ACWORTH, George (c.1539-c.92), of Cambridge, Winchester, London and Ireland.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b.c.1539, 4th s. of Thomas Acworth, merchant taylor of London, by his w. Ann. educ. Peterhouse, Camb. 1548, BA 1552, fellow 1554, MA 1555; Louvain; Paris; Padua; LLD Camb. 1561; adv. 1562; incorp. Oxf. c.1566. m. by 1565, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Robert Horne, bp. of Winchester, at least 3s. 1da.1

Offices Held

Public orator Camb. Univ. 1559; chancellor, diocese of Winchester by 1563; j.p.q. Hants by 1564, rem. by 1573; commr. Channel Islands, for crown lands and Queen’s new school at Guernsey 1564; visitor, diocese of Canterbury 1573; rector of Wroughton, Wilts. 1575; master of faculties and judge of prerogative ct. [I] 1577; vic.-gen. to abp. of Armagh by 1581, ?later to abp. of Dublin.2


On 1 Dec. 1558 Acworth, who had been abroad for some time and was still unaware of the death of Queen Mary and her chief minister, wrote (in Latin) to Cardinal Pole, the ‘pilot who was endeavouring to bring to its old harbour the storm-tossed vessel of the state’ describing how his father had sent him to school to learn a little Latin before putting him to trade. His teacher, however, had recognized his ability and persuaded his father to send him to Cambridge. After taking his master’s degree he had gone abroad to learn modern languages before devoting himself to the civil law. Having studied at Louvain and Paris, he fled to Italy in 1557 when war broke out between England and France. ‘The third year of my absence’, he told Pole, ‘is now drawing near’ and he wished to return to England, but his father could no longer support him ‘without pinching himself’. He therefore prayed Pole, ‘whom God has preserved from many perils for these better days’, to give him ‘some ecclesiastical prebend’. That same month he wrote to Queen Elizabeth from Venice, congratulating her on her accession, and returned to England, where Archbishop Parker secured his appointment as public orator at Cambridge. In November 1559 he received his prebend, in the collegiate church of Southwell, within the northern province, on the deprivation of a less pliant prebendary. Next, he asked Parker to excuse him from taking holy orders, at least until he had completed his training as an advocate. Fired by the example of holy men like Parker, Acworth now wrote, he had from the first wished to study theology, but since he could not assent to the ‘false doctrine’ of Mary’s reign, he had decided, reluctantly, to become a civilian.

Acworth remained at Peterhouse, where he had been elected a fellow in 1554, until he qualified as an advocate in the court of arches, whereupon he obtained an appointment under Bishop Horne of Winchester, whose daughter he married, and who returned him to the 1563 Parliament. On 21 July 1568, along with the Earl of Leicester (chancellor of Oxford University), William Cecil (chancellor of Cambridge) and the bishop of Winchester, he was appointed to a commission to inquire into ‘excesses of vices and offences’ into which the fellows and scholars of Corpus Christi, Oxford had fallen. Transferring to Parker’s service, he helped with his De Antiquitate Britannicae Ecclesiae, and lived in the archbishop’s household for some years: in 1575 he was a gentleman mourner at his patron’s funeral. It is not clear whether Acworth was ever in fact ordained, though by this time he held a Wiltshire rectory with a faculty to hold another benefice in plurality. About 1577 he was ‘put from his livings here in England for his inordinate life’ and sent to Ireland, where a scandal arose over abuses of a patent granted for the exercise of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. ‘A man of no good fame and put from his places for the dissolute life he led’ a Privy Council letter of 28 July 1592 described him as ‘now deceased’.3

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Misc. Gen. et Her. ser. 4, i. 57; Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. xlii), 209.
  • 2. Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 54; CPR, 1563-6, pp. 124-5; Strype, Parker, ii. 300, 308, Grindal, 347; CSP Ire. passim.
  • 3. Camb. Antiq. Soc. Proc. ii. 79-93; CSP For. 1558-9, p. 31; CPR, 1558-60, p. 256; 1560-3, p. 523; 1563-6, pp. 124-5; 1566-9, p. 329; C. Coote, Civilians, 46; Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 54; Parker, i. 250; ii. 300, 308, Grindal, 347, 578; Lansd. 18, f. 20; CSP Ire. 1574-85, pp. 142, 148, 149, 155, 161, 163, 302; APC, xxiii. 85-6.