FREWEN, Accepted (1588-1664)

FREWEN (FREWIN), Accepted (1588–1664)

cons. 28 Apr. 1644 bp. of LICHFIELD AND COVENTRY; transl. 4 Oct. 1660 abp. of YORK

First sat 20 Nov. 1661; last sat 19 May 1662

bap. 23 May 1588, eldest s. of John Frewin, rect. Northiam, Suss. and Eleanor (surname unknown) (d.1606). educ. Free sch. Canterbury; Magdalen Oxf. BA 1609, MA 1612, BD 1619, DD 1626; incorp. Camb. 1616. unm. d. 28 Mar. 1664; will 22 May 1663, pr. 23 July 1664.1

Chap. to Charles I 1625.

Chap. to John Digby (later earl of Bristol) 1617, 1621; rect. Warnford, Hants 1626-45, Stanlake, Oxon. 1635; preb. Canterbury, 1625; dean, Gloucester, 1631-43.

Fell. Magdalen, Oxf. 1612-26, pres. 1626-44; v. chan. Oxf. 1628-30, 1638-40.

Likenesses: oil on canvas by unknown artist, Magd., Oxf.

At the death in 1627 of their father, the combative Jacobean puritan John Frewen, the family real estate went to Accepted Frewen’s younger brother, Thankful. 2 Accepted was clearly by then destined for a successful career, and by the time of his own death, he was a wealthy man. The exact value of his estate at the time of his death is confused, but it is clear that he amassed at least £30,000 in his lifetime, including a controversial windfall, estimated at £20,000, that came from lease renewals at the Restoration.3

Frewen’s advancement was aided by his link to the court through his brother, Thankful, purse bearer and secretary to the lord keeper, Sir Thomas Coventry (later Baron Coventry), who had also been a patron of his father’s.4 He accompanied John Digby, earl of Bristol, on his diplomatic mission to the Emperor Ferdinand in 1621, and to Spain in 1622, where Frewen’s encounter with the young Prince Charles on his ill-conceived mission to secure the hand of the Infanta proved fruitful for his career. Ascetic in lifestyle and originally a Calvinist, in the 1630s he nevertheless became one of the chief Oxford supporters of Archbishop William Laud, supporting his candidacy as chancellor of the university in 1630, and implementing Laud’s altar policy at Magdalen in the face of stiff resistance.5

In July 1642, Frewen, along with fellow Oxford college heads John Prideaux, bishop of Worcester, Christopher Potter and Samuel Fell, father of John Fell, later bishop of Oxford, was accused of attempting to assist the royalist war effort by helping to convey the university plate to the king at York. The Commons ordered his arrest; according to Frewen’s biographer, a £1,000 bounty was put on his head.6 He went into hiding before migrating back to royalist Oxford where he was elevated in 1644 as bishop of Coventry and Lichfield. By 1655 he was living in obscurity in London and ‘elsewhere, among his relations’, according to Wood, though he was privy to covert and ultimately abortive plans to consecrate new bishops, volunteering to return to France for the proposed ceremonies.7

In September 1660 Frewen was nominated archbishop of York. There is no evidence in the proposals made in 1659 by Edward Hyde, the future earl of Clarendon, that Frewen was intended for ecclesiastical preferment, and the appointment was described as ‘strange’ by Thomas Smith, later bishop of Carlisle, but Frewen’s closeness to Gilbert Sheldon, the future archbishop of Canterbury (whom he referred to in his will as his ‘worthy friend’, leaving him with responsibility for overseeing his bequest to Magdalen College) perhaps explains the preferment.8 Not only was he translated to the prestigious see of York, but as recompense for his financial losses during the civil wars and Interregnum, he was by ‘an extraordinary act of favour’ permitted to grant leases on his former bishopric during its lengthy vacancy while the see was offered to Richard Baxter and (according to Wood) several others. He estimated the value of new leases at £1200; later it was estimated that he had generated at least £1,500, which, Le Neve claimed, was spent on refurbishing Lichfield cathedral.9 His brief tenure of York meant that Frewen had little impact on the diocese except for his regularization of cathedral worship and fabric.10 By December 1662 he told Sheldon that he had spent more than £3000 in repairing Bishopsthorpe, the episcopal palace, plus £300 on fitting and furnishing the chapel, and he was expecting to spend much more. By 1664 he was adding to this numerous small benefactions in augmenting ‘liberally’ all vicarages in his gift, the augmentation of rents for the benefit of his successors, which required him to abate fines, and charitable gifts to distressed cavaliers. 11 There is no evidence of his involvement in parliamentary elections in York itself, where a royalist victory was assured by the personal intervention of the king, but in 1661 Frewen did exercise his electoral interest in the liberty of Ripon; he opposed both of the successful candidates from the 1660 elections – the Presbyterian, Henry Arthington, and the corporation candidate, Edmund Jennings, and successfully interposed his diocesan chancellor, Thomas Burwell, for one of the Ripon seats.12

According to Wood Frewen attended the Worcester House Conference in October 1660, though this has since been doubted.13 In March 1661 he was the most senior bishop at the Savoy Conference, although he participated little in the proceedings: Richard Baxter wrote that he attended only once or twice.14 He was also involved in Convocation throughout the spring and summer of 1661 in the prayer book revisions, but like William Juxon, archbishop of Canterbury, he seems to have been no more than an ecclesiastical figurehead.15

Frewen took his seat in the House on 20 Nov. 1661. He attended the session for just over 50 per cent of the sittings and was named to nine committees, reporting from one (the Hull churches bill) on 11 December. He was present throughout the passage of the uniformity bill and on 24 Feb. 1662 was absent from the House, attending the Privy Council while the king approved the revised prayer book.16 He was in the House the following day for the king’s recommendation to the House of the new Anglican liturgy. On 19 May 1662 he was present for the prorogation and did not return to Parliament. By August he was in his diocese, struggling with ‘the ordering of my numerous family within doors, and receiving of hourly welcomes from without’.17

Frewen, who received a report from the York postmaster in April 1662 about ‘persons formerly known as enemies of the king and Church’, only arrived in his diocese in July 1662 to prepare for the Bartholomew’s day ejections.18 Writing to Sheldon 11 days before the Act of Uniformity took effect, he described an enthusiastic welcome in York and among the surrounding gentry (‘venison huddles in daily, even from the Lord Fairfax [Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax] with sundry others’), and his intention to hold an ordination the following Sunday.19 He performed 81 ordinations to prevent ejections under the Act of Uniformity.20 The area around York was noted for radical puritanism. Frewen wrote in June 1663 to John Cosin, bishop of Durham, with whom he enjoyed a close correspondence, referring to the ‘routing’ of a Presbyterian conventicle in York and hoping for legislation against nonconformist meetings.21 He did little, however, to participate in it. On 6 Dec. 1662, hoping to obtain leave of absence from the House until April to save himself from the attendant ‘inconveniences’, not least the temporary disbandment of his household (of some 40 servants), Frewen sent Sheldon his proxy, which was registered on 17 Jan. 1663.22 He did not attend the parliamentary session that ran from 18 Feb. to 27 July 1663, and at a call of the House on 23 Feb. 1663 it was noted that he was excused. On 13 July 1663, Philip Wharton, 4th Baron Wharton, predicted that Frewen’s proxy would be used to oppose the impeachment attempt on Clarendon by George Digby, 2nd earl of Bristol.23

In January 1664, during a quarrel between the cathedral clergy and the city governors over seating in York minster (precipitated by Frewen’s reorganizations) the archbishop fell dangerously ill.24 He lingered for two months and on 2 Mar. 1664 again entered his proxy in favour of Sheldon for use during the spring 1664 parliamentary session. He died on the morning of 28 Mar. 1664, too soon to hear about the passage of the conventicles bill.

Frewen never married. He was said to be so misogynistic that he would not even allow female servants in his household.25 His numerous bequests included a sum of £500 to Magdalen College, personal gifts to Gilbert Sheldon and to John Warner, bishop of Rochester, and a ring worth 30 shillings to every English bishop as well as the poor and his servants. The residue of his considerable fortune went to his brother Stephen (a wealthy London citizen and alderman of Vintry ward), who invested over £28,000 of the inheritance with the senior City financier, Sir Robert Vyner and suffered severe financial losses during the stop on the Exchequer.26 The extent to which Frewen had profited from the renewal of Church leases, especially during the vacancy at Coventry and Lichfield, became the subject of some controversy: Le Neve’s claim that he had expended £15,000 in the diocese was treated with polite scepticism by several historians of York, including Browne Willis (who could ‘find nothing in him of a public spirit’) and Francis Drake (who could find no evidence of anything except at Bishopthorpe), and furiously defended by Frewen’s descendant Thomas Frewen.27 After lying in state at a house in the Cathedral Close, Frewen was buried on 3 May 1664 in the Lady Chapel at the east end of York Minster, where a large monument was shortly after erected.


  • 1 E. Suss. RO, FRE/60.
  • 2 Ibid. FRE/56.
  • 3 T. Frewen, Just and Plain Vindication of the late Dr Frewen (1743), 17; Green, Re-establishment of Church of England, 105.
  • 4 Just and Plain Vindication, 6.
  • 5 Tyacke, Anti-Calvinists, 77-79; Seventeenth Century Oxford, 199, 206.
  • 6 CJ ii. 669, 670; Just and Plain Vindication, 9.
  • 7 Just and Plain Vindication, 8-9; Bosher, Restoration Settlement, 27, 91; Ath. Ox. iv. 822.
  • 8 Eg. 2542, ff. 265-70; CSP Dom. 1670 and Addenda 1660-70, p. 649.
  • 9 Just and Plain Vindication, 8-9; J. Le Neve, Lives and Characters … Protestant Bishops of the Church of England since the Reformation (1720), i. pt. 2, 236.
  • 10 VCH City of York, 351; VCH Yorks. iii. 381.
  • 11 Bodl. Tanner 48, f. 69, Tanner 150, f. 52.
  • 12 HP Commons, 1660-90, i. 484, 489.
  • 13 Wood, Life, i. 347; Uniformity to Unity, 70.
  • 14 Cardwell, 257-9, 374-5; Uniformity to Unity, 105, 111; Reliquiae Baxterianae, 363.
  • 15 CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 140; Swainson, Parl. Hist. 14.
  • 16 CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 282.
  • 17 Bodl. Clarendon 77, f. 222.
  • 18 CCSP, v. 206-7.
  • 19 Clarendon 77, f. 222-3.
  • 20 Borthwick Bulletin, i. 17-30; Green, 150.
  • 21 Durham UL, Cosin letter bk. 1b, 103.
  • 22 Tanner 48, f. 69.
  • 23 Bodl. Carte 81, f. 224.
  • 24 CSP Dom. 1663-4, pp. 448, 467, 501.
  • 25 F. Drake, Eboracum: or the History and Antiquities of the City of York (1736), 464.
  • 26 Just and Plain Vindication, 16-18, Walker Revised, 4.
  • 27 B. Willis, A Survey of the Cathedrals (1742), iii. 57; Drake, Eboracum, 464; Just and Plain Vindication, 16-18.