatre, a building which had been used for seven decades and part of which would collapse two years after Elrington's passing. At the time of his sudden death from a fever, plans for this redevelopment had commenced and he had even engaged the architect Sir Edward Lovett Pearce (qv). He died 22 July 1732 at his home in Drumcondra Lane, Dublin, and was buried in St Michan's cemetery, Dublin.