Chaloner, Thomas (1561-1615) (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

CHALONER, Sir THOMAS, the younger (1561–1615), naturalist, only son of Sir Thomas Chaloner the elder [q. v.], and Ethelreda Frodsham, was born in 1561. His father died in 1565. His mother marrying Edward Brocket (son of Sir John Brocket, knt., of Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire), he owed his education chiefly to his father's friend, William Cecil, lord Burghley, at St. Paul's School and at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was esteemed for his poetical abilities, but took no degree. In 1579 he wrote the dedication to Lord Burghley of his father's poetical works. He began his travels in 1580, and became, especially in Italy, intimate with the learned men of the time. He returned home three years after to become a favourite at court, and married Elizabeth, daughter of his father's friend, William Fleetwood, recorder of London. In 1584 he published ‘A Short Discourse of the most rare Vertue of Nitre,’ London, 4to, b.l., a practical work in advance of the age. He was M.P. for St. Mawes in 1586 and for Lostwithiel in 1604. In 1588 he taught, at Christ Church, Oxford, Robert Dudley, son of the Earl of Leicester, and was knighted while serving with the English army in France in 1591. In 1596–7 he was again abroad, and his letters, chiefly from Florence, to the Earl of Essex and Anthony Bacon [q. v.] are in the Lambeth Library. He was exceedingly fond of natural history and philosophical inquiry, and showed unusual method and reasoning in his experiments. While at Puteoli he visited the pope's alum works, and noticed the similarity of the surrounding vegetation to that of some parts of Guisborough on his own Yorkshire estate, and on his return, about 1600, made the discovery of alum-stone at Belman Bank, Guisborough, and opened there the first alum mines in England. Workmen from Rochelle were brought over to the work. The Yorkshire tradition is that they came over hidden in casks, and that the pope fulminated an anathema against Chaloner and them, copies of which are given in Grose's ‘Antiquities’ and Young's ‘Whitby,’ but the text is verbatim the curse of Ernulphus in ‘Tristram Shandy.’ In James I's time Chaloner's works became very profitable, the king having prohibited the importation of foreign alum. Under Charles I the crown claimed them as royal mines, and they were granted to Sir Peter Pindar for 12,500l. a year to the king and 2,240l. to the Earl of Mulgrave and another, and after paying eight hundred workmen still produced an immense profit. In 1592 Chaloner was made justice of the peace for Buckinghamshire. Towards the end of Elizabeth's reign, at the instance of Sir Robert Cecil, afterwards earl of Salisbury [q. v.], Chaloner went into Scotland, where he became so great a favourite with King James that even Sir Francis Bacon sought his recommendation. He attended James on his journey to take possession of the English throne, and on the arrival at York headed the deputation to the mayor. Queen Anne gave him the management of her private estate, and the king appointed him governor of the king's eldest son Henry in 1603. He had to form the household into what the king called ‘a courtly college,’ and no gentleman could take the prince out without his consent. For his services as the head official of the 420 servants of the prince his ‘wages and diet’ were 66l. 13s. 4d. a year. In 1605 he attended the prince to Oxford—Magdalen College being chosen out of respect to him—and there, along with forty-two noblemen, gentlemen, and esquires, he was made a master of arts. In 1605 he was entrusted with the repairs of Kenilworth Castle, the planting of gardens, restoration of fish-ponds, game preserves, &c. In 1607 he and a Dane and two Dutchmen showed ‘rare fireworks’ on the occasion of a Twelfth-night masque at court. In 1610, when the young prince was created Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall, and Chaloner was made his chamberlain, the scheme of M. Villeforest to extract silver from lead was entrusted by the prince to him and Sir William Godolphin for trial. In 1608 he recommended the making of water-pipes of earthenware, of which he asserted eight thousand could be made in a day, safer and stronger than metal ones. On Pette's trial for insufficiency as a shipwright, the king chose Chaloner to make the experiments on the powers and capacities of ships. The royal New-year's gifts to him were of high value. In 1605 his portion was 30 oz. of gilt plate, and at the christening of one of his children he received ‘168 oz. of gilt plate of all kinds.’ The public records mention a few grants to him: in 1604, 100l. a year in lands of the duchy of Lancaster and 36l. a year in fee-farm of exchequer lands; and subsequently part of the manor of Clothall, Hertfordshire. John Owen addressed one of his ‘Epigrams’ to him; and Isaac Wake, in his ‘Rex Platonicus,’ Oxford, 1607, has a poem on him.

By his first wife, who died in 1603, he had eleven children: William, created a baronet on 20 July 1620, who died unmarried at Scanderoon (the title became extinct in 1681); Edward, Thomas [q. v.], James, the regicide [q. v.], and three other sons and four daughters. By his second wife, who died in 1615, Judith, daughter of William Blunt of London, he had four sons and three daughters. He was a great benefactor to the grammar school of St. Bees, giving it in 1608 a good building site, with timber, stone, and forty tons of sea coal, with an acre and a half of adjoining land. There are two Chaloner scholarships still existing.

Chaloner left estates at Guisborough, Yorkshire, and Steeple Claydon, Buckinghamshire, and died on 17 Nov. 1615. In the chancel of Chiswick Church, Middlesex, is a monument of alabaster having his effigies and his lady's, with an inscribed plate. This monument makes his birth in 1561, and not 1559 as in Wood and Tanner.

[Stowe's Annals, p. 895; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. i. 398, ii. 376, iii. 258; Wood's Fasti, p. 176; Biog. Brit. (Kippis), iii. 419; Childrey's Brit. Baconica, p. 162; Bacon's Works, iv. 557; Camden's Brit. p. 766; Fuller's Worthies (Yorkshire), p. 186; Rymer's Fœdera, xvi. 545; Pat. 1 Jac. I, p. 23, m. 10; Winwood's Memorials, ii. 87; Sidney Papers, ii. 307; Dr. Birch's Prince Henry, pp. 32, 97, 203; Dr. Birch's Queen Elizabeth, ii. 150, 182, 228, 236, 269, 304; Grose's Antiquities, vol. iv.; Doran's Princes of Wales, pp. 356, 377, 379; Ord's Cleveland, pp. 221, 223, 291; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1603–10; Nichols's Progresses, i. 79, 553, 599, 602, ii. 252, 373; Kennet's Collections, Harl. MS. 983; Hutchinson's Cumberland, ii. 39; Peacham's Compleat Gentleman, c. 10, p. 93; Clutterbuck's Hist. and Antiq. of Hertfordshire, ii. 361.]

J. W.-G.