SOUTHWORTH, Sir John (c.1526-95), of Samlesbury, Lancs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1526, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Southworth of Samlesbury by Margery, da. of Sir Thomas Butler of Bewsey. m. Mary, da. of Sir Richard Assheton of Middleton, 7s. 4da. suc. fa. 1546. Kntd. 1547.

Offices Held

J.p. Lancs. by 1561, sheriff 1561-2; commr. eccles. causes, diocese of Chester July 1562-?7.1


In early life Southworth fought in the Scottish wars, being knighted in the field. During Mary’s reign he was often in London, probably because of a series of land disputes heard in the court of duchy chamber. By the early years of Elizabeth he was back on his Lancashire estates, and represented the county in the Parliament of 1563. There is no record of any activity by him in the Commons until 21 Oct. 1566 when he had a cloth bill committed to him. On 31 Oct. he was put on the committee to consult with the Lords concerning the Queen’s marriage and the succession.2

In October 1564 Southworth was classified as unfavourable to the newly established church, and some four years later he was proceeded against by the bishop of Chester for not attending church and for speaking against the prayer book. After examination before the ecclesiastical commission at Lathom, he was sent to London to appear before the Privy Council. In July 1568 he was examined by Archbishop Parker, who failed to persuade him to conform. Next he went to Bath, where he consorted with ‘noted hinderers of God’s word’. Accused of planning a western rebellion to coincide with the rising in the north, he was put into the custody of Bishop Grindal, who reported to Cecil that

he was altogether unlearned, carried with a blind zeal without knowledge ... His principal grounds were that he would follow the faith of his fathers; and that he would die in the faith wherein he was baptized.

Dean Nowell’s persuasions proving equally fruitless, Southworth remained in prison in London until August 1569, when Grindal petitioned the Privy Council for his release on account of the unhealthy conditions in prison during the summer. Southworth’s name appears on a list drawn up in the interest of Mary Queen of Scots in 1574, and he was reported by the bishop of Chester as a recusant in 1576 and 1577. At Easter 1581 he entertained Campion at Samlesbury, where Mass was said before a congregation of his household and neighbours