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BARKSTEAD, JOHN (d. 1662), regicide, the date of whose birth is unknown, was originally a goldsmith in the Strand, and was often taunted by Lilburne and the royalist pamphleteers with selling thimbles and bodkins. 'Being sensible of the invasions which had been made upon the liberties of the nation, he took arms among the first for their defence in the quality of captain to a foot company in the regiment of Colonel Venn' (Ludlow). On 12 Aug. 1645 he was appointed by the House of Commons governor of Reading, and his appointment was agreed to by the Lords on 10 Dec. (A letter written by Barkstead during his government of Reading is in the Tanner MSS. vol. Ix. f. 512). During the second civil war he commanded a regiment at the siege of Colchester. In December 1648 he was appointed one of the king's judges. Referring, at his own execution, to the king's trial, he says: 'I was no contriver of it within or without, at that time I was many miles from the place, and did not know of it until I saw my name in a paper … what I did, I did without any malice (Speeches and Prayers). He attended every sitting during the trial except that of 13 Jan. (noble). During the year 1049 he acted as governor of Yarmouth, but by a vote of 11 April 1650 his regiment was selected for the guard of parliament and the city, and on 12 Aug. 1652 he was also appointed governor of the Tower. Cromwell praised his vigilance in that capacity in his first speech to the parliament of 1650 (Speech, v.). 'There never was any design on foot but we could hear of it out of the Tower. He who commanded there would give us account, that within a fortnight, or such a thing, there would be some stirring, for a great concourse of people were coming to them, and they had very great elevations of spirit.' As governor of the Tower Barkstead’s emoluments are said to have been two thousand a year. In the parliament of 1654 he represented Colchester, in that of 1656 Middlesex, although chosen for Reading as well. In November 1655 he was appointed major-general of the county of Middlesex and the assistant of Skippon in the charge of London. His services were rewarded by knighthood (19 Jan. 1656) and by his appointment as steward of Cromwell's household. His conduct as governor of the Tower was attacked by all parties, and he was charged with extortion and cruelty (see ‘A Narrative of the late Parliament,’ and ‘A Second Narrative of the late Parliament,’ both in Harleian Miscellany, iii.; Truth's Perspective Glass, 1662; and Invisible John made visible, 1659). He was alderman of Cripplegate ward from 22 Feb. 1657–8 to 31 Jan. 1659–60, when he was discharged for ‘infirmity.’ In February 1659 he was summoned before the committee of grievances, was obliged to release some prisoners, and was in danger of a prosecution. At the Restoration Barkstead was one of the seven excepted both for life and estate (6 June 1660), but he contrived to escape to Germany, and to secure himself became a burgess of Hanau (Ludlow). In 1661, however, he ventured into Holland to see some friends, and Sir George Downing, the king's agent in the United Provinces, having obtained from the states a warrant for his apprehension, seized him in his lodgings with Colonel Okey and Miles Corbet. The three prisoners were immediately sent to England, and, as they had been previously outlawed, their trial turned entirely on the question of identity. Barkstead, with his companions, was executed on 19 April 1662. He showed great courage, thanked God he had been faithful to the powers he had served, and commended ‘the congregational way, in which he had found much comfort.’

[Memoirs of Edmund Ludlow; the Thurloe State Papers contain much of Barkstead's official correspondence; Noble's House of Cromwell (p. 419) gives a sketch of his career, which is repeated in the Lives of the Regicides; Kennet's Register gives extracts from Mercurius Publicus and other sources on his arrest and execution. See also The Speeches, Discourses, and Prayers of Col. Barkstead, &c., faithfully and impartially collected, 1662; A Narrative of Col. Okey, Col. Barkstead, &c., their departure out of England … and the unparallelled treachery of Sir G. D., 1662. On the side of the government there is the official narrative, The Speeches and Prayers of John Barkstead, &c., with some due and sober animadversions, 1662, and A Letter from Col. Barkstead, &c., to their friends in the Congregational Churches in London, with the manner of their apprehension, 1662 (this, according to a note of Wood's on the fly-leaf, was written by some royalist).]

C. H. F.