PELHAM, Thomas (d.1624), of Laughton; later of Halland Place, Suss.
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Family and Education
2nd s. of Sir Nicholas Pelham†, and bro. of John. educ. Lewes g.s. 1557; Queens’, Camb. 1561; ?G. Inn 1566. m. Mary, da. of Sir Thomas Walsingham of Chislehurst, Kent, 1s. 1da. suc. nephew Oliver Pelham 1585. cr. Bt. 1611.1
J.p.q. Suss. from c. 1583; sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1589-90; dep. lt. Suss. from 1601.2
Pelham succeeded to the lordship of the hundred of Shiplake in Sussex, the manors of Laughton and Colbrands and other lands in Laughton and Ripe. He also inherited the reversion of Hawksborough, Shoyswell and Baldslow hundreds in the same county, of Burwash, Bevilham and Crowhurst manors and of the messuage called ‘Halland’ in East Hoathly, in all of which Oliver’s mother, Judith Pelham, had an interest until her death in 1607.3
He was returned through his local standing for Lewes in 1584, his estate at Laughton being less than five miles distant. In 1586 he was elected for the county seat when his rival, Sir Thomas Shirley I, was in the Netherlands.4
He held his full share of local offices and was regularly a justice of the quorum. When the list of justices was overhauled in 1587 he was reported to be a good justice ‘as well in respect of religion as of the commonwealth’ but since he was ‘full of infirmity’, a fresh appointment was recommended. If in fact his name was removed it was replaced by 1591. Pelham successfully concluded the long struggle (begun in the lifetime of John Pelham) between his family and Anthony Smyth, the Crown’s lessee, for possession of the Dicker common, comprising some 450 acres in Hellingly, near Laughton. This went on in the duchy of Lancaster court, the Star Chamber and Queen’s bench and, during the minority of Oliver Pelham, in the court of wards. After 1585, Thomas Pelham defended his family’s cause both in the duchy court and in Queen’s bench, where a special jury of Sussex men found for him and against the Crown. There is much evidence of Pelham’s prosperity in the later years of Elizabeth. For the Armada loan he was assessed at £100, the highest rate known in Sussex; in 1589 he bought the manor of Foxhunt for £780 and both built and endowed Cuckfield school; and two years later he bought the castle, lordship and rape of Hastings from Henry, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon. Meanwhile he was building a new residence, Halland Place, in East Hoathly, to which he moved from Laughton in 1595. A principal source of his wealth may have been his ironworks at Waldron. In 1610 the Earl of Sussex had asked Salisbury for the wardship of Pelham’s son, in the event of the father’s early death, thinking him a suitable match for his younger daughter, and in the following year Pelham was one of the first to buy himself a baronetcy.