SCAWEN, Robert (1602-70), of Horton, Bucks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



3 Mar. 1662 - 19 Mar. 1670

Family and Education

bap. 16 May 1602, 2nd s. of Robert Scawen (d.1628) of Molinick, St. Germans, Cornw. by Isabel, da. of Humphrey Nicoll of Penvose, St. Tudy, Cornw.; bro. of William Scawen. m. Catherine, da. of Cavendish Alsopp, merchant, of London, 7s. 2da.3

Offices Held

Receiver-gen. Hants, Wilts. and Glos. 1638-49, May 1660-7; commr. for new model ordinance, Mdx. 1645, sewers, Lincs. and Northants. 1647, assessment, Mdx. 1648-9, 1665-9, Westminster 1648, Cornw., Cumb. and Bucks. 1663-9, militia, Northumb. 1648, Bucks. Mar. 1660; j.p. Mdx. 1649-52; jt.-receiver of hearth-tax, Cornw. 1664-6.4

Sec. to ld. general 1639-41; chairman, army committee 1645-8; commr. for management of revenue 1659-May 1660, disbandment Sept. 1660-1, excise appeals Oct. 1660-d.; member, Society of Mineral and Battery Works 1663; commr. for revenue wagons 1665-7.5


Scawen’s ancestor married the heiress of Molinick in the reign of Edward I. ‘In this rural and tranquil situation the descendants passed their days in genteel retirement, and we hear little of their appearance in the busy world until the time of Charles I.’ Scawen himself, a younger son, became a London attorney, and succeeded his kinsman John Pym in a revenue post on a life patent in 1638. He also became man of business to the Earl of Northumberland, under whom he acquired the groundwork of military administration during the Bishops’ wars. His elder brother William, who sat for St. Germans in the Short Parliament, was a Royalist in the Civil War, serving as second-in-command to Piers Edgcumbe; but Scawen himself followed his patron into the parliamentarian camp, holding the important chairmanship of the army committee until Pride’s Purge. He lost his other office without compensation when the crown lands were sold off by the Commonwealth, but his affairs had so far prospered that he was able to buy the manor of Horton in 1658, though he still continued to advise Northumberland on legal matters. He was again appointed to office in 1659. At the Restoration the Convention nominated him to the disbandment commission, and he was given a post in the Exchequer.6

Scawen succeeded Northumberland’s factor, Hugh Potter, at a by-election for Cockermouth in 1662. A moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was appointed to 48 committees. In his first session these included the committees for expediting public accounts outstanding from the former regimes, and the additional corporations bill. In 1663 he was named to the sub-committee to inspect the excise and to the committee for the bill for collecting arrears. On 23 July he attended a conference on the subject. He was listed as a court dependant in 1664. During the second Dutch war he and Sir William Doyley were chiefly responsible for organizing the transport of revenue from the provinces. In January 1665 he was among those ordered to examine Exchequer fees, and he reported revised taxation assessments for South Wales. Similarly he was given the responsibility for reducing the assessment on London after the Great Fire, though he was against authorizing the corporation to mark out streets for widening. He helped to prepare reasons for conferences on the Canary Company patent and the charges against Lord Mordaunt. He was also among those entrusted with the bill for illegitimizing Lady Roos’s children (21 Jan. 1667). But his chief concern in this session was a private bill to reverse his son’s attainder for stealing a widow’s horse on the grounds that the evidence was perjured. The bill was first introduced in the Lords, and passed the Commons without committal.7

Despite his long experience in the revenue Scawen was one of the first to run foul of the new Treasury commission in 1667, though it was probably his brother, with whom he shared responsibility for the Cornish hearth-tax under the 1664 Act, who committed the irregularity of deducting from the receipts without formal certificates £337 10s. in respect of empty houses and insolvent inhabitants. Indeed Scawen had been nominated the principal agent for taxes, and had initially declared his willingness to accept the employment, but a few days later he declared himself unable to perform the service, and orders were given to commence proceedings against him. He surrendered his receivership to Simon Smith, and an award of £350 on 23 Aug. for his services as wagon commissioner presumably obviated the worst consequences of the deficiency in the accounts, though they were never passed in his lifetime. When Parliament met again after the fall of Clarendon Scawen was appointed to the committee investigating restraints on juries, and complained that (Sir) John Kelyng, who had sentenced his son, had refused to tell the King that the evidence was not full, though he had procured a pardon for him. But the House does not seem to have been impressed, nor would they find two men who had lopped trees on his estate guilty of breach of privilege. On 9 Apr. 1668 he opposed a bill for repair of a bridge in Yorkshire, and he was among those who drafted the impeachment of (Sir) William Penn. On the report stage, however, he protested against the impeachment by the Commons of one of themselves, and insisted that it should be preceded by expulsion from the House. He played little further part in Parliament. His will was proved on 21 Mar. 1670, and Peter Prideaux was appointed to his seat on the excise appeals board in the following month. Two of his sons sat for Grampound and other constituencies as Whigs after the Revolution.8

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Abstained after Pride’s Purge 6 Dec. 1648, readmitted 21 Feb. 1660.
  • 2. New writ.
  • 3. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 422; PCC 41 Penn.
  • 4. Foedera, ix. pt. 2, p. 206; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 2, p. 395; CSP Dom. 1667, p. 169; Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 585.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1640, p. 137; 1640-1, pp. 125, 557; 1644-5, p. 481; 1648-9, p. 44; 1658-9, p. 382; 1659-60, p. 600; 1664-5, p. 399; 1670, p. 254; CJ, viii. 116; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 75; ii. 179; iii. 195; BL Loan 16.
  • 6. Paroch. Hist. Cornw. ii. 261-2; Keeler, Long Parl. 335; CSP Dom. 1645-7, p. 367; D. Underdown, Pride’s Purge, 47, 158; G. W. J. Gyll, Wraysbury, 216-20; HMC 3rd Rep. 88.
  • 7. D.C. Chandaman, Eng. Pub. Revenue, 181; CJ, viii. 590, 668, 689; HMC 8th Rep. pt. 1 (1881), 106; Milward, 64-65, 67; C66/3074/39.
  • 8. Chandaman, 90-92; Cal. Treas. Bks. ii. 7, 39, 41, 44, 57, 69, 267; iii. 117, 395, 613; CJ, ix. 4, 76, 82, 93; Milward, 169-70, 250, 279; PCC 41 Penn; CSP Dom. 1670, p. 274.