CHOLMLEY, John (c.1661-1711), of Morgan’s Lane, St. Olave’s, Southwark, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1698 - 10 Nov. 1702
25 Nov. 1702 - 24 Oct. 1711

Family and Education

b. c.1661, 1st s. of John Cholmley of St. Olave’s, Southwark by his wife Mary.  m. 25 July 1687, aged 26, Alice, da. of John Standbrook of St. Margaret’s, Westminster, 2s. 3 da.  suc. fa. 1685.

Offices Held

Freeman, Brewers’ Co. 1686, master 1706; commr. taking subscriptions to S. Sea Co. 1711.1


The family brewery had been established in Southwark for at least two generations by the time Cholmley came to inherit it in 1685. His father’s prominence in the trade was attested by the royal custom he enjoyed under Charles II, and, when attending a Nonconformist meeting in December 1681, Cholmley senior was actually identified as ‘the King’s brewer’. Cholmley himself remained a staunch Whig throughout his political career, faithfully reflecting the views of a constituency which boasted a significant Dissenting interest. His support for the Revolution was indicated by several loans which he made to the crown in 1689–90, amounting to £7,500. Having advanced another £3,500, in July 1694 he became one of the first subscribers to the Bank of England. His professional status was confirmed in March 1697 when he led a deputation of brewers to the Treasury to protest against the debts owed by the victualling office, at which time he probably owned one of the largest breweries in the capital.2

The subsequent run of electoral success which Cholmley enjoyed at Southwark alongside his fellow brewer and parishioner Charles Cox* was principally based on the strength of the brewing industry in the constituency. Moreover, by 1698 he had already cultivated local support by several benefactions to St. Thomas’ Hospital. His first election victory was comfortably achieved, and though a list of 1698 described his political allegiance as doubtful, by early 1700 an analysis of the House listed him with the Junto interest. In the House Cholmley proved an inconspicuous figure. In November 1701, after achieving their most conclusive election victory to date, Cholmley and Cox were presented with an instruction in the name of ‘the inhabitants of Southwark’ which was strongly in support of the war. The very next day the two Members led a crowd of ‘about 500 liverymen’ to vote for the Whig candidates at the London election and in the following month Robert Harley* listed Cholmley with the Whigs. In contrast to such vigorous campaigning at the polls, Cholmley’s only significant action in the ensuing Parliament concerned a tellership on 27 Feb. 1702 in favour of adjourning all committees.3

The first Southwark election under Anne proved the most testing electoral hurdle of Cholmley’s political career. Having achieved a convincing victory over John Lade* in mid-July, the sitting Whig Members were then forced to contest the seat again after the House had declared the election void in response to reports of a ‘great tumult and riot’ at the poll. However, on 25 Nov. the Whig brewers prevailed at the second election, and in the ensuing session Cholmley’s politics were confirmed by his support on 13 Feb. 1703 for the Lords’ amendments to the bill to extend the time for taking the abjuration oath. In addition, on 30 Oct. 1704 he was forecast as a probable opponent of the Tack, and on 28 Nov. either voted against this measure or was absent from the House. Having enjoyed an uncontested victory at the Southwark election of 1705, at the outset of the new Parliament he was classified by a parliamentary list as ‘No Church’, an assessment perhaps reflecting his father’s influence. He certainly maintained his political principles, voting Whig at the Surrey election of 1705, and supporting the Court over the choice of Speaker on 25 Oct., as well as in February 1706, when the House considered the regency bill’s place clause. In that session he was also involved in a division of 17 Dec. 1705 relating to a land tax bill, telling against an amendment affecting the Marshalsea court, whose prison lay in St. George’s, Southwark.

His political outlook confirmed by two parliamentary lists of 1708, Cholmley was returned for Southwark unopposed at the election of that year. However, in the wake of the election he was joined in the House by his namesake Hugh, Member for Hedon, whose presence confounds any attempt to ascertain the subsequent Commons activity of the Southwark brewer. Cholmley clearly remained a loyal party man in the ensuing sessions, voting for the naturalization of the Palatines in early 1709, as well as for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell a year later. Both issues helped to deepen divisions within his Southwark constituency, but the strength of his local support was highlighted by the election of 1710 when both the sitting Members were returned, thereby defying the Tory tide sweeping the nation. Having voted in an accustomed vein at both the Surrey and London polls, he was classed as a Whig in the ‘Hanover list’ and duly voted against the amendment to the South Sea bill on 25 May 1711, his last significant act in the House before he died. Some confusion remains concerning the date of Cholmley’s death, Boyer recording it as 24 Oct., while Le Neve suggests that Cholmley passed away the following day. It may well have been a sudden demise, given his probable age and the fact that he died intestate. Although one of his two sons did emulate him by entering the Brewers’ Company, neither chose to follow their father into politics.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Perry Gauci


  • 1. W. Rendle and P. Morgan, Inns of Old Southwark, 53; IGI, London; Mar. Lic. Vicar-Gen. 1687–99 (Harl. Soc. xxxi), 6; Guildhall Lib. ms 5445/23, p. 106; 5445/24, p. 471; Pittis, Present Parl. 348.
  • 2. PCC 170 Aylett, 83 Cann; Cal. Treas. Bks. vii. 1406; ix. 644, 1980, 2001; x. 720; xi. 361; CSP Dom. 1680–1, p. 630; DZA, Bonet’s despatch 6/16 July 1694; P. Mathias, Brewing Industry, 9.
  • 3. J. Aubrey, Surr. v. 296; Advice of Inhabitants of Southwark [1701]; Add. 70075, newsletter 27 Nov. 1701.
  • 4. Surr. Polls of 1705, 1710; London Poll of 1710; Boyer, Anne Annals, x. 384; Le Neve, Mon. Angl. 1700–15, p. 233; PCC Admon. 7 Dec. 1711, f. 224; Guildhall Lib. ms 5445/25, p. 53.