Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Holme, Randle

HOLME, RANDLE (1571–1655), genealogist, born, probably in Bridge Street, Chester, in 1571, was youngest son of Thomas Holme, a member of the Stationers' Company of Chester, by Elizabeth, his first wife. Holme was entered in the books of the Stationers' Company of Chester as a ‘painter’—possibly an heraldic painter—on 3 June 1598. He was sheriff of Chester in 1615, and mayor 1633–4. He also held the office of deputy to the College of Arms for Cheshire, Shropshire, and North Wales. At the coronation of Charles I he was fined 10l. for not being in attendance. On 19 July 1634 he failed to attend an official visit to Chester paid by the Earl of Arundel; the earl mulcted his ‘deputy’ in a heavy fine payable to the Heralds' College.

When Chester was besieged by the parliamentary army, Holme was living at his ancestors' house in Bridge Street, which had come to him on the death of his elder brothers. For twenty years he had not been twenty miles from home, as a rupture made travelling painful; besides, departure from the city would have necessitated ‘great loss of his estate.’ Throughout the siege he was ‘well affected’ to the parliament. Sir William Brereton looked upon him as ‘a friend of trust’ and set him at work, so soon as the parliamentary forces had entered the city, to superintend the repair of breaches in the walls. He took the national covenant and negative oath on 5 April 1645, and was afterwards placed by the parliament in the commission of the peace. A nephew, Thomas Alcock, officiously took upon himself, on pretence of ‘tender care’ for his uncle, and of a fear that he had committed some act which might render him liable to sequestration, to arrange that Holme should pay a composition fine of 160l. for his property. The fine was not paid. Holme died, after suffering heavy pecuniary loss, in January 1655, aged 84, and was buried at St. Mary-on-the-Hill, Chester. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Alcock, and widow of Thomas Chaloner of Chester, Ulster king-of-arms. Chaloner was a collector of manuscripts, and it is possible that some items from his collection may have formed the nucleus of the Holme collection of heraldic and genealogical manuscripts. Some of Holme's letters to the officials of the College of Arms, on heraldic business, are printed in the ‘Chetham Miscellanies,’ vol. v.

Holme, Randle (1601?–1659), genealogist, second son of the foregoing, married about October 1625 a wife named Katherine. He seems to have been professionally connected with his father's work as herald from 1632 (Chetham Misc. vol. v.). In 1633–4 (during his father's mayoralty) he was sheriff of Chester, and ten years later was himself mayor. On 1 Jan. 1644 his name occurs in the king's commission dated from Oxford, directing the seizure of the rebels' goods in Chester. After the surrender of the city to the parliamentarians, an order, dated at Westminster 1 Oct. 1646, directed his removal from the office of alderman. In 1655 (soon after his father's death) he petitioned Cromwell to remit the unpaid fine of 160l. levied on his father through the intermeddling of his cousin Thomas Alcock (see above). In a letter to Sir George Booth, for whom he was for two years collecting genealogical notes, he says he is unable to ‘digest’ those notes, ‘having no learning.’ He added to the Holme collection of manuscripts; died, probably in bad circumstances, in September 1659, and was buried at St. Mary's, Chester.

Holme, Randle (1627–1699), genealogist, son of the foregoing, was in 1663–4 an ‘inkeeper’ at Barnet, and was suspected of disloyalty to the king; at the same period he is called ‘Capt Holmes of Barnet’ (State Papers, Dom. Charles II, vols. lxvii. and xc. passim). In November 1664 he was appointed by Charles ‘sewer of the chamber in extraordinary, in consideration of his losses.’ Like his father and grandfather, he was an heraldic painter, professional genealogist, and acted as deputy Garter for Cheshire, Shropshire, Lancashire, and North Wales. His conduct in office appears, in Sir William Dugdale's opinion, to have been irregular, and in 1668 Dugdale—who in his diary contemptuously refers to him as ‘Holmes the paynter’—caused him to be indicted for illegally marshalling the funeral of Sir Ralph Assheton. He was tried at the Stafford assizes and fined 20l. He was the principal contributor to the Holme collection of manuscripts. He was the author of a work—now exceedingly rare—entitled: ‘The Academy of Armory, or a storehouse of Armory and Blazon containing the several variety of created beings and how borne in Coats of Arms, both Foreign and Domestic, with the Instruments used in all Trades and Sciences, together with their terms of Art,’ printed for the author at Chester in 1688, in three books, ending with an address to the reader promising a fourth book. Lowndes mentions a unique copy of a portion of a fourth book. An edition of the three books dated 1701 was dedicated to William and Mary. The concluding address is said to have suggested to Dr. Johnson the form of the preface to his ‘Dictionary.’ An index to the work was printed in London in 1821. Holme died in March 1699, aged 72. According to Herdman's ‘Ancient Liverpool’ (p. 58), a Randle Holme was tapster at the ‘Golden Talbot’ in Liverpool in 1694.

Holme, Randle (d. 1707), genealogist, son of the foregoing, continued the family collections of manuscripts to 1704. He married Margaret, daughter of Griffith Lloyd of Llanarmon, co. Denbigh. He died and was buried at Chester in 1707.

The Holme collection of manuscripts, chiefly consisting of heraldic and genealogical memoranda connected with Cheshire and North Wales, in 260 volumes, were, after the fourth Randle Holmes's death, purchased by Francis Gastrell [q. v.], bishop of Chester, acting in behalf of Robert Harley, first earl of Oxford. In 1753 they were sold to the British Museum trustees, and are now numbered Harleian MSS. 1920–2180. An extract from Harleian MS. 1989 (f. 381) on ‘The Antiquitys … of Chester,’ was printed in the ‘Traison et Mort de Roy Richart’ (Engl. Hist. Soc.), 1846.

[Original documents at the Public Record Office; Report by the Historical Manuscripts Commission on the muniments of the Corporation of Chester; Memoir of the Holme family, printed in the Proceedings of the Lancashire and Cheshire Historical Society, 1st ser. vol. i.; Ormerod's Hist. of Cheshire; Preface to Dugdale's Visitation of Lancashire, 1664–5, Chetham Soc.]

W. J. H-y.