CHOLMLEY, Hugh (1600-1657), of Red Cross Street, London and Roydon Hall, East Peckham, Kent; later of Whitby, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



1640 (Apr.)
1640 (Nov.) - 3 Apr. 1643

Family and Education

b. 22 July 1600, 1st s. of Sir Richard Cholmley* and his 1st w. Susannah, da. of John Legard, merchant of London and Ganton, Yorks.1 educ. Beverley g.s. 1611-13; Jesus, Camb. 1614-17; G. Inn 1618-20.2 m. 10 Dec. 1622 (with £3,000), Elizabeth (d. 17 Apr. 1655), da. of Sir William Twysden* of Red Cross Street, London and Roydon Hall, East Peckham, Kent, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da. (1 d.v.p.).3 kntd. 19 May 1626;4 suc. fa. 1631;5 cr. bt. 10 Aug. 1641.6 d. 30 Nov. 1657.7 sig. Hu[gh] Cholmeley.

Offices Held

J.p. Yorks. (N. Riding) 1631-c.1644;8 commr. sewers, Yorks. 1632, oyer and terminer, Northern circ. 1633-42;9 dep. lt. N. Riding 1636-40;10 col. militia ft., Scarborough and Whitby Strand 1636-40;11 commr. subsidy, N. Riding 1641, Poll Tax 1641, assessment 1642;12 v.-adm. (roy.) Yorks. 1643-c.1644.13

Col. of horse and drag. (parl.) c.1642; gov. Scarborough (parl.) 1642-3, (roy.) 1643-5); gen. (roy.) c.1643.14

Commr. to attend the king at York, May 1642;15 treas. (jt.) assessment 1642.16


While Cholmley penned several pieces justifying his conduct in the Civil War, he is chiefly remembered for his Memoirs which were written shortly before his death, probably in emulation of the works of his brother-in-law, Sir Roger Twysden*.17 Unlike Twysden’s writings, the Memoirs have an evangelical tone reminiscent of the religious conversion tracts of the period, opening with an account of shortcomings which could be identified in retrospect as the consequences of his spiritual weakness. Thus, ‘a weak and sickly child for many years’, he had ‘measles and smallpox thrice’ before the age of ten, and caught a fever while at Beverley school. He was nursed back to health by his mother, ‘a very virtuous, religious woman, a loving wife, and understanding in the managing of her husband’s affairs’, who caught his fever and died. Had she lived, he considered, she would have ‘prevented the sale of all those lands which came to pass after her’.18

When his schoolmaster, William Petty, acquired a Cambridge fellowship, Cholmley followed him to university at the early age of 13. In a draft of his Memoirs, he confessed that ‘I was not well fit either for learning or years’, and that he led a dissolute life, although the departure of his tutor encouraged him to behave more responsibly. His good intentions were undermined, however, by a year spent with his father, then out of office and indulging his passion for field sports, whilst his arrival at Gray’s Inn at Christmas, 1617 ‘proved an ill time for increasing my love to play and gaming, and made me neglect the study of the law’. During this time he met his future wife in Hyde Park, although there was no immediate talk of a marriage. After leaving Gray’s Inn in 1620 he lodged in Fleet Street, ‘frequenting the bowling and gaming houses more than ever, though for other extravagances I was temperate’.19

While his catalogue of adolescent temptations has an authentic ring, Cholmley probably magnified his shortcomings to fit the standard literary trope of the weakness of the sinner when beset by the pleasures of the flesh, the world and the Devil. Somewhat unusually, his conversion was effected not by a time of trial, but by his marriage, which took place in 1622. He eulogized his wife as

so beautiful a sweet creature at her marriage as not many did parallel, [and] few exceed her in the nation, yet the inward endowments and perfections of her mind did exceed those outward of her body, being a most pious, virtuous person, of great integrity and discerning judgment in most things ... compassionate beyond imagination ... charitable to the poor ... [who] did not retain revenge longer than her anger, which was over in a moment.

From this point onwards, Cholmley’s narrative of his life juxtaposes his father’s shortcomings with his own efforts to resolve the family’s problems. This was not only a useful didactic tool in a work designed to encourage his descendants to value the good of the family above their own selfish interests, but also an implicit criticism of his father’s early Catholic sympathies, contrasted with his own and his wife’s devotion to the Church of England.20

In 1624, having come of age, Cholmley, then living with his wife’s family in Fleet Street, was returned as MP for Scarborough in place of his heavily indebted father, who thus preserved his electoral interest but saved the expense of a sojourn in London. Difficult to distinguish from his distant relative William Cholmley*, he can be identified only once in the debates. This was on 27 Apr., when Sir Thomas Savile* included lord president Scrope in the list of Catholic officials the Commons wished to see removed from office. Cholmley defended his relative, promising ‘that Lord Scrope will satisfy this House, and receive the communion at what day soever shall be prefixed’.21 Re-elected for Scarborough in 1625, he may have been unaware of the protracted election contest, which was not mentioned in his Memoirs. Early in the session his father, then sheriff of Yorkshire, was questioned by the Commons for allegedly favouring Sir Thomas Wentworth* at the county election. When a fresh writ was ordered, Cholmley therefore submitted a list of questions on his father’s behalf concerning the conduct of the poll anticipated at the election.22

In the autumn of 1625 Cholmley, having already stood surety for some of his father’s substantial debts, agreed to sell part of his inheritance. He planned to go abroad to avoid arrest by importunate creditors, obtaining a passport for France, but was called home to Yorkshire because his father was unable to alienate land without his consent. His visit coincided with the 1626 election, and he signed his father’s letter to the Scarborough corporation recommending William Cholmley in preference to himself. However, it was subsequently decided that parliamentary immunity afforded the best opportunity to bring the family’s creditors to an agreement, as he took the Scarborough seat, while his kinsman was returned at Thirsk.23 Before leaving for London, he inquired whether the Scarborough corporation wished him to promote any business there, and announced his intention to lobby for a collection towards the repair of the pier at Whitby, a Cholmley property but Scarborough’s trading rival. Hearing that Scarborough intended to resist this, as they had his father’s similar proposal in 1621, he warned that

if you refuse upon any good reasons, do but let me know them, and I protest I shall as effectually as I can offer them to the Parliament; but if any man’s particular or private ends shall divert your town from showing this neighbourly affection, give me leave to tell you, that obligation which is first and chiefly to your town must not tie me from doing any public and good service to other parts of my country.

However, no such petition appears to have been presented, although Whitby eventually approached the Privy Council for a pier levy in 1632.24

During the 1626 session either Cholmley or his kinsman who sat for Thirsk was named to a committee for an estate bill (4 May); neither man was mentioned again in the records of the session. In May 1626 Cholmley took control of the family estates, to the dismay of his father-in-law, who ‘gave me for ruined, and would not interest himself in any sort to assist me’. The £1,500 annual income he thus acquired was burdened with an annuity of £400 payable to his father, his own debts of £600-£700, and his father’s debts of more than £11,000. He bought out two bonds for £500 each from the most troublesome creditors, ‘and put them into a friend’s hand I could command’, presumably either his uncle, John Legard, or his second cousin, Sir John Hotham*, ‘which was all the friends I was ever beholden to in these great exigencies and trouble’. The estate was then seized for forfeiture of these bonds, which prevented other creditors from foreclosing and obliged them to accept settlement of their debts on Cholmley’s terms.25 He offered land to those demanding swift payment, and sold Roxby manor to satisfy the remainder, including those of his father’s creditors to whom he had not personally guaranteed repayment, ‘and within two years, by God’s blessing, I had either paid the debts, or given security to their contents, so that I could pass freely about my affairs’.26

Cholmley returned to Yorkshire after resolving his debt problems, living in the gatehouse of his father’s house at Whitby. He reformed the estate, raising rents and leasing the demesnes his father had devoted to horse breeding. Although frequently in London on business, he is not known to have sought re-election at Scarborough in 1628. By the time his father died in 1631, Cholmley’s debts were reduced to £4,000, allowing him to buy two small estates. He assumed his father’s local offices, which brought him into conflict with the latter’s old adversary, Sir Thomas Hoby*, who prosecuted him in Star Chamber. He responded with a bill in the Council in the North, but the quarrel was composed by lord keeper (Sir Thomas) Coventry*.27

Cholmley was removed from office as a militia colonel following contacts with the Covenanter rebels during the Bishops’ Wars. He held Scarborough for Parliament at the outbreak of the Civil War, but changed sides in March 1643, surrendering in July 1645 after a lengthy siege. Exiled to France, he returned after the regicide to compound at the modest rate of £850, having assigned most of his estates to his children in 1639. His will of 19 Nov. 1657 made provision for his younger children; he died 11 days later, and was buried next to his wife in the Twysden family vault. The will was proved by his son Sir Hugh, who was returned to the first Exclusion Parliament for Northampton.28

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ii. 254.
  • 2. H. Cholmley, Memoirs, 31; Al. Cant.; GI Admiss.
  • 3. Cholmley, 34, 36-39, 80-81; St. Mary Magdalen, Milk Street (Harl. Soc. reg. lxxii), 6; Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ii. 254.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 190.
  • 5. Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ii. 254.
  • 6. CB, ii. 128.
  • 7. Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ii. 254.
  • 8. C231/5, p. 64.
  • 9. C181/4, ff. 114, 143.
  • 10. Add. 28082, f. 81; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, ii. 193.
  • 11. E351/293.
  • 12. SR, v. 83, 107, 150.
  • 13. Cholmley, 67-8.
  • 14. Ibid. 59-60, 67-8.
  • 15. CJ, ii. 559b; Cholmley, 65.
  • 16. SR, v. 167.
  • 17. The original ms is in York Minster Lib. Add. 343.
  • 18. J.R. Twisden, Fam. of Twysden and Twisden, 174; Cholmley, 30-31, 34, 36.
  • 19. Cholmley, 38; York Minster Lib., Add. 343, f. 15.
  • 20. Cholmley, 83.
  • 21. Ibid. 24, 39-40; Scarborough Recs ed. M.Y. Ashcroft (N. Yorks. RO, xlvii), 118; CJ, i. 691b, 776.
  • 22. Scarborough Recs. 142-4; Cholmley, 40; Procs. 1625, pp. 336, 342.
  • 23. Cholmley, 41-2; Scarborough Recs. 197.
  • 24. Cholmley, 51, 80, 161-2.
  • 25. Procs. 1626, iii. 155; Cholmley, 42, 44-6.
  • 26. Cholmley, 34, 45; VCH N. Riding, ii. 496.
  • 27. Cholmley, 43, 45, 49, 52-3, 55; VCH N. Riding, ii. 35, 534.
  • 28. Cholmley, 56, 59-62, 65, 71-5; Roy. Comp. Pprs. ed. J.W. Clay (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. xviii), 221-2; PROB 11/300, f. 206; Twisden, 174.