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Praise-God Barebone/Barbon
Member of Parliament in Barebone's Parliament
Personal details
Bornc. 1598
ProfessionPreacher, leather-seller

Praise-God Barebone (sometimes spelled Barbon)[1] (c. 1598–1679) was an English leather-seller, preacher, and Fifth Monarchist. He is best known for giving his name to the Barebone's Parliament of the English Commonwealth of 1653.[2]

Early life

Little is known of Barebone's early life. Writing in 2001, Nicholas Tyacke speculated that he may have been the son of John Barebone, rector of Charwelton in Northamptonshire, by his marriage to Mary Roper of Daventry, and that he probably had an older brother called Fear-God (who is known to have been a minor poet) but this possibility lacks supporting evidence because the Charwelton parish register for that period has been lost.[3]

The first that is known about him is that he became a freeman of the Leathersellers' Company in January 1623, having served an eight- or nine-year apprenticeship. He was elected a warden of the yeomanry of the leather-sellers in 1630, and a liveryman in 1634. In 1630 he married his wife Sarah, with whom he later had at least one son, Nicholas Barbon, who became an economist.[4]

There is some confusion over the use of the hortatory name 'Unless-Jesus-Christ-Had-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned' in the Barebone family. One source claims this was Praise-God's baptismal name;[5] others claim this was his brother's name;[6][7] and more modern sources claim a variant on this name was given to his son Nicholas.


By 1632, Barebone had joined the semi-separatist congregation founded in 1616 by Henry Jacob, later to be led by John Lothropp and then, from 1637, by Henry Jessey. By December 1641 he had begun preaching to audiences at his premises at the Lock and Key, at the lower end of Fleet Street near Fetter Lane. On 19 December of that year, his sermon against bishops and the Book of Common Prayer attracted hostile attention from apprentices, who smashed the premises' windows.

... he was preaching in his house to a hundred or a hundred and fifty people, "as many women as men", when a hostile crowd gathered outside and begun to break the windows. A constable came and arrested some of the separatists, but order was not fully restored until the lord mayor and sheriffs arrived.[8]

Some of Barebone's congregation were taken to the Bridewell prison, others to the Counters, and still others made their escape over the roof-tops, while the crowd was left to destroy his shop-sign.[4]

The following month more than fifty people, including many members or former members of Jessey's church, were rebaptised by immersion, in London. Barebone strongly disagreed with these advocates of believers' baptism, and within a few weeks he issued A Discourse Tending to Prove the Baptism ... to be the Ordinance of Jesus Christ. The claim that Barebone himself was an Anabaptist is likely to derive from post-Restoration critics. A second work, A Reply to the Frivolous and Impertinent Answer of RB, was published in the spring of 1643. In the next few years Barebone was involved in conflicts with those who controlled the vestry of St Dunstan-in-the-West, and with Francis Kemp, the lawyer who acted for them. Barebone later joined the sect known as the Fifth Monarchists, known for their millenarianism.[4]

Appointment to the Nominated Assembly

In July 1653 Barebone was appointed to sit as a representative of the City of London in the Nominated Assembly, a body set up after the expulsion of the Rump Parliament by Oliver Cromwell. The Assembly, whose members were chosen by Cromwell and the Army Council instead of being elected, soon became known as Barebone's Parliament to its many critics, Barebone proving a likely target due to his name and his apparently humble origins.

Although he was never chosen to sit in the Assembly's Council of State, Barebone was an active member. He sat on a committee on tithes set up on 19 July 1653, and he was also one of the first members of the committee established on 19 August to consider law reform. In late July he was tasked with placating large numbers of women who were demonstrating at Westminster in support of John Lilburne.[4]

Later career

Barebone was elected to the Common Council of the City of London for the year 1657 and re-elected until 1660. After the restoration of the Rump Parliament, he was nominated to the London militia committee under the Act of 7 July 1659. In 1660, Barebone endeavoured to prevent the Restoration of the English monarchy. He published Marchamont Needham's book News from Brussels in a Letter from a Near Attendant on His Majesty's Person..., which related unfavourable anecdotes about the prospective king of England, Charles II. Along with other "well-affected citizens" in London, he also presented an address to the Rump Parliament in February 1660 urging that they "use all possible Endeavours to prevent the Commonwealth's Adversaries in this their most dangerous Stratagem" and subsequently received the thanks of the House.[9]

When the same Parliament had its secluded members of 1648 readmitted, paving the way for the Restoration, celebratory bonfires were lit in London by young apprentices, and Barebone "had but little thanks of the boyes, for they broke all his glass windows that belonged to the front of his house".[10] In July 1660, following the Restoration, a royalist tract called The Picture of the Good Old Cause Drawn to the Life reprinted a petition he had made in February calling for Members of Parliament to deny rule by Charles II or any other single person.

As a result of these views, he was arrested on 25 November 1661 and charged with treason alongside James Harrington and Samuel Moyer. He was then imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was freed on 27 July 1662 after a petition from his wife pleading his illness. In 1666, his premises were one of the most westerly buildings to be engulfed in the Great Fire of London.[4] Barebone died at the end of 1679 and was buried on 5 January 1680 in the parish of St Andrew Holborn.[4]


  • A Discourse tending to prove ... Baptism ... to be the ordinance of Jesus Christ. As also that the Baptism of Infants is warentable. 1642. The preface indicates Barebone's religious tolerance.
  • A Reply to the Frivolous and Impertinent answer of R.B. and E.B. to the Discourse of P.B.. 1643.
  • Good Things to Come. 1675. In this Barebone looked forward to the imminent arrival of Jesus Christ: "his kingdom and reign shall be outward, and visible on earth... when he shall come the second time, in power and great glory" (p. 10).


His eldest son was the economist Nicholas Barbon.


  1. ^ The surname is also spelled Barbon or Barbone.
  2. ^ In notes of a trial in an ecclesiastical case to which Dr. William Bates was a party, Barbon in giving evidence incidentally mentioned that he was eighty years of age. This was in 1676, which would place his year of birth around 1596 (Grosart 1885, p. 151 cites Malcolm, Londinium Redivivum, iii. 453). Stephen Wright, the author of the 21st century Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, lists the date of birth as c. 1598 without citing a source (Wright 2006).
  3. ^ Tyacke 2001, p. 95.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Wright 2006.
  5. ^ Letwin 1963.
  6. ^ Sherwood, Gilbert, and Piper,The Monthly Repository of Theology and General Literature, 1816. Vol. 11, Article IV 'The History and Antiquity of Dissenting Churches, etc'
  7. ^ Charles W Bardsley, Curiosities of the Puritan Nomenclature, 1880
  8. ^ Manning, Brian (1976). The English People and the English Revolution. Great Britain: Penguin Books. pp. 52. ISBN 978-0140551372.
  9. ^ Anon, The Parliamentary or Constitutional History of England;: From the Earliest Times, to the Restoration of King Charles II, vol xxii (1763), p. 96
  10. ^ Thomas Rugg, ed. William L. Sachse, The Diurnal of Thomas Rugg 1659-1661 (1961), p. 39


5 Annotations

First Reading

Emilio  •  Link

A well-known leather-seller and preacher from the period surrounding the Civil War. He seems never to have gotten much respect: In the early 1640s he drew large crowds to hear his preaching, but from early on he also drew opposition and ridicule for his extreme views. In 1653 Cromwell appointed him to a short-lived replacement for the Rump Parliament, the much despised 'Barebone's Parliament'; according to Maureen (anno for 10 March, 1659/60,… ) this was also known as the Bluestocking Parliament for their taste in accessories. Barebones, however, does not seem to have contributed much to the group other than a derisive nickname. He was also a member of the Fifth Monarchy Men, a millenarian group that saw Cromwell's rule as a preparation for the 'fifth monarchy,' which would lead to Christ's thousand-year reign.

At the time of the Restoration, Barbones was a hard-core anti-royalist. On 11 Feb. 1659/60 he presented the Rump with a resolution that would require office-holders to take an oath opposing the Stuarts and make working for a restoration an act of treason. This proposal was not well received by Londoners, who broke the windows in his house repeatedly and likely threatened him. On 31 March he signed an agreement not to disturb the peace. In late 1661 he was arrested on suspicion of being involved with a plot by other Fifth Monarchists and held in the Tower for eight months. After that he seems to have kept a very low profile until he died in 1680.

Source for most of the above: 1911 encyclopedia

1911 encyclopedia entry (from anno by Roger Miller, 11 Feb, 1659/60):…

More on Barebone’s Parliament (from anno by Rita, 12 Feb, 1659/60):…

Emilio  •  Link

Pepys had early contact with Barebones and his preaching. This is from Tomalin's biography, p. 13:
"[Pepys and his brothers] grew accustomed to hearing puritan preachers in the street. In 1640 a local leather-seller called Praisegod Barebones set up his Baptist congregation right outside, in Fleet Street [next to St. Bride's Church]. Baptist ministers saw no need for church buildings, supporting themselves by working at other jobs and welcomed women as preachers."

Politically Barebones may have been a joke around London, but his religious views seem to have been admirable in many ways. The quote above shows him taking very seriously the example of the early disciples, and the 1911 encyclopedia says he showed "a spirit of wide religious tolerance."

Emilio  •  Link

Interestingly, his son Nicholas seems to have done much better than Barebones himself.

Tomalin's biography, citing N.G. Brett-James, The Growth of Stuart London, calls him the "architect" of Will Hewer's house at No. 12, York Buildings, Buckingham Street (p. 421, n. 2). According to the Companion, it seems more likely Nicholas simply arranged for the construction while he was off doing other things: "Nicholas, a physician and property developer, is credited with the introduction of fire insurance."

Oh, what a difference a generation makes . . .

Leo Hollis  •  Link

Nicholas Barbon was in fact one of the most interesting and colourful characters in post restoration London. The apple had indeed fallen far from is father's tree as he was the first man to profit from the Great Fire of 1666 by setting up The Pheonix, the first fire insurance company. He was one of the leading builder speculators of his day transforming new areas of London's growth including St James Sq, the Strand, Holborn and Soho. In many ways he can be seen as one of the inventors of modern London living, the terraced house.

He was also cited by Karl Marx for his writings: A Builder's Apology and his writing on banking in the 1680s where he went head to head with John Locke in a dispute on the value of commodities. He also was an innovator by creating the first land bank, that failed only with the foundation of the Bank of England and an orphan bank

That being said, he was a total huckster who would rather go into debt than borrow money (the interest was smaller) would bamboozle and strong arm his clients and opponents. As one historian commented: he was a total humbug but his flair for business almost reached the level of genius.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

Barebone, who was by occupation a leather-feller, was one of the most active, if not the most able members of the parliament assembled by Cromwell, which took its denomination from his name. When Monck came to London, with a view of restoring the king, and was intent upon the re-admission of the secluded members, this man appeared at the head of a numerous rabble of fanatics, which was alarming even to that intrepid general. A petition was presented by their leader to the parliament, for the exclusion of the king and the royal family. Monck, who knew the popularity of Barebone, was obliged to make a general muster of his army, and wrote a letter to the parliament, in which he expostulated with them for giving too much countenance to that furious zealot and his adherents.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1769.

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