Born: BEF 1495

Died: 21 Jun 1565

Buried: 2 Jul 1565, St. Martin's, Ludgate

Father: Richard CHOLMLEY of Thornton-on-the-Hill (Sir)

Mother: Ώ?

Married: Christiana HURST ABT 22 May 1518


1. Frances CHOLMLEY (m. Sir Thomas Russell of Strensham)


The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.

Born BEF 1495, illegit. s. of Sir Richard Cholmley (d.1521) of Thornton-on-the-Hill, Yorks. educ. L. Inn, adm. bef. 1509, called by Nov 1518. Married, ABT 22 May 1518, Christiana Hurst (d.1558), wid., 2da. Kntd. by 30 Jan 1535. Bencher, L. Inn 1520, Lent reader 1524, 1529, Autumn reader 1531, treasurer Nov 1529, gov. 1530. Common pleader, London 1518-35, recorder 1535-45; j.p. Mdx. 1522-d., Essex 1528-47, liberty of St. Alban's 1538-40, Herts., Kent, Surr., Suss. 1547, Surr. 1562-d.; commr. subsidy, Mdx. 1524, benevolence 1544/45, musters 1546, chantries, London, Westminster, Mdx. 1546, 1548, contribution, Mdx. 1546, of Admiralty in Nov 1547, relief, London, Westminster, Mdx. 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553, loan, Mdx. 1562; other commissions 1530-d.; serjeant-at-law 1531; bailiff, duchy of Cornw., Newport, Essex 1533-40; chief baron, Exchequer 1545-52; receiver of petitions in the Lords, Parlts. of 1545, 1547, Mar 1553; custos rot. Mdx. 1547; it. ld. lt. 1552, 1553; c.j. KB 1552-3.

By his will of 26 Dec 1521 Sir Richard Cholmley bequeathed to his bastard son lands in Essex and Middlesex, but the family's estates in Yorkshire and Cumberland went to the heir, Roger Cholmley's uncle.

Although as a serjeant Cholmley was technically disqualified from becoming recorder of London, he had been one of the common pleaders of London since 1518, and he had the support of both the Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell. True, Cholmley had reproached the minister a year earlier for being his ‘heavy master’ over his fine for avoiding knighthood, an honour which he was soon afterwards obliged to accept, but in general their relationship seems to have been amicable: Sir William Gascoigne, who had married Sir Richard Cholmley's widow, was a friend of Cromwell. It was ‘at the petition and request’ of the Minister that the City's rule was waived and Cholmley elected recorder on 17 Jun 1535. As recorder he was to be involved in the treason trials of 1538 and 1539.

Some of these issues were also raised in Parliament. The recorder was normally one of London's four Members. Indeed, his election may have become obligatory: so at least the recorder of Gloucester, Richard Pate, was to argue in 1572, when he reminded William Cecil, Lord Burghley, that after Gloucester's refusal to elect him to Parliament in the previous year he had written to Burghley and other lords, who had ‘caused a precedent to be searched for, which was found 27 Henry VIII, being a supersedeas for the discharge of a like election in London of two knights of the Parliament because Sir Roger Cholmley then recorder there was left out and not elected for one of them’. If Pate remembered the date correctly, the occasion can only have been a by-election to the Parliament of 1529, and its timing would fit the replacement of Sir Thomas Seymour, who offered to vacate his seat on 2 Dec 1535 and died soon after, and John Baker, Cholmley's precursor as recorder. However that may be, Cholmley was elected in time to take his seat in the last session of this Parliament, for an Act then passed (27 Hen. VIII, c.43) was signed by him and three other lawyers, probably acting as a committee of the Commons.

Although there is no record of Cholmley's election to the next Parliament, that of Jun 1536, evidence for his Membership is found on the dorse of two Acts which it passed, one for depriving abjurors in certain cases of their clergy and the other for continuing expiring laws, where among a series of lawyers’ names (including Sir William Gascoigne's) there appears ‘Mr. Recorder’. He was certainly a Member of the Parliament of 1539, for by the Subsidy Act of its second session (32 Hen. VIII, c.50) the appointment of collectors of fifteenths and tenths was vested in the Members and Cholmley was one of those who appointed collectors in London. Moreover, he had taken advantage of his Membership to ensure the inclusion of his name in the preamble to the Act for changing the custom of gavelkind (31 Hen. VIII, c.3). Two days before Parliament met, the City's counsel had been ordered by the court of aldermen to ‘draw a bill unto the Parliament house for to limit how far the bounds of the pretenced sanctuary of St. Martin's shall extend’, but no such Act was passed.

In the first session of the next Parliament the City planned to put in a bill defining its liberties within Southwark, and Cholmley was sent to ask the ‘lawful favour’ of Sir John Gage, King's steward of Southwark; during the next session, a year later, he was again sent to Gage, this time to give him a copy of the act of common council for the assize of wood ‘to cause thereby an Act of Parliament to be drawn for the good and true making and assizing of ... wood throughout the realm’. The first of these bills came to nothing but the second was probably the basis of the Act for the assize of wood and coal (33 Hen. VIII, c.3). Other bills of the first session also concerned the City. On 16 Mar 1542 Cholmley asked the court of aldermen whether ‘he should move that there might be an especial proviso made for the city of London for shooting in handguns ... as there is a bill put into the Parliament house for the taking away and restraint of shooting in the same’: the court decided that he should ‘suffer the same bill to pass as it is drawn, without any contradiction’. Five days later the aldermen had a long debate on the tithes question and finally agreed ‘that Mr. Recorder shall answer the matter in the Parliament house as he shall think good, not confessing any authority to be given unto him therein by this house’. During the second session, on 8 May 1543, Cholmley reported to the court of aldermen that ‘this day a bill concerning the punishment of fishermen upon the river Thames, much beneficial for the City, is passed the Common House’; he therefore asked for ‘suit to be made to the Lords for their favour in the furtherance of the same’, but the session ended four days later and the bill did not become law.

Cholmley was again elected to Parliament by the City on 19 Jan 1545, but before its delayed opening on 23 Nov he was appointed chief baron of the Exchequer and resigned his office of recorder: on 17 Nov 1545 the new recorder, Robert Broke, was elected to Parliament in his place. As chief baron and, later, chief justice of the King's bench, Cholmley was summoned to an advisory place in the House of Lords, where he was a receiver of petitions in 1545, 1547 and Mar 1553: he also served on a number of committees. With other judges he signed the letters patent of 21 Jun 1553 for the succession to the crown of Lady Jane, although he did not subscribe the promise ‘never to vary or swerve’ from the succession so established and was not employed in drawing up the instrument. Nevertheless, with the triumph of Mary he was imprisoned in the Tower on 26 Jul, and was only released on 6 Sep ‘with a great fine’: on 4 Oct 1553 his office of chief justice was committed to Sir Thomas Bromley. He was, however, quickly back in practice. On 2 Dec as one of the counsel for those who had received grants of lands formerly belonging to the attainted Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, he asked the House of Commons to hear him in connexion with the bill to reverse the attainder: he was so far successful on his clients’ behalf as to secure a compromise settlement.

Cholmley remained a justice of the peace, but in Middlesex only. He was also named a commissioner for the treason trials of 1554 and 1555; Princess Elizabeth stayed at his Highgate house on her way to London in 1554, and Catherine, wife of John Ashley and the Princess's companion, was for some time in his charge. Evidently his loyalty was not in question, although he was never again given legal office.

In 1557 he gave his manors of Over Strensham, Worcestershire, and Broad Campden, Gloucestershire, to his daughter Frances and her husband Sir Thomas Russell. Early in the reign of Elizabeth, he founded a free grammar school at Highgate.


Wriothesley's Chron. i (Cam. Soc. n.s. xi)

Machyn's Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii)

Tytler, Edw. VI and Mary

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