Thomas Venner

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Thomas Venner Thomas venner.jpg
Thomas Venner
Ian Bone speaking at the installation of the Thomas Rainsborough memorial plaque (12 May 2013), championing Thomas Venner and the Fifth Monarchy Men. The banner is a replica of that used by the insurgents at the time. Who Shall Rouse Him Up.JPG
Ian Bone speaking at the installation of the Thomas Rainsborough memorial plaque (12 May 2013), championing Thomas Venner and the Fifth Monarchy Men. The banner is a replica of that used by the insurgents at the time.

Thomas Venner (died 19 January 1661) was a cooper and rebel who became the last leader of the Fifth Monarchy Men, who tried unsuccessfully to overthrow Oliver Cromwell in 1657, and subsequently led a coup in London against the newly restored government of Charles II. This event, known as "Venner's Rising", lasted four days (1–4 January 1661) before the Royal authorities captured the rebels. The rebel leadership suffered execution on 19 January 1661.

Cooper (profession) maker of staved vessels such as barrels

A cooper is a person trained to make wooden casks, barrels, vats, buckets, tubs, troughs and other staved containers from timber that was usually heated or steamed to make it pliable. Journeymen coopers also traditionally made wooden implements, such as rakes and wooden-bladed shovels. In addition to wood, other materials, such as iron, were used in the manufacturing process.

Fifth Monarchists apocalyptic Puritan group, active 1649–1660 during the Interregnum; named after a prophecy in the Book of Daniel that 4 monarchies (Babylon, Persia, Macedonia, Rome) precede the kingdom of God; held that the year 1666 is eschatologically important

The Fifth Monarchists or Fifth Monarchy Men were an extreme Puritan sect active from 1649 to 1660 during the Interregnum, following the English Civil Wars of the 17th century. They took their name from a prophecy in the Book of Daniel that four ancient monarchies would precede the kingdom of Christ. They also referred to the year 1666 and its relationship to the biblical Number of the Beast indicating the end of earthly rule by carnal human beings. They were one of a number of nonconformist dissenting groups that emerged around this time.

Oliver Cromwell 17th-century English military and political leader

Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader. He served as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 1653 until his death, acting simultaneously as head of state and head of government of the new republic.



Venner had moved to New England in 1637 and stayed for 22 years before returning to plot against Cromwell. He assumed leadership of the Fifth Monarchists after the execution of General Thomas Harrison at Charing Cross on 19 October 1660. Venner led a congregation, which included New Model Army veterans, that met in a rented room above a tavern in Swan's Alley off Coleman Street.

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Thomas Harrison (soldier) English Fifth Monarchist and regicide of Charles I of England

Major-General Thomas Harrison sided with Parliament in the English Civil War. During the Interregnum he was a leader of the Fifth Monarchists. In 1649 he signed the death warrant of Charles I and in 1660, shortly after the Restoration, he was found guilty of regicide and hanged, drawn and quartered.

Charing Cross The point from which distances from London are calculated.

Charing Cross is a junction in London, England, where six routes meet. Clockwise from north these are: the east side of Trafalgar Square leading to St Martin's Place and then Charing Cross Road; the Strand; Northumberland Avenue; Whitehall; The Mall leading to Admiralty Arch and Buckingham Palace; and two short roads leading to Pall Mall.

Incidents in the Rebellion of the Fifth Monarchy Men under Thomas Venner, and the Execution of their Leaders, illustration, 17th century Incidents in the Rebellion of the Fifth Monarchy Men under Thomas Venner, and the Execution of their Leaders.jpg
Incidents in the Rebellion of the Fifth Monarchy Men under Thomas Venner, and the Execution of their Leaders, illustration, 17th century

On Sunday 1 January 1661 he led a number of his men – Samuel Pepys said they later turned out to be only 50 although it had been thought they were 500 at first – to a bookseller called Mr. Johnson at St. Paul's to demand the Cathedral keys. On being refused they broke in and accosted passers-by asking who they were for. One answered "King Charles" and they shot him through the heart. A number of musketeers sent to dislodge them were beaten back and a troop of the Trained Bands under the Lord Mayor Major General Sir Richard Browne attacked them and they retreated to Ken Wood near Highgate.

Samuel Pepys English naval administrator and member of parliament

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Sir Richard Browne, 1st Baronet, of London Major-General in the English Parliamentary army

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Highgate is a suburban area of north London at the north-eastern corner of Hampstead Heath, 4.5 miles (7.2 km) north north-west of Charing Cross.

On the Wednesday they attacked again at Wood Street and Threadneedle Street forcing the King's Life Guard of Foot (a force of 1200 men commanded by John Russell) to retreat. They then attempted to storm the Comptor Prison to liberate the inmates in order to join them, but were repulsed in fierce fighting. Venner is said to have killed three men with a halberd in Threadneedle Street.

Wood Street, London street in the City of London, England

Wood Street is a street in the City of London, the historic centre and primary financial district of London. It originates in the south at a junction with Cheapside; heading north it crosses Gresham Street and London Wall. The northernmost end runs alongside The Postern, part of the Barbican estate, stopping at Andrewes House. Today Wood Street lies within the wards of Bassishaw and Cheap.

Threadneedle Street street in the City of London, London, England

Threadneedle Street is a street in the City of London, England between Bishopsgate at its northeast end and Bank junction in the southwest. It is one of nine streets that converge at Bank. It lies in the ward of Cornhill.

John Russell's Regiment of Guards was an English infantry regiment formed following the Restoration of King Charles II to the throne in 1660.

A force of General Monck's men under Colonel Cox pursued them to their last stands in the Helmet Tavern on Threadneedle Street and the Blue Anchor on Coleman Street. Royalist troops broke through the clay roof tiles with musket butts and fired upon the wounded defenders, breaking in through the ceiling. Venner was captured after being wounded nineteen times. Others were shot out of hand.

He was put on trial at the Old Bailey and hanged, drawn and quartered on 19 January 1661. According to Tobias Smollett, Venner and his followers "affirmed to the last that if they had been deceived, the Lord himself was their deceiver". [1]

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Tobias Smollett 18th-century poet and author from Scotland

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Venner's son, Thomas joined him in the Rising.

Thomas's son, Colonel Samuel Venner led the Duke of Monmouth's cavalry and was shot and wounded by a sniper in Bridport, but survived until 1712.

Samuel's daughter Elizabeth married a linen draper's son named John Potter who would become, successively, Bishop of Oxford and Archbishop of Canterbury.

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  1. Tobias SmollettA Complete History of England Book VII Chap.1 p406

Further reading