HEWLEY, Sir John (1619-97), of Wistow and Bell Hall, Naburn, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679

Family and Education

bap. 5 Aug. 1619, o.s. of John Hewley of Wistow by Dorothy, da. of John Wood of Copmanthorpe. educ. G. Inn 1639, called 1645, ancient 1662. m. Sarah (d. 23 Aug. 1710), da. and h. of Robert Worledge (Wolryche), attorney, of Ipswich, Suff. and Gray’s Inn, 2s. d.v.p. suc. fa. by 1630; kntd. 30 June 1663.1

Offices Held

J.p. Yorks. (W. Riding) 1646-July 1660, (W. and N. Ridings) 1663-80; commr. for assessment (W. Riding) 1649-52, 1657, W. Riding and York 1673-80, Yorks. 1689-90, security 1655-56; recorder, Pontefract c.1656-1661, Doncaster 1659-62; commr. for militia, Yorks. 1659, Mar. 1660; freeman, York 1659.2


Hewley’s great-grandfather, of Cheshire origin, moved to Yorkshire, and settled at Wistow in Elizabethan times. Hewley himself was a sufficiently competent lawyer to be appointed counsel to the corporation of York, but most of his wealth was derived from a fortunate marriage. He held local office from the end of the Civil War to the Restoration, and became the only member of his family to enter Parliament, first sitting for Pontefract in 1659. He stood for re-election in 1660 on the corporation interest, but there was a double return which was decided in favour of his royalist opponents. He bought Bell Hall, five miles from York, in 1662, and was knighted in the following year. Although he maintained first an Independent and then a Presbyterian chaplain, he conformed and was restored to the West Riding bench in 1663. He entered his pedigree at the heralds’ visitation in 1665, and leased his alum works at Skelton to the crown for 21 years at an annual rent of £400.3

When by-elections became due at both Aldborough and York in the autumn of 1673, Hewley was originally mentioned as a candidate for the former constituency, and as electoral agent for Lord Treasurer Danby’s son, Edward Osborne, in the latter. But with five other candidates in the field at Aldborough he soon desisted. Meanwhile Osborne, lacking corporation support, withdrew at York, and Hewley stood there himself against the country candidate, Sir Henry Thompson, but was heavily defeated. Nevertheless he went up to London a year later ‘as spruce as any bridegroom’ to petition, and could not be persuaded by Andrew Marvell to desist. His case was finally dismissed on 15 Mar. 1677.4

By 1679 Hewley had swung back into opposition. At the first general election he strongly supported the two exclusionist candidates for Yorkshire. He himself stood for Knaresborough against Sir Thomas Slingsby, but after much consumption of alcohol desisted before the poll. At York, however, he defeated (Sir) Metcalfe Robinson after intensive canvassing, and retained the seat throughout the Exclusion Parliaments. Shaftesbury classed him as ‘doubtful’, but Huntingdon correctly marked him as a supporter of the country party. A very active Member of the first Exclusion Parliament, was appointed to 34 committees. When the King rejected the Commons’ choice of Edward Seymour as their Speaker, Hewley asked:

Shall we not have our tongue to speak our own words? ... The Speaker is our servant, and is he to obey his master, or not? Though the Speaker be the greatest commoner of England, yet he is not the greatest community of England. To have a servant imposed upon a man, though by the King himself, will not be suffered by any private master, or merchant; and shall the Commons of England endure it?

He was named to the committee of elections and privileges, and to those to consider bills for the extension of habeas corpus and the regulation of parliamentary elections. On 8 Apr. he was added to the committee to prepare reasons for Danby’s attainder. Later bills with which he was concerned included those for the prevention of swearing, drunkenness and sabbath-breaking and for security against Popery. He was also among those ordered on 30 Apr. to inspect the disbandment accounts. On 5 May he urged that Danby should be tried despite his pardon, and he was appointed to two committees in this connexion later in the month. He took the chair of a committee on a private bill and carried it up to the Lords on 8 May, followed by another on the next day. He voted for the first exclusion bill. His removal from the commission of the peace after signing the York petition for the meeting of the second Exclusion Parliament seems to have sobered him, for when it did meet he was appointed only to the elections committee. In the Oxford Parliament, however, he was also among those named to conduct the inquiry into the loss of the bill of ease for Protestant dissenters and to prepare Fitzharris’s impeachment. Doubtless a supporter of the Revolution, he subscribed £500 in November 1688 to Danby’s voluntary contribution to William of Orange; but he never stood again. He died on 24 Aug. 1697, and was buried at St. Saviour’s, York, the last of his family. His widow founded several local nonconformist charities.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ii. 207-8.
  • 2. Trans. Unitarian Hist. Soc. vi. 1, 4; Thurloe, iii. 402; Hunter, S. Yorks. i. 27; Freemen of York (Surtees Soc. cii), 121.
  • 3. Clay, ii. 208; Add. 21417, f. 334; VCH E. Riding, iii. 77; D. R. Lacey, Dissent and Parl. Pols. 411-12; Cal. Treas. Bks. vi. 173.
  • 4. Add. 28051, ff. 14-32; CSP Dom. 1675-6, p. 122; Marvell ed. Margoliouth, ii. 181, 183, 313, 317.
  • 5. HMC Var. ii. 393; HMC Astley, 41, 42; Grey, vi. 435; vii. 175; Browning, Danby, i. 404; DNB.