James Berry, d.1691

Radical army officer who served in Cromwell's Ironsides and became a Major-General; after a period of imprisonment, he ended his days as a gardener.

James Berry worked as a clerk at an iron works in Shropshire during the 1630s and was a member of the congregation of the Puritan divine Richard Baxter. In 1642, he enlisted in Oliver Cromwell's cavalry regiment, where he adopted radical religious beliefs that caused a split with the more moderate Baxter.

At the battle of Gainsborough in July 1643, Berry killed the Royalist commander Sir Charles Cavendish. By 1647, he was a major in Colonel Twistleton's regiment and was involved in the political disputes between the Army and Parliament, during which he supported the radicals and acted as a spokesman for the Agitators. In 1648, Berry fought at the battle of Preston and was chosen to bring news of Cromwell's victory to London. He then served on Cromwell's campaign in Scotland and in 1651 was promoted to colonel of the cavalry regiment formerly commanded by Sir Arthur Heselrige.

After the civil wars were over, Berry purchased the former residence of the Bishop of Lincoln. During 1654, he was appointed to the Commission of Ejectors for Lincolnshire, with authority to expel inadequate ministers and schoolmasters. In March 1655, Berry took part in the suppression of a Royalist uprising at Rufford Abbey in Nottinghamshire, which was part of the abortive insurrection that culminated in Penruddock's Uprising.

Berry was appointed Major-General for Herefordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire and Wales during the Rule of the Major-Generals. His jurisdiction was the largest of the twelve regions and deputies were appointed to help him administer it. Berry was one of the most radical of the Major-Generals in matters of religion. He was associated with the Fifth Monarchist Vavasor Powell and ordered the release from prison of a number of Quakers at Evesham.

In 1656, Berry was elected to the Second Protectorate Parliament as MP for Worcestershire. When Parliament adjourned in June 1657, he rejoined his regiment in Scotland, where General Monck complained about the number of Quakers amongst his men.

One of the few Major-Generals who urged Cromwell to accept the Crown, Berry was appointed to Cromwell's Upper House in 1657. After Oliver's death, he supported Charles Fleetwood in the Army's struggle against Richard Cromwell in 1659, which he later regretted. He then supported Lambert, but General Monck, who deeply distrusted Berry for his religious radicalism, occupied London early in 1660. When the MPs excluded at Pride's Purge returned to Parliament, Berry was imprisoned for refusing to give an undertaking to live quietly. According to some accounts, he remained a prisoner in Scarborough Castle for the rest of his life, at one time sharing a cell with the Quaker leader George Fox. According to Richard Baxter, Berry was released in the early 1670s and became a gardener at Stoke Newington in Middlesex, where he died in 1691.


Sources:

Christopher Durston, James Berry , Oxford DNB, 2004

Christopher Durston, Cromwell's Major-Generals (Manchester 2001)