WOLSTENHOLME (WORSNAM), John (c.1596-1670), of Walsingham House, Seething Lane, London; later of Nostell Priory, Yorks. and Fenchurch Street, London.

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



20 Apr. 1640

Family and Education

b. c.1596,1 1st s. of Sir John Wolstenholme* of St. Olave, Hart St., London and Catherine, da. of John Fanshawe of Dronfield, Derbys.2 educ. G. Inn 1611; Sidney Sussex, Camb. 1613; ?travelled abroad 1616; I. Temple 1646.3 m. by 1619, Anne (d. 25 Nov. 1661), da. of Sir Roger Dallison* of Laughton, Lincs., 9s. (8 d.v.p.) 3da. (1 d.v.p.).4 kntd. 8 May 1633;5 suc. fa. 1639;6 cr. bt. 10 Jan. 1665.7 d. 4 July 1670.8 sig. Jo[hn] Wolstenholme.

Offices Held

Member, Virg. Co. 1612,9 N.W. Passage Co. 1612, E.I. Co. 1618-at least 1640, cttee. by 1640,10 member, Roy. African Co. 1663.11

Collector impositions and Tunnage and Poundage outwards, London (jt.) 1619-39, (sole) 1639-43, 1660-d.,12 pretermitted customs 1623-43, 1660-d.,13 farmer (jt.), wine and currant duties 1632-at least 1639,14 commr. customs from 1660,15 farmer, great farm of customs 1663-d.16

Commr. plantation of Virg. 1631, tobacco inquiry 1634,17 fraudulent thread imports 1636,18 sewers, Yorks. 1636-7,19 assessment 1641-2.20


Wolstenholme depended heavily on his father, Sir John, for the shape of his early career. He was admitted to Gray’s Inn alongside him in 1611, rather than waiting until after he had attended university, and his membership of the Virginia, North-West Passage and East India Companies reflected the fact that his father was a prominent figure in each organization. In 1619 Sir John obtained a revised grant of his existing collectorships of impositions and Tunnage and Poundage so that his son could share this office with him. Four years later Wolstenholme became collector of pretermitted customs in the port of London, another position previously held by his father. At around the same time the king awarded Sir John and another customs farmer the benefit of a £10,000 bond, and Wolstenholme received his father’s share.21

Although the precise means by which Wolstenholme obtained a parliamentary seat at West Looe in 1625 and 1626 have not been established, his father almost certainly had a hand in this too. As a Navy commissioner Sir John had regular dealings with (Sir) James Bagg II, the vice-admiral of south Cornwall, and it seems likely that Bagg, who had himself represented West Looe in 1624, used his influence with Sir Bernard Grenville†, one of the borough’s patrons, to secure Wolstenholme’s nomination there.22 During the 1625 Parliament the young Member left no trace in the Commons’ records, but his father’s involvement in the controversial re-arrest of the French ship, the St. Peter, brought upon Wolstenholme the opprobrium of the 1626 Parliament. When he tried on 27 Feb. to intervene in a debate on the country’s military weaknesses, he was ‘hissed down’. He appears not to have attempted any further speeches, and was nominated to just one committee, to consider a bill to naturalize a London merchant, Samuel Powell (1 June). His presence in this Parliament is probably explained by the introduction on 20 Apr. of a ‘Wolstenholme’ bill. Its contents are unknown, and the measure was lost after a first reading.23

Sir John’s purchase of Nostell Priory in 1629 provided Wolstenholme with a base in Yorkshire, and during the following decade he was drawn into local government there.24 He continued to be involved in overseas ventures, helping to finance a new North-West Passage expedition in 1631.25 A year later he also followed his father’s example by joining a customs farm syndicate for the first time, handling the duties on wines and currants. Knighted in 1633, Wolstenholme looked set to replace his father as one of the principal customs farmers. However, Sir John senior withdrew from such activities a year before his death in 1639, and his son found no place in the new syndicates formed in 1640.26 Wolstenholme represented Queenborough in the Short Parliament, by which time he was meeting Crown debts out of his collector’s receipts. Not surprisingly he took the royalist side in the Civil War.27 Parliament’s triumph was a personal disaster for him. He had already suffered major financial losses through his efforts to help buy off the Scottish army in northern England, and by his close ties with the customs farmers, who were forced to compound for delinquency in 1641. Deprived of his collectorships, he also suffered sequestration of his property, though he was discharged in 1650 upon payment of £1,500, rather less than the regime had hoped for.28 The Restoration saw him return to public office and acquire a baronetcy. However, his efforts to secure monetary compensation from the government met with limited success. He drew up his brief will on 10 Dec. 1669, leaving his lands to his one surviving son, and £100 annuities to two daughters. He also provided a £2,500 dowry for one granddaughter. He died in July 1670, and was buried at Stanmore, Middlesex, his family’s customary resting place. His grandson Sir John Wolstenholme entered Parliament as a Member for Middlesex in 1695.29

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Aged 74 in 1670: Misc. Gen. et Her. (2nd ser.), ii. 119.
  • 2. CB; J.E. Cussans, Hist. Herts. i. 139.
  • 3. GI Admiss.; Al. Cant.; APC, 1615-16, p. 538; I. Temple Admiss.
  • 4. Reg. St. Olave’s, Hart St. London (Harl. Soc. Reg. xlvi), 33; Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. l), 286; PROB 11/333, f. 231v.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 200.
  • 6. C142/604/113.
  • 7. C66/3057/10.
  • 8. Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 2), ii. 119.
  • 9. T.K. Rabb, Enterprise and Empire, 407.
  • 10. CSP Col. E.I. 1513-1616, p. 239; 1617-21, p. 229; R. Brenner, Merchants and Rev. 376, n. 123; CCAM, 131.
  • 11. CSP Col. 1661-8, p. 121.
  • 12. C66/2205/4; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 654.
  • 13. C66/2296/16.
  • 14. C66/2595/3. R. Ashton, Crown and the Money Market, 108 incorrectly assigns this farm to Wolstenholme’s father.
  • 15. CTB, 1660-7, p. 226.
  • 16. CSP Dom. 1663-4, p. 61; 1668-9, p. 34.
  • 17. Cal. of Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry ed. J. Broadway, R. Cust and S.K. Roberts (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xxxiv), 40-1.
  • 18. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 3, p. 192; ix. pt. 2, p. 25.
  • 19. C181/5, ff. 53v, 87.
  • 20. SR, v. 83, 150.
  • 21. GI Admiss.; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 625.
  • 22. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 511; Roy. Inst. of Cornw., BRA.B/328/3.
  • 23. Procs. 1626, ii. 136; iii. 29, 340.
  • 24. C54/2786/5.
  • 25. K.R. Andrews, Trade, Plunder and Settlement, 353.
  • 26. Ashton, 101, 105.
  • 27. CSP Dom. 1639-40, pp. 337, 497; HMC Portland, i. 42.
  • 28. HMC Hatfield, xxii. 360; CSP Dom. 1663-4, p. 18; 1670, p. 633; Addenda, 1625-49, p. 654; Ashton, 111; CCAM, 132.
  • 29. CSP Dom. 1663-4, pp. 511, 676; 1670, pp. 298, 633; PROB 11/333, ff. 231-2; D. Lysons, Environs of London, iii. 399.