The history of the Cholmley family and their relationship to Whitby:
Whitby is documented in an extraordinary
collection of papers written by
Sir Hugh Cholmley
between 1648 and his death in 1657. An important figure in Yorkshire, Sir Hugh produced three so called "Memorials"
describing events in the Civil War, among them an account of his defence of his defence of Scarborough Castle in 1645. They are
gripping read - action packed narratives of politics, battles and intrigue.
After his wife`s death in 1655, Sir Hugh also began work on a set of memoirs, comprising of not only an account of his own
life, but also a history of the Cholmley family from the reign of Henry VIII. They chart the
family's rise to prominence
in Yorkshire in the wake of the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the subsequent squandering of
the family fortune by Sir Hugh`s father and grandfather. The memoirs focus, however, on events of Sir Hugh`s
own life. After a turbulent youth, he proved adept at managing his estates and
succeeded in paying off the debts he inherited. Writing of his life in Abbey House before the
troubles of the Civil War, he reminisced that he had, "lived in as handsome and plentiful a
fashion at home as any gentleman of my rank in all the country; I had between thirty and forty in my ordinary
family, a chaplain who said prayers every morning at six, and again before dinner and supper; a
porter who merely attended the gates which were ever shut up before dinner when the bell rung to
prayers and not opened till one o`clock, except for some strangers who came to dinner, which was
ever fit to receive three or four beside my family without any trouble and what ever their fare
was they were sure to have hearty welcome. Twice a week a certain number of old people, widows or
indigent persons, were served at my gates with bread and good pottage made of beef, which I
mention that those who succeed may follow the example.
Sir Hugh`s son, another Sir Hugh (1632 - 1689 ), also wrote the
beginnings of his own memoirs as well as several accounts of incidents in his life. This combined
collection of family papers is an invaluable source for the history of Whitby and offers many
fascinating insights into seventeenth-century life in England.