Come and meet Hoghton's.

Sir Gilbert Hoghton was a real life figure in the English Civil Wars. He had an eventful time losing his son, Roger in 1643, and his eldest son and , Richard, was fighting on the side of Parliament! The present head of the Hoghton family is Sir Bernard de Hoghton Bt., Honorary Colonel of the present-day Sir Gilbert Hoghton’s Company of Foote. We don’t hold any genealogical data on the Hoghton family but it’s worth looking at the Hoghton Genealogy Group Forum.

Sir Gilbert Hoghton of Hoghton Tower and the Civil Wars in Lancashire

Author: Alan Radford
Originally appeared in the Sealed Knot Magazine – Orders of the Day, Volume 33, Issue 3, 2001 reproduced by kind permission of the author.

Hoghton Tower is a large fortified house on a hilltop between Preston and Blackburn. It was built around a medieval pele tower, which originally stood between the inner and outer courtyards of the present house. The ancestral home of the de Hoghton family since the Norman Conquest, Hoghton Tower is one of the most dramatic-looking houses in the North of England. The present house was built almost entirely in the Elizabethan period and is reached by an impressive steep, straight carriageway over half a mile long. Construction was completed by Thomas Hoghton in 1565, but he, a recusant, lived in it only four years before fleeing to the Low Countries, where he died.

Image from Hoghton's Site

Thomas’s nephew Richard held rather more politically correct views, and earned the favour of James I, who made him a baronet in 1611. He stayed at Hoghton in 1617 before visiting the home of the Earl of Derby, Lathom House, which was to be the site of the most heroic Royalist defence in the whole of the Civil Wars. Sir Richard laid out the red carpet for James’ visit for the entire length of the half mile avenue leading to the house. The Banqueting Hall, with its Minstrel’s Gallery, is where James I dubbed the loin of beef ‘Sirloin’ in August 1617 and where previously William Shakespeare had started his working life as a tutor.

The house still contains the King’s Bedchamber, Audience Chamber, Ballroom and other staterooms used by the King, the Duke of Buckingham and other nobles. There is also a Tudor well house with its horse-drawn pump and oaken windlass, the underground passages with dungeons, wine cellar and the stone cells which housed malefactors and cattle thieves. On the Sunday of the King’s stay at Hoghton Tower he received a petition, signed principally by the Lancashire peasants, tradespeople and servants, representing that they were debarred from lawful recreations upon Sunday, after evening prayers, and upon holy days, and praying that the restrictions imposed by Commissioners in the reign of Queen Elizabeth against “pipers and minstrels playing, making and frequenting bear-baiting and bull-baiting, on the Sabbath days, or upon any other days in time of divine service; and also upon superstitious ringing of bells, wakes and common feasts; drunkenness, gaming and other vicious pursuits”. The King declared such restrictions incompatible with the privilege of his subjects, and offered redress in the form of a proclamation. This declaration formed the basis of “The Book of Sports” issued to all bishops in 1618 to be read and published in all parish churches. The subsequent re-issue of “The Book of Sports” by Charles I early in his reign, antagonising clergy and Parliament, was one of the root causes of the subsequent Civil Wars.

King James must have been impressed by the lavish welcome and the feasting which followed. These honours were all very well, but as a result of his great expenditure on entertainment, aggravated by an overdue mortgage on his alum mines at Hoghton, Sir Richard became bankrupt and was imprisoned for a time in Fleet Prison.

Sir Richard died in 1630, and was succeeded to the baronetcy by his son Gilbert. On 7th April 1637, the House of Hoghton was honoured by Charles I by a grant to the Baronet and his eldest son of the right to wear special livery, the Hunting Stewart tartan.

Sir Gilbert Hoghton was aged 51 at the outbreak of hostilities in 1642, comparatively old for that time, and he was only prominent in the early stages of the conflict. He was an important Royalist in the county, serving as one of the several Deputy-Lieutenants and Commissioners of Array for, and Sheriff of, Lancashire, with responsibility for the Fylde. He also served on the council of Lord Strange, the Earl of Derby, the Royalist Commander in Lancashire. These posts meant that Sir Gilbert was responsible for the raising and equipping of troops on behalf of the King and keeping them in readiness for combat. Furthermore, his position on the Council meant that he was involved in policy-making and the conduct of the war in Lancashire.

Hostilities in Lancashire began with the Commission of Array issued to Lord Strange (later Earl of Derby) and Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire by the King on 10 July 1642. It was proclaimed in Manchester on 15 July, resulting in a skirmish and the death of Richard Percivall, a Parliamentarian linen-weaver. Two months later the siege of Manchester was led by Lord Strange at the head of 4300 Royalist troops; Sir Gilbert Hoghton was one of his senior officers. The siege lasted a week, and ended when orders were received to join the King at Shrewsbury to prepare to fight the army of the Earl of Essex.

Loyalties in Lancashire early in the Civil War were divided, with the people of Blackburn siding mostly with Parliament. And so, in October 1642, circa 300 men of the Royalist Lancashire Trayned Bandes and clubmen, summoned from the Fylde by Sir Gilbert Hoghton by a signal beacon at Hoghton Tower, marched against Whalley, the home of the Assheton family, where there was a large store of arms as a result of the disarming of Roman Catholics in 1641. Whalley fell without a struggle and Sir Gilbert moved his forces onto Blackburn. Hearing of Hoghton’s activities, Colonel Shuttleworth of Gawthorpe Hall and Colonel Starkie raised a force of 8,000 men and attacked Sir Gilbert’s force by night. After a hard-fought defence, Sir Gilbert and his men fled, leaving behind all their arms. Having lost Blackburn, and as it was so close to Hoghton Tower, Sir Gilbert was resolved to retake it. To this end he brought his force on Christmas Eve to the outskirts of Blackburn. Probably feeling uncertain of his men after their last defeat, he failed to close on the Blackburn garrison, and the one small cannon that they possessed did no damage. At nightfall they retreated so that “they myght eet theyr Chrystmas pyes at home” as the records have it. The only damage that Blackburn sustained was when a bullet entered a house and shot out the bottom of a frying pan.

Parliamentarian forces from Manchester, Bolton and East Lancashire under the command of Sir John Seaton assembled at Blackburn in preparation for an assault on Preston, 10 miles away, on the evening of 7th February 1643. The Royalist force at Preston was Sir Gilbert Hoghton’s Dragoons, two or three companies of foot, Sir Thomas Tyldesley’s Dragoons which were in the process of being raised under Captain William Blundell and two troops of horse, under Major Anderton of Tyldesley’s and Captain Radcliffe Hoghton. On the evening of 8th February the Parliamentarians moved against Preston. They managed to cross the River Ribble at Walton which the Royalists had left unguarded, and formed up near the town walls under the cover of darkness. About one hour before daybreak they attacked with about 2500 men. Soon the defences had been breached. The last Royalist reserves were the troop of horse under Radcliffe Hoghton. These were committed to the fight but were ambushed by 20 Parliamentarian musketeers who had taken up position in a house. Radcliffe was killed by their volley and his troop dispersed. Resistance began to collapse and many of the Royalists tried to escape. Sir Gilbert managed to make his getaway to Wigan but his wife was captured. Two or three hundred prisoners were taken, including Captain Hoghton, Sir Gilbert’s nephew. Some six weeks later the Earl of Derby recaptured the town. On February 23rd, King Charles wrote a letter to Sir Gilbert Hoghton saying, “Now that the Rebels seeme to ayme at a more forcible disturbance thereof, repaire unto and continue at your proper Mansion with your family and usuall retinue that others being encouraged and counterbalanced by your good example, you and they may be the better at hand to assist each other for the preservation and defence of the county.” Shortly after the taking of Preston by Seaton, Hoghton Tower was besieged by Parliamentary troops under Captain Nicholas Starkie of Huntroyd. Hoghton Tower at the time held a garrison of only 30-40 musketeers. These defenders capitulated on February 14th, but when the Roundheads entered the house, the powder magazine in the old pele tower between the two courtyards exploded with terrifying force, killing over 100 Parliamentary men. This central tower was never rebuilt.

The last act of Sir Gilbert in the Civil War was at Chester in October 1643, where he had been sent to await the arrival of the King’s Irish army. With this force he was probably engaged, with Lord Byron, in the surprise attack on Col. Assheton’s Lancashire regiment. Unfortunately Sir Gilbert does not appear to have been on very good terms with Byron and after a quarrel he appears not to have taken any further part in the action at Chester or indeed in any action at all. His unwillingness to continue the fight was probably also compounded by the loss of his son, Roger, a Captain of Horse under Molyneux and Tyldesley in 1643, as well as by the fact that his eldest son and heir, Richard, was fighting on the side of Parliament.

Richard Hoghton was appointed by Parliament in 1644 to the Office of Steward and Bailiff of Crown lands in Yorkshire and Lancashire. By 1647, when he inherited the baronetcy on the death of his father, he held a colonel’s commission in Assheton’s Regiment, the regiment Cromwell referred to after the battle of Preston as “the best pikemen he had seen”.

Of Sir Gilbert’s other sons involved in the war, in 1645 Gilbert was appointed by Prince Maurice to a commission as Sergeant Major and Captain in a company of Col. Ratelph Gerard’s Regiment and later became the Governor of Worcester, and Henry was a Captain of Horse under the Earl of Derby.

Of course the road through Lancashire, through Preston, past Hoghton Tower, on to Wigan and the south, saw action later in the troubles. There is still, past the Boar’s Head pub in the village of Hoghton a number of cottages called “The Barracks”. These are a reminder of the Third Civil War, when they were used by Cromwellian troops in 1651. Barracks Farm separates the row of cottages from Hoghton Tower.

At the Restoration on 8th March 1660 Sir Richard Hoghton was outlawed for his part in the rebellion, fined £12.3.4 and the forfeiture of incomes from the Hoghton estates. In June 1660 Sir Richard made a declaration of loyalty to Charles II and petitioned for pardon. In October the Earl of Derby appointed Sir Richard Deputy Lieutenant of the counties of Lancaster and Chester. In May 1661 the King granted pardon for all acts of lèse majesté in the late insurrections, and later that month Lord Manchester appointed Sir Richard to the office of Gentleman of his Majesty’s Privy Chamber Extraordinary.

The present head of the Hoghton family is Sir Bernard de Hoghton Bt., Honorary Colonel of the present-day Sir Gilbert Hoghton’s Companye of Foote.

Compiled from sources including:
The History of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancashire, Edward Baines, 1868Â
A Calendar of the Hoghton Deeds and Papers, Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 1935Â
The Lancashire Witch-craze, Jonathan Lumby, 1995Â
Various standard modern histories of the Civil WarsÂ
Miscellaneous Regimental archivesÂ


A Partial History of The Hoghton Family


Author: Kayla from Hoghton Genealogy Group Forum

Houghton/Hoghton Tower, also called Ho(u)ghton Castle has been well known in Lancashire for several centuries. The Hoghton family is an old one of Norman descent, with a history dating from 1065. That is when documents show that the earliest Hoghton came over on the same ship with William the Conqueror. The Hoghton coat of arms is the oldest Cheshire coat of arms and the second oldest in England. It’s mainly a shield with horizontal strips going across it and an animal standing above the shield with intricate detail all around it. The latin motto means – “In spite of wrong.” In the 1500s, the Catholic Hoghtons of Lancashire England were underground supporters of Catholicism. These were the days when the Catholic Faith was outlawed.

Image from Hoghton's Site

They formed a secret underground society called The Gunpowder Plot. William Shakespeare, Thomas Hoghton his brother Alexander Hoghton, their cousin Richard Hoghton his brother in law Barthotomew Hesketh John Cottom’s, Cottom’s cousin, Thomas Jenkins, Father Edmund Compain , John Finch, Debdale, Hunt, Robert Catesby were some the recruited members of this secret society of gunpowder plotters who’s base was Hoghton Tower. Many were Lancastrians. All roads lead to Hoghton Tower. In his book Shakespeare: The “lost years”, Ernst Honigmann revealed to the public a theory – first proposed in 1937. That the dramatist William Shakespeare spent some early years in Lancashire, as a servant in a chain of Catholic households; and that he is identifiable with William Shakeshafte, a player kept by the Hoghton family of Hoghton Tower near Preston. The theory now appears to be substantiated by the discovery that John Cottom, Stratford schoolmaster from 1579 to 1581, who was William’s teacher, belonged to the secret Lancashire gentry who were relatives and clients of the Hoghtons. But no one has been able to explain is what tied Hoghton Tower to Stratford (a little midland town where Shakespeare was from) and why, if Shakespeare was Shakeshafte, it should have become such a secret. The reason they were not able to do so is that no one explored the Catholic context. 10 years age, Ernst Honigmann, did in his book. It is infact a famous Jesuit mission in the winter of 1580-1 which connects the two places. It provides the answers for Shakespeare’s “lost years”, and suggests a solution to the mystery of Shakeshafte’s vanishing.

Above all, it is the dramatic story of the Jesuits’ doomed children’s crusade which confirms, beyond reasonable doubt, the identification of the Stratford boy with the servant at Hoghton Tower. Cottom and Shakeshafte were legatees when Alexander Hoghton, who was either a play writer or actor and the head of the family, made his will on August 3, 1581, bequeathing his stock of theater costumes and musical instruments to his brother, and enjoining his neighbor, Sir Thomas Hesketh (related to a Hoghton’s brother in law), “to be friendly unto Fulke Gillam and William Shakeshafte now dwelling with me, and either take them into his service or help them to some good master”. Hesketh retained Gillam, a player from Chester, but recommended Shakeshafte began his career in London, where his earliest admirers included the Lancashire poet John Wever (aka R. Wever), a cousin of the Hoghtons. The questions it begs are why an ambitious and talented young Midlander should have beaten a path and gone to the remote Lancashire instead. Why under the name of William Shakeshafte? Shakeshafte had been his grandfathers name. It has been established, by various writers, that the Hoghton family was directly responsible for the establishment of the English Colony in Douai, France which was a Jesuit educational facility on profits from their alum mines. Biographers agree that one of their first recruits was the master who taught Shakespeare from the ages of seven to eleven Thomas Cottom, who, having been freed on bail, a martyr, having been tortured and releases, was carried to Hoghton Tower by Lord Cobham, bringing with him a secret letter from Rome, written by a school friend, Robert Debdale. This was a net that was to accidentally entangle them both. In 1586, Debdale would follow Cottom to the gallows Shakespeare rode north at exactly the same time as another journey linked Stratford to Hoghton, when Edward (later became a Saint) Campion departed Lapworth Park, leaving behind a knot of Midland gentry who would seal the Gunpowder Plot. This was the moment when the politics crossed the Channel (to Douai in France), with the swearing of a Sodality of “young gentlemen of forwardness and zeal”, whose “joy and alacrity” in vowing poverty and chastity, “and ardour to fly overseas to seminaries”, mimicked the Catholic League. With both Shakespeare’s father and teacher so close to this secret society, it would be odd if the star of Stratford Grammar School were not pressed to join the “boys who for this cause have separated from their parents” and who “give up their names”, Campion exulted “as veterans offer their blood”. Historians interpret this phrase to mean that the Sodality adopted aliases taking the names of their grandfathers. Which explains Shakeshafte. William Shakespeare stayed with the Hoghtons and their neighbours until May 15, 1581, when he was 17. At Hoghton Tower, Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s Father, Thomas Hoghton, and others in the secret society were equipped with all the “scriptures, fathers, councils, histories, and works of natural and moral reason” needed to prepare for a public debate. “The day is too short, and the sun must run a greater circumference”, (St.) Edmund Campion boasted, before he could “number all the Epistles, Homilies, Volumes and Disputations” amassed at Hoghton. In 1582, a priest informer noted, to Cardinal Allen many of the members. It was no accident, then that nine of the Twenty-one Catholic executed under Elizabeth were Lancastrians. The county was a springboard for missionaries like Thomas Hoghton and Thomas Cottom, who both taught there before sailing to Douai; or the Hoghton protégé, John Finch, hanged at Lancaster in 1584 for operating a Jesuit liaison chain disguised as a tutor. The son of the Stratford recusant had models for such a vocation in his master, Hunt, and school fellow, Debdale; Shakespeare had run between the two most active cells in Catholic England. Like the Gunpowder Plotter Robert Catesby, his route ought to have taken him from Stratford to Douai via the Jesuit clearing-house at Hoghton Tower. Peter Levi demurs said “In fact, far from obscurity, the aristocratic Catholicism harbored behind the walls of the Renaissance palace at Hoghton was much like the culture of Shakespeare’s early plays in flitting between England and Europe, and the oaths and aliases. subscribed by the Sodality had the arrogance of those assumed by the “little academe” of students in Love’s Labor’s Lost who “war against the huge army” of the world. In her study of the Gunpowder Plot, Antonia Fraser describes this “small world” of “perpetual aliases”, in which “everyone was related to everyone else”, as “schizophrenic” in its oscillation between the glittering light where prizes were won and the spectral darkness of a forbidden religion; but to the brightest and the best who signed up for Campion’s mission, the prospect would have seemed like that of Shakespeare’s two gentlemen of Verona, who would rather “see the wonders of the world abroad” than “Wear out youth in shapeless idleness”. Cottom, who carried letters from Italy to Shottery like some Valentine or Proteus, had lodged in Rome with the composer Victoria;” On August 4, 1581, the day after Alexander Hoghton commanded Shakeshafte to Thomas Hesketh in his will, the Privy Council commanded a search for “certain books and papers which (St) Edmund Campion has confessed he left at the house of one Richard Hoghton of Lancashire” The Gunpowder Plotters were never able to follower through with what they were planning. Campion had been hurrying north to safeguard his library when he had been persuaded to say mass at Lyford in Berkshire, where on July 16 he was, ambushed One of those arrested with him was another relative of Shakespeare’s schoolmaster, his namesake, John Cottom, who was to suffer months of interrogation for names. (Which was the Hoghtons) So it cannot be chance that by the end of the year the master had left his post and himself retired to Lancashire (to be replaced by yet another Hoghton nominee, Alexander Aspinall from Clitheroe). His brother had been tortured in December to divulge the Catholic network; and on July 31 Campion was racked to discover “At whose houses had he been received? Who assisted him? Whom had he reconciled? Where did they live, and what had they talked about?” (Which was the Hoghtons.) Very soon, Burghley could crow that “We have gotten from Campion knowledge of all his peregrinations and have sent for his hosts”. As Edmund Campion’s biographer admits, “By August 2 the government had suddenly acquired a flood of light about his doings. They knew where he had lodged in Lancashire and where he had hidden his library”; The entire Catholic Hoghton family was arrested. Why they were let free instead of executed is a mystery. Also arrested was Bartholomew Hesketh (brother in law of a Hoghton), the sister of a priest, and everyone suspected of concealing Campion or his books. Honigmann deduced that when he wrote his will, Alexander Hoghton “may have hoped to disperse family property to forestall confiscation”, but even he does not seem to have grasped the dire emergency in which, among more desperate measures, William Shakespeare was protected: on the very day between Campion’s confession and the raids on the Hoghton estates. Even as Thomas Hoghton, the master of Hoghton Tower helped his servants to new identities, in the Tower of London Campion was being tortured for their names. Meanwhile at Hoghton Hall, located in Norwich in eastern England. Henry Walpole, having connections with the Hoghtons, was also arrested for harboring priests in his travels. Thomas Cottom (Shakespeare’s teacher) yelled from his cell: “Indeed they are searchers of secrets, for they would needs know of me-what mysins were for which penance was enjoined me. Where upon they sore tormented me, but I persisted that I would not answer, though they tormented me to death.” Shakespeare’s father hid his Spiritual Testament beneath the tiles of his house, where it was to remain, a dusty secret from his son’s admirers. Some time after the raids on Hoghton, Shakespeare wandered out of his so called “lost years.”

In 1617, King James I while staying at the tower, was so impressed with the loin of beef he was served here, that after a few drinks he took his sword and knighted the meat thereby giving the name to sirloin steak! To remember the event the local pub was renamed “The Sirloin” and still goes by that name today. Sir Richard de Hoghton was forced to entertain the King for three days at great expense. Unfortunately this left him penniless and he was sent to prison due to his debts.