Sir Hugh Askew (1500?-1562/3)

Sir Hugh Askew

Written by Tim Cockerill

Occupations: Royal Cellarer and Soldier

Family and background                           

He was the son of Christopher Askew of Blythborough, about nine miles east north east of Gainsborough, Lincolnshire and was descended, according to John Denton, from Thurston de Bosco (temp. 1202) and later from the family of Askew of Standing Stones, Kirkanton and Lacra in Millom and Graymains, Muncaster. His father, a younger son, was the first Askew to live at Blythborough but why he did so is unknown. It was probably a farm rather than a country estate and no trace of it can now be found, although the Askews continued to live there for a further four generations. 

Yeoman of the Cellar

Hugh's early life is unrecorded but, probably in the 1520s, he was appointed Yeoman of the Cellar to Queen Catherine of Aragon, which would have entailed looking after her wine cellar and keeping an inventory to make sure that there was always ample stock in hand, until her divorce in 1533, when he lost his place and became destitute. He was reinstated by King Henry VIII, according to Edmund Sandford, in his History of Cumberland of 1675, who tells an amusing story about this. He recounts that Askew “applied for help to the Lord Chamberlain for some place in the King's service. The Lord Chamberlain knew him well because he had helpt him to a cup of wine there before, but told him he had no place for him but a charcoal carrier. 'Well', quoth Askew 'help me in with one foot, and let me get in the other as I can.’ And upon a great holiday Askew got a friend of his to stand before the King; and Askew got on his velvet cassock and his gold chain and basket of charcoal on his back and marched in the King's sight with it.'O' said the King ‘now I like yonder fellow well, that distains not to do his dirty office in his dainty clothes: what is he?' Says his friend that stood by on purpose, 'It is Mr Askew, that was yeoman of the cellar to the late Queen's majestie and now glad of this poor place to keep him in yr. majestie's service, which he will not forsake for all the world'. The King says, 'I had the best wine when he was i'th cellar. He is a gallant wine taster: let him have his place again'. Askew thus became Yeoman of the Cellar to Queen Anne Boleyn, to the subsequent Queens of King Henry VIII and then to King Edward VI.

Grants of land

The King further favoured Askew in 1542 by granting him the freehold of Seaton Priory, near Bootle, Cumberland.. This was a small priory of Benedictine nuns founded c.1200 and dissolved in 1535, when it was returned at £13-17s-4d. He had a lease of the priory lands by 1536 when an unsuccessful attempt was made during the Pilgrimage of Grace to oust him and restore the nuns to their old home. Here Askew built himself Seaton Hall, later much altered and now a farmhouse, but some ruins of the conventical church remain. He was also granted Marsh Grange, formerly part of Furness Abbey in Kirkby-in-Furness, later the birthplace of Margaret Askew (1614-1702), who married Judge Thomas Fell (1624-1691) of Swarthmoor in 1632. After the Judge's death she married, in 1669, George Fox     (1624-1691) the founder of the Society of Friends, but how she was related to the Yeoman of the Cellar is not clear. 

Hugh Askew married c. 1545, Bridget, (b. 1532) the daughter of Sir John Hudleston K.B. of Millom Castle and Southam Delabere, Southam, near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.She was then only about thirteen, over thirty years younger than her husband, but there were no children.

Sir John Hudleston (c.1488-1547) was Lord of Millom, although like his father he lived mainly at Southam, where he built Southam Delabere, one of the largest houses of the period in Gloucestershire, much of which still remains. He was made a Knight of the Bath at the Coronation of Anne Boleyn in 1533. Sir John Hudleston and Askew, whose families lived so close to each other in Cumberland, may well have been old friends and the Askew/Hudleston marriage an arranged one.

Active Military Service

Askew, was not only a minor courtier but also a soldier. He distinguished himself at the siege of Boulogne in 1544 and fought at the battle of Pinkie on Musselburgh Field in 1547, when he was created a Knight Banneret by Protector Somerset. He retained his job of Yeoman of the Cellar to King Edward VI, but on the young King's death in 1553 he probably returned to Cumberland and settled at his recently erected mansion of Seaton Hall, in its beautiful and remote setting. Today the remains of the house, incorporated into a more modest farmhouse with the nearby ruins of the nunnery, remains a haunt of ancient peace.

He was High Sheriff of Cumberland in 1561 and made his Will in the same year. He died the 2nd March 1562 and was buried at Bootle where there is a small brass effigy of him in full armour. His widow Bridget was left extensive property in Corney, Whitbeck, Seaton, Millom and Bootle, including thirty messuages and two water mills, together with the advowsons of Bootle, Whicham and Corney for life. His estate then reverted to his nephew Hugh, son of his deceased brother Walter, who died in 1560. Walter of Blythborough and North Carlton, Lincolnshire had farmed the former property on behalf of Sir Hugh, so both of them must have had an interest in it. Walter married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of John Gurney by Katherine, cousin and co-heir of Charles Brandon, (d.1545), Duke of Suffolk. However, Sir Hugh's inquisition in 1571 revealed that his ultimate heir was his great-nephew Henry Askew of Oxborough, Norfolk. He may be identified as the Henry Askew, gentleman, of “Oxborough, Suffolk” ( sic) who presented a bill of complaint against Anthony Hudleston, Lord of Millom, in the Court of Chancery in 1563. Oxburgh Hall, Oxborough, the ancient seat of the Bedingfelds, in Norfolk is the only place of that name, spelt in either way, anywhere in England and it is not in Suffolk, so this must have been a mistake in the pleadings. Henry was the fourth son of Sir Henry Askew of Blythborough, who died in 1611, having married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Edward Dymoke (1508-1566), of Scrivelsby, Lincolnshire, hereditary Champion to King Edward VI, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. 

Sir Hugh Askew’s widow Bridget married in 1563 William Pennington (d.1573) of Muncaster Castle, (ancestor of the Pennington baronets and later the Lords Muncaster) but in her lifetime she chose not to drop her title and continued to be known as Dame Bridget. She was buried at Muncaster in 1593, when the parish register refers to her correctly as ‘Mrs Bridget Pennington’. From her son Joseph Pennington (d. 1641) the present owners of Muncaster Castle descend. 


  • John Burke and John Bernard Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, 1847, vol.i.29
  • John Denton, An Accompt of the most considerable Estates and Families in the County of Cumberland, edited by R. S.Ferguson, 1887
  • Joseph Foster, Cumberland and Westmorland Pedigrees 1615 and 1666, 1891, 3, 100/ 101
  • C.Roy Hudleston and R.S.Boumphrey, Cumberland Families and Heraldry, 1978, .8, 258/9
  • C.Roy Hudleston, Sir John Hudleston , Constable of Sudeley, Trans.of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, vol.xlii 117-132 
  • William Hutchinson, The History of the County of Cumberland, reprint 1974, vol.i .559
  • Matthew Hyde and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England, Cumbria, 2010, 160-161
  • A.R.Maddison, Lincolnshire Pedigrees, Harleian Society, 1902, vol.L .55-58
  • C.A.Parker, The Gosforth District, 1904, 238-239
  • Nikolaus Pevsner and David Verey, The Buildings of England, Gloucestershire:the Vale and the Forest of Dean,1980, 341-343
  • Registers of St Michael and All Angels Church, Muncaster, a transcript by Cumbria Family History Society, 2007,107
  • Edmund Sandford, History of Cumberland, 1675
  • CW2.x 338-341, CW2.xliv 134-137, CW2. lxxix 57-74 and CW2. xciii 90-92