Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Welby, Henry

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WELBY, HENRY (d. 1636), ‘The Phœnix of these late Times,’ was the eldest son of Adlard Welby (d. 11 Aug. 1570) of Gedney in Lincolnshire, by his first wife, the daughter of an inhabitant of Hull named Hall. He was matriculated as a pensioner of St. John's College, Cambridge, on 24 May 1558, and was made a student of the Inner Temple in November 1562, ‘where, being accommodated with all the parts of a gentleman, hee after retyred himself into the countrye,’ purchasing the estate of Goxhill in Lincolnshire from Lord Wentworth. Wishing to enlarge his mind by travel, he ‘spent some few yeares in the Lowe Countreys, Germany, France, and Italy, making the best use of his time.’

In this manner Welby continued his blameless life until past middle age. About 1592 his younger brother, John, a dissolute youth, took umbrage at Henry's endeavours to reform his habits, and, after repeatedly threatening his life, attempted to shoot him with a pistol. Welby was deeply affected by this villainy, and, taking ‘a very faire house in the lower end of Grub Street, near unto Cripplegate,’ he passed the rest of his life in absolute seclusion, never leaving his apartments or seeing any living creature except his old maid-servant Elizabeth. In this manner he lived for forty-four years in the most abstemious fashion, while exercising a generous bounty towards his poorer neighbours. During that period he ate neither fish nor flesh, and never drank wine. He died on 29 Oct. 1636, and was buried in St. Giles's, Cripplegate. He married Alice, daughter of Thomas White of Wallingwells in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, by his wife Anne Cecil, sister of the first Lord Burghley. By Alice, Welby had one daughter, Elizabeth, his sole heiress, who was married at St. Giles's, Cripplegate, on 13 July 1598 to Sir Christopher Hildyard of Winestead in Yorkshire. She was buried at Routh in the East Riding on 28 Nov. 1638. The family of Hildyard established at Flintham Hall, near Newark, are her descendants (Burke, Landed Gentry, 1898, s.v. ‘Hildyard;’ Foster, Yorkshire Pedigrees, 1874, vol. ii. s.v. ‘Hildyard’).

A life so eccentric as that of Welby was the source of some notoriety, and in the year after his death a biography appeared entitled ‘The Phœnix of these late Times, or the Life of Mr. Henry Welby, Esq.’ (London, 1637, 4to). It contained commemorative verses by Shackerley Marmion [q. v.], John Taylor the ‘Water Poet,’ Thomas Heywood, Thomas Nabbes, and others, and had prefixed a portrait of Welby as he appeared at the time of his death, engraved by William Marshall. Two editions, with no important differences, appeared in the same year.

[The Phœnix of these late Times, 1637; Notices of the Family of Welby, 1842, pp. 48–54; Gibbons's Notes on the Visitation of Lincolnshire in 1634, pt. ix. 1898, pp. 193–207; Students admitted to the Inner Temple, 1547–1660, p. 47; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. iii. 168, 197.]

E. I. C.