Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Clitherow, Christopher
CLITHEROW, Sir CHRISTOPHER (d. 1641), merchant, was the only son of Henry Clitherow by his second wife Bridget, daughter of Thomas Hewett. His father was a citizen of London and master of the Ironmongers' Company in 1592, 1603, and 1606, and dying in the following year bequeathed to the company a piece of plate. Lysons considers the family to have been descended from the Cliderows, or Clitherows, of Kent. The family was, however, represented in the city of London in early times, as Malcolm mentions a monument formerly existing in the church of St. Martin Outwich to William Clitherow and Margaret his wife, dated 1469 (Lond. Rediv. iv. 412). Clitherow was a prominent member of the East India Company. Between 21 March 1601 and 26 April 1602 'bills of adventure' for 62,880l. were sealed by the incorporated company to various merchants, among them being included Clitherow, who contributed 240l. He was admitted a member of the company in October 1601, and the court book of the company records the admission in 1610 of Edward Warnor as an adventurer under Clitherow in the first, second, and third voyages. The profits upon the first and second are stated in Sir Jeremy Sambrooke's report on the East India trade to have amounted to 95l. percent, upon the capital subscribed. In 1612 an association was formed by the East India and Muscovy Companies for the discovery of a north-west passage, and Clitherow's name appears in the grant of incorporation. Two years afterwards he became a member of the committee of the East India Company, and in 1619 was put in nomination for the offices of deputy-governor and treasurer. He was not then elected, but was deputy-governor in 1625 and governor in 1638. In the latter year the offices of the East India Company, which had since 1621 been in Crosby House, were removed to Clitherow's house in Leadenhall Street, where they remained until 1648, when they finally removed to the adjoining house, the property of Lord Craven. Clitherow was also governor of the Company of Eastland Merchants, and in that capacity in 1638 refused to admit as a member of the company one Henry White, who had been recommended to the company by the king, in a letter which ended with the promise of a ' good turn ' on his majesty's part. Clitherow in reply said that 'they all knew what the king's good turns were when they came to seek them.' In 1618 and again in 1624 he was master of the Ironmongers' Company, and was desired by the company in 1623 to go over to Brittany to purchase a stock of wheat to be laid in by them as required by act of parliament. In 1627 the Ironmongers were called upon to provide the large sum of 2,148l. as a forced loan, and Clitherow and two others were entreated to lend the balance of this sum to the company at interest 'at the best rates they can.' He bequeathed a sum of money for the purchase of a piece of plate for the company, but this, with his father's bequest and other articles, was sold by order of the company in 1644 to meet the demands of the parliamentary committee.
During 1625 Clitherow was chosen one of the sheriffs of London and Middlesex. The plague was raging. Four sheriffs were elected in the year, one at least, and probably two of them, having fallen victims to the pestilence. On 2 Jan. 1625 he was elected alderman for the ward of Aldersgate in the room of Thomas Westrow, one of the sheriffs for the year, and on 7 Feb. 1627 he removed to Billingsgate ward, over which he presided as alderman until his death. In the parliament which met in March 1627-8 he was chosen one of the representatives of the city of London. Granger, speaking of his character as a politician (but apparently without authority), says that his principles made him unacceptable to the puritans (Biog. History of England, v. 373-4 n.) He was a member of two commissions in 1628 to examine the accounts of moneys raised for suppressing the pirates of Algiers and Tunis. A further expedition became necessary in 1633, and the corporation deputed Clitherow with others to attend before the council and urge that the charge should be borne by the companies of merchants instead of by the city. The city appears to have been successful in their contention.
In 1635 Clitherow became lord mayor, and London was again visited by the plague. The mayoralty pageant provided by the Iron-mongers' Company for Clitherow was written by Thomas Heywood, and entitled 'Londini salus salutis, or London's Harbour of Health and Happinesse.' It is printed in the fourth volume of the collected edition of his dramatic works, published in London by John Pearson in 1874. The cost of the pageants, in the production of which Heywood was associated with John and Mathias Christmas, was 180l. This included five hundred 'bookes of the declaracon of the shew.' Further details of the expenses are given by Nichols (Hist. of Ironmongers' Company, pp. 222-4).
On 15 Jan. in the year of his mayoralty he was knighted by the king at Hampton Court. Clitherow was rich, and apparently engaged in monetary transactions in addition to his business as a merchant. In August 1640 a bond of several noblemen, knights, and gentlemen for 20,000l. was payable at the 'present house of Sir Christopher Clitherow in Leadenhall Street.' On 19 June 1638 Sir Thomas Penyston, sheriff of Oxfordshire, reporting on the payments of ship-money in that county, states that he sent to 'Sir Christopher Clitherow and Mr. Ridge, aldermen of London,' to pay 20l. apiece, 'having good estates in this county.' He also possessed estates in Essex and Hertfordshire, besides his residence of Pinner Hill in the latter county. In 1636-40 Clitherow was president of Christ's Hospital, and his portrait, which still hangs in the court room, is described by Strype in his edition of Stow's 'Survey.' He died on 11 Nov. 1641, and was buried in the church of St. Andrew Undershaft. His will was proved in the Prerogative Court, Canterbury, on 22 Nov. in the same year. Nichols, in his 'History of the Ironmongers' Company,' gives a pedigree of Sir Christopher's family and descendants. Besides his bequest to the Iron-mongers' Company, he left annuities to the poor of St. Andrew Undershaft and of Beckington, Essex, and two scholarships for poor scholars of Christ's Hospital at Oxford University. He was twice married: first, to Catherine, daughter of Thomas Rowland of London, who died on 15 April 1606; and secondly, to Mary, daughter of Sir Thomas Campbell, who survived him, and died on 13 Dec. 1645, both wives being buried with him in St. Andrew Undershaft. Clitherow had several children, but the branches in the male line became extinct, except the posterity of James Clitherow, the fourth son, who purchased in 1670 the manor of Burston, or Boston, near Brentford, Middlesex. Rachel, a daughter of Sir Christopher Clitherow, married Dr. William Paul, bishop of Oxford. Her lineal descendant, Sir Thomas Stapleton, succeeded in 1788 to the ancient barony of Despencer.
[Wills of Sir Christopher Clitherow and his son Christopher; Records of the Corporation of London; State Papers, Colonial and Domestic Series; Stow's History of London; Lysons's Environs; Rymer's Fœdera; Clutterbuck's Hertfordshire; Faulkner's History of Brentford; Metcalfe's Book of Knights; Charity Commissioners' Reports; Trollope's History of Christ's Hospital; Reports of Historical Manuscripts Commission; Morant's Essex; Foster's Peerage, &c.]