CURWEN, Henry (1528-96), of Workington, Cumb.

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



Mar. 1553

Family and Education

b. 1528, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Curwen of Workington by Agnes, da. of Sir Walter Strickland of Sizergh, Westmld. m. (1) 1548, Mary, da. of Sir Nicholas Fairfax of Gilling Castle and Walton, Yorks., 1s. Nicholas 3da.; (2) Janet, da. of one Crosby, rector of Camerton, 2s. 5da. suc. fa. 4 Dec. 1543. Kntd. 28 Aug. 1570.1

Offices Held

J.p. Cumb. from 1554, Westmld. from c.1583; commr. to survey Carlisle and elsewhere in W. Marches Apr. 1565, piracy Nov. 1565, to survey castles and take musters, W. Marches 1580, to take oaths Oct. 1592; sheriff Mar.-Nov. 1562, 1570-1, 1580-1, 1589-90.2


The Curwens of Workington had represented Cumberland in Parliament since the fourteenth century. They had held Workington of the earls of Northumberland and as late as 1619 another Sir Henry Curwen could write to the 3rd Earl (of the new creation) offering his service and saying, ‘My ancestors always have been employed in service in that noble house of Northumberland’. Curwen’s estate at Workington was ‘well-watered, adjoining the sea, and only five hours sailing from Kirkcudbright’. He profited from the development of the mineral resources of the area during the reign of Elizabeth. It was here that Mary Stuart landed, 16 May 1568, after her escape from Scotland, and, though it has often been stated that Curwen entertained her at his house until she was removed to Carlisle castle, he and his wife were in fact (perhaps fortunately for him) ‘at the Bathe’. As with so many of the northern gentry, Curwen’s sympathies were probably with the old religion. In 1564 one bishop included him in a list of those who were ‘in religion good and meet to continue’ as justices, whereas another described him as ‘not favourable’. Six years later a third bishop said he was ‘vir multum jurans nec timens deum nec religionem ullam curans, domi nescio quid monstri alit’. His daughter Mabel married into the Fairfax family and both she and her husband were non-communicants in 1596. Still, there was never any doubt about his loyalty, during the northern rebellion of 1569 and afterwards. He was knighted by the Earl of Sussex in the following August, was constantly employed inspecting fortifications and harbours, and ‘Sir Henry Curwen, now at London’ was recommended to Lord Burghley in April 1572 as being able to give detailed information of the state of his county and the possibility of an invasion by Leonard Dacre with help from the Duke of Alva. Another interesting sign of the confidence placed in him by the Elizabethan government was his last employment, in 1592, when he was one of those required to take the oaths of local magistrates. He died as Dec. 1596, having made his will in October 1595. He had already arranged the disposal of his property. His wife and seven of his children were executors.3

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Authors: Alan Davidson / P. W. Hasler


  • 1. C142/68/23; Vis. Cumb. (Harl. Soc. vii), 30; J. F. Curwen, House of Curwen, 106 seq.; W. Jackson, Pprs. and Peds. (Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc.), i. 288-370; Biog Studies (now Recusant Hist. ), iii. 84; Shaw, ii. 74.
  • 2. CPR, 1553, p. 364; 1553-4, p. 18; 1554-5, p. 106; 1560-3, pp. 435, 485; 1563-6, p. 20; 1569-72, p. 223; APC, vii. 284; xxiii. 257.
  • 3. M. E. James, Tudor Magnate (Borthwick Pprs. 30), pp. 7, 17, 20n.; M. E. James, Change and Continuity in Tudor North: rise of Thos. Ld. Wharton (Borthwick Pprs. 27), pp. 10, 11, 19, 36, 47; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 315; Add. 1566-79, p. 393; M. B. Donald, Elizabethan Copper, 76, 155, 248; CSP Scot. 1563-9, p. 410; Cam. Misc. ix(3), pp. 50, 79; Biog. Studies (now Recusant Hist. ), iii. 71; APC, xxiii. 257; C142/248/18.