John Barwick of Witherslack

NPG D29584; John Barwick by George VertueJohn was born in 1612 so was in the prime of life just in time for the English Civil War. Cumberland was largely Royalist.  Perhaps its remoteness meant that being so far from London they weren’t as caught up in events as folk further south; or perhaps it was the fact that they were great traditionalists.  Whatever the reason the English Civil War saw many a Cumbrian Gentleman ruin himself financially in the king’s name as well as laying down their lives.  Carlisle was reduced to starvation during the siege that is amply documented by Isaac Tullie.

 

Elsewhere, John Barwick having made his way from the delightfully named Witherslack to Cambridge where he attained his degree and went on to become a Doctor of Divinity put down his books and pens when the king raise this standard.  He became a courier for Charles I bringing the money and silver plate of St John’s College to Nottingham rather than allowing it to fall into Parliamentary hands.  He then set about writing tracts promoting Charles’ cause.  It cost him his position in Cambridge but nothing daunted he moved his operation to London- into the Archbishop of London’s house in fact- where he continued to write for the king.

It was only after Charles’ execution that John was captured and confined in the Tower of London.  He was eventually released and John took up his pen once more on behalf of Charles II sending ciphered letters from London to Europe.  His reward was to be made Dean of Old St Paul’s.

He died in 1664 but he never forgot the village of his birth.  His will left a bequest enabling ground to be purchased for burials, a school to be built, dowries to be given to girls and the old and infirm to be provided with fuel.  His will also provided for a curate to tend to the flock where two of his brothers had lived their lives as farmers.

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