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Commonplace book of Joseph Hobson of Clerkenwell, London

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MS. 9457
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Hobson appears to have written up entries at various times between the 1650s and the 1700s, with some pages unfinished, or reused for later additions. The chronicle running from pp. 1-54 appears to have been written at the time of, or shortly after, the events described. On p. 51 in describing a dispute at the Sorbonne, he adds a date, 2 June 1663, and then remarks that 'since this some weekes after the Sorbonists have agreed...' . Much of the volume is filled with extracts from religious books mainly concerned with the relationship between, and the merits or otherwise of, different kinds of church discipline, Anglican, Presbyterian, Independent and Catholic. The impression is of a man, who from his connections would seem to have been closely connected with puritanism during the Commonwealth period, coming to terms with the Restoration settlement. His reading matter includes several works of Anglicans and one overt Laudian (Shelford). Among the extracts are several references to the Cromwellian regime, including a list of MPs and 'articles of agreement' relating to the setting up of the Protectorate in 1653. His own opinions are not recorded, but there are occasional glimpses of a certain distaste for developments after the Restoration. In describing the making void of the Solemn League and Covenant by the Scottish Parliament in Feb 1661, he adds a marginal note (p. 19) 'but God will judge'; in transcribing a passage in a newsbook describing the installation of bishops in Ireland, he adds in the margin (p. 21) 'the manner of consecrating Bish[ops] in all its punctillio in this weekes book'; and in Sep 1660, he remarks with apparent disapproval (p. 11) that the 'King went to Greenwich in his pleasure boat on Sabathday', and later records a disaster at Nantes (p. 35) as 'a judgement upon Sabbath breakers' .

The manuscript has a contemporary pagination, though through scribal error there is no p. 177 or 233, and there are four unnumbered pages, after pages 234 and 241.

The extracts include:

  1. (inside cover, pp. iii-v) indexes to some subjects in books read, with page numbers referring to extracts in the commonplace book.
  2. (pp. ii-i rev.) notes of deaths of extended family members, 1646-1702, including 'brother William Hobson', Hackney, 19 June 1650; 'my father Smythes' Fleet Street, 1675, and 'my mother M[istr]is Elizabeth Smithes', Bedford, 1658; 'my daughter Elizabeth Winch', 1660; 'my father Hobson dyed at my brother Wards house upon Lawrence Paultney Hill' 19 Nov 1661; 'brother Sir William Bolton' 1679; 'my deare sister Warde dyed 24th December 1685 at Amsterdam [i.e. in exile with Sir Patience Ward]; 'daughter Bickely at Alleborogh Hall in Norfold (sic, i.e. Norfolk), 1685 [1686 new style]; Sir Francis Bickley, Norwich, 1687; 'my brother Samuel Disbrow' [Desborough], 1690, buried 'Elesw[orth]'; 'my neice Morton' Westminster, 1694; 'my cozin Sarah Crosse', daughter of Sir William Bolton; Sir Patience Ward, 10 July 1696; 'our son Mr John Winch', 1697, at Buckland, Herts.; 'sister Disbrowe', 1699, at Elesworth; 'my deer very deere wife, Mrs Elizabeth Hobson' 1701, buried Clerkenwell Church; 'my Lady Bolton' at 'Hackny' 1702 (see biographical history).
  3. (p. i) outline of Millenarian beliefs, presumably an extract from a printed book.
  4. (p. vi and pp. 1-54) a chronicle of contemporary events, beginning at the appointment of Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector in 1653 (preceded by a brief account of the main events between the death of Cromwell and the Restoration), giving a fairly detailed account of the political manoeuvres of the last days of the Interregnum and the early Restoration period, 16 June 1659 to 3 June 1663, with references to international and colonial affairs, apparently derived from newsbooks or other publications. Much relates to orders and acts of the English Parliament and the Council of State, with separate attention given to the acts of, or acts relating to, the governments of Ireland and Scotland. 11 lines on p. 8 are written in shorthand (covering events in February 1660 New Style). Other notable entries include (p. 1) reference to a slave conspiracy in Barbados, and disarming of the slaves, 16 Jun 1659; banishment of Quakers from New England, Sep 1659; (p. 2) mention of the replacement of army officers by commissioners, including Major General Disbrow and Colonel John Disbrow, Oct 1659; (p. 5) mention that Col. Disbrow's regiment has submitted to the Speaker, Jan 1660; (p. 10) reference to a proclamation for the burning of books by John Milton and John Goodwin for justifying regicide; (p. 18) reference to the disinterring of the bodies of Oliver Cromwell, John Bradshaw and Henry Ireton and their hanging at Tyburn, Jan 1661.
  5. (p. 112-119) an index to subjects in books read, apparently not relating to passages in the commonplace book, though two entries on p. 118 in a different pen do relate to this volume.
  6. (pp. 134-136) an untitled speech to the Lords [text is the speech of Lord Lucas, 21 Feb 1672]
  7. (pp. 137-141) extracts headed 'Messelania', including some relating to natural history taken out of a work by Sir Francis Drake, and some relating to the history of heresy from an unnamed source or sources.
  8. (p. 142) ‘The forme of an Indenture betweene the Sheriff and the Electors of persons to serve in Parliament for Countys’, 1660
  9. (pp. 143-144) A list of MPs for the Parliament of 4 June 1653, arranged by county, including Scotland and Ireland (this appears to be the 'Nominated Assembly' following the expulsion of the Rump Parliament in Apr 1653) with (p. 144) a list of the Council of State (including Desborough), the 'names of the Counsell'; (pp. 144-146) the names of all the knights and burgesses in Parliament Nov 1640; (pp. 146-148) knights and burgesses 27 May 1652, arranged by county, and then by constituencies within counties, England and Wales only; (pp. 148-151) knights and burgesses as above, 3 Sep 1654, with Yorkshire out of alphabetical sequence coming after Durham; (pp. 152-155) persons returned to Parliament 1656 for counties and corporations, including Scotland and Ireland, with Yorkshire out of sequence again.
  10. (pp. 155-156) a note of the dissolution of the Privy Council, with a list of names of new Privy Councillors, 12 Apr 1679.
  11. (p. 158) copies of ‘A Letter from Lord Lothian concerning the Kings coming to the Scoch Armie May 5 1646’, and of a remonstrance from the City of London to Parliament re suppresssion of sects and the establishment of presbyterian government.
  12. (pp. 160-164) ‘Out of Lord St Johns Speech 1640 to the Lords in Parliament about Ship Mony’.
  13. (pp. 164-169) ‘Taken out of a booke called the Humble Answer of the Divines attending the Honorable Commission of Parliament at the treatie of Newport in the Isle of Wight’ 6 Oct 1648 [Westminster Assembly, The humble answer of the Divines attending the Honorable Commissioners of Parliament, at the treaty at Newport in the Isle of Wight. To the second paper delivered to them by his Majesty, Octob. 6. 1648. about episcopall government (London, 1648).
  14. (pp. 170-176) extracts from an unnamed source [Ministers and Elders of the London Provinciall Assembly, A Vindication of the Presbyteriall-Government and Ministry (London, 1649)].
  15. (pp. 178-193) ‘Out of Mr Moors book' [Dr Henry More, An Explanation of the Grand Mystery of Godliness (London, 1660)].
  16. (pp. 194-199) 'Taken out of Dr Edward Sparkes his book preacher at St James Clerkenwell on[e] of the kings chaplains and dedecated to his majestie Charles the Second’ 13 May 1661 [Edward Sparke, Scintillula Altaris, or a Pious Reflection on Primitive Devotion: as to the Feasts and Fasts of the Christian Church orthodoxally Revived (London, 1652)].
  17. (pp. 201-202) 'Taken out of a booke written by ... Robert Shelford' [Shelford, Robert, 1562/3-1627 Five Pious and Learned Discourses (1635)].
  18. (p. 203) 'Taken out of Dr Pier's sermon preached before the King: 1663' [Thomas Pierce or Peirse (1622–1691), churchman and controversialist: preached before Charles II, 1 Feb 1663]
  19. (pp. 204-206) 'Out of a booke called Speeches & passages of Parlm beg. 3d November 1640 to June 1641' [ Speeches and passages of this great and happy Parliament: from the third of November, 1640, to this instant June, 1641 (London, 1641)].
  20. (pp. 207-208) 'Articles of Agreement betweene the Lord Protector (Oliver Lord Crumwell) and the Common wealth of England' [Contains 25 clauses, and in form is like a shorter and simpler version of the constitution of the Protectorate drawn up between December 1653 and Jan 1654 (the 'Instrument of Government').
  21. (pp. 237-273) 'Taken out of Dr Mores booke Inquiries into the Mysterie of Iniquity' [Dr Henry More, A modest enquiry into the mystery of iniquity (London, 1664)].
  22. (pp. 217-236) 'Taken out of a booke called the grand debate concerning Presbitery and Independency by the Assembly of Divines convened at Westminster 1642' [ The grand debate concerning Presbitery and independency by the Assembly of Divines convened at Westminster (London, 1652).]
  23. (pp. 209-216) extracts ‘out of Mr John Geeres booke answering severall questions’ [John Geree (c1600-1649), Vindiciæ ecclesiæ Anglicanae, or, Ten cases resolved which discover that though there bee need of Reformation in, yet not of separation from the Churches of Christ in England (London, 1644)].


  • Creation: c 1655-c 1702


287 pages

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 9457].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.


MS. 9457

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 9457


Commonplace book of Joseph Hobson of Clerkenwell, London, c 1655-c 1702

Biographical / Historical

Joseph Hobson (d 1712) is an obscure figure, with interesting connections in the Interregnum and Restoration periods. In his will, proved 4 October 1712 (TNA, PROB 11/529/44), he is described as a gentleman of Saint James, Clerkenwell, Middlesex. He was the son of William Hobson esquire of Hackney, Middlesex (died c 1662), a haberdasher (TNA, PROB 11/307/438). From the wills of the father and son, and internal evidence in the commonplace book, we learn that Joseph was closely connected to the Cromwellian regime. He was the brother-in-law of Samuel Desborough or Disbrow/Disbrowe (1619-1690), politician and administrator, and one of the founders of Guildford, Connecticut. Desborough and another brother, John, were colonels in the Parliamentary army in the Civil War, and Samuel was a prominent member of Cromwell's Protectorate, serving on the Scottish Council, and becoming Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland. John Desborough was Oliver Cromwell's brother-in-law. In 1655 Samuel married Rose Hobson, sister of Joseph Hobson. In 1660 he switched support to Charles II and received a pardon before retiring to Elsworth, Cambridgeshire (for further details see ODNB). Sir Patience Ward (1629-1696), merchant and politician, was another brother-in-law of Joseph, marrying Elizabeth Hobson (d 1685) in 1653. Ward was a leading London Independent, and continued to oppose Charles II's religious policies after the Restoration. As a London alderman, and later Mayor of London, he became a spokesman for the dissenting interest. His opposition led to his exile 1683-1688, and he returned as an alderman at the Revolution of 1688. For further details see ODNB.

Joseph Hobson was was admitted to Gray’s Inn on 6 Feb 1645 - see ed. Joseph Foster, The register of admissions to Gray's inn, 1521-1889 (London, 1889), p. 239 - where he is described as son of William Hobson of Paternoster-row, London, merchant.

In his will, Joseph Hobson asked to be buried with his first wife in the middle aisle of Clerkenwell Church. The will mentions a still-living second wife, Jane. He left money for 'godly ministers'; and money to Captain John Bickley, the son of Sir Francis Bickley, 3rd baronet, and other members of the Bickley family.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased, John Hart bookseller, Oct 2013

Physical Facet

Binding: vellum covers, inscribed 'I.H.' on front.

Catalogue of the commonplace book of Joseph Hobson, c 1655-c 1702
Finding aid prepared by Mike Webb
Language of description
Script of description
Purchased with the generous support of the Aurelius Trust

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom