BURWELL, Thomas (c.1603-73), of Durham.

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



1661 - Mar. 1673

Family and Education

b. c.1603, 5th s. of Francis Burwell of Sutton, Suff. by Jane, da. of Simon Mawe of Rendlesham, Suff. educ. Peterhouse, Camb. 1620, BA 1624, MA 1627, LL.D 1660. m. 19 Feb. 1633, Anne, da. of Seth Chapman of Bury St. Edmunds, Suff., 3s. (2. d.v.p.) 3da.1

Offices Held

Fellow of Trinity Hall, Camb. 1626-32; spiritual chancellor to the bp. of Durham 1631-46, ?Dec. 1660-72; j.p. co. Dur. June 1660-d., York 1662-d.; chancellor, York dioc. Oct. 1660-d.; commr. for assessment, co. Dur. 1661-d., Yorks. (W. Riding) 1661-4, York 1665-d., corporations, Yorks. 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers, co. Dur. 1662; commissary, Durham dioc. 1672-d.2


Burwell was a younger son of a minor Suffolk family that had acquired manorial property in Elizabethan times. As chancellor of Durham before the Civil War, he supported the Arminian party in the chapter, led by John Cosin, and was impeached in 1642 for sending a puritan canon to London in a cart. During the Interregnum he was sheltered by his eldest brother Francis, who provided him not only with meat, drink and clothing, but a horse and servant of his own.3

Burwell regained his post at the Restoration, and was additionally appointed chancellor of York. He was returned for Ripon at the general election of 1661 on the archbishop’s interest. A very active committeeman, he was appointed to 226 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in nine sessions, acted as teller in four divisions, and made six recorded speeches. He was listed by Lord Wharton as a moderate, but took part in all the measures of the Clarendon Code, though he was unable to receive the sacrament at the corporate communion of 26 May because of illness. His chief interests were naturally ecclesiastical, and in the first session of the Cavalier Parliament he was among those ordered to draft a proviso to the ecclesiastical commissions bill, to bring in a bill for the maintenance of the urban clergy, to collate the text of the revised Book of Common Prayer, and to produce a definition of those required to subscribe to the declaration in the uniformity bill. In 1663 he was appointed to the committee to consider the bill to hinder the growth of Popery, and added to that to which the prevention of sectarian meetings had been referred. He was listed as a court dependant in 1664. He appears to have regarded himself as to some degree the representative of Durham in the Commons, acting as teller with (Sir) Francis Goodricke, the temporal chancellor, for a motion to reduce the tax assessment of the county. In the Oxford session he was teller against the hemp and flax bill, and was added to the committee for attainting English fugitives in the service of the enemy. He was named to the committees on the bills for confirming the lease of certain lead-mines by Cosin, now bishop of Durham, to Humphrey Wharton, establishing the Hilton charity, and illegitimizing the children of Lady Roos, the wife of John Manners.4

Burwell took no part in the attack on Clarendon, though he was among those ordered to inquire into restraints on jurors in the session that immediately followed the chancellor’s dismissal, and to consider legalizing the transfer of Exchequer bills. He introduced a petition for a county Durham land bill, and his name stood first on the list of the committee, as well as the committee for the revived Hilton charity bill. In the debate on the intestacy bill of 17 Mar. 1668 he defended the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts. He spoke and voted against the bill to enfranchise Durham:

If this bill should pass all the bishop’s tenants (which were a great part of the county) would be excluded from having voices, they being copyholders, and so the freemen, which are not a tenth part of the county, should only be the electors. He also affirmed that the election hath been in the same state that now it is time out of mind, and that this motion now brought in by this bill had formerly been rejected.

His name was on both lists of the court party in 1669-71 among those to be engaged by the Duke of York. In 1669 he was appointed to the committees to consider renewing the Conventicles Act and to receive information about seditious conventicles. He was also among those to whom the bill to prevent abuses in parliamentary elections was referred. When the Lords sent down a bill to enable Lord Roos to remarry in view of his wife’s persistent adultery, Burwell denounced it as an offence against the law of God. In Jan. 1671 he was appointed to ask Dr Outram to preach on the anniversary of Charles I’s execution, and afterwards thanked him for his sermon. He was named to another committee to prevent the growth of Popery on 2 Mar., took the chair for a charity bill, and acted as teller for an amendment to the corn bounty to protect English shipping. In 1673 he was among those ordered to consider the enfranchisement of Durham and toleration for Protestant dissenters; but he spoke heatedly against the bill of ease on third reading, warning the House that ‘a puritan was ever a rebel’ and that ‘dissenters made up the whole army against the King [when] the destruction of the Church was then aimed at’. Within a week of this outburst he was dead. He was buried at St. Margaret’s, Westminster, on 25 Mar., aged 70. He died intestate, and no other member of his family entered Parliament.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: P. A. Bolton


  • 1. Surtees, Dur. iv(2), p. 168.
  • 2. Hutchinson, Dur. ii. 256; information from Dr W. J. Sheils; CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 116; 1673, p. 397; HMC 8th Rep. pt. 1 (1881), 275.
  • 3. Copinger, Suff. Manors, vii. 270, 272; HMC 5th Rep. 27; Royalist Comps. (Surtees Soc. cxi), 18, 150; E134/32 Chas. 11, Easter 20.
  • 4. CJ, viii. 289, 577, 620.
  • 5. Milward, 119, 232; Grey, i. 121, 251, 258; CJ, ix. 9, 69, 212, 221, 259; St. Margaret’s Westminster (Harl. Soc. lxxxix), 158; York Wills (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. lxviii), 149.