SHAW, John (c.1617-90), of Colchester, Essex.

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



22 Mar. 1659

Family and Education

b. c.1617, 1st s. of John Shaw of Colchester by Mary, da.of Thomas Lufkyn of Ardleigh, Essex. educ. St. Catharine’s, Camb. 1639; L. Inn 1640, called 1647. m. by 1648, Thamar (d. 13 Jan. 1682), da. and h. of Samuel Lewis of Roydon, Suff., 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 6da. suc. fa. 1661; kntd. 24 Sept. 1661.1

Offices Held

Commr. for new model ordinance, Essex 1645, assessment, Essex 1645-9, 1657, Jan. 1660-80, 1689, Colchester 1663-80, 1689-90, Suff. 1677-9; recorder, Colchester 1655, 1658-77, May-Sept. 1688, commr. for militia, Essex 1659, Mar. 1660, j.p. Mar. 1660-d., commr. for corporations 1662-3; conservator, Bedford level 1665-70, 1675-6; commr. for recusants, Essex 1675.2

Serjeant-at-law 1677, King’s serjeant 1685-9.


Shaw’s father, a royalist sympathizer, was removed from the Colchester corporation after the siege in the second Civil War. But Shaw himself served on the county committee from 1645 till the execution of Charles I. As recorder in 1655, however, he was described as ‘the chief of the malignant interest in this place’, and was also displaced. Nevertheless, he sat for Colchester in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament.3

Shaw was re-elected in 1660, and became a moderately active Member of the Convention. He spoke on four occasions and was appointed to 21 committees, taking the chair in three. On 8 June he acted as teller against limiting the number of exceptions to the indemnity bill to twenty. He was ordered to take special care of the bill for settling a minister in Harwich. As chairman of the committee on the bills to regulate woollen manufactures, he proposed a proclamation against the export of wool and fullers’ earth. He spoke in favour of amending the bill for local commissioners of accounts, and on 15 Aug. reported from the committee to confirm the authority of the Dutch Bay Hall in Colchester. After the recess he read a letter from the mayor complaining of the confiscation of several wagonloads of cloth for non-payment of alnage, which the House referred to the Privy Council. On 23 Nov. he was appointed to the committee to draw up the excise clauses for the bill abolishing the court of wards, and on the following day he reported the bill to prevent the export of wool. Although he was added to the committee to bring in the bill for modified episcopacy, he acted as teller against it. Shortly before the dissolution, he spoke in favour of Admiral Lawson’s claim to the pension granted to him by the Rump.4

Shaw was again moderately active as representative of Colchester in the Cavalier Parliament. He was certainly appointed to fourteen committees before the autumn recess in 1661, including those for the uniformity bill and for the bill to prevent danger from schismatics, and probably to most of the 150 committees to which ‘Sir John Shaw’ was named after his knighthood in September, such as the committees on the bills for executing those under attainder and for settling the militia. He probably helped to consider a proviso to the schismatics bill in 1662, served on the committees for the corporations bill in 1663, for the conventicles bills in 1663-4, and to inquire into their defects in 1670. His only recorded speech On 31 oct. 1673 was a protest against the conduct of soldiers in Colchester during the third Dutch war, and he was doubtless appointed to the committees to prepare an address against a standing army, to consider a bill to prevent illegal exactions, and one for better assurance of ancient fines and recoveries. He received the government whip and was listed (in anticipation) among the officials in 1675. Sir Richard Wiseman advised that the King should ‘be pleased to see Sir John Shaw’s business done out of hand, [or] I shall lose my credit with him’. He was made a serjeant in the following year, but hopes that he would develop into a government speaker were not fulfilled. He was by now at odds with the corporation over their failure to suppress conventicles, while they held him responsible for unfair land-tax assessments. An attempt in 1676 to dismiss him as recorder failed, but it presumably prompted him to follow the example of Thomas King and sue the corporation for £238 6s. as wages for sixteen years’ parliamentary service. Meanwhile on 3 Mar. 1677 his colleague Sir Harbottle Grimston moved to bring in a bill to invalidate such claims, with particular reference to Colchester. It was said that to free constituencies from this liability would be a greater encouragement to them to pay the land-tax. Grimston was warmly thanked for his efforts, but the bill did not proceed to a second reading. In November 1677 he resigned his recordership to the Duke of Albemarle (Christopher Monck) and accepted £356 13s. in payment for his arrears both as recorder and M.P. He was marked ‘thrice vile’ by Shaftesbury, and in 1678 was included in both lists of court supporters.5

Shaw continued to be active against dissenters. In 1684 he complained to Albemarle of lack of cooperation by the municipal authorities in prosecuting conventicles, which were ‘as frequent and numerous as ever’. About the same time he was mentioned as a prospective candidate for Essex, which the Whigs believed ‘would do no good at all’. As a j.p. he assented to all three questions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws, and James II’s agents reported in 1688 that he was the choice of both Colchester and Maldon. His four months’ spell as recorder in 1688 ended when he was replaced under the new charter, and he is not known to have stood for Parliament again. He was described at one time as ‘one of the greatest killcows [bullies] at drinking in the nation’. He died in 1690, aged 73, according to his gravestone in Trinity Church, Colchester. No other member of his family entered Parliament.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / Gillian Hampson


  • 1. Morant, Essex, Colchester, 118, app. 20; PCC 77 Barrington; Vis. Essex ed. Howard, 82; Colchester corp. assembly bk. 1, p. 224v.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1655, pp. 202-3; Colchester Charters ed. Benham, 116, 152; assembly bk. 2, ff. 173, 297v; Essex Rev. vii, 59-60; S. Wells, Drainage of the Bedford Level, i. 457-61; CJ, ix. 52.
  • 3. HMC 12th Rep. IX, 23; assembly bk. 1, ff. 7v, 226v-227; CSP Dom. 1655, pp. 202-3; Thurloe, iv. 330; CJ, vii. 617-18.
  • 4. Bowman diary, ff. 111v, 114v; Old Parl Hist. xxiii. 57-58; CJ, viii. 178, 214; PC2/55/34-35.
  • 5. Grey, ii. 206; iv. 177; Essex RO, D/DRgl/201; HMC Verulam, 80; EHR, lxvi. 46-47; Leics. RO, Finch diary; CJ, ix. 391; assembly bk. 2, f. 173.
  • 6. Bodl. Rawl. C983, f. 59; Essex 1, f. 127; HMC Montagu, 188-9; Essexian Triumviri (1684); Morant, app. 20.