CHOLMLEY, William (1573-1642), of Highgate, Mdx. and Lincoln's Inn, London

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




Family and Education

b. 18 Jan. 1573, 4th but 3rd surv. s. of Jasper Cholmley†, clerk of recognizances in q.b. 1579-87, of the Old Bailey, London and Margaret, da. of John Hound of Calais.1 educ. St. Catherine’s Hall, Camb. 1585; L. Inn 1589, called 1602.2 m. 1596 (with 1,000 marks), Catherine (d. 18 Dec. 1648), da. of Alexander Pym† of Brymore, Som., 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 3da. (1 d.v.p.).3 suc. bro. 1589.4 d. 7 Dec. 1642.5

Offices Held

Clerk of munitions, Ordnance Office by 1592-6;6 foreign apposer, Exch. 1607-27, surveyor, Greenwax fines 1627-d.7

Gov., Highgate g.s., Mdx. 1599-d.;8 ?collector subsidy, Mdx. 1601;9 bailiff (jt.) Crown manors, Herts. 1606-d.;10 commr. sewers, Mdx. 1630, 1639.11

Steward, reader’s dinner, L. Inn 1611.12


Cholmley’s father, originally from Worcestershire, served as a clerk to a distant relative, chief justice Sir Roger Cholmley†, from whom he inherited property in Hendon, Middlesex. Cholmley himself has to be distinguished from two younger namesakes: one a resident of Walthamstow, Essex and an official in the Court of Wards, aged 36 in 1620; the other a brother of Sir Richard Cholmley* who matriculated at Cambridge in 1612.13 Like his father, Cholmley was presumably intended for a legal career, but in 1589 his eldest brother died and he inherited the family estates. His wardship was secured by the ordnance official John Lee†, whom he served as a clerk, although he forfeited this position when he married against his guardian’s wishes. Cholmley, or a namesake, served as a volunteer in Ireland in 1599 under the 2nd earl of Essex, and also obtained a Cornish borough seat in 1601, probably through the patronage of Sir George Carew I*.14

Cholmley’s wife brought him useful connections in the Exchequer via her grandfather John Conyers†, while it was probably another of her relatives, Baron Nowell Sotherton†, who launched his Exchequer career: he leased the Crown manor of Tottenham Court; was appointed bailiff of Crown manors in Hertfordshire jointly with his wife’s uncle Thomas Conyers; and in 1607 he became foreign apposer, handling the payment of greenwax fines collected by sheriffs. During the 1621 Parliament he was one of the Exchequer officials ordered to attend the committee for the bill to facilitate the passing of accounts.15 He had even closer connections with another Exchequer official, his brother-in-law, John Pym*, becoming a trustee of the latter’s estates in 1614, while after the dissolution of the 1621 Parliament Pym, who was arrested, sent Cholmley to Sir Lionel Cranfield* to plead for his release.16

As receiver-general for Wiltshire, Pym was well placed to persuade the local magnate William (Seymour*), earl of Hertford to provide a parliamentary seat for Cholmley, who was returned for Bedwyn in 1624. It remains unclear how active Cholmley was in the Commons, as it is not always possible to distinguish him in the records from the Yorkshire MP Hugh Cholmley. On 24 Mar. he certainly moved for a hearing for Pym’s witnesses in the Chippenham election dispute, while he and Pym were both later named to the committee for Sir John Morice’s* estate bill (30 April). Cholmley’s legal training suggests that he was probably the man appointed to committees for the bill to shorten Michaelmas term (15 Mar.) and investigate abuses in the Fleet prison (17 April).17

Cholmley was re-elected at Bedwyn in 1625, when he and Pym were both appointed to the committee for the bill restricting assignment of debts to the Crown (23 June). Early in the session, Hertford’s brother, Sir Francis Seymour*, persuaded the Commons to grant two subsidies, a modest vote of supply which the Crown subsequently attempted to increase. Cholmley declared his opposition to the effort to secure an additional grant on 10 Aug., when he ‘insisted upon precedents of doing the country’s business first, and not to give twice in one session’.18

In 1626 Cholmley surrendered his interest at Great Bedwyn to John Selden, whose antiquarian expertise had already proved itself invaluable to the Commons. His first resort when looking for another seat, was Sir Richard Cholmley*, who recommended him to the Scarborough corporation in place of his own son Hugh, and described him as ‘a noble friend and kinsman of ours, ... a man as worthy to desire a place as any, and very powerful to do your town any courtesy’. Sir Richard qualified this rather lukewarm recommendation with the proviso that should a stranger such as Cholmley be unacceptable, the corporation should go ahead and return Hugh. In the end it was Hugh rather than Cholmley who was elected. William, meanwhile, found a seat at Thirsk through another Yorkshire connection, his son-in-law, William Askwith, where he replaced another Crown official, Henry Stanley. During the Parliament either Cholmley or his kinsman Hugh was named to an estate bill committee (4 May), but neither man left any further trace on the records of the session. Cholmley does not appear to have sought re-election at Thirsk in 1628, when the seat he had formerly held went to a local man.19

In 1627, Cholmley’s Exchequer position vanished when collection of most of the greenwax fines formerly delivered to the foreign apposer were farmed out; granted the honorific title of surveyor of the greenwax, he was hired by the farmers to do the same job. Three years later, he enlisted royal support to secure a Cambridge fellowship for his son Jasper.20 Cholmley mortgaged or sold much of his property in the 1630s, but was still able to lend £1,900 to the parliamentary cause before his death on 7 Dec. 1642. His remaining property passed to his grandson and heir, but he remembered all his surviving children in his will of 30 Nov. 1641, including his estranged youngest son, who received £30 and shares in the Providence Island Company he had presumably acquired from Pym, its treasurer. None of his children sat in Parliament, but his grandson William Askwith† was returned for Thirsk as a recruiter in 1645.21

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. GL, St. Martin’s Ludgate par. reg.; Mdx. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lxv), 140.
  • 2. Al. Cant.; LI Admiss.; LI Black Bks. ii. 77.
  • 3. R. Surtees, Co. Pal. Dur. iii. 219; PROB 11/206, f. 199.
  • 4. C142/223/60; R. Surtees, Co. Pal. Dur. iii. 219; PROB 11/206, f. 199.
  • 5. GL, ms 12177, ff. 25v-6.
  • 6. Lansd. 72, f. 92; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, ii. 174.
  • 7. Exchequer Officeholders comp. J.C. Sainty (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xviii), 84; L. Squibb, ‘Bk. of all the Several Officers of the Ct. of Exch.’ ed. W.H. Bryson Cam. Misc. xxvi. (Cam. Soc. ser. 4, xiv), 111-12.
  • 8. GL, ms 12177, ff. 25v-6.
  • 9. E401/2399.
  • 10. C66/1696.
  • 11. C181/4, f. 64; 181/5, f. 143.
  • 12. LI Black Bks. ii. 124.
  • 13. PROB 11/48, f. 177; Al. Cant.; J. Foster, Yorks. Peds (E. and N. Ridings.).
  • 14. C142/223/60; HMC Hatfield, vi. 10-11; ix. 270-1; O.F.G. Hogg, Royal Arsenal, i. 49-50; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 307.
  • 15. Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 5), iii. 253-4; C66/1696, 1712; CD 1621, vi. 457.
  • 16. S.R. Brett, John Pym, p. xxv; APC, 1621-3, p. 122; HMC 4th Rep. 305.
  • 17. VCH Wilts. v. 115-16; CJ, i. 686b, 714b, 749b, 769b; ‘Earle 1624’, f. 196v.
  • 18. Procs. 1625, pp. 229, 448.
  • 19. Scarborough Recs. ed. M.Y. Ashcroft (N. Yorks. RO, xlvii, 2nd edn.), 161-2; Procs. 1626, iii. 155.
  • 20. Squibb, 111-12, 115; CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 168.
  • 21. LCC Survey of London, xvii. 16, 19-20; CJ, iii. 536b; CCAM, 527; GL, ms 12177, ff. 25v-6; PROB 11/191, ff. 62A-3.