Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Frewen, John
FREWEN, JOHN (1558–1628), puritan divine, descended from an old Worcestershire family, was born in 1558. He is stated to have been baptised on 1 July 1560. His grandfather, Roger Frewen, and his father, Richard Frewen, were both possessed of property in Hill Croome and Earls Croome in Worcestershire. He was ordained priest by Bullingham, bishop of Gloucester, 24 June 1582, and in November of the following year was presented by his father to the rectory of Northiam, Sussex. On his becoming resident at Northiam it is supposed that Frewen occupied a house known as ‘Carriers,’ situated about two hundred yards south of the present rectory-house, and then the property of his friend and neighbour, John White of Brickwall. His first publication is entitled ‘Certaine Fruitfull Instructions and necessary doctrines meete to edify in the feare of God: faithfully gathered together by Iohn Frewen,’ 18mo, London, 1587. Of this work, which is dedicated to ‘M. Tho: Coventry,’ father of the lord keeper, very few copies are known. Two years later Frewen published another manual with the title ‘Certaine Fruitfull Instructions for the generall cause of Reformation against the slanders of the Pope and League,’ 4to, London, 1589 (Wood, Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iv. 823). In 1593 Frewen bought the Church House at Northiam, where he and his descendants continued to reside until the purchase of Brickwall, the present seat of the family. Church House still remains in the family. In 1598 he edited, and wrote the preface to, a pamphlet of eighty-eight pages, entitled ‘A Courteous Conference with the English Catholickes Romane, about the six articles ministered unto the Seminarie Priests,’ 4to, London. This loyal and excessively rare treatise had been left in manuscript by John Bishop, a recusant papist, a native of Battle, Sussex. Its design is to show the unlawfulness of revolting from the authority of the civil magistrate on account of religion. Frewen's uncompromising puritanism brought him at length into collision with some of his chief parishioners. At the Lewes summer assizes in 1611 they preferred a bill of indictment against him for nonconformity, but the grand jury ignored the bill, and Frewen vindicated himself in eight successive sermons, published as ‘Certaine Sermons on the 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 verses of the Eleventh Chapter of S. Paule his Epistle to the Romanes. Preached in the parish church of Northiam, in the county of Sussex,’ 12mo, London, 1612. Copies are of comparatively rare occurrence. Exactly two hundred and fifty years later Octavius Lord, the then rector of Northiam, a descendant in the female line of Frewen, ‘re-preached’ them by request on eight successive Sundays in the same pulpit. In 1621 Frewen published his ‘Certaine choise grounds and principles of our Christian Religion, … wherein the people of the parish of Northiam, in the county of Sussex, have been catechized and instructed for the settling of their hearts and mindes in the mysteries of Salvation,’ 12mo, London. Frewen's persecutors still continued to annoy him, and he was compelled to appeal to the ecclesiastical court at Lewes, 30 July 1622, when it was deposed that one Robert Cresswell of Northiam, ‘gentleman,’ had on 26 June 1621, on the open highway, insulted the rector, ‘calling him old Fole, old Asse, old Coxscombe.’ Cresswell was, after due citation, excommunicated. In 1627 Frewen sat for his portrait to Mark Gheeraerts [q. v.], and the picture is still preserved among the fine series of family portraits in the banqueting-room at Brickwall. ‘It is a half-length, and represents the old puritan in full canonicals, except that he wears a very broad-brimmed hat. His right hand rests upon a Geneva bible, open at 2 Kings, chapter xxiii.—a favourite passage with the puritans, as it describes Josiah's zeal for religious reformation; his left hand grasps a skull.’ The expression of the countenance is both benign and acute. It has been engraved by Scriven (Evans, Cat. of Engraved Portraits, ii. 161). On 1 June of the same year, ‘being aged and weake in bodie,’ he made his will (registered in P. C. C. 38, Barrington). He died towards the end of April 1628, and was buried in the chancel of his own church on the following 2 May. He was married three times. By his first wife, Eleanor, who died in 1606, he had six sons: Accepted (1588–1664) [q. v.], Thankfull (1591–1656), purse-bearer and secretary of petitions to Lord-keeper Coventry, who suffered for his loyalty during the civil war and Commonwealth (cf. his will, P. C. C. 110, Ruthen; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660–1, p. 63, where he is described as ‘clerk of appeals and clerk of the crown in chancery’); John (1595–1654), his father's successor in the rectory of Northiam; Stephen of Brickwall, citizen of London, master of the Skinners' Company, and fined for alderman of Vintry Ward; Joseph; and Mary, wife of John Bigg of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. In 1607 he married Helen Hunt, probably daughter of Richard Hunt of Brede, Sussex, and by her had Benjamin, citizen of London; Thomas, a captain in Cromwell's army for invading Ireland, and founder of the family at Castle Connel, near Limerick (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1649–50, p. 573); and Samuel. The second Mrs. Frewen died in 1616, and Frewen married, on 29 July 1619 at St. Antholin's, Budge Row, London, a third wife, Susan Burdon, who survived him many years (Parish Register, Harl. Soc. p. 54).
In addition to his published writings he left a large unfinished work in manuscript, entitled ‘Grounds and Principles of Christian Religion;’ it consisted of seven books, of which two only (the fourth and fifth, of 95 and 98 folio pages respectively) have been preserved.
[Sussex Archæological Collections; Smyth's Obituary (Camd. Soc.), p. 43; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. viii. 222, 296–7, 2nd ser. x. 385; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1650, p. 192, 1653–4, p. 114, 1655, p. 227; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iv. 821, 823; Benjamin Brook's Lives of the Puritans, iii. 518; Lower's Sussex Worthies, pp. 45–9, 198, from the information of Thomas Frewen, esq. of Brickwall; Burke's Landed Gentry, 4th ed. p. 518, 7th ed. i. 689; Index of Leyden Students (Index Soc.); Commons' Journals, vi. 428; Le Neve's Pedigrees of the Knights (Harl. Soc.), p. 395; Will of John Frewen, M.D., of Northiam, dated 3 Jan. and proved 9 June 1659 (reg. in P. C. C.).]