HILDYARD, Sir Christopher (c.1568-1634), of Winestead, 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

Family and Education

b. c.1568, o. surv. s. of Richard Hildyard of Routh, Yorks. and Jane, da. and h. of Marmaduke Thweng of Weaverthorpe, Yorks.1 educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1584; I. Temple 1586.2 m. settlement 15 June 1599, Elizabeth (bur. 28 Nov. 1638), da. and h. of Henry Welby of Goxhill, Lincs., 3s. 6da. (2 d.v.p.).3 suc. fa. c.1602, uncle Sir Christopher Hildyard of Winestead 1602, mother 1608;4 kntd. 17 Apr. 1603.5 bur. 23 Nov. 1634.6 sig. Chr[istopher] Hildiard.

Offices Held

J.p. Yorks. (E. Riding) 1600-d, Beverley liberty c.1604-d.;7 member, Council in the North 1603-d.;8 commr. sewers, E. Riding by 1603-d., W. Riding by 1623-d., Admlty. causes, E. Riding 1608, subsidy, E. Riding 1608, 1621-2, 1624,9 Forced Loan, co. Dur., E. and W. Ridings 1626-7;10 collector aid (jt.) E. Riding 1609, 1612;11 sheriff, Yorks. 1612-13;12 dep. lt. E. Riding by 1613-?d.;13 commr. oyer and terminer, Northern circ. 1617-d, Northern ship levy 1627, repair of St. Paul’s Cathedral, E. Riding 1633.14


The Hildyards, resident in Holderness by the fourteenth century, acquired their main estate there by marriage, purchased the manor house at Hull and accumulated land near Grimsby, Lincolnshire. The first MP in the family was Hildyard’s uncle and namesake, returned for Hedon in 1563, 1571 and 1572 on the interest of his father-in-law, Sir John Constable†. When this man’s son drowned in 1584 Hildyard became heir-presumptive to a much larger inheritance than that he could expect from his mother. Returned to Parliament for Hedon from 1589, presumably by arrangement between his uncle and Sir Henry Constable*, in 1599 he married an heiress whose estates lay on the opposite bank of the Humber.15

Hildyard came into his inheritance in 1602, when his father and uncle died within a few months of each other. He attended the proclamation of King James at Hull on 28 Mar. 1603, was knighted at York three weeks later, and replaced his uncle on the Council in the North in July.16 Re-elected for Hedon in the following year, he was an inconspicuous Member: in four sessions his only committee nominations concerned bills relating to the game laws (30 May 1604; 22 Mar. 1610), enclosure (25 May 1604) and John Hare’s* radical reform of purveyance (30 Jan. 1606). He made just one recorded speech, on 5 June 1604, when he tabled one of many amendments to the expiring laws continuance bill; whatever the nature of his proviso, it was probably not adopted, as he was not added to the bill committee. On the other hand, Hildyard was perhaps a little more active in the Commons than the records suggest. As a trustee of the Hotham family entail, he had a particular interest in the 1606 bill allowing (Sir) John Hotham* to make a jointure estate while under-age, and though not specifically named to the committee (25 Jan.), he was entitled to attend its deliberations as a Yorkshire burgess. Granted leave of absence three weeks before the end of the 1604 session, he presumably also missed the latter part of the next, as he was allowed to go home on the first day after the Easter recess.17 On 3 Mar. 1610, after lord treasurer Salisbury (Robert Cecil†) demanded to know why the return for the Hedon by-election had not reached him, the corporation insisted one of Hildyard’s servants had taken it to Westminster, ‘which assuredly will be speedily returned to your honour when it shall come to his hands’.18

Hildyard missed the 1614 Parliament, perhaps because Sir Henry Constable the younger was displeased at his challenge to the jurisdiction of the lordship of Holderness, a snub which led to an Exchequer case in Michaelmas 1614.19 The differences between the two men meant that in 1621 Hildyard eschewed Constable’s patronage, and instead procured a seat at Beverley, four miles from his Routh estate. When this fell under the control of the duchy of Cornwall in 1624, Hildyard reverted to Hedon, where he was returned on his own interest, though presumably with the assent of Constable, now Viscount Dunbar.20

In both 1621 and 1624 Hildyard was more active in the Commons than he had previously been, speaking in several important debates, although his name was not always recorded correctly. On 14 May 1621, when Sir Thomas Edmondes pressed for a speedy end to the session, Hildyard advocated that priority be given to the expiring laws continuance bill, lest probationer Acts be lost at the prorogation.21 During the debate of 3 Dec. 1621 about the Commons’ controversial petition calling for Prince Charles to be married to a Protestant, Hildyard supported the courtiers who were playing for time by advising for the matter to be returned to committee. Such efforts were in vain, as Charles had already complained to the king, whose angry reply provoked a suspension of business.22 One of the few issues which continued to be scrutinized during the following fortnight was the attack on Sir Edward Coke* by Lepton and Goldsmith. James asked the Commons to justify its investigation, and on 13 Dec. Hildyard was one of those who proposed a message urging the king ‘not to hearken to any reports which may breed a misconceit in you of your House of Commons’, a defence of the Commons’ right to freedom of speech which deftly avoided confrontation.23 In 1624, like many northerners, Hildyard was apparently reluctant to underwrite the aggressive foreign policy proposed by Prince Charles and Buckingham. In the key subsidy debate of 19 Mar. he offered only two subsidies and two fifteenths, on the grounds that ‘in ‘88 [his first Parliament] the Queen desired no more for the charge to beat back the Spanish Navy and the journey to Lisbon’. However, another diarist had him offering ‘more some other way’ at the planned autumn session.24

As a long-serving MP, Hildyard was named to the privileges committee on 5 Feb. 1621. Two days later, he spoke in the debate on the return of Viscount Falkland (Sir Henry Carey I*), whose Scottish peerage raised the spectre of a Commons swamped by ennobled courtiers. Sir Thomas Roe* and Hildyard proposed to defuse the situation by allowing Falkland to sit but barring those with Scottish peerages for the future. On 2 and 3 May Hildyard contributed two precedents to the House’s justification of its proceedings against the Catholic barrister Edward Floyd, one of which misquoted an incident from the 1593 session; he recalled this dispute on the final day of the session, moving that the Protestation then being drafted should cite the Commons’ claims to judicature.25 Hildyard, having been ousted at Hedon in 1614 by Clement Coke, called to debate Coke’s brawl with Sir Charles Morrison* on 7 May 1621. This motion, which dismayed Coke’s friends, may have been motivated by revenge, although his Yorkshire neighbour Sir William Alford*, a distant relative of Morrison’s, could have briefed him to speak.26

Much of Hildyard’s parliamentary activity can be linked to local issues. On 7 May 1621 he defended one of Viscount Dunbar’s privileges, objecting to the bill granting the Deptford Trinity House a monopoly over lighthouses on the grounds that some lordships, such as Holderness, held local Admiralty rights. Perhaps with an eye to his own exposed position on the Yorkshire coast, he also suggested a proviso to allow lights to be extinguished in time of war.27 A former sheriff, on 3 Apr. 1624 he tabled a bill granting sheriffs an absolute a quittance of their accounts five years after receiving their quietus from the Exchequer. This was replaced by a fuller draft two weeks later; he was included on the committee for this bill (23 Apr.), which was subsequently enacted.28 A longstanding member of the Council in the North, he defended its interests on 23 Mar. 1624, when Sir John Savile* and Sir Henry Anderson* moved to include the Councils in the North and the Marches within the bill to restrict the use of writs of supersedeas and certiorari by the Westminster courts (9 Mar. 1624). Hildyard insisted ‘that the late presidents of the North have taken order that none of those writs shall go forth above 12 mile from the city’, and while this assertion was quickly contradicted by Sir Thomas Savile, the proviso was not adopted. Hildyard was also included on the committee for the bill to prevent the removal of actions from inferior courts to Westminster (9 Mar. 1624), a measure which could only benefit the York court.29 Hildyard stood up for the economic interests of his locality in the House. As a landowner, he might have been expected to support a bill to raise the price of corn, but in the debate of 8 Mar. 1621 he supported those merchants who argued that it would take too long to import grain from the Baltic in a crisis. Instead, he suggested that grain imports be allowed in English ships at any time, with the proviso that sales be embargoed when prices were low. He later joined in voicing fears that the bill against the export of wool, yarn and fullers’ earth could be evaded by carrying cargoes via Scotland, but at the third reading on 30 Nov. 1621 he conceded an exemption for Berwick-upon-Tweed, the staple port for the export of Scottish wool.30

Hildyard was involved in a number of other debates. He clearly approved of Sir Eubule Thelwall’s motion of 3 Mar. 1624 to draft a bill to restrict the abuse of writs of habeas corpus by defaulting debtors, moving that the committee should consult the proposals made by the 1621 committee for courts of justice.31 As a Yorkshire burgess, he was entitled to attend the committee for Sir Richard Lumley’s estate bill (19 Mar. 1621), and on 1 May he supported Sir Thomas Wentworth’s* motion to delay the third reading; he may have aimed to impede its passage, or simply have been concerned that the House was uncommonly empty in the aftermath of the Floyd debate.32 He displayed little interest in religion: he was named to attend the conference of 16 Feb. 1621 which drafted a petition for proper execution of the recusancy laws, and another to discuss minor alterations to the Sabbath bill (24 May 1621). His interest in ecclesiastical reform extended no further than membership of committees for bills to explain the 1547 Chantries Act (22 Mar. 1621) and to restrict the clergy’s right to lease their glebe (22 Mar. 1624).33

Illness forced Hildyard to leave the 1624 session two weeks early, but his incapacity was clearly temporary, as he was present at the hustings for the hotly contested Yorkshire election of May 1625. While he may have missed the opening of the session, being involved in the shipment of recruits from Hull to Holland until the middle of June, he was present when the Yorkshire election dispute was debated on 4 July. A supporter of Sir John Savile*, he claimed to have demanded and been promised a poll by sheriff Sir Richard Cholmley*. His criticism of Cholmley’s failure to complete the poll is reminiscent of his speech of 19 Mar. 1624, in which he had censured the sheriff of Cambridgeshire for refusing a poll under similar circumstances. As he must have hoped, the Commons used the earlier precedent to justify their annulment of the return of Savile’s opponents, Sir Thomas Wentworth and Sir Thomas Fairfax I*.34

Hildyard left no trace on the records of the 1626 Parliament. Like many Members, he doubtless aimed to avoid controversy during the impeachment of Savile’s patron, the duke of Buckingham. With the favourite’s backing, Savile and his allies dominated Yorkshire politics during the 18 months following the dissolution: Hildyard was included on the commission for the Forced Loan not only in the East Riding, but also in Durham and the West Riding, two areas with which he had little connection. He was also appointed to the commission to raise money for the squadron of armed colliers Savile set out to defend the Yorkshire coast against the Dunkirkers. However, he left little trace of any activity either in collecting the Loan or as a commissioner for the colliers, perhaps because of lingering ill-feeling against Viscount Dunbar, who co-ordinated the collection of the Loan in the East Riding. Hildyard may also have been embarrassed by the activities of his cousin Sir William Hildyard, who only paid the Loan under duress and acted as a messenger for Sir William Constable*, one of the most prominent East Riding refusers.35

Hildyard’s support for Savile had apparently cooled by 1628. His motion for a miserly grant of three subsidies and two fifteenths in the subsidy debate of 4 Apr. 1628 suggests little enthusiasm for war with France and Spain, perhaps because of the continual threats to the Yorkshire coast from privateers. He took no part in the debates on the Petition of Right, but when the House considered imprisoning his wife’s relative Sir William Welby during their investigation of Welby’s activities as a Lincolnshire deputy lieutenant, Hildyard interceded to vouch for his future appearance. In the entertaining but inconsequential debate over the precedence of Oxford and Cambridge in the subsidy bill, he argued that Masters of Arts from his university, Cambridge, took precedence over those awarded at Oxford in the same year, but was dismissed by William Hakewill, who explained that Cambridge degrees took precedence because the university’s commencement fell a week before that at Oxford.36 Hildyard was not mentioned in the records of the 1629 session.

The distance which had opened up between Hildyard and Savile by 1628 apparently saved the former after Savile was displaced in favour of Sir Thomas Wentworth. Hotham, discussing Wentworth’s proposal to continue Hildyard in office in January 1629, observed that

tis true he is somewhat less than nothing, yet he hath always made one as a cipher to add to the number, and he will be sure to be of the safer side ... Besides he hath been long one of your Council [in the North] and will be ... no good, small harm.37

This assessment appears to have been accurate, as Hildyard played little part in local affairs at the end of his life. He now devoted most of his time to his family and estate, enclosing one of his manors by agreement with his tenants in 1629, and marrying his second son to the daughter of a Hull merchant in 1634.38

Despite his age, Hildyard ‘blamed himself for neglecting the setting of his estate in order’ while drafting a nuncupative will on his deathbed on 22 Nov. 1634. He made bequests for two of his daughters then present, confirmed a previous grant of the manor of Lisset to his youngest son Christopher, and appointed his eldest son Henry as his executor. The latter, as heir under the family entail, needed no separate provision, and Hildyard had already endowed his second son Robert with the lands inherited from his mother in 1608; he was buried at Winestead on 23 November.39 Having died ‘very rich in money’, with ‘a very plentiful and clear estate in land’, his eldest son was quickly besieged by suitors. He married a daughter of Lord Deincourt in 1635, and inherited the Goxhill estate from his maternal grandfather a year later. The estate continued in the family until the demise of the male line in 1814. The next family member to sit in the Commons was Hildyard’s great-grandson Sir Robert, returned at Hedon in 1701.40

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. iii. 332-3.
  • 2. Al. Cant.; I. Temple Admiss.
  • 3. C142/530/155; 142/548/50; Yorks. ERRO, PE147/1; Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. iii. 333-4.
  • 4. Borthwick, Holderness Deanery Act Bk., 22 Apr. 1602; C142/273/77/1; 142/301/47.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 100.
  • 6. Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. iii. 333.
  • 7. C231/1, f. 86v; C181/1, f. 94; C181/4, f. 68.
  • 8. R. Reid, Council in the North, 497.
  • 9. C181/1, f. 117; 181/3, f. 85; 181/4, ff. 82, 189; HCA 14/39/217; SP14/31/1; C212/22/20-23.
  • 10. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 145; C193/12/2; APC, 1627, p. 244.
  • 11. SP14/43/107; E403/2732, ff. 99v, 153v.
  • 12. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 163.
  • 13. Add. Ch. 66608.
  • 14. C181/2, f. 266; APC, 1627, pp. 312-13; HUL, DDHA 18/35.
  • 15. Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. iii. 331-4; VCH Yorks. (E. Riding), v. 151; C142/273/77/1; 142/301/47.
  • 16. Borthwick, Holderness Deanery Act Bk., unfol. 22 Apr. 1602; C142/273/77/1; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, f. 348.
  • 17. CJ, i. 226a, 229a, 232b, 241a, 300b, 326b, 414a.
  • 18. Ibid. 260a; HLRO, O.A. 3 Jas.I, c. 42; SP14/53/2.
  • 19. E112/138/1382; E134/13/Jas.I/Hil.14; E178/4875.
  • 20. DCO, Prince Charles in Spain, ff. 34, 39v; Yorks. ERRO, DDCC/144/1, Dunbar to John Kirton, dated by its reference to the vicarage of Burstwick, which was vacant in 1624, see G. Poulson, Holderness, ii. 360.
  • 21. CJ, i. 621b; CD 1621, iii. 252.
  • 22. CJ, i. 657b; CD 1621, vi. 233; R. Zaller, Parl. of 1621, pp. 151-6; C. Russell, PEP, 133-6.
  • 23. Zaller, 164-5; CJ, i. 663a (as Sir William Hildyard); CD 1621, v. 237.
  • 24. CJ, i. 743b; Holles 1624, p. 45; ‘Holland 1624’, i. f. 38v. Two subsidies and four fifteenths were voted in 1589.
  • 25. CJ, i. 507b, 513a, 603b; CD 1621, ii. 36-7, 540; iii. 137-8, 153; v. 133, 363; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 357-9.
  • 26. CJ, i. 611b; CD 1621, iii. 187-8; J.G. Alford, Alford Fam. Notes, 16, 24.
  • 27. CJ, i. 611; CD 1621, iii. 185; iv. 315.
  • 28. CJ, i. 754b, 773a; Kyle thesis, 196-8; SR, iv. 1215.
  • 29. ‘Spring 1624’, p. 157; Kyle thesis, 225-30; CJ, i. 626a, 680b; Nicholas, ii. 97.
  • 30. CJ, i. 545a, 597a, 653a; CD 1621, ii. 478-9 (Sir John Sillierd); vi. 214.
  • 31. ‘Hawarde 1624’, p. 173; CJ, i. 677a; Kyle thesis, 304. The intent of his speech is unclear.
  • 32. CJ, i. 562a, 600b; Nicholas, i. 190-1; CD 1621, ii. 119.
  • 33. CJ, i. 523a, 568b, 626a, 746a; Nicholas, i. 46-7, 210; ii. 97; Zaller, 41-4.
  • 34. CJ, i. 687b, 704a; APC, 1625-6, pp. 58, 70; Procs. 1625, pp. 296, 300.
  • 35. R. Cust, Forced Loan, 194-6; APC, 1626-7, pp. 243-5; 1627, pp. 277, 312-13; SP16/60/52.
  • 36. CD 1628, ii. 308; iii. 360; iv. 41-2.
  • 37. SCL, Strafford Pprs. 12/50; J.T. Cliffe, Yorks. Gentry, 238.
  • 38. C2/Chas.I/H53/18; Yorks. ERRO, DDHI, indenture of 1 Sept. 1634, PE185/1 (8 Sept. 1634); C142/530/155.
  • 39. Borthwick, Reg. Test. 42, f. 358; C142/530/155; Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. iii. 333.
  • 40. Nottingham UL, Cl/C 56; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, f. 189v; C142/548/50; Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. iii. 333-4.