HARWELL (HAREWELL), Henry (-d.1629), of Coventry, Warws.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

m. (1) by 1611, ?Anne, da. of William Wheate of Coventry, mercer, 3s. 1da.; (2) Elizabeth, ?s.p. d. 10 Sept. 1629.1 sig. Henry Harwell.

Offices Held

Freeman, Mercers’ Co., Coventry c.1602, underwarden 1606-7, undermaster 1610-11, master 1613-14, 1619-20, Apr. 1629-d.2

Sheriff, Coventry 1609-10,3 member, common council by 1612, gt. council 1613-d., dep. alderman 1613-25, mayor 1619-20, alderman 1625-d.,4 commr. Forced Loan 1626,5 inquiry, trade disputes 1626-7,6 subsidy 1628-9.7


Harwell probably hailed from Staffordshire, as he had three sisters who lived in Wolverhampton.8 Admitted to the freedom of the Coventry Mercers’ Company in around 1602, he rose rapidly through its ranks, becoming underwarden four years later. When, in 1607, the Coventry drapers obtained a new charter which awarded them a monopoly over the important local trade in worsted cloths, Harwell was chosen to help lead the Mercers’ successful campaign to have this charter overturned, and visited London several times in connection with this business. Meanwhile, he also became active in local government, and as one of Coventry’s sheriffs in 1610 he presumably supervised the return of Sir John Harington in a parliamentary by-election. Evidently a very able figure, he was promoted to the mastership of his Company in 1613, circumventing the customary rules of seniority.9 In the same year he joined Coventry’s great council, and was immediately appointed a deputy alderman. Harwell again travelled to London in 1616, this time representing the corporation in a dispute over rents allegedly owing to the duchy of Cornwall. A partial settlement of these claims was reached during his mayoral term in 1620.10

By 1624, when he first represented Coventry in Parliament, Harwell was one of the city’s wealthiest and most prominent residents.11 Returned to the Commons alongside Coventry’s recorder, Sir Edward Coke, he received daily wages of around 4s. 8d. Although Harwell left no mark on this Parliament’s records, he was re-elected to the Commons with Coke in 1625, and then with Isaac Walden in 1626, with an enhanced wage of 5s. a day. The scale of his expenses during the first Caroline Parliament suggests that he attended both sessions, though he again failed to contribute discernibly to the Commons’ business. However, his appointment as a Coventry alderman in September 1625 implies that the great council was satisfied with his performance. During the 1626 session he fell sick, and finally attracted notice on 5 Apr. as an absentee from the House.12

By late 1626 the Coventry drapers, now under Walden’s leadership, were again at the centre of controversy, this time through a protracted dispute with the city’s weavers. In November that year Harwell was appointed by the Privy Council to help investigate the weavers’ complaints. The inquiry dragged on into the following autumn, with Walden employing underhand tactics to influence its outcome. By the time the final report appeared in October 1627, substantially favouring the drapers, Harwell had been dropped as a commissioner.13 Whether he had been singled out as an ally of the weavers is difficult to say, but when parliamentary elections were called in early 1628, the drapers’ hold over the great council ensured that Harwell failed to secure his customary nomination from the corporation, this honour going instead to Walden and his close associate Thomas Potter. Harwell had his revenge, however, canvassing vigorously on behalf of a rival candidate, Richard Greene, who beat Walden emphatically on polling day.14

Harwell died suddenly in September 1629, while serving as master of the mercers for the third time. No will or administration has been found, but by this time he owned around 200 acres and over 30 houses, mostly in and around Coventry. His eldest son, a minor, survived him less than three years, and the properties passed to the boy’s younger brother, fortunately without the burden of royal wardship. None of Harwell’s descendants are known to have sat in Parliament.15

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. C142/461/113; PROB 11/127, ff. 427v-8 (which describes Anne Wheate, probably inaccurately, as Harwell’s da.); Lichfield RO, B/C/11, 1630/1 James Harwell.
  • 2. Coventry Archives, PA/15/1, ff. 88v, 97, 104, 111, 124, 148.
  • 3. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 178.
  • 4. Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/17/1, ff. 193-4v, 231v, 277, 299.
  • 5. C193/12/2, f. 76.
  • 6. APC, 1626, p. 383; 1627, p. 80.
  • 7. E179/194/309, 315.
  • 8. Lichfield RO, B/C/11, 1630/1 (will of James Harwell).
  • 9. R.M. Berger, The most necessary luxuries: the Mercers’ Co. of Coventry, 143-6, 258; Coventry Archives, PA/15/1, ff. 481v, 482v.
  • 10. Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/20/2, pp. 127, 172; DCO, ‘Acts of the Council 1619 and 1620’, f. 122.
  • 11. E179/193/299.
  • 12. Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/20/2, pp. 220, 233, 244; Names of the Knights, citizens, burgesses ... and barons ... of the House of Commons ... 1625 (London, 1625), unpag.; Procs. 1626, ii. 431. OR incorrectly states that Harwell was returned at a by-election in 1625.
  • 13. APC, 1626, p. 383; 1627, pp. 297, 363; 1627-8, pp. 113-14; Coventry Archives, PA/100/12/18, 25, 27.
  • 14. Hants RO, 44M69/L39/35.
  • 15. Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/17/1, f. 296v; C142/461/113.