SOUTHWORTH, Sir John (c.1526-95), of Samlesbury, Lancs.

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.1526, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Southworth of Samlesbury by Margery, da. of Sir Thomas Butler of Bewsey. m. Mary, da. of Sir Richard Assheton of Middleton, 7s. 4da. suc. fa. 1546. Kntd. 1547.

Offices Held

J.p. Lancs. by 1561, sheriff 1561-2; commr. eccles. causes, diocese of Chester July 1562-?7.1


In early life Southworth fought in the Scottish wars, being knighted in the field. During Mary’s reign he was often in London, probably because of a series of land disputes heard in the court of duchy chamber. By the early years of Elizabeth he was back on his Lancashire estates, and represented the county in the Parliament of 1563. There is no record of any activity by him in the Commons until 21 Oct. 1566 when he had a cloth bill committed to him. On 31 Oct. he was put on the committee to consult with the Lords concerning the Queen’s marriage and the succession.2

In October 1564 Southworth was classified as unfavourable to the newly established church, and some four years later he was proceeded against by the bishop of Chester for not attending church and for speaking against the prayer book. After examination before the ecclesiastical commission at Lathom, he was sent to London to appear before the Privy Council. In July 1568 he was examined by Archbishop Parker, who failed to persuade him to conform. Next he went to Bath, where he consorted with ‘noted hinderers of God’s word’. Accused of planning a western rebellion to coincide with the rising in the north, he was put into the custody of Bishop Grindal, who reported to Cecil that

he was altogether unlearned, carried with a blind zeal without knowledge ... His principal grounds were that he would follow the faith of his fathers; and that he would die in the faith wherein he was baptized.

Dean Nowell’s persuasions proving equally fruitless, Southworth remained in prison in London until August 1569, when Grindal petitioned the Privy Council for his release on account of the unhealthy conditions in prison during the summer. Southworth’s name appears on a list drawn up in the interest of Mary Queen of Scots in 1574, and he was reported by the bishop of Chester as a recusant in 1576 and 1577. At Easter 1581 he entertained Campion at Samlesbury, where Mass was said before a congregation of his household and neighbours. Campion was arrested in July and Southworth soon afterwards. He spent much of the next three years in the New Fleet at Salford, under the care of Robert Worsley. He was permitted to exercise and to see his friends only in Worsley’s presence. In July 1584 he was removed from Worsley’s care and sent first to London, then (by March 1586) to Chester. In that month the Privy Council let him visit Bath. Southworth next appears in Cheshire, where, in May 1586, he was rearrested. In July 1587 he was released so that he could make arrangements for the payment of fines, now amounting to more than £900. He may have conformed about this time and part of this sum was remitted. He subscribed £25 to the Armada fund in 1588 and in January 1589 he attended a sermon at the Earl of Derby’s house at Lathom. In 1592 he and his son were arrested after a search at Samlesbury had revealed a vault over the dining chamber, containing an altar canopy and candlesticks, 14 images and 21 ‘books of papistry’. How long Southworth stayed in prison on this occasion is unknown, but he had presumably been released before his death, which occurred on 3 Nov. 1595. His heavily encumbered estate, which had been vested in trustees in 1588, passed to his son Thomas. Much of it was sold early in the seventeenth century.3

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Irene Cassidy


  • 1. Vis. Lancs. (Chetham Soc. lxxxviii), 277-8; CPR, 1560-3, pp. 280-1; CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, p. 47.
  • 2. Lancs. Lieutenancy Pprs. (Chetham Soc. xlix), 4, 18-19; Whitaker, Hist. Whalley (1818), 539; DL5/9/170v; VCH Lancs. vi. 271; CPR, 1558-60, p. 226; CJ, i. 75; D’Ewes, 125, 126.
  • 3. Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 77; Leatherbarrow, Lancs. Eliz. Recusants (Chetham Soc. n.s. cx), 34-5; Strype, Parker, i. 525-7; Grindal, 204-5, Annals, i(2), 260-1; Lansd. 11, ff. 136, 140; Cath. Rec. Soc. Misc. viii. 91; Lancs. Registers (Cath. Rec. Soc. xxiii), 2, 308-9; APC, xiii. 98, 256-7, 270, 335-6; xiv. 27, 125; xv. 163; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 50; Peck, Desiderata Curiosa, i. bk. iv. 4, 13, 20, 28, 33, 34, 36, 37; Stanley Pprs. (Chetham Soc. xxxi), 58; VCH Lancs. vi. 306; T. C. Noble, Names of Those who Subscribed, 35; HMC Hatfield, iv. 242, 266; Egerton Pprs. (Cam. Soc. xii), 163-4; DL7/17/3.