CHOLMLEY, Ralph (by 1517-63), of St. Dunstan-in-the-West, London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1553
Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1517, yr. s. of Richard Cholmley of Cholmondeley, Cheshire by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Randall Brereton of Malpas; Cheshire; bro. of Sir Hugh. educ. L. Inn 1535, called 1543. m. Elizabeth Pickering (d.1562), wid. of Robert Redman, printer, of London, s.p.2

Offices Held

Attorney, Chester and N. Wales June 1543; escheator, Kent, Mdx. 1546-7; bencher, L. Inn 1549, Lent reader 1553, 1558, 1559, treasurer 1557-8; j.p.q. Mdx. May 1547, Surr. 1554, Essex, Herts., Kent, Suss. from 1559; under-sheriff, London 1553-4, recorder from 1554-Apr. 1563; serjeant-at-law 1559; justice of assize, southern circuit 1559; commr. eccles. causes July 1559.3


Cholmley was a lawyer whose kinsman Sir Roger Cholmley, recorder of London 1535-45 and later chief justice, doubtless helped him to acquire some of his early posts. Probably only his comparatively early death prevented his reaching the heights of his profession. Under Edward VI he was on a number of commissions in the home counties and, from 1554 onwards he served on nearly every important commission in this area. He did not meddle much in public affairs, except in his professional capacity, and seems to have served loyally under Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth. The Cornish boroughs which he represented in 1547 and 1553 were usually open to promising young lawyers, but it is not clear by whose influence he was returned. Boroughbridge was represented throughout Mary’s reign by Christopher Wray, another Lincoln’s Inn lawyer, who may have helped to find Cholmley a seat there. As recorder and MP for London in 1563 he was appointed to committees concerning corn (4 Feb.), privilege (12 Feb.), apothecary wares (22 Feb.), fines and recoveries (11 Mar.), and gaols (8 Apr.).

Cholmley seems to have owned property only in London and its environs, before purchasing, together with James Basset, land in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall in 1557. Much of this was re-sold, but he still owned two manors in Somerset at his death; as he had no children they descended to his elder brother Sir Hugh. The most interesting feature of his will, made 23 Apr. 1563, two days before his death, is his library, which he bequeathed to Lincoln’s Inn, where some volumes still remain. All his ‘statute books which be in English’ he left to Sir Thomas Leigh, whilst he bequeathed to Sir William Chester ‘all the books of Erasmus which he gave me and that which I bought also of Erasmus’s writing’. He made small bequests to his brothers, sisters and friends, and left £100, together with some tenements, to St. Bartholomew’s hospital. Executors were Sir Hugh Cholmley, Sir William Gerrard, Sir Thomas Offley and Sir Thomas Leigh, who proved the will on 1 May 1563. Cholmley had asked to be buried ‘according to the laudable custom of the Church of England’, and he was given an impressive funeral, followed—writes Henry Machyn—by ‘the greatest dinner that ever I saw’.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Vis. Cheshire (Harl. Soc. xviii), 64; (lix), 62; Ormerod, Cheshire, ii. 638; CPR, 1560-3, p. 423; E.G. Duff, Westminster and London Printers, 176; Machyn Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii), 294, 392.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xviii(l), p. 446; Ormerod, i. 69; CPR, 1547-8, p. 78; 1553-4, PP. 29, 36; 1555-7, p. 281; 1558-60, pp. 65, 118; A. B. Beaven, Aldermen, i. 289; Lansd. 1218, f. 57.
  • 4. CPR, 1557-8, p. 121; 1560-3, p. 423; C142/135/41; CJ, i. 64, 65, 66, 68, 70, 72; PCC 23 Chayre; L. W. Abbott, Law Reporting in Eng. 1485-1585, pp. 25 n, 146-7; Machyn Diary, 306, 307.