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Walter Yonge (1599–1649)

A Member of the Westminster Assembly

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His Works:

  1. A vade mecum or table containing the substance of such statutes wherein any one or more justices of the peace are inabled to deale in, at the sessions of the peace (1643) by Walter Yonge


Biography of Walter Yonge:

Walter Yonge (1599–1649) diarist, born about 1581, was second son and heir of John Yonge (d. 1612) of Colyton, Devonshire, by his wife, Alice Starre or Stere. He is said to have been descended from Thomas Yonge (1405?–1476); his father was a prominent merchant of Lyme Regis, and has been identified with the John Yonge who dedicated to Queen Elizabeth a ‘Discourse’ advocating the establishment of a ‘bank of money’ (Bernard, Cat. MSS. Angliæ, i. 798; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. xi. 224, 331). Walter Yonge lived during his father’s lifetime at Upper Helions, Devonshire; but his elder brother, John, having died without issue in 1584, he succeeded on his father’s death to the family property at Colyton. He matriculated from Magdalen College, Oxford, on 19 April 1599, aged 18, but left the university without a degree, and in 1600 was admitted a student of the Middle Temple. He was called to the bar, but, if he practised, he made no mark in his profession. He took an active part in local affairs, was for many years justice of the peace in Devonshire, and served as sheriff in 1628. In 1640 a committee of the House of Commons having reported Honiton as one of the boroughs that had formerly sent members of parliament but had discontinued doing so, Yonge, who belonged to the puritan party, was elected member for Honiton. Soon after the outbreak of the civil war he was appointed one of the victuallers of the navy, and was acting as such as late as 18 Oct. 1648 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1644 p. 353, 1648–9 p. 308). According to Foster he was one of the members secluded on 6 Dec. following, but his name does not occur in Rushworth’s list (Collections, iv. ii. 1355). He died in December 1649, and was buried at Colyton on the 26th. By his wife Jane, daughter of Sir John and niece of Sir William Peryam, Yonge was father of Sir John Yonge (1603–1663), who was one of the members secluded by Cromwell, was created a baronet at the Restoration, and by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Strode, was ancestor of Sir William Yonge.

Yonge’s only published work was ‘A Manual, or a Justice of the Peace his Vade-Mecum,’ London, 1642, 12mo, which was enlarged and republished by Samuel Blackersby in 1711. But he was an inveterate diarist; his earliest diary begins in 1604, and his latest goes down to 1645; the earliest portion, extending from 1604 to 1627, was edited in 1848 by Mr. George Roberts from a manuscript in his possession for the Camden Society. The manuscript is now British Museum Addit. MS. 28032, but this is the least interesting portion of Yonge’s diaries; the most valuable by far is the diary of the proceedings of the Long parliament, which he began on 19 Sept. 1642, and continued till 10 Dec. 1645. This is extant in four volumes in the British Museum (Addit. MSS. 18777–18780); the volumes are very similar to modern reporters’ notebooks, and by means of a number of shorthand contractions, of which Yonge gives a list at the beginning of the first volume, he was able to take down the substance of speeches as they were delivered. These volumes were unknown to the editor of Yonge’s ‘Diary,’ which they greatly surpass as a contemporary record of events.

Yonge is also conjectured to have compiled British Museum Addit. MS. 22474, which consists of ‘Speaches, Passages, and other Observations at the Parliament … begun 6 Feb. 1625–6.’ The manuscript is not in Yonge’s hand, but very probably was a fair copy made by a secretary, possibly with a view to publication, and it has the initials ‘W. Y.’ at the corner of the first leaf. The ‘Reports of Sermons preached in London 1642–4,’ extant in British Museum Addit. MSS. 18781–2, are by Yonge’s second son, Walter.

[Works in Brit. Museum Library; Official Return of Members of Parl.; Vivian’s Visitations of Devonshire, 1895, pp. 840–1; Burke’s Extinct Baronetcies; Tanner MS. 58, f. 524; Foster’s Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; authorities cited.]


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