PEDLEY, Nicholas (1615-85), of Lincoln's Inn and Abbotsleigh, Hunts.
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Family and Education
b. 17 Sept. 1615, 1st s. of Nicholas Pedley, rector of Springfield Richards, Essex 1604-20, by Susan, da. of one Brathwayte of Essex. educ. Queens’, Camb. 1633, BA 1637; L. Inn 1638, called 1646. m. (1) 14 Jan. 1641, Lucy (d. 12 May 1669), da. of Robert Bernard of Huntingdon, 8s. (4 d.v.p.) 7da.; (2) 10 June 1674, Anne, da. of Richard Dorrington of Stow, Hunts., wid. of Lawrence Torkington of Great Stukeley, Hunts., s.p. suc. fa. 1621, uncle James in Hunts. estate 1651; kntd. 29 Feb. 1672.1
Commr. for assessment, Hunts. 1647-52, 1657, Hunts. and Huntingdon Aug. 1660-80, militia, Hunts. 1648, Mar. 1660; j.p. Hunts. 1640-c.81, 1684-d., Ely 1657-Mar. 1660; commr. for poor prisoners, Hunts. 1653, scandalous ministers, Cambs. and Hunts. 1654, oyer and terminer, Norfolk circuit July 1660; master of St. John’s hosp. Huntingdon 1661-78; bencher, L. Inn 1663, treas. 1669-70, reader 1670; conservator, Bedford level 1666-d.; recorder, Huntingdon ?1672-d.; commr. for recusants, Hunts. 1675.2
Pedley’s grandfather was a petty freeholder in the eastern counties about the turn of the century, but it was his uncle who acquired the manors of Abbotsleigh and Launcelynsbury in 1622, and first served as sheriff. Pedley, a lawyer by profession, bought Wistow from Sir Oliver Cromwell in 1648 and established himself among the Huntingdonshire gentry by marriage and office. With his brother-in-law, John Bernard, he defeated the Montagu candidates at Huntingdon in 1660, but he seems to have been a court supporter in the Convention. He made no recorded speeches, but was a moderately active committeeman. He was named to twelve committees and acted as teller in three divisions. Most of his work was financial, and it is noteworthy that none of his committees was of strictly legal interest, though he took the chair for one private bill. He served on the committee for the poll bill in the first session, but was much more prominent in repairing its defects after the recess. He was three times given special responsibility for the additional bill, which he twice reported from the committee, and was also ordered to prepare a new clause. In addition he served on the committee for the drainage of the fens (in which he was financially interested) and was charged with drawing up the preamble to the six months’ assessment bill and with bringing in a bill for the relief of disabled soldiers.3
Pedley lost his seat at the general election of 1661, when his Interregnum record would have been unacceptable, and was out of the House for 12 years. In 1663 it was discovered that he had some £150 of public money in his hands which had been levied for the militia before the Restoration, and it was ‘bestowed on the relief of the corporation’ by the Earl of Sandwich (Edward Montagu I) and Lord Mandeville (Robert Montagu), whom he had defeated in 1660. Samuel Pepys, meeting Pedley for the first time in 1669, was struck with his good language and civility; believing him very upright, he henceforth entrusted him with his family legal business. He was knighted after a banquet in Lincoln’s Inn in 1672, and in the following year he was chosen for the county, probably after a contest with a candidate nominated by Henry Williams, but with the support, if tradition can be trusted, of Mandeville, now Earl of Manchester. Pedley was again moderately active in the Cavalier Parliament, in which he was appointed to 40 committees and made nine speeches. He was now clearly accepted as a legal authority. One of his first actions was to have himself added to the committee for the better observation of the martyrdom of Charles I. He helped to draw up reasons for a conference on the bill of ease for Protestant dissenters on 28 Mar. 1673. In the debate on Buckingham in 1674 he pointed out that the Duke had a patent for life as master of the horse and could not be dismissed without legal proceedings. He opened the debate on illegal exactions, agreeing that penalties should be specified, but objecting that those of treason were too high, and served on the committee. He was also named to the committee on judges’ patents, after reminding the House that senile and incompetent judges could always be removed without financial hardship by a writ of ease. In the spring session of 1675 he served on the committee for a tax on new buildings, urging that London was becoming so large and inconvenient as to constitute a legal ‘nuisance’. In the disputes with the Lords he denied that the Upper House was a court of equity, and urged professional research, rather than investigation by a committee, into the legality of their writs of habeas corpus. None of this suggests outright hostility to the Court; he was made a serjeant, and it was believed that he might be favourably influenced through his son-in-law, the future Bishop Stillingfleet. But shortly afterwards Sir Richard Wiseman described him as ‘a very ill man hitherto, and I know no way to make him better’. Presumably there was something in Pedley’s voting record to justify this verdict, but Wiseman’s mind may have been poisoned against him by his local rival (Sir) Lionel Walden I. By 1677, certainly, Pedley had earned Shaftesbury’s description of ‘doubly worthy’, and he served again on the committee on illegal exactions. His chief concern in this session was doubtless the passage of Manchester’s estate bill; his name stands first in the committee, and on 5 Apr. he was ordered with Sir John Maynard and William Williams to amend a proviso to it. Though no friend to the Court he declared during the debate on Danby’s negotiations with France on 21 Dec. 1678:
Where it concerns a person’s blood we ought to be tender; but without doubt this article is a high misdemeanour, and we can punish for no more than the crime is. I am very doubtful whether these crimes be within the statute of as Edw. III. I would have the statute read. Treason at common law this offence might be, but that was endless, and so the statute of as Edw. III was made.4
Pedley defeated Walden at the first general election of 1679, though he was compelled to step down from the county to the borough, and stigmatized as ‘vile’ on Shaftesbury’s list. He was moderately active in the first Exclusion Parliament, with five committees, including those for extending habeas corpus and hindering the growth of Popery, but he made no speeches. He voted against the exclusion bill, and never sat in Parliament again. It is somewhat puzzling that he was struck out of the commission of the peace, and Walden’s hand is again to be suspected. At the general election of 1685, Pedley put up his eldest surviving son, who had married the daughter of Robert Apreece, as a candidate for Huntingdonshire. Walden commented that Pedley ‘was put into the commission of the peace but three months ago, but is one of the old stamp, and would, if opportunity served, act the same thing over again’. Pedley died on 6 July 1685, and was buried at St. Mary’s, Huntingdon. His memorial (which cost £70) claims that he was returned to Parliament more than once ‘by free and unbought votes’. His son John was elected for Huntingdon in 1706.5
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: E. R. Edwards
- 1. Wards 7/75/104; Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 273-4; Essex Arch. Soc. (n.s.) vii. 65; VCH Hunts. ii. 275; Lansd. 921, ff. 6v, 35, 36; Huntingdon All Saints par. reg.
- 2. VCH Hunts. ii. 110; S. Wells, Drainage of the Bedford Level, i. 458-63; E. Griffiths, Huntingdon Bor. Recs. 117.
- 3. Wards 7/39/125; VCH Hunts. ii. 248, 258, 275; CJ, viii. 179, 182, 197, 202, 206, 213; HMC 8th Rep. pt. 1, (1881), 109.
- 4. CSP Dom. 1663-4, p. 167; Pepys Diary, 17 Feb. 1669; Pepys Letters ed. Heath, 170; Grey, ii. 265, 404, 417; iii. 10, 171, 287; vi. 377; CJ, ix. 305, 308, 319; Finch diary, 21 Dec. 1678.
- 5. CSP Dom. 1685, p. 26; Lansd. 921, f. 36.