John Hewson

Hardline army officer and regicide who became governor of Dublin and was known as Lord Hewson during Cromwell's Protectorate.

Portrait of John HewsonJ ohn Hewson was a London shoemaker who enlisted in the Parliamentarian army and served under the Earls of Essex and Manchester during the English CIvil War. He worked his way up the ranks and was appointed lieutenant-colonel in Colonel Pickering's regiment on the formation of the New Model Army in April 1645. When Pickering died the following December, Hewson was promoted to colonel.

Hewson was a religious radical, proclaiming himself "a Child of Wrath" in one of his frequent impromptu sermons. He became deeply involved in the political struggle between the Army and Parliament in 1647 and was chosen as one of the representatives to present the Army's grievances to Parliament. However, he remained loyal to the Grandees and opposed to the extremism of the Levellers. Following the Putney Debates of November 1647, Hewson was one of the officers appointed to draw up the Grandees' alternative to the Levellers' Agreement of the People.

During the Second Civil War (1648), Hewson's regiment went with General Fairfax to suppress the Royalist uprising in Kent. He fought at the battle of Maidstone, then assisted Colonel Rich in the relief of Dover and the recapture of the castles at Deal, Walmer and Sandwich. He supported Pride's Purge in December 1648 and was appointed to the High Court of Justice. Hewson was a signatory of the King's death warrant, and was apparently given the task of finding an executioner to behead him.

In April 1649, Hewson's regiment mutinied when it was selected for service in Ireland. The mutineers were cashiered, which prompted the Leveller mutinies of April-May 1649. Hewson opposed the mutinies and accompanied Fairfax and Cromwell during the pursuit and suppression of the Levellers at Burford.

In the summer of 1649, Hewson commanded a regiment in Cromwell's invasion of Ireland. He played a prominent role in the storming of Drogheda, after which he was appointed governor of Dublin. Hewson led 3,000 troops from Dublin in February 1650 to capture Royalist strongholds in counties Kildare and Carlow. Cromwell and Ireton marched up from the south to join forces with him to storm and capture the Confederate capital Kilkenny in March 1650, during which Hewson was wounded; it was probably at the siege of Kilkenny that he lost an eye. He remained in Ireland as governor of Dublin after Cromwell's departure in May 1650.

Hewson encouraged the radical preacher John Rogers to establish a congregation of Baptists and Independents at Dublin and strongly supported Charles Fleetwood as Lord-Deputy of Ireland because of his toleration of the godly sects. Hewson was chosen to represent Ireland in the Nominated Assembly of 1653. He supported the establishment of the Protectorate, but according to some accounts he was induced to do so by the offer of money and grants of Irish land. Hewson represented Dublin in the First Protectorate Parliament (1654). In 1655, Fleetwood was replaced as Lord-Deputy by the more moderate Henry Cromwell, who was eager to remove Baptists and other sectarians from office in Ireland — leading to a clash between Henry and the godly officers. Hewson lost the governorship of Dublin in 1656 after unsuccessfully petitioning for Fleetwood's return.

Although Hewson opposed Parliament's offer of the Crown to Cromwell in February 1657, he accepted a seat in the controversial Upper House in January 1658, where he sat as Lord Hewson. The Earl of Warwick and other aristocrats are said to have refused to recognise the Upper House because of Hewson's lowly birth. During the political chaos that followed the collapse of the Protectorate, Hewson made himself very unpopular in London when in December 1659 he led a body of troops to suppress a demonstration calling for a free Parliament, during which several demonstrators were killed.

In May 1660, with the Restoration imminent, Hewson fled to the Continent. His date and place of death are not known for certain.


C.H. Firth, Cromwell's Army (London1902)

Christopher Durston, John Hewson, Oxford DNB, 2004

James Scott Wheeler, Cromwell in Ireland (New York 1999)