Christophe Roy Hudleston (1905-1992)

Christophe Roy Hudleston

Written by Tim Cockerill

Occupations: Genealogist and Lecturer

Background and early life

Christophe Roy Hudleston, (always known as Roy,) was born at Stroud, Gloucestershire on 13 October 1905, the eldest son of Captain Guy Hudleston (1875-1955) of Stroud by his wife Elsie Ellen, the daughter of Joseph William Hunt of Easton -in-Gordano, Somerset.

The Hudleston family originally came from the north-country and had been seated at Millom Castle in South Cumberland for over five hundred years before they were ruined by the Civil War and their adherence to King Charles 1. Roy was descended from a cadet branch of the family who had settled at Hutton John, near Penrith, in the 17th Century, where they are still represented. In the early 18th Century his ancestor, the Venerable Lawson Hudleston (1678-1743), a younger son, became Rector of Kelston, Somerset and from 1733 Archdeacon of Bath, and married Helena Harington of Kelston. There followed several further generations of the family who went out to India, including John Hudleston M.P.(1749-1835), a director of the East India Company and Roy's grandfather, Colonel John Hudleston (1842-1922), of the Madras Staff Corps.

Roy's father, a professional soldier, was persuaded by his parents to retire early from his regiment, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, in return for a small annuity. This meant that the family lived in genteel poverty and, as a consequence, Roy's education and aspirations suffered. He was educated at Wycliffe College, Stonehouse, near Stroud in Gloucestershire, a minor public school founded in 1882, did not go to a University and set his heart on becoming a country lawyer. He was about to be articled for five years to a local Solicitor, but at the last minute his family found themselves unable to afford the premium. He therefore decided to become a journalist and began his career as a humble reporter on the Bristol Times and Mirror in 1923. As a schoolboy he had already contributed articles to The Stroud News, at ten shillings [10/-] a time and, with a friend, written and published a history of the Clutterbuck family of Gloucestershire at the age of nineteen.

His marriages and World War II

In 1927 Roy Hudleston married, at Stoke Bishop, Bristol, his first wife Winifred Hawkins(b. 1901), whose father, Herbert Walter Hawkins (1875-1941), founded The Bristol Evening Post   and became its Chairman and Managing Director in 1932. The young couple lived first at Little Mead, Chapel Green Lane, Redland, Bristol before moving to The Grove, Winterbourne, Gloucestershire in about 1938.Their only child Joyce Winifred Anne, always known as Anne, was born in 1928, married at Basingstoke in 1956 Francis Robert (Frank) Cooper (d.1980) and had two daughters. In 1932 Roy was invited to become a member of the paper's editorial team and he remained in this position until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, when he volunteered for service with the R.A.F., but was rejected on medical grounds. In 1940 Roy's wife was tragically killed in a car accident during a bombing raid on Bristol, when their daughter Anne was only twelve years old. In July 1941 he married, at Greystoke, Cumberland, the nineteen year old Patricia Martha Sealey, daughter of Reginald Alfred Sealey of Torquay, Devonshire, who sadly died in early 1942 of meningitis.

Soon after World War 11 began Roy, although previously a keen member of the peace loving League of Nations, was determined to help the war effort and found himself a job in forestry at Greystoke, which continued for the duration. A bonus was that his cousin, Ferdinand Hudleston (1857-1951) of nearby Hutton John, Roy's ancestral home, invited him to come and live in part of the old house. In 1943 Roy married at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, for the third time, Joyce Hodson, (1908-1984) only daughter of Commander Harold Hodson RN of Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, but there were no further children.

In 1945, after the end of the War, Hudleston was appointed editor of The Penrith Observer, a post which he held for ten years, also playing a prominent part in local affairs, such as taking a long series of WEA classes on local history and participating in amateur dramatics. They lived at Laurel Bank, Fell Lane, Penrith.

In 1955, however, his career took a new turn when he was offered and accepted the post of bursar of Hatfield College at Durham University together with a lectureship in Palaeography. After a short spell in University accommodation the Hudlestons moved to 28A Church Street, Durham and were soon enjoying academic life and new friendships. This environment suited them both admirably. In 1960 the University awarded Roy the service degree of M.A. Although he retired from his bursar’s role in 1965 (figures were never his strong point) he retained his lectureship until he finally retired in 1970, at the age of sixty-four. For the remaining twenty-two years of his life he lived firstly at Far Oak Bank, on the Keswick Road, in Ambleside and from 1979 in Palmeira Square, Hove, a rather grand apartment where his vast library and impressive family portraits could be displayed to their best advantage.

His Genealogical and Heraldic achievements

Alongside his professional and academic career Hudleston had vigorously pursued his genealogical and heraldic interests, from his schoolboy days. Originally this was mainly confined to research into his own family, a knightly one of ancient lineage with Royal connections, but soon he was also collecting, transcribing and writing articles on other subjects too. In the early years these mainly featured his native Gloucestershire and the Bristol area but, as time went on, they tended to concentrate on family and local history, particularly of the North-West of England, and also on his biographical index of Anglican clergy, chiefly of the Northern Province. Yet the sheer range and diversity of his interests and productivity over seven decades was truly astonishing. Many private researchers, authors and organizations sought his help and none were ever turned away empty handed. He was always more than willing to share his deep and extensive knowledge.

It is impossible to name all his achievements and distinctions here. In 1949, in recognition of his significant work in the fields of local history and genealogy, he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He was a long-standing member of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society and later President and for over seventy years was a member of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society. He was Editor of the Society's Transactions between 1956 and 1974 and President of the Society from 1960 to 1963. He was also the Editor of the publications of the Surtees Society from 1968 until 1979. On the foundation of the Cumbria Family History Society in 1976 he became Editor of its quarterly newsletter until 1991 and first President of the Society for the rest of his life. The evidence of his research is preserved in the vast archive he left to Durham University Library, which is in the process of being catalogued. He also deposited papers with the Cumbria Record Office, Bristol Archives and Gloucestershire Archives.

His publications were equally prolific and included an erudite new introduction to the 1974 re-publication of the 1794-1797 edition of William Hutchinson's The History of the County of Cumberland, in two volumes; many additions to Venn's Alumni Cantabrigienses, Part II, 1752-1900 and Foster’s Alumni Oxonienses; as well as contributions to the peerages of Burke and Debrett. He also researched lives for the Dictionary of National Biography, enhanced Notes and Queries and wrote articles for the journal of the Society of Antiquaries. In 1997 the editor of The Complete Peerage recorded in the preface to volume xiv that he wishes to record ‘particular thanks to the late C.Roy Hudleston for his many contributions’.

Much of his North Country research came to fruition with the publication in 1975 of An Armorial for Westmorland and Lonsdale in which he collaborated with his friends Robert S. Boumphrey (1916-1987) and Joseph (Fred) Hughes (1916-2000). This was followed in 1978 by the appearance of a companion volume on Cumberland Families and Heraldry by Hudleston and Boumphrey. The latter was extended by four supplements in CW2 lxxxi-lxxxiv.

His colleague at Durham, Margaret McCollum, wrote that Roy Hudleston ‘was a very good historian, despite lack of formal training, with a wide knowledge of sources and the ability to track down material in obscure places and to transcribe it accurately, all in pre-internet days. He also had an excellent memory and was skilled at making connections and synthesizing information, which helped him to excel as a genealogist. He also both wrote and spoke fluently and entertainingly’.

Death and Burial

Roy Hudleston died on the 8th February 1992, in his eighty-seventh year, following a serious stroke in the previous March. He had continued his researches up to the time of his stroke and his last full length paper, on the ancestry of the artist George Romney, appeared in CW2 1991.

At his own request he was buried in the churchyard at Kelston, near Bath, a place full of the ancestral voices of his Hudleston and Harington ancestors. The gravestone, which also mentions his three wives, is appropriately, surmounted by his coat of arms, gules fretty argent.


  • Boumphrey, R.S., Hudleston, C.Roy and Hughes, J., An Armorial for Westmorland and Lonsdale, Kendal, 1975
  • Foster, Joseph, Alumni Oxonienses,vols 1-1V, Oxford 1887-1888 and vols 1-1V Oxford, 1891-1892
  • Hudleston, C. Roy, and Boumphrey, R.S., Cumberland Families and Heraldry. Kendal, 1978
  • Hudleston papers in Durham University Library Archives and Special Collections, ref. GB-0033-HUD
  • Hutchinson, William, The History of the County of Cumberland, Vols 1, Carlisle, 1794-1797, republished, Wakefield, 1974, v-xxiii
  • Townend, Peter, Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, 18th Edition, Vol. 11, London, 1969, 326-329
  • Venn, J.A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Vols. 1-V1, Cambridge, 1940-1954
  • Private information from Margaret McCollum and Timothy Cockerill
  • Obituary by Timothy Cockerill, CW2. xcii. 95-98