Swynfen, John (DNB00)

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SWYNFEN or SWINFEN, JOHN (1612–1694), politician, born in 1612 at Swinfen, near Lichfield, was the eldest son of Richard Swynfen, to whose estates he succeeded in 1659. The family originally came from Leicestershire (Nichols, Leicestershire, iv. 546; Visit. Leicestershire, Harl. Soc. p. 134). John early adopted politics as a career, and on 30 Oct. 1640, at a by-election caused by the disqualification of the two original members, he was returned to the Long parliament for Stafford. He espoused the parliamentary cause during the civil wars, but confined his activity to civil affairs. In 1645 he was appointed commissioner for compounding in Stafffordshire (Cal. Comm. for Compounding, p. 26), and subsequently served on the committee for the ejection of ignorant and scandalous ministers. Disapproving of the aims of the independents, Swynfen was one of the members excluded from parliament by ‘Pride's Purge’ in 1648. He was returned for Tamworth to Richard Cromwell's parliament, which met on 27 Jan. 1658–9; but when the Long parliament was restored on 7 May following, Swynfen, as an excluded member, was not allowed to take his seat. He was, however, restored with the other excluded members by Monck on 21 Feb. 1659–60, and was returned for Stafford to the Convention parliament which met on 25 April following. His prompt action was largely instrumental in securing the election of Sir Harbottle Grimston [q. v.] as speaker (Bramston, Autobiogr. Camden Soc. pp. 114–16).

Swynfen was re-elected member for Tamworth in Charles II's first parliament, which sat from 8 April 1661 till 24 Jan. 1678–9, and became prominent as an opponent of the court party. On 10 Nov. 1662 Pepys refers to him as ‘the great Mr. Swinfen, the Parliament man’ (Diary, ed. Braybrooke, ii. 64), and on 3 Jan. following considered himself fortunate in hearing Swynfen speak in a conference between the two houses on the wine patent (ib. iii. 370). In the debates on the exclusion bill Swynfen, who had been appointed one of the committee to draw it up, took an active part, and Arlington is said to have made a vain endeavour to bribe him to join the court party (Tucker, Life of Earl St. Vincent, i. 2, 3). Swynfen was again elected for Tamworth to the parliament which met on 28 March 1680–1, but did not sit during James II's reign. He was, however, returned for Beeralston on 11 March 1689–90. Narcissus Luttrell reported his death on 29 March 1694 (Brief Relation, iii. 287), but, according to the inscription on his tomb, he died on 12 April. His successor in the representation of Beeralston was elected on 14 May. He was buried at Weeford, Staffordshire (Shaw, Staffordshire, ii. 25).

By his wife, daughter of one Brandreth, Swynfen had a large family. Two sons, John (d. 1671) and Richard (b. 1634), were graduates of Pembroke College, Oxford, and members of Gray's Inn (Foster, Gray's Inn Reg.; Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714). The former's only daughter and heiress, Mary, married, on 14 July 1692, John Jervis (1670–1746), and became mother of Swynfen Jervis, father of John Jervis, first earl St. Vincent [q. v.], the naval commander.

Swynfen's third son, Francis, was father of Samuel Swynfen or Swinfen (1679–1734), who matriculated from Pembroke College on 31 March 1696, graduated B.A. in 1699, M.A. in 1703, M.B. in 1706, and M.D. in 1712. He was lecturer in grammar to the university in 1705 (Hearne, Collections, i. 8), and afterwards established himself in practice as a physician at Lichfield. There he became godfather to Dr. Johnson, giving him his name Samuel (Boswell, Johnson, ed. Hill, i. 34, 58, 64, 80, 83, iii. 222, 240). Dr. Johnson as a boy submitted to Swynfen an account in Latin of his maladies, with the ability of which Swynfen was so much struck that, much to Johnson's disgust, he showed it to several of his friends [cf. art. Johnson, Samuel, (1709–1784)]. Swynfen died at Birmingham on 10 May 1736.

[Much of Swynfen's correspondence is preserved at Meaford Hall, Staffordshire, some is in the Salt Library, Stafford, and twelve volumes of letters are now in the British Museum (Addit. MSS. 29910–20, 30013). See also, besides authorities quoted, Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. App. passim, 12th Rep. App. ii. 447; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1640–71; Commons' Journals, iv. 619, v. 530; Official Return of Members of Parliament; Parl. Debates, i. 293; Macleane's Hist. of Pembroke Coll. Oxford, p. 330; Shaw's Staffordshire; Harwood's Erdeswick, 1844, pp. 154, 292, 316, 433; Burke's Landed Gentry, 5th edit., and Peerage, 1896, s.v. ‘St. Vincent;’ Notes and Queries, 6th ser. v. 352; information supplied by Mr. F. Huskisson of Warlingham.]

A. F. P.