The Hothams

Father-and-son who held Hull for Parliament and tried to wrest command of the Yorkshire Parliamentarians from the Fairfaxes. They plotted to defect to the King and were executed in 1645.

Sir John Hotham, (the elder), d.1645

Portrait of Sir John  HothamThe eldest son of John Hotham, a Member of Parliament and Sheriff of Yorkshire during Queen Elizabeth's reign. By 1635, Hotham had married five times. The lands and money he acquired through his marriages into leading Yorkshire gentry families significantly increased his estate and personal fortune. Hotham was knighted by King James in 1617 and gained military experience in the Palatinate. Upon his return to England, he was created a baronet and sat as MP for Beverley in the parliaments of 1625-9. He supported Sir Thomas Wentworth (later Earl of Strafford) during his tenure as Lord-President of the North and was appointed governor of Hull in 1635, but Hotham opposed the Bishops' Wars against Scotland because of their detrimental effect on the northern counties of England. He was consequently dismissed from the governorship of Hull. Hotham was again elected MP for Beverley in the Long Parliament in 1640. He was active in opposition to the King and turned against his former patron Strafford, testifying against him at his trial.

In January 1642, Parliament re-appointed Hotham to the governorship of Hull — a strategic port and site of an arsenal of weapons stored after the Scottish wars. He was specifically instructed not to deliver up the town or its arsenal without Parliament's authority. In April 1642, Hotham barred the town gates against King Charles in person and denied him entry. The King declared Hotham a traitor, but his actions were upheld by Parliament. In July, the King returned with a small army. The first siege of Hull became the earliest military action of the English Civil War.

The strategic importance of Hull increased during 1643 when the military success of the Marquis of Newcastle against the Fairfaxes and the defection of Sir Hugh Cholmley at Scarborough left Hull as the only Parliamentarian stronghold in Yorkshire. But Hotham had grown disenchanted with the Parliamentarian cause and its leadership and entered into secret negotiations with Newcastle to surrender the town to the Royalists. The indiscreet behaviour of Hotham's eldest son, also called John Hotham, aroused the suspicion of Parliamentarian commanders at Nottingham, and orders were issued for the arrest of father and son in June 1643. Sir John made a desperate attempt to escape but was finally arrested after being struck down with the butt of a musket at Beverley.

Both Hothams were conveyed to London and held in the Tower. When Newcastle's correspondence was captured after the battle of Marston Moor, the full extent of their plotting was revealed. Sir William Waller presided over Hotham's court-martial at the Guildhall in December 1644. He was found guilty of treason, thus earning the dubious distinction of being declared a traitor by both King and Parliament. Hotham was beheaded on Tower Hill on 2 January 1645, the day after the execution of his son.

Captain Hotham, (John Hotham the younger), 1610-45

The eldest son of Sir John Hotham and his first wife, Katherine Rodes, the younger Hotham was generally styled Captain Hotham. He served with Thomas Fairfax under Sir Horace Vere in the army of the Prince of Orange during 1629-31 and was elected MP for Scarborough in the Short and Long Parliaments. When Parliament re-appointed his father governor of Hull in January 1642, Hotham rode ahead of him to secure the town against the Royalists with the support of the radical MP Peregrine Pelham and the Yorkshire Trained Bands. In October 1642, Captain Hotham led a force of around 500 horse and foot to capture Cawood Castle near York in defiance of a treaty of neutrality between Lord Fairfax and the Yorkshire Royalists which the Hothams repudiated. He joined Fairfax to drive the Royalists out of Leeds but was unable to prevent the Earl of Newcastle from crossing the River Tees at Pierce Bridge and securing York in December 1642.

Hotham resented Fairfax's authority and considered himself to be a more suitable commander for the Yorkshire Parliamentarians. With his father's support, Hotham entered secret negotiations with Newcastle, indicating that they might be willing to surrender Hull and come over to the King's side. Hotham spun out the negotiations for several months, intending to secure the best terms. In April 1643, he joined forces with the Parliamentarians in Lincolnshire. The unruly behaviour of his troops and his alleged attempts to subvert Parliamentarian officers aroused the suspicions of Colonels Cromwell and Hutchinson at a rendezvous at Nottingham in June 1643. They reported to the Committee of Safety, and Hotham's arrest was ordered. He escaped from Nottingham and fled to Lincoln, but was arrested again when he went to confer with his father at Hull.

Both Hothams were sent to London and tried by court-martial in December 1644. Despite trying to lay all blame on his father, Captain Hotham was declared a traitor and beheaded on 1 January 1645. The elder Hotham was executed the following day.


David Scott, Sir John Hotham, first baronet, Oxford DNB, 2004

David Scott, John Hotham (1610-1645), Oxford DNB, 2004

G. Ridsdill Smith & M. Toynbee, Leaders of the Civil Wars 1642-48 (Kineton 1977)

C.V. Wedgwood, The King's War (London 1958)