Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Chetham, Humphrey

CHETHAM, HUMPHREY (1580–1653), founder of the Chetham Hospital and Library, fifth son of Henry Chetham of Crumpsall Hall, near Mandiester, a prosperous merchant of that town, and his wife Jane, daughter of Robert Wroe of Heaton Cate, was baptised at the collegiate church of Manchester on 10 July 1580. He received his education at the Manchester grammar school under Dr. Thomas Cogan, author of the 'Haven of Health.' Being destined for commercial pursuits, he was apprenticed in 1597 to Samuel Tipping, a Manchester linendraper, and at the end of his term of apprenticeship entered into partnership with his brother George, who was a citizen and grocer of London. This partnership lasted until George Chetham's death, which occurred in 1626. Humphrey lived in Manchester and followed the occupation of a chapman or merchant, and a manufacturer of woollen cloth or fustian. He also was in the habit of advancing money at interest to needy gentlemen and traders, and of performing many of the functions of a money-changer or banker. He eventually amassed a considerable fortune, and along with his brother invested much of his capital in the purchase of land and houses in the neighbourhood of Manchester. In 1620 Clayton Hall, an ancient seat of the Byron family, was purchased by the brothers, and in 1628 Turton Tower and its manor were acquired by Humphrey in the same way from the Orrells. In 1622 he bought the lease of the tithe of grain and corn of Manchester from Warden Murray. This lease proved the subject of vexatious disputes, but it probably led Chetham to take the interest which he afterwards evinced in the collegiate church in helping to repair certain abuses in its management, and in furnishing the means of obtaining the grant from the privy council of a new charter and the refoundation of the college. By 1631 he had become so prominent as to elicit a call from court to receive the 'honour' of knighthood, but he disobeyed the summons, and in consequence had to pay a fine. Shortly afterwards, in 1635, he was appointed high sheriff of Lancashire. Although he took the office much against his will, he discharged its duties with great distinction. Among his earliest official tasks was that of levying 'ship-money.' He also assisted in the national subscription for the rebuilding of St. Paul's Cathedral. His zeal and integrity were rewarded by the special thanks of King Charles.

At this time he obtained from the heralds the right to arms, but not without opposition. He was appointed in April 1641 as high collector of subsidies granted by parliament to the king, and in October 1648 was elected by the deputy-lieutenants and parliamentary commissioners as high treasurer ror the county. On 27 Nov. 164d he was a second time appointed high sheriff, but was excused from Acting on account of his age and infirmity. A large body of curious correspondence exists to prove that his public appointments involved him in great vexation and expense.

For several years before his death he had 'taken up and maintained' twenty-two poor boys of Manchester, Salford, and Droylsden; and some large scheme of charity was long uppermost in his thoughts, as is seen by numerous drafts of wills which remain among his papers. He opened negotiations in 1648 for the purchase of the 'College' at Manchester for the purpose of a school, but they fell through for the time, and it was left for his executors to carry his intentions into effect. He died at Clayton Hall on 20 Sept. 1653, when he was seventy-two years old, and his remains were buried at midnight on 11 Oct. at the Manchester Collegiate Church. He died unmarried, and by his will, made in 1651, he bequeathed 7,000l. for the foundation and endowment of a hospital for the education and maintenance of forty poor boys belonging to certain parishes of his native county, and for apprenticing them when of a fittmg age. This number has now been considerably increased. He also left 1,000l. and the residue of his property for the purchase of books for a public library in Manchester, and 100l. to be expended in providing a fit place for the library. He likewise directed that 200l. should be bestowed in buying 'godly English books . . . proper for the edification of the common people, to be chained ... in the parish churches of Manchester and Bolton, and the chapels of Turton, Walmesley, and Gorton.' The founder named twenty-four persons who were to be his feoffees or trustees of his charity, and they purchased in 1654 the fine building which was formerly the Baron's Hall, but was rebuilt before 1426 by Thomas de la Warre, warden of Manchester, as a residence for the members of the collegiate body, and passed to the Earl of Derby at the dissolution of the college in 1547. It was formally dedicated to its present purposes at a meeting held on 6 Aug. 1656. The valuable library now contains over forty thousand volumes. Chetham's greatest monument is, of course, his hospital and library, but his memory is kept green in other ways in Manchester. A well-known antiquarian society bears his name; a statue of him by W. Theed was placed in the cathedral in 1858; another statue is seen in a niche at the front of the town hall; and there is a fine fresco entitled 'Chetham's Life Dream' in the public room of the same building, painted by Mr. Ford Madox-Brown.

[Raines's MS. Memoir of Chetham unfinished), No. 27979 in Chetham Library; Whatton's Hist. of Chetham Hosp. and Library, 1833; Fuller's Worthies. 1840, ii. 214; Edwards's Manch. Worthies and their Foundations, 1865; same information in his Memoirs of Libraries; Taylor's Old Halls in Lancashire and Cheshire, 1886; Chetham's Church Libraries, by French (Chetham Soc.), 1855; Christie's Old Church and School Libraries of Lancashire (Chetham Soc.), 1885; Cheshire and Lancashire Funeral Certificates (Record Soc.), 1882, p. 200; Palatine Note-book, i. 116. 127, 218, ii. 232, iv. 105; Bailey in Local Gleanings. 1878, p. 232 (as to the dedication of the hospital); Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, 1635, pp. 549. 568, 595, 1635-6. p. 290, 1637, p. 280; Raines's Lane. MSS. xix. 348; the Chetham papers are preserved at the Chetham Library.]

C. W. S.