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John Hewson
Death warrant of Charles I; Hewson's signature is bottom of the third column from the left
Committee of Safety
In office
October 1659 – December 1659
Member of Parliament
for Guildford
In office
September 1656 – January 1658
Member of Parliament
for County Dublin
In office
September 1654 – January 1655
Nominated to Barebones Parliament as MP for Ireland
In office
July 1653 – December 1653
Governor of Dublin, Ireland
In office
September 1649 – October 1656
Personal details
BornUnknown [a]
London, England
Amsterdam, possibly Rouen
Spouse(s)Twice married, unknown
ChildrenPossibly three sons
OccupationShoemaker, soldier, politician and religious radical
Military service
Years of service1642–1659

Colonel John Hewson, also spelt Hughson (died 1662), was a shoemaker from London and religious Independent who fought for Parliament and the Commonwealth in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, reaching the rank of colonel. Considered one of Oliver Cromwell's most reliable supporters within the New Model Army, his unit played a prominent part in Pride's Purge of December 1648. Hewson signed the death warrant for the Execution of Charles I in January 1649, for which he reportedly sourced the headsman, while soldiers from his regiment provided security.

During the 1649 to 1660 Interregnum, he served as Governor of Dublin and MP for County Dublin until 1656. He then returned to England and was MP for Guildford before being elevated to Cromwell's Other House in 1658. As one of the surviving Regicides of Charles I, he was exempted from the Indemnity and Oblivion Act after the 1660 Stuart Restoration. He went into exile in the Dutch Republic, and is thought to have died in Amsterdam in 1662.

Personal details

Very little is known of Hewson's life prior to 1642, other than that he worked as a shoemaker in Westminster during the late 1620s and 1630s.[2] [b] In February 1628, he is recorded as having sold eight pairs of shoes to the Massachusetts Bay Company; [4] this suggests he was born prior to 1604, since doing so required him to be a freeman of the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers, and at least 24 years old.[1]

Hewson himself later testified he had lived as a "child of wrath"[c] in a "wicked and profane family" in London, before being converted through the influence of a godly preacher.[5] He was later accused of being an Anabaptist, a sect viewed as radical revolutionaries, and in consequence persecuted by Catholics and mainstream Protestants alike.[6]

Hewson was married twice; his first wife died in Dublin in January 1652, and he quickly remarried.[7] The names of his partners, and whether either marriage produced children, are unknown, [8] although one source claims he had three unrecorded "Anabaptist" sons.[9] [d]

First English Civil War

Prior to the outbreak of the First English Civil War in August 1642, Hewson probably served in the Westminster Trained Bands, [e] which fought at Turnham Green. He subsequently joined the Parliamentarian field army,[f] and is thought to be the "John Huson" listed in November 1642 as a captain in the Earl of Essex Regiment.[5] At some point in 1643, he transferred to the army of the Eastern Association, commanded by the Earl of Manchester, and in March 1644 was appointed Lieutenant colonel of a new infantry regiment raised by John Pickering.[5] This unit fought at Marston Moor in July, then Second Newbury in October.[10]

John Hewson (regicide) is located in England
Marston Moor
Marston Moor
Basing House
Basing House
Lacock Abbey
Lacock Abbey
Sherborne Castle
Sherborne Castle
Hewson during the First and Second English Civil Wars; key locations

Pickering's Regiment was incorporated into the New Model Army in April 1645 as one of its twelve authorised infantry formations, with Hewson as Lieutenant Colonel. Like Hewson, Pickering was a religious Independent with strong Anabaptist sympathies, while other officers included Major John Jubbes, a Leveller who resigned his commission in 1647, and Daniel Axtell, a Baptist and future regicide.[11] Their appointments had to be approved by Parliament, whose moderate Presbyterian majority viewed the growth of religious and political radicalism in the army with considerable unease. The House of Lords originally replaced Pickering and all of his company commanders, including Hewson, with officers from another regiment, before pressure from the House of Commons led them to approve the original list by one vote.[12]

Seen as particularly close to Oliver Cromwell, in June 1645 Pickering's was described as one of the 'chiefest praying and preaching regiments in the army'.[13] Hewson fought at Naseby in June 1645, then took part in the offensive against Royalist strongholds in South West England, including Sherborne Castle, Lacock Abbey, Bridgwater, Bristol and Basing House.[14] While besieging Exeter in November, Pickering died at Ottery St Mary and was replaced by Hewson as colonel, with Axtell as his deputy.[10] The regiment then joined the forces besieging the Royalist wartime capital of Oxford, whose surrender in June 1646 brought the First Civil War to an end. While stationed in the area, Hewson confirmed his reputation as a religious radical by illegally preaching in a local church, having first denounced its minister as an agent of the Antichrist.[15]

Second English Civil War and Cromwellian Conquest of Ireland

Despite victory in the First Civil War, the period that followed saw increasing conflict between the moderate majority in Parliament, and more radical elements within the New Model Army. By early 1647, its soldiers were owed more than £300,000 in wages, an enormous sum for the period, while Parliament was struggling with a shattered economy, an outbreak of the bubonic plague, and the refusal of Charles I to agree a peace settlement. Hewson acted as one of the army's representatives in negotiations with Parliament over their arrears, and in November 1647 Sir Thomas Fairfax ordered his regiment into London to seize money for paying the troops.[16]

The Execution of Charles I, January 1649; soldiers from Hewson's regiment provided the security detail, while Hewson also allegedly supplied the executioner

When the Second English Civil War began in April 1648, Hewson helped suppress the rebellion in Kent, including the storming of Maidstone, where he was commended for his bravery.[16] The renewed fighting convinced Cromwell and others that Charles must be removed, and Hewson played a prominent part in bringing this about. His regiment supported Pride's Purge of December 1648, where MPs who opposed putting the king on trial were forcibly excluded or arrested. In January 1649, he served on the court that approved the Execution of Charles I, signed the death warrant and reportedly sourced the headsman, while soldiers from his regiment under Daniel Axtell provided security during the trial and execution.[10]

Despite his religious radicalism, Hewson was an authoritarian in matters of army discipline. When 300 men from his regiment refused in May 1649 to serve in the proposed Cromwellian Conquest of Ireland, they were swiftly dismissed, after which Hewson helped Cromwell crush the Banbury mutiny.[17] In late August, he arrived in Ireland as part of Cromwell's expeditionary force and was present at the Siege of Drogheda, where he allegedly set fire to a church containing nearly 100 Irish and English Royalist refugees.[18] Shortly afterwards, Hewson replaced Michael Jones as Governor of Dublin, then participated in the relief of Arklow and the Siege of Kilkenny in March 1650, where he lost an eye.[10]

The Interregnum and death

After the capture of Clonmel in May 1650, Cromwell returned to England, leaving Henry Ireton in charge of reducing the remaining pockets of organised Irish resistance.[19] Hewson continued as Governor of Dublin, and joined the Gathered church founded there by John Rogers, a leading Fifth Monarchist preacher,[10] putting him at odds with the majority of the Dublin Castle administration, who were either Presbyterians or members of the mainstream Protestant Church of Ireland. Recalled to London for consultations in 1652, he was nominated MP for Ireland in the 1653 Barebones Parliament; unlike many of his army colleagues, he supported its dissolution, and backed Cromwell's appointment as Lord Protector, albeit allegedly with great reluctance.[10]

Returning to Ireland, Hewson was elected MP for County Dublin in the First Protectorate Parliament of 1654, but later fell out with Henry Cromwell, the new Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Ordered back to England in 1656, he represented Guildford in the Second Protectorate Parliament, in which role he opposed Parliamentary moves to offer Cromwell the crown. In 1658, he was created Lord Hewson and took his place in Cromwell's Other House, a body equivalent to the House of Lords abolished in 1649. The Puritan Earl of Warwick reportedly refused to attend the House in protest at the elevation of a man with Hewson's low social origins.[20]

Cromwell died in September 1658 and was succeeded as Lord Protector by his eldest son Richard. He proved incapable of controlling the competing factions within the New Model and Parliament, and resigned in May 1659, bringing the Protectorate to an end.[21] The Rump Parliament dismissed in 1653 was reseated, and Hewson was appointed commander of the infantry in Ireland, but was back in London in October as a member of the Committee of Safety, set up by the army to assert its authority over Parliament. In December, the Council ordered Hewson to suppress demonstrations in London demanding a free Parliament, during which several people were killed. This destroyed their authority, and Hewson was cashiered, although he escaped further punishment.[10]

By April 1660, the Stuart Restoration was imminent which meant regicides like Hewson were liable to arrest and execution; he escaped to Amsterdam in May, where he is thought to have died in 1662.[20] However, this is not known for certain, while other sources claim he died in Rouen in 1663.[10]


  1. ^ Probably before 1604, since Hewson was working as an independent shoemaker in 1628, which required him to be at least 24 years old [1]
  2. ^ This is generally agreed by historians, despite claims by a 19th century descendant that he came from a "good family" of landed gentry in Tenterden, Kent [3]
  3. ^ A Biblical term then commonly used to mean "evil doers"
  4. ^ Births were normally registered when the child was baptised, but since Anabaptists believed in adult baptism, these records would not have existed
  5. ^ A part-time militia, membership was compulsory for householders like Hewson
  6. ^ The Trained Bands were technically only required to defend London, while members of the field army could serve anywhere


  1. ^ a b Wallis 2019, pp. 247–281.
  2. ^ Noble 1798, p. 352.
  3. ^ Anonymous 1906, p. 429.
  4. ^ Firth 1891, p. 311.
  5. ^ a b c Durston 2004.
  6. ^ Preheim, Rick (19 June 2004). "Atonement For 2 Centuries Of Persecution". Washington Post. Retrieved 6 October 2022.
  7. ^ Anonymous 1906, p. 431.
  8. ^ Anonymous 1906, p. 432.
  9. ^ Noble 1798, p. 354.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Roberts 2004.
  11. ^ Roberts, Stephen.
  12. ^ Wanklyn 2014, pp. 117–118.
  13. ^ Childs 2022, p. 207.
  14. ^ Childs 2022, p. 208.
  15. ^ Gentles 1992, p. 102.
  16. ^ a b Gardiner 1905, p. 24.
  17. ^ Royle 2004, pp. 510–511.
  18. ^ Wheeler 1999, p. 88.
  19. ^ Royle 2004, p. 549.
  20. ^ a b Noble 1798, p. 421.
  21. ^ Royle 2004, p. 678.


1893 text

John Hewson, who, from a low origin, became a colonel in the Parliament army, and sat in judgment on the King: he escaped hanging by flight, and died in 1662, at Amsterdam. A curious notice of Hewson occurs in Rugge’s “Diurnal,” December 5th, 1659, which states that “he was a cobbler by trade, but a very stout man, and a very good commander; but in regard of his former employment, they [the city apprentices] threw at him old shoes, and slippers, and turniptops, and brick-bats, stones, and tiles.” . . . “At this time [January, 1659-60] there came forth, almost every day, jeering books: one was called ‘Colonel Hewson’s Confession; or, a Parley with Pluto,’ about his going into London, and taking down the gates of Temple-Bar.” He had but one eye, which did not escape the notice of his enemies.—B.

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

5 Annotations

First Reading

David Quidnunc  •  Link

David Plant's useful "British Civil Wars, Commonwealth and Protectorate" website has a brief but interesting paragraph on Hewson, whose name was sometimes spelled "Hughson":…

Plant's description hints that Hewson was one pungent Puritan: He "proclaimed himself 'the child of wrath' in his frequent impromptu sermons."

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Pepys describes a riot with Hewson

Pepys letters to Montagu, at least some of them, have been published, and biographers Stephen Cootes and Claire Tomalin each quote from this one describing a riot on 5 December 1659 involving Hewson and his troops:

"The soldiers as they marched were hooted at all along the streets, and where any straggled from the whole body, the boys flung stones, tiles, turnips, &c. and, with all the affronts they could give them; some they disarmed, and kicked, others abused the horse with stones and rubbish they flung at them; and when Col. Hewson came the head of his regiment they shouted all along: 'A cobbler! A cobbler'; in some places the apprentices would get a football (it being a hard frost) and drive it among the soldiers on purpose, and they either darest not (or prudently would not) interrupt them; in fine, many soldiers were hurt with stones, and one I see was very near having his brains knocked out with a brickbat flung from the top of a house at him. On the other side, the soldiers proclaimed the proclamation against any subscriptions, which the boys shouted at in contempt, which some could not bear but let fly their muskets and killed in several places (whereof I see one in Cornhill shot through the head) 6 or 7. [sic] and several wounded."

(Cootes, pp 32-33; and that "[sic]" is from Tomalin, p 75 -- each quotes an overlapping section, both get the quote from "The Letters and Second Diary of Samuel Pepys, ed. R.G. Howarth (1932), a 6 Dec 1659 letter from Pepys to Montagu, p. 15)

Tomalin comments:

"It is the first eyewitness account of an urban riot . . . since the Jewish historian Josephus; and it shows how good he was taking the pulse of the streets and fixing on essential details, the rubbish thrown at the horses, the football in the frosty street, the stones thrown from rooftops and the soldiers unable to bear the contempt of the boys and so shooting them dead."
-- "Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self," p 75

Cootes's comment:

"Violence broke out, and Pepys described it for My Lord with all the vividness and delight in the reality of concrete detail of which he was becoming a master."
-- "Samuel Pepys: A Life," p 32

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Pepys on Hewson, etc., 8 December 1659:

"The present posture of the City is very dangerous, who I believe will never be quiet till the Soldiers have absolutely quitted the town. These circumstances (my Lord) may give your Lordship the best guess of the City's condition. viz. The Coroner's inquest upon the death of those that were slain on Monday have given it in Murder and place it upon Colonel Huson [Hewson], who gave his Soldiers order to fire. The Grand Jury at the Sessions this week in the Old Bailey desired of my Lord Mayor that the Soldiers might be removed out of town, who answering that he knew not well with the safety of the City how to do it, they offered in open Court to indict their officers and undertake to bring them before his Lordship . . . One passage more I shall add, that in the common council house upon the reading of the Prentices' petition, Brandrith [Henry Brandreth, member of the Committee of Safety] stood up and inveighed highly against the Insolence of the boys to meddle in such businesses, whereupon he was hissed down by the whole Council and answered by Wilde the recorder, who particularly defended the whole petition with a general applause. This is the present fate of the City, who are informed how the army have sent in Granados [grenades] to Pauls [St. Paul's Cathedral] and the Tower to fire the City upon an extremity (which is certain) and I am confident will not rest but in chasing away the soldiers out of town."

-- a letter from Pepys to Montagu, 8 December 1659, quoted in Tomalin, pp 75-76.

Second Reading

Oliver Mundy  •  Link

In English playing-cards of the Diary period (the earliest such cards known) the Jack of Clubs, or Knave of Clubs as he was then called, is sometimes labelled C HEWSON. French cardmakers often placed their names on this card, and it might occur to English makers to do the same; on the other hand, no cardmaker named Hewson is recorded and no other name ever appears on English jacks of clubs. At least three different 'Hewson' Jacks survive. W. Gurney Benham ('Playing Cards, their History and Secrets', 1931) suggests that the allusion may be to C[obbler] (or C[olonel]?) Hewson. This is non-proven, but at any rate the practice of caricaturing this man in the Restoration era is attested by Pepys and is also mentioned in the original Dictionary of National Biography article on him.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Sadly the skyhook website seems to be inoperative, but I did find this:

Although Col. John Hewson opposed Parliament's offer of the crown to Cromwell in February 1657, he accepted a seat in the controversial Upper House in January 1658, where he sat as Lord Hewson. The Earl of Warwick and other aristocrats refused to recognize the Upper House because of Hewson's lowly birth (he was a London shoemaker who enlisted in the Parliamentarian army and served under the Earls of Essex and Manchester during the first English Civil War). During the political chaos following the collapse of the Protectorate, Hewson made himself hated in London when in December 1659 he led his troops to suppress a demonstration calling for a free Parliament, during which several demonstrators were killed. In May 1660, with the Restoration imminent, Hewson fled to the Continent. His date and place of death are unknown.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.