SWINFEN (SWYNFEN), John (1613-94), of Swinfen, Weeford, Staffs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



30 Oct. 1645 - 6 Dec. 1648
1661 - July 1679
Mar. 1681
1690 - 12 Apr. 1694

Family and Education

b. 19 Mar. 1613, 1st s. of Richard Swinfen of Swinfen by Joan, da. of George Curtal alias Harman of Weeford.  educ. Pembroke, Camb. 1628, BA 1632.  m.  26 July 1632, Anne (d. 1690), da. of John Brandreth of Weeford, 6s. d.v.p. 4da.  suc. fa. 1659.2

Offices Held

Commr. exclusion from sacrament 1646, indemnity 1647–9, scandalous offences 1648, customs Feb.–Sept. 1660; councillor of State 25 Feb.–31 May 1660.3


A Presbyterian Member of the Long Parliament, a consistent opponent of the Court in the Commons after the Restoration and an Exclusionist, Swinfen emerged out of retirement at the 1690 election, being returned for Bere Alston on the interest of Sir John Maynard*, a colleague from his earliest days in Parliament. Given Swinfen’s conspicuous debating role in the Cavalier Parliament, the Marquess of Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) had no difficulty in classing him as a Whig during the first session. Despite his advanced age, he contributed to several important debates in the early sessions. On 2 Apr. 1690 he spoke in favour of a land tax as against a general excise, supporting his arguments with reference to the ways in which the wars against the Dutch had been financed, but his main points were to avoid ‘saving our lands to enslave our persons by excise’ while at the same time providing sufficient funds for the war, especially operations in Ireland. During the first week of the 1690–1 session he ‘made a large speech, and opened our constitution excellently well, and advised and showed how money might be raised without grieving the people’. On 22 Oct. he was appointed to prepare the bill for attainting people in rebellion. In December he was involved in the contentious debates concerning the Tories’ attempt to explain the Act passed in the previous session for reversing the quo warranto against the city of London, which, they claimed, had been manipulated for party advantage by the Whigs. Swinfen suggested that it was against ‘the honour of the House’ to judge a matter before it had been heard and therefore favoured reading the petition from the Tories on the common council that night and then referring it for consideration later. This was the course adopted by the House, albeit by only 25 votes. His long service in the House was also useful in settling procedural disputes, Sir Joseph Williamson* noting on 22 Dec. 1690 that Swinfen was instrumental in ensuring that when two or three orders were made for the same day, ‘the last was to stand and take place first’. In April 1691 Robert Harley* appears to have marked him as a supporter both of the Court and the Country as well as ‘doubtful’. Harley was probably grappling with the difficulty of adequately categorizing a stalwart of the Country tradition in the changed circumstances of Whig involvement in the ministry. When Carmarthen drew up a working list of Court supporters in 1692 he not surprisingly deputed the ‘old’ Whig chancellor of the Exchequer, Richard Hampden I, to approach Swinfen.4

However, there is no evidence that Swinfen actually attended Parliament again. By September 1691 he was reported to be in poor health, although this does not seem to have deterred his involvement in the Staffordshire county by-election of 1693. After Hon. Henry Paget’s* withdrawal in October 1693, he was keen to point out that the strength of the Whig interest did not merit such action. His deteriorating condition was acknowledged in March 1694 by Philip Foley* who lamented his absence from the debates over supply, particularly the question of the excise: ‘I am sure if you was here, you would do the nation vast good in your testimony against it, and your great experience and stronger reason, which you was likewise a master of, may convince many.’ He died on 12 Apr. 1694, and was buried in the parish church at Weeford where he had been baptized before the split in the Church of England. This bore out his belief that he belonged to a single Church in terms of doctrine, only differing in point of ceremonies. He was succeeded at Swinfen by his grandson, Richard*.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Stuart Handley


  • 1. Readmitted 21 Feb. 1660.
  • 2. Shaw, Staffs. ii. 29; J. C. Wedgwood, Staffs. Parl. Hist. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc.) ii. 77.
  • 3. CJ, vii. 853; Ludlow, Mems. ii. 239.
  • 4. Grey, x. 37; Morrice ent’ring bk. 3, p. 213; Add. 42592, f. 108; SP 9/22, f. 156v; A. Browning, Danby, iii. 183.
  • 5. Add. 30013, ff. 55, 250; 29911, f. 64; Hereford and Worcester RO (Hereford), Foley mss E12/F/IV/BE/270, Swinfen to [Philip Foley], 17 Oct. 1693; H. R. Thomas Weeford Par. Reg. 55.