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 1535-45 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

Cholmeley (sometimes spelled Cholmley) 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 is named), including Cholmondeley, Cheshire, previously held by Robert Fitzhugh. Over the centuries, the family name was spelled in many variants as middle-English developed away from French influences. Different branches of the family spell the name differently, and Cholmeley's most famous cousins, of Cholmondeley, Cheshire, spell the name "Cholmondeley".[1][2]

Roger Cholmeley was educated to the law at Lincoln's Inn from 1506. Despite being expelled from there three times,[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, and was one of the city's members in four parliaments.

In November 1545 Cholmley 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 in the early 1550s.[4]

Highgate School

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 married Christine, 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 Russe 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 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.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (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" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 10. London: Smith, Elder & Co.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Dabby, Benjamin. "From thenceforth for ever" (PDF). The Cholmeleian (450th Anniversary Issue Summer 2015): 38–41.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Legal offices
Preceded by
Richard Lyster
Lord Chief Justice
Succeeded by
Thomas Bromley