Open main menu


VENNER, THOMAS (d. 1661), plotter, a cooper by trade, was admitted a freeman of Massachusetts in March 1637–8 (Winthrop, Hist. of Massachusetts, ed. 1853, ii. 448). He returned to England, and became one of the preachers of the Fifth-monarchy men (Thurloe, v. 272). In April 1657 the Protector's government discovered a plot headed by him for a rising of Fifth-monarchy men in London. A declaration meant to be published by the insurrectionists, and their standard bearing a red lion couchant, with the motto ‘Who shall rouse him up?’ were seized, and exhibited to the parliament by Secretary Thurloe (Commons' Journals, vii. 521; Ludlow, Memoirs, ed. 1894, ii. 38). In Thurloe's narrative to the house he said: ‘The chief and leader of them is one Venner, that was a wine cooper, and about two years since had a place in the Tower, from whence he was removed, being observed to be a fellow of desperate and bloody spirit, and was suspected to have designs to blow up the Tower with powder. … He had also spake at the same time very desperate words concerning the murdering of his Highness' (Thurloe, vi. 163, 185). On 9 April Venner was sent to the Tower, and he was still in confinement there in February 1659 (ib. vi. 188, vii. 598).

When released he returned to his old trade of preaching, and on the night of 6 Jan. 1661, after exhorting his adherents in their meeting-house in Coleman Street, set forth with about fifty men to overthrow the government and set up the Fifth monarchy. Their watchword was ‘The King Jesus, and the heads upon the gates.’ After a skirmish with the trained bands in the city they retired to Highgate, and thence to Caen Wood. On 9 Jan. they appeared again in the city, and those who were not killed were captured by the king's guards in Wood Street, after a very sharp fight (Kennet, Register, pp. 354, 356; Baker, Chronicle, ed. Phillips, p. 756; Pepys, Diary, 10 Jan. 1661; Mackinnon, Coldstream Guards, i. 98). The prisoners were tried on 17 Jan. at the Old Bailey, before Chief-justice Foster, and Venner was hanged and quartered before his meeting-house in Coleman Street on 19 Jan. (Somers Tracts, ed. Scott, vii. 812; State Trials, vi. 106; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660–1, p. 471).

A portrait of Venner is given in Pagitt's ‘Heresiography,’ 1662.

[Authorities mentioned in the article.]

C. H. F.