RUSHWORTH, John (c.1612-90), of Acklington Park, Warkworth, Northumb. and Dorset Court, Channel Row, Westminster.

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

Family and Education

b. c.1612, o.s. of Lawrence Rushworth of Acklington Park by Margaret, da. of Cuthbert Carnaby of Halton, Northumb. educ. L. Inn 1640, called 1647. m. by 1646, Hannah, 4da. suc. fa. 1642.1

Offices Held

Solicitor, Berwick 1638-at least 1671; freeman, Newcastle-on-Tyne 1652, agent to at least 1671; j.p. Surr. 1653-?59, commr. for scandalous ministers 1654, assessment, Surr. 1657, Berwick Aug. 1660-1, 1679-80; visitor, Durham college 1657; commr. for militia, Surr. Mar. 1660.2

Clerk-asst. to House of Commons 1640-5; sec. to (Sir) Thomas Fairfax (3rd Lord Fairfax) 1645-50; commr. for relief under articles of war 1652, law reform 1652-3; judge of probate 1653-4; jt. registrar of Admiralty 1654-?Sept. 1660; sec. to Council of State Mar.-May 1660, to Ld. Keeper Bridgeman 1667-72; agent for Mass. c.1674-5.3


Rushworth’s father, a Yorkshireman by birth, was holding Acklington Park as tenant to the Earl of Northumberland by 1595, but by 1629 he was a prisoner for debt. Rushworth became a lawyer, but he was always more interested in politics, and by his own account owed his career chiefly to his kinship with the Fairfaxes. He was also related to many prominent north-country Cavaliers, whom he assisted during the Interregnum out of his own purse, besides acting as trustee for the repurchase of their forfeited lands. After long service to the Berwick corporation as their London agent, he was first returned for the borough at a by-election to the second Protectorate Parliament. As clerk-assistant in the Long Parliament and secretary to the commander-in-chief of the New Model Army, he had accumulated the materials for his Historical Collections, which he began to publish in 1659, with a dedication to Richard Cromwell.4

On the return of the secluded Members, Rushworth, a Presbyterian Royalist, became secretary to the Council of State; but Mordaunt assured the King that he was ‘honest’. Re-elected to the Convention, he was marked by Lord Wharton as a friend and assigned to his own management, subsequently receiving a copy of the case for modified episcopacy. But he was not an active Member, being named only to the committees for the land purchase and for drainage bills, and the bills for reparations to the Earl of Bristol and the Marquess of Newcastle. On 24 July he was given leave to attend the House of Lords, who had summoned him as a witness against the regicides; but his evidence contained nothing material. Doubtless he supported the Court, however, for Lord Treasurer Southampton received of him ‘a good character for his zeal to do his Majesty service’. At the dissolution he was rewarded with a somewhat vague commission to expedite proceedings in the Exchequer and to inquire into warrants that might diminish the revenue, and at the general election he gave way to the Cavalier Edward Grey. He received several payments from the royal bounty during the Clarendon administration, and seems to have been living in easy circumstances. His eldest daughter married Sir Francis Fane in 1664, and he acted as guardian to the unmarried daughters of Sir Thomas Widdrington. A defeatist letter which he wrote during the second Dutch war, highly critical of ‘one great gown man ... also all the bishops and Papists, and all those who have cozened and cheated the King’, was intercepted at the Newcastle post office and forwarded to the Government with the comment: ‘the King may look for little obedience so long as such men are agents for corporations’. But on the fall of the ‘one great gown man’ a few months later he became secretary to his successor, Lord Keeper Bridgeman. He continued to look after the interests of Berwick, giving evidence to the Lords in 1671 ‘that they could cure salmon with none but French salt, [and] that salted salmon was the whole trade of Berwick’.5

Bridgeman’s resignation in 1672 seems to have had a disastrous effect on Rushworth’s finances. He survived an accusation of corruption over the pricking of sheriffs and acted as professional news-monger for selected clients of such irreproachable loyalty as Newcastle’s son Lord Ogle (Henry Cavendish). For a time he was employed by the Massachussetts assembly as their London agent on the modest retainer of twelve guineas a year, ‘yet is not all he hath done worth a rush. ... He is old and full of business, and hath but small interest at Court.’ He was also entrusted by Sir John Hewley with prosecuting his election petition for York in 1674-5. Andrew Marvell, a friend of the sitting Member, Sir John Thompson, was assured of Rushworth’s honesty, and at first hoped to ‘discourse the matter over a pint of wine’, to which he was himself reportedly by no means averse; but eventually the discussion was held ‘fasting’, an evident allusion to the weakness for brandy that was destroying Rushworth’s intellect. The bankruptcy and flight of the younger Hartlib, with whom Rushworth had been closely associated as agent for Newcastle, involved him in further difficulties: ‘good man, [he] stood not in need of this accident’. Grey’s death in 1676 gave him the opportunity of seeking parliamentary immunity from his creditors, though against his wife’s advice. There can be no doubt that he enjoyed the support of the majority of the Berwick electors, but enough of them were disqualified on the grounds of excommunication to give the seat to the lord treasurer’s son, Peregrine Osborne, and Rushworth’s petitions were never reported.6

Rushworth regained his seat in the Exclusion Parliaments, and was marked ‘honest’ on Shaftesbury’s list. A moderately active Member in 1679, he was named to eight committees, including those to hear a petition from the pro-government pamphleteer John Nalson, to consider the bill for preventing illegal exactions, and to draw up reasons for deferring the trial of the five Popish lords. In his only recorded speech, on 9 May, he produced precedents for denying Danby counsel for his defence. He voted for exclusion, and was re-elected in the autumn. The second part of his Historical Collections, covering the period 1629-40, had been completed by 1677, but Secretary Coventry had refused to pass some of the Long Parliament speeches. On the relaxation of censorship it was ‘huddled up of a sudden’ for publication early in 1680, and savagely attacked by Nalson both for the inaccuracy of the text and the partiality of the selection. Financially, it does not appear to have been a profitable venture, for in the same year the lease of Acklington Park passed into other hands. In the second Exclusion Parliament, Rushworth was among those entrusted with the daily perusal of the Journal, but he took no other known part in the proceedings and left no trace on the records of the Oxford Parliament.7

By this time Rushworth’s financial circumstances were such that he was grateful for five guineas from Sir Harbottle Grimston, and by 1687 he was confined to the rules of the King‘s Bench prison for debt. An allowance of £20 a year from Ogle, now 2nd Duke of Newcastle, at least procured for him a kindly landlady. He died there on 12 May 1690 and was buried in St. George’s, Southwark, the only member of his family to sit. He had ‘quite lost his memory with drinking brandy’ before his death, and the remaining volumes of his Collections were brought out posthumously.8

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Gillian Hampson


  • 1. HMC Portland, ii. 151; Hist. Northumb. v. 381; Add. 32095, f. 40.
  • 2. DNB; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 2, p. 13; Newcastle Merchant Adventurers (Surtees Soc. ci), 55, 138-9.
  • 3. DNB; G. E. Aylmer, State’s Servants, 260; HMC Egmont, i. 355; Bodl. Carte 47, f. 172; CSP Dom. 1672-3, p. 195; Hutchinson Pprs. ii. 174, 207.
  • 4. Hist. Northumb. v. 380; xii. 237; Aubrey, Brief Lives, ii. 207-8; Abstracts of Yorks. Wills (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. ix), 305-6.
  • 5. Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 570; CJ, viii. 101; LJ, xi. 105; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 215, 236, 395, 417, 454, 645; CSP Dom. 1667, pp. 188, 290; Ludlow Mems. ii. 495; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 2, p. 13.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1672-3, pp. 195, 212-13; HMC Portland ii. 147-51; HMC 5th Rep. 317-18; Hutchinson Pprs. ii. 206-7; Marvell, ed. Margoliouth, ii. 314-17; CJ, ix. 400, 485.
  • 7. CJ, ix. 592; Grey, vii. 224; HMC 5th Rep. 318; HMC Verulam, 82; C. H. Josten, Ashmole, 1658-9; Hist. Northumb. v. 381.
  • 8. HMC Verulam, 82-83; Aubrey, ii. 208-9; HMC Portland, ii. 164.