Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rosewell, Thomas

692418Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 49 — Rosewell, Thomas1897Alexander Gordon

ROSEWELL, THOMAS (1630–1692), nonconformist minister, only son of Richard Rosewell (d. November 1640), gentleman, by his wife Grace, daughter of Thomas Melborn of Dunkerton, near Bath, was born at Dunkerton on 3 May 1630. He was cousin to Walter Rosewell (d. 1658), the Kentish puritan, and related to Humphrey Chambers, D.D. (d. 1662), one of the Westminster assembly of divines. He lost his mother in infancy, and was early left an orphan, with an only sister, Grace. A fine property, which should have come to them, was wasted during their minority. His uncle and guardian, James Rosewell, sent him to school at Bath, and on 12 June 1645 placed him in the family of Thomas Ashley, London, as a preparation for business life. He was first with an accountant, afterwards with a silk-weaver, but the colours of the silk tried his eyes, and the preaching of Matthew Haviland turned his thoughts to the ministry. In 1646 he was put under the tuition of Thomas Singleton in St. Mary Axe. On 5 Dec. 1650 he matriculated from Pembroke College, Oxford, which he had entered in March 1648, during the mastership of Henry Langley. He commenced B.A. on 8 July 1651. Leaving Oxford in 1652, he obtained from John Doddridge (1616–1666) the post of tutor to his nephew (son of John Lovering of Exeter) at Ware, near Bideford, Devonshire. In the spring of 1653 he was presented by Margaret, widow of Sir Edward Hungerford (1596–1648) [q. v.], to the rectory of Roade, Somerset. He first preached there on 29 May 1653, and was ordained on 20 July 1654 at St. Edmund's, Salisbury, by John Strickland, B.D. (d. 1670), the rector, and Peter Ince, ‘praying Ince,’ rector of Dunhead, Wiltshire. Having married Strickland's daughter, he exchanged in May 1657 with Gabriel Sangar [q. v.], rector of Sutton-Mandeville, Wiltshire, in order to be nearer Salisbury. The arrangement was ratified by the ‘triers’ on 12 Dec. 1658. He did not get on well with his republican parishioners in Wiltshire. He never prayed for Oliver, but kept 30 Jan. and (after the Restoration) 29 May.

He was ejected by the uniformity act of 1662, and became in 1663 chaplain and tutor in Lady Hungerford's family at Corsham, Wiltshire. In May 1671 he left his situation, owing to slight mental disturbance. Recovering, he became tutor in the family of Thomas Grove of Fern, Wiltshire, but, his malady returning, he went to London, and lived in the house of Luke Rugeley, M.D., from October 1673 to February 1674, when he was completely restored. In March 1674 he became domestic chaplain to Philip Wharton, fourth baron Wharton [q. v.] On 5 May 1674 he was elected by a majority to succeed James Janeway [q. v.] as minister of the presbyterian congregation in Salisbury Street (now Jamaica Row), Rotherhithe. The troubles of the times compelled him to abandon the meeting-house, but he preached twice each Sunday to conventicles in private houses, having audiences of three or four hundred people. It is remarked that more men than women attended his ministry.

On 23 Sept. 1684 he was arrested by Atterbury, the messenger, on a warrant from George Jeffreys, first baron Jeffreys of Wem [q. v.], the chief justice. Asked by Jeffreys where he preached, he answered in Latin. To the insolent supposition of Jeffreys that he could not speak another word of Latin ‘to save his neck,’ he replied in Greek. He was kept in custody, and was next day committed to the gatehouse. Not till ten days after was his wife permitted to see him. She stayed with him during his imprisonment. On 7 Oct. a true bill was found by the quarter sessions at Kingston-on-Thames. He was arraigned at the king's bench on 25 Oct., and tried on 18 Nov. 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. Evidence against him was tendered by three women, Elizabeth Smith, the wife of George Hilton, and Joan Farrar. The first two were common informers (one had been pilloried, the other was subsequently whipped) who attended his services between 17 Aug. and 14 Sept., to collect evidence in the way of business. It is not clear from their sworn testimony whether they wilfully distorted his words or mistook his meaning. In the face of clear counter-evidence, the jury, directed by Jeffreys, found him guilty. He came up for sentence on 24 Nov., and then took exception to the indictment as insufficient. Counsel was now assigned to him, but no copy of the indictment was allowed him. On 27 Nov. Jeffreys took time to consider the objection. On 28 Jan. 1685 Charles II, who had been told by Sir John Talbot, ‘If your majesty suffers this man to die, we are none of us safe in our houses,’ granted him a pardon, on his giving bail for 200l. and finding sureties for 2,000l. His bail was discharged on 25 May 1687. The whole proceedings at his trial were reported in shorthand by Blaney, and partly transcribed for Jeffreys. Rosewell withheld the publication of the report during his lifetime.

He died on Sunday, 14 Feb. 1692. His body was on view in Drapers' Hall, and was buried in Bunhill Fields on 19 Feb., the funeral service being conducted by three presbyterian and three independent ministers. Matthew Mead [q. v.] preached his funeral sermon. In person he was tall and slender, with a piercing eye, and of robust constitution. He married, first, on 29 May 1656, Susannah (d. 1661), eldest daughter of John Strickland (see above), by Susannah, daughter of Sir John Piggot, knt., and had three daughters, Susannah, Margaret, and Elizabeth. He married, secondly, in January 1676, Ann, daughter of Andrew Wanby of Ayford, Gloucestershire, and widow of one Godsalve, by whom he had issue Susannah, Samuel [q. v.], Rhoda, and Eliezer.

He published: 1. ‘An Answer unto Thirty Quæries propounded by … the Quakers,’ &c., 1656, 4to (publ. on 7 Nov.). 2. ‘The Causes and Cure of the Pestilence,’ &c., 1665, 4to.

[The Arraignment and Tryal with Life, by his son, 1718 (the Trial is reprinted in Protestant Dissenters' Magazine, 1794, pp. 169 sq.); Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, 1696, iii. 199; Calamy's Account, 1713, p. 756; Kennett's Compleat History, 1706, iii. 428 sq.; Peirce's Vindication of Dissenters, 1717, p. 112; Brook's Lives of the Puritans, 1813, iii. 534; Wilson's Dissenting Churches of London, 1814, iv. 349 sq.; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1891, iii. 1281.]

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