Roger Cholmeley

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Sir Roger Cholmeley (c. 1485 – 21 June 1565) was Lord Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench from 1552 to 1553. From 1535 to 1545 he was Recorder of London and served in the House of Commons. He is possibly best remembered for his endowment to found a free grammar school, Highgate School, at London.

Background and early life[edit]

Cholmeley (sometimes spelled "Cholmley" or "Cholmondeley; all pronounced "ˈtʃʌmli", "CHUM-lee") was the illegitimate son of Sir Richard Cholmeley of Yorkshire (c. 1460 – 1521), who served as Lieutenant of the Tower of London from 1513 to 1520. Cholmeley's family can be traced back to the 12th-century Robert de Chelmundelegh, second son of William le Belward, who inherited parts of the Barony of Malpas (for which Malpas, Cheshire, is named), including Cholmondeley, Cheshire, previously held by Robert Fitzhugh. Over the centuries, the family name was spelt in many variants as Middle English developed away from French influences. Different branches of the family still spell the name differently, and Cholmeley's most famous cousins, of Cholmondeley, Cheshire, spell it "Cholmondeley".[1][2] The pronunciation and spelling are neither counterintuitive nor phonetic, but as used down the ages.

Roger Cholmeley was educated to the law at Lincoln's Inn from 1506. Despite thrice being expelled from the Inn,[3] he entered the legal profession.[4][5]


Most of Cholmeley's career as a lawyer was spent in the City of London, but he lived at Highgate in Middlesex. In 1520 he was called as a bencher of Lincoln's Inn, in 1531 became a serjeant-at-law, and in November 1534 was knighted. From 1535-45 he was Recorder of London, during which time he was one of the city's Members of Parliament in four Parliaments.

In November 1545 Cholmeley became Chief Baron of the Exchequer, and in May 1552 was appointed Chief Justice of the King's Bench. He was Lord Chief Justice for only a year as Queen Mary I would not reappoint him. The same year, he was imprisoned for a month and fined for signing Lady Jane Grey's instrument of succession as Queen. He returned to work as a barrister and was a Member of Parliament for Middlesex from 1554 to 1559.[4]

Princess (later Queen) Elizabeth 1 stayed the night of 15 Feb 1555 with Cholmeleys in Highgate.

Highgate School[edit]

Cholmeley founded Highgate School, which was established by Royal Charter in 1565. Former pupils of the school are known as Old Cholmeleians in his memory. The school has gone on to become a leading independent school (sometimes referred to as a public school). Old Cholmeleians include John Venn, the creator of Venn diagrams, poets Gerard Manley Hopkins and John Betjeman, and musicians John Tavener and John Rutter.[4]


Cholmeley died in London on 21 June 1565.[4]

He willed property to nephew Jasper.


He married Christine Hurst, who died in 1558. They had two daughters:

  • Elizabeth, married first to Sir Leonard Beckwith of Selby, Yorkshire, and secondly to Christopher Kern of Kern, Somersetshire;
  • Frances, the other daughter, was married to Sir Thomas Russell of Strensham, Worcestershire.[6]


  1. ^ Cholmondeley family history
  2. ^ Genealogy of this branch of Cholmeley family
  3. ^ "Dr Dabby's 'Loyal to the Crown' lecture". Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d J. H., Baker. "Cholmley, Sir Roger (c. 1485–1565), judge". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/5342.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ Will and probate for Sir Richard Cholmeley, National Archives Records: Consistory Court of Canterbury, Wills and Probates 1383-1558 vol. 1 & 2 (J. G. Challenor Smith) December 1521 and March 1522, available online at
  6. ^  Barker, George Fisher Russell (1887). "Cholmley, Roger". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 10. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 

Further reading[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Richard Lyster
Lord Chief Justice
Succeeded by
Thomas Bromley
Preceded by
Sir Richard Lyster
Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Henry Bradshaw