Thomas Rosewell

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Reverend Thomas Rosewell (3 May 1630 – 14 February 1692) was a Nonconformist minister of Rotherhithe, Surrey who was found guilty of treason but subsequently pardoned by King Charles II.

Rotherhithe residential district in southeast London, England

Rotherhithe is a residential district in south-east London, England, and part of the London Borough of Southwark. It is part of the traditional county of Surrey, but for administrative purposes was part of the County of London following the passing of the Local Government Act 1888. It later became part of Greater London in 1965. Historically the area was the most northeastern settlement in the county of Surrey. It is located on a peninsula on the south bank of the Thames, facing Wapping and Limehouse on the north bank, and is a part of the Docklands area. It borders Bermondsey to the west and Deptford to the south east.

Charles II of England 17th-century King of England, Ireland and Scotland

Charles II was king of England, Scotland, and Ireland. He was king of Scotland from 1649 until his deposition in 1651, and king of England, Scotland and Ireland from the 1660 Restoration of the monarchy until his death.


Early years and education

Thomas was born 3 May 1630 at Dunkerton, Somerset. He was the only son of Richard Rosewell (d. 1640) of Dunkerton, gentleman, and Grace Melborne (d. 1646). Thomas was raised by his uncle, James Rosewell, of Combe Hay, Somerset and attended King Edward's School, Bath. In 1645 he was sent to London to learn to be a silk-weaver. In 1646 a distant relation (father-in-law of first cousin), Humphrey Chambers, one of the Westminster Divines, and his first cousin, Reverend Walter Rosewell, persuaded James to educate him for the ministry. Thomas entered Pembroke College, Oxford in 1648 where he graduated B.A. in 1651.

Dunkerton, Somerset village in the United Kingdom

Dunkerton is a small village in the civil parish of Dunkerton and Tunley, 4 miles (6.4 km) north east of Radstock, and 5 miles (8.0 km) south west of Bath, in the Bath and North East Somerset unitary authority, Somerset, England. The parish has a population of 502.

Somerset County of England

Somerset is a county in South West England which borders Gloucestershire and Bristol to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east and Devon to the south-west. It is bounded to the north and west by the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel, its coastline facing southeastern Wales. Its traditional border with Gloucestershire is the River Avon. Somerset's county town is Taunton.

Combe Hay village in the United Kingdom

Combe Hay is a village and civil parish in the English county of Somerset. It falls within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The parish has a population of 147.


The ancestors of Thomas Rosewell came from Bradford-on-Tone, Somerset. Richard Rowswell (d.1543) married Alice Ceelie (Seeley) of North Curry. They had one daughter and four sons: Joanne married Thomas Foreaker of Bradford; John Rowswell married Agnes Dyer of Wincanton, sister of Sir James Dyer; William Rosewell (1499-1568) purchased the manor of High Littleton [1] and lived at Dunkerton; Rev. Adam Rosewell (d. 1567) was vicar of Orcheston St George, Clevedon and Shepton Mallet; and a fourth son, also named William Rosewell (d. 1570), held land at Loxton and Compton Bishop. William Rosewell of Loxton was the father of William Rosewell, Solicitor General to Queen Elizabeth I and they jointly purchased the manor of Yarlington, Somerset.

Bradford-on-Tone village and civil parish in Taunton Deane, Somerset, England

Bradford-on-Tone is a village and civil parish in Somerset, England, situated on the River Tone 4 miles (6.4 km) south west of Taunton in the Somerset West and Taunton district. The parish, which includes Tone Green and Hele, has a population of 622.

North Curry a village located in Taunton Deane, United Kingdom

North Curry is a village and civil parish in Somerset, England, situated 5 miles (8.0 km) east of Taunton in the Somerset West and Taunton district. The parish, which includes Knapp and Lower Knapp has a population of 1,640.

Wincanton town in Somerset, England

Wincanton is a small town and electoral ward in South Somerset, southwest England. The town lies off the A303 road, a main route between London and South West England, and has some light industry. The town and electoral ward has a population of 5,272.

William Rosewell (1499-1568) of Dunkerton

+ (i) Joan Fontneys

John Rosewell (d.1605) of Englishcombe. Married twice with many children by each wife. [2]

+ (ii) Agnes Tilley

Thomas Rosewell (1533-c.1602) of Dunkerton
+ Margaret Attwood of Doynton, Gloucestershire
William Rosewell (c.1561-c.1620) of Dunkerton
+ Cecilia Coddrington
Richard Rosewell (1588-1640) of Dunkerton
+ Grace Melborne of Dunkerton
Rev. Thomas Rosewell (1630-1692)


Thomas married (1) Susannah Strickland (d. 1661) daughter of John Strickland of Salisbury, Wiltshire on 29 May 1656 and (2) a widow, Anne Godsalve (née Wanley) on 9 Jan 1677. He had three children by his first wife: Susannah; Elizabeth; and Margaret, who married the Nonconformist bookseller John Lawrence; and four by the second: Susannah; Rhoda; Samuel; and Eliezer.

Salisbury Cathedral city in Wiltshire, England

Salisbury is a cathedral city in Wiltshire, England, with a population of 40,302, at the confluence of the rivers Avon, Nadder, Ebble, Wylye and Bourne. The city is approximately 20 miles (32 km) from Southampton and 30 miles (48 km) from Bath.

Wiltshire County of England

Wiltshire is a county in South West England with an area of 3,485 km2. It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. The county town was originally Wilton, after which the county is named, but Wiltshire Council is now based in the county town of Trowbridge.

Samuel Rosewell English minister

Reverend Samuel Rosewell was a Presbyterian minister born at Rotherhithe, Surrey.

Career and ministries

In 1652 he took the post of tutor to the nephew of John Dodridge at Weare Gifford, Devon. He was presented to the rectory of Rode, Somerset by the widow of Sir Edward Hungerford in May 1653 and was ordained at Salisbury in 1654 by the Presbyterians John Strickland rector of Salisbury, Wiltshire and Peter Ince rector of Donhead St Andrew, Wiltshire. He exchanged ministries for Sutton Mandeville, Wiltshire in 1657 in order for his wife to be nearer to her father in Salisbury.

Rode, Somerset village and civil parish in Mendip, Somerset, England

Rode is a village in the ceremonial county of Somerset in England, 5 miles (8.0 km) northeast of Frome and 5 miles (8.0 km) southwest of Trowbridge. The village is in the historic county of Wiltshire.

Donhead St Andrew village in United Kingdom

Donhead St Andrew is a village and civil parish in Wiltshire, England, on the River Nadder. It lies 4 miles (6.4 km) east of the Dorset market town of Shaftesbury. The parish includes the hamlets of West End, Milkwell and Brook Waters.

He was ejected by the uniformity act in 1662 and became, in 1663, chaplain and tutor in Lady Hungerford's family at Corsham, Wiltshire. He suffered a slight mental disturbance in 1671 and moved as tutor to the family of Thomas Grove of Ferne near Berwick St John, Wiltshire. He developed depression and went to live in the house of Luke Rugeley, M.D. from October 1673 to February 1674 when he was completely recovered.

Corsham town in Wiltshire, England

Corsham is a historic market town and civil parish in west Wiltshire, England. It is at the south-western edge of the Cotswolds, just off the A4 national route, 28 miles (45 km) southwest of Swindon, 20 miles (32 km) southeast of Bristol, 8 miles (13 km) northeast of Bath and 4 miles (6 km) southwest of Chippenham.

Berwick St John village in the United Kingdom

Berwick St John is a village and civil parish in southwest Wiltshire, England, about 5 miles (8 km) east of Shaftesbury in Dorset.

During his life, Thomas Rosewell published two books: An Answer unto Thirty Questions Propounded by the Quakers (1656) and The Causes and Cure of the Pestilence (1665).

On 5 May 1674 he was elected as Nonconformist minister at Rotherhithe, Surrey.

Tried for treason

His fame rests on his sensational trial for high treason in 1684. In a sermon preached on 14 September that year Rosewell allegedly declared that 'we have had two wicked kings now together who have suffered popery to be introduced under their noses…'. He was arrested on 18 September and was tried in Westminster Hall by "Hanging" Judge Jeffries.

The charge against him, that of treasonable preaching pointing to the king's death, was absurdly at variance with the whole of his previous character and known opinions. Thomas conducted his own defence and argued over the meaning of the charges written in Latin compared to the English words that he actually used. Evidence against him was tendered by three women of disreputable character, one of whom admitted that she had been paid to collect evidence. It is not clear from their sworn testimony whether they wilfully distorted his words or mistook his meaning. Despite clear counter-evidence presented by numerous witnesses, the jury, directed by Jeffreys, found him guilty of treason for which the penalty would have been death by beheading. However, he was not sentenced.

When he came for sentence on 24 November, he argued his exception to the indictment as being deficient in the English interpretation of the original Latin. Jeffries acceded to Thomas's appeal for Counsel to argue a case about the sentence but would not agree to provide a copy of the indictment. Jeffries took Counsel's argument under consideration and released Thomas on bail.

His arrest and conviction had shocked and enraged Presbyterians and Anglicans alike. On 28 January 1685 Charles II granted him a pardon, having been told by Sir John Talbot: "If your majesty suffers this man to die, we are none of us safe in our houses".

The whole proceedings of this trial was reported [3] and is referred to in more recent works [4] on the proper conduct of trial by jury.


He died at Bermondsey, Surrey on 14 Feb 1692 and was buried at Bunhill Fields, London. The funeral service was conducted by three Presbyterian and three Independent ministers. Mathew Mead, Independent minister of Stepney, preached his funeral sermon.

Rosewell's grave in Bunhill Fields. Grave of Thomas Rosewell, Bunhill Fields.jpg
Rosewell's grave in Bunhill Fields.

The original headstone was inscribed in Latin. Some time later, a new headstone was erected at the rear of the original and it was inscribed with an English translation of the Latin text as follows:

Here is buried THOMAS ROSEWELL a most distinguished divine.
Born at Dunkerton in the county of Somerset:A graduate of Pembroke College, Oxford:Who administered the sacraments first at Rode in the aforesaid county:Then in the town of Sutton Mandeville in the county of Wiltshire until St Bartholomew's day in the year 1662:Finally he was appointed pastor of the church at Rotherhithe near London in the county of Surrey.
A man no less esteemed for his piety and modesty than for his learning;a preacher outstanding in skill, eloquence and zeal;an assiduous and most expert interpreter of Holy Scripture.
Who after many labours and most grievous troubles arising from the injustice of the times,which he had borne for Christ's sake with the greatest fortitude,died peacefully at the aforesaid Rotherhithe on February 14th.
In the 62nd year of his life and the year of the Lord 1692.

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  1. "Manor Court Rolls" (PDF). High Littleton & Hallatrow Parish. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  2. "The Parish of Englishcombe" (PDF). Englishcombe. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  3. Howell, T.B. (1816). A Complete Collection of State Trials. London: Hansard. pp. 147–307.
  4. Oliver, B.L. (1832). The Rights of American Citizens. Boston: Marsh, Capen & Lyon. pp. 37–296.