WENTWORTH, Sir John (c.1578-1651), of Somerleyton, Suff.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. c.1578,1 o.s. of John Wentworth of Darsham, Suff. and Elizabeth, da. of John Southwell of Barrow Hall, Suff.2 educ. Christ’s, Camb. 1588, BA 1592;3 L. Inn 1592.4 m. Anne, da. of Sir Stephen Soames of London and Little Thurlow, Suff., s.p.5 kntd. 23 July 1603;6 suc. fa. 1618.7 bur. 16 Oct. 1651.8

Offices Held

J.p. Suff. 1617-at least 1636, Norf. 1620-at least 1636;9 sheriff, Suff. 1619-20,10 commr. sewers 1619, 1626,11 dep. lt. 1623-d.,12 commr. fen drainage, Norf. and Suff. 1625,13 repair of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Suff. 1633,14 sequestration 1643, levying money 1643, E. Assoc. 1643,15 capt. militia ft., Somerleyton 1643,16 commr. scandalous ministers, Suff. 1644,17 assessment 1644-50, New Model Army 1645, militia 1648.18

Elder, Beccles classis, Suff. 1645.19


The Wentworths of Somerleyton were not related to any of the large Wentworth families in Essex, Oxfordshire or Nettlestead, in Suffolk.20 Their origins are obscure, although it seems their surname was originally Quamford.21 Wentworth’s father, John, acquired substantial Suffolk holdings, reputed to be worth over £3,000 p.a., in Lothingland, Bradwell, Corton, Lound, and Flixton.22 He also founded the Hebrew lectureship at Christ College, Cambridge and served as sheriff in 1608.23

Wentworth is difficult to distinguish from Sir John Wentworth of Gosford, Essex, who frequently travelled on the Continent, helped defend the Palatinate, was arrested for murder in 1622, and attended Prince Charles in Spain.24 Wentworth himself was an only son, who entered into his inheritance in 1618. In the following year he served as sheriff of Suffolk, and during the early 1620s reported to the Privy Council on the state of Great Yarmouth’s harbour and the abuses of new drapery manufacture in East Anglia.25 In 1628 he stood for election at Great Yarmouth, which lay near Somerleyton, and was returned for the first place.26 He made no reported speeches in the Commons, and his committee appointments were not numerous. He was named to consider a bill to enable Samuel Sewster to sell lands in Huntingdonshire (16 May), and another for the tenants of Bromfield and Yale, Denbighshire (13 June); he was also required to help draft a measure to regulate the power of lord lieutenants and deputy lieutenants (24 March).27 In addition, he was a member of committees appointed to examine the patent of the Muscovy Company (17 May) and to review the exactions of metage and portage in London (25 June).28 Wentworth appears to have undertaken some unspecified business on behalf of Yarmouth while at Westminster, for in April the borough received a letter in which ‘he related what good offices he had done ... for the good of the town’.29

Little else is known of Wentworth until the Civil War. In March 1643 he was arrested at Lowestoft by the parliamentary garrison for attempting ‘to change dollars’,30 but he bought his way out of trouble with £1,000, a loan of £2,000 and the surrender of his arms.31 These were confiscated when he quartered Colonel Oliver Cromwell’s* troop at Somerleyton. The soldiers stayed for two days, and cost Wentworth £25 3s. 8d. to house, as well as £160 in gold, which was stolen.32 Despite his arrest, Wentworth’s sympathies clearly lay with Parliament, which he served on numerous local commissions. A Presbyterian, he became an elder at the nearby Beccles classis in November 1645. In 1648 Wentworth played host to Colonel Henry Ireton† and General Sir Thomas Fairfax†,33 who desired to see the outstanding gardens at Somerleyton. Fairfax may have been introduced to Wentworth through his brother-in-law, Mildmay Fane*, the patron of Anne Wentworth’s first cousin, the poet Robert Herrick.34 As Wentworth had followed the Jacobean trend towards Renaissance water-gardens, Fairfax was able to admire ‘the greatest varieties that are to be seen for ponds, water-works, groves, [and] conveniences of ‘coy-ducks’ that are to be seen in the kingdom of England’.35 The gardens inspired Herrick to pen an early country-house poem, ‘To Sir John Wentworth, Upon his Curiousities and Courteous entertainment at Summerly in Lovingland’.36 Wentworth died childless in October 1651 and was buried in Somerleyton parish church.37 His wife held all the properties until her death in 1664, when they passed to John Garneys, the eldest son of Wentworth’s sister, Elizabeth.38 No further member of the family sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Chris Kyle


W.A. Copinger, Suff. Manors, v. 6; H. Davy, Views of Seats of Gentlemen of Suff., i. unpag.

  • 1. Add. 19154, f. 389.
  • 2. Ibid; Vis. Suff. ed. Metcalfe, 175.
  • 3. Al. Cant.
  • 4. LI Admiss.
  • 5. Add. 19154, f. 389; Copinger, v. 64.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 119.
  • 7. PROB 11/133, ff. 405-6.
  • 8. Add. 19154, f. 389.
  • 9. C231/4, ff. 42, 109; C231/5, f. 76; C193/13/1.
  • 10. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 132.
  • 11. C181/2, f. 349; 181/3, f. 201v.
  • 12. C231/4, f. 157; Suff. and the Great Rebellion ed. A. Everitt, (Suff. Rec. Soc. iii), 39.
  • 13. C193/8, no. 60.
  • 14. GL, ms 25475/1, f. 20v.
  • 15. A. and O. i. 115, 168, 235, 293.
  • 16. A. Suckling, Hist. and Antiqs. of Suff. ii. 48.
  • 17. Cttee. Scandalous Ministers ed. C. Holmes, (Suff. Rec. Soc. xiii), 25.
  • 18. A. and O. i. 537, 624, 639, 975, 1243; ii. 43, 309, 478.
  • 19. W.A. Shaw, Hist. Eng. Church, ii. 426.
  • 20. W.L. Rutton, Three Branches Fam. Wentworth, passim.
  • 21. Ibid. 304n.
  • 22. Copinger, iii. 398; Suckling, vii. 398; Add. 19154, f. 374.
  • 23. Al. Cant.; List of Sheriffs, 132.
  • 24. SP14/6/50, 72; 14/67/131; 14/132/41; 14/143/11, 15, 22, 47, 61; 14/144/30; 14/167/59; APC, 1619-21, p. 225; ibid. 1623-25, p. 268; ibid. 1627, p. 331; C231/4. f. 145; Yonge Diary ed. G. Roberts (Cam. Soc. xli), 79; W.L. Rutton, ‘Wentworth of Gosfield’, Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. (n.s. iii), 215-6.
  • 25. APC, 1621-3, p. 157; SP14/121/167, 133.
  • 26. Norf. RO, Y/C19/6, f. 89v.
  • 27. CD 1628, ii. 78; iii. 429; iv. 292.
  • 28. Ibid. iii. 449; iv. 467.
  • 29. Norf. RO, Y/C19/6, f. 95.
  • 30. T. Carlyle, Letters, and Speeches of Cromwell ed. S.C. Lomas, i. 123-4; Knyvett Letters ed. B. Schofield (Norf. Rec. Soc. xx), 110-11.
  • 31. Certaine Informations from Severall Parts of the Kingdome, 22 Mar. 1643.
  • 32. Suckling, ii. 48.
  • 33. Historical Collections ed. J. Rushworth, iv. 1263.
  • 34. Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xv), 377; Poetical Works of Herrick ed. L.C. Martin, 40, 101, 172.
  • 35. Historical Collections, iv. 1263.
  • 36. M. Fane, Otia Sacra ed. D. M. Friedman.
  • 37. PROB 6/26, f. 155a; Add. 19154, f. 389.
  • 38. Suckling, ii. 44.