Rosworme, John (DNB00)

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ROSWORME or ROSWORM, JOHN (fl. 1630–1660), engineer-general of the army of the Commonwealth, was a German by birth, and had served as a military engineer on the Continent and in Ireland, previous to the outbreak of the Irish insurrection in 1641, after which he left Ireland, and in the spring of 1642 settled at Manchester.

On the outbreak of the civil war, Rosworme entered into a contract with the principal citizens of Manchester to defend the town against James Stanley, lord Strange (afterwards Earl of Derby) [q. v.], for the next six months for a sum of 30l. The day after the contract was signed Lord Strange sent a present of 150l. to Rosworme, but, ‘valuing honesty more than gold,’ Rosworme returned it.

In September the royalist troops, four thousand strong, mustered under Strange at Warrington, and Rosworme set up posts and chains in Manchester to keep out the enemy's horse, and barricaded the ends of the streets with mud walls. He completed his provisional fortification by 23 Sept. 1642. Lord Strange arrived before Manchester on the following day, and the siege began. After a vigorous defence Strange, who had become Earl of Derby by his father's death on 29 Sept., finding his losses, especially of distinguished adherents, heavy, raised the siege on 1 Oct. On 24 Dec. 1642 Rosworme took part in a sally to prevent Lord Derby making head and again attacking Manchester. They broke the royalist force at Chowbent and captured Leigh, returning within three days. Manchester was thus secured to the parliament, and confidence was given to the parliamentary cause throughout Lancashire and the adjoining counties. On 2 Jan. 1643 Lord Wharton appointed Rosworme lieutenant-colonel of Ashton's regiment of foot, and in February he joined the regiments of Sir John Seaton and Colonel Holland in an attack on Preston. It was captured by assault on the 9th, and Rosworme remained to fortify the place.

On the termination of his half-year's engagement with Manchester, Rosworme was induced to execute a new contract by which in return for a yearly salary of 60l., to be paid quarterly, during the life of himself and his wife, he bound himself to finish the fortifications of Manchester and to carry out all military affairs for the safety of the town on all occasions. He further agreed to forego his position as lieutenant-colonel in Ashton's regiment, and to accept instead the command of a foot company of the garrison of Manchester.

On 1 April 1643, having finished the fortifications of Manchester, Rosworme, although it was outside his contract, accompanied a force to attack Wigan. A gallant assault, chiefly by Ashton's regiment, took the town in less than an hour; but the enemy held the church, which surrendered after a desperate struggle. While Rosworme was receiving the garrison's arms and making preparations for their convoy, he found that Colonel Holland, the parliamentary commander, had marched away, leaving only one company to convoy four hundred prisoners, arms, and ordnance through a hostile town. There was nothing left for him but to escape as quickly as possible to Manchester. Holland's conduct was investigated by a committee in London on 15 April, and Rosworme and others attended to give evidence. Holland's influence and his many friends in parliament saved him from punishment. Thenceforth, however, he became Rosworme's enemy, and succeeding in stopping his pay as a captain for a year, on the pretext that Rosworme had not taken the covenant.

Rosworme took part in the unsuccessful attack on Warrington on 5 April 1643. In May he fortified Liverpool. On 5 July the Earl of Newcastle, having defeated the parliamentarians at Wisked Hill, Adwalton Moor, Yorkshire, and having taken Bradford, summoned Manchester. The town sent Rosworme to reconnoitre and strengthen the positions of Blackstone Edge and Blackgate, by which Lord Newcastle must approach Manchester. Considerable works of defence were erected, two pieces of ordnance mounted, and strong garrisons posted. Newcastle, hearing that the positions were impregnable, relinquished the project, and went to the siege of Hull. In January 1644 Rosworme accompanied Sir Thomas Fairfax to raise the siege of Nantwich, and was present at the battle of the 25th, returning later to Manchester. In August he accompanied Sir John Meldrum [q. v.] to the siege of Liverpool; the town had been captured by Prince Rupert the month before. Rosworme was master of the ordnance and director of the siege, which lasted ten weeks; the town capitulated on 1 Nov. In 1645 the royalists again attempted to bribe Rosworme into surrendering Manchester, and thus divert the parliamentary forces from the siege of York. Having learned all the details of the royalists' design, Rosworme disclosed it to the chief men of the town, who made ‘deep protestations and promises’ to give him pensions amounting in all to 100l., according to their means, when peace should come. Rosworme put the town in such an efficient state of defence, and showed so bold a front, that the royalists left it alone. He was now in great favour, and the town sent an importunate petition to the House of Commons for the payment of the arrears due to him, and of ‘a handsome gratuity for his desert.’ An order of council dated 4 Sept. directed the payment of the arrears, but admonished the Manchester people for the non-payment of the stipulated pension!

During the plague which broke out in the summer Rosworme refused to quit Manchester, and with a dozen of his men rendered invaluable assistance to the sick, and maintained order among the inhabitants. He received scant reward. His pension was unpaid and his pay allowed again to fall into arrear because he refused to sign the covenant. In 1648 his reduced circumstances compelled him to visit London to endeavour to obtain redress. There he published a pamphlet, dated 9 May, containing a violent attack upon the twenty-two men who signed the agreement with him on behalf of the town of Manchester. The Scots were advancing south. The town, anticipating danger, therefore recalled Rosworme, and paid him the arrears of his military pay, but not his pension. Towards the end of the year the town was again in his debt, and he went to London to petition the House of Commons. He also wrote a bitterly worded pamphlet addressed to the house and to Fairfax, Bradshaw, and Cromwell, entitled ‘Good Service hitherto Ill-Rewarded, or An Historicall Relation of Eight Years Service for King and Parliament in and about Manchester and those parts,’ London, 1649. It was reprinted by John Palmer in his ‘History of the Siege of Manchester’ in 1822. Bradshaw's advice to the town council to pay him (7 July 1649) was not followed. In July 1651 Rosworme again petitioned parliament (see broadside in Brit. Mus. The Case of Lieut.-Coll. Rosworme), and stated that his wife and children had to be relieved by strangers.

On the 19th of the following month (August 1651) Rosworme was appointed engineer-general of all the garrisons and forts in England, with 10s. a day for himself and 2s. for his clerk. He went to New Yarmouth to report on the ‘fittest places for some fortification to prevent the landing of foreign forces,’ and in September to the Isle of Man to report whether any defences were desirable there. On 17 April 1655 an order in council increased his pay by 10s. a day when actually on duty, and he was promoted to be colonel. On 26 June 1659 he attended the committee of safety, and on 19 July he was nominated engineer-general of the army, a change of title. There is no further record of him. He probably died in exile after the Restoration.

[Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1649–59; Ormerod's Tracts relating to the Military Proceedings in Lancashire during the Great Civil War (Chetham Soc.); Iter Lancastrense (Chetham Soc.); Diary of the Rev. Henry Newcombe (Chetham Soc.); A Discourse of the Warr in Lancashire, 1655 (Chetham Soc.); Vicars' England's Parliamentary Chronicle, God in the Mount, God's Arke and the Burning Bush; Professional Papers of the Corps of Royal Engineers, Occasional Papers Series, vol. xiii. 1887, Military Engineering during the Great Civil War, 1642–9, by Lieutenant-colonel W. G. Ross, R.E.; Rushworth's Historical Collections; James Wheeler's Manchester, 1836; Gardiner's Great Civil War, 1642–9.]

R. H. V.