PELHAM, Sir John, 3rd Bt. (c.1623-1703), of Halland, Laughton, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



3 Oct. 1645
Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1623, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Pelham, 2nd Bt., of Halland by 1st w. Mary, da. and coh. of Sir Roger Wilbraham of Nantwich, Cheshire; half-bro. of Sir Nicholas Pelham. educ. Emmanuel, Camb. 1640. m. 20 Jan. 1647 (with £4,000), Lady Lucy Sidney, da. of Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester, 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da. suc. fa. 28 Aug. 1654.2

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Suss. 1648, 1657, Jan. 1660-80, 1689-90, militia 1648, Mar. 1660, j.p. 1656-87, ?1689-d.; commr for sewers, rapes of Lewes and Pevensey 1659, Sept. 1660, Wittersham marshes Dec. 1660, oyer and terminer, Home circuit July 1660; dep. lt. Suss. Aug. 1660-May 1688, Oct. 1688-d., v.-adm. 1660-d.; commr. for loyal and indigent officers 1662, recusants 1675, enclosure, Ashdown forest 1677.3


Pelham’s ancestors had been large landholders in East Sussex since the 14th century, first sitting for the county in 1399. His father, a Puritan, was knight of the shire in the Long Parliament, and Pelham himself came in for Hastings as a recruiter; but neither of them sat after Pride’s Purge. On succeeding to the estate, which brought him in over £2,000 a year, he ‘gained esteem by hospitality, [and] had a greater interest in the county than any other person of his time’. His accounts show sizeable loans to influential gentry neighbours, such as Sir Thomas Dyke and Sir William Thomas. Presumably a Presbyterian, he had no known contact with the Royalists until the eve of the Restoration. Returned for Sussex at the general election of 1660 at the cost of £255, he was noted by Lord Wharton as a friend to be managed by Sir Richard Onslow and Sir Thomas Wharton. In his only recorded speech in the Convention ‘he spoke something against the excluding of the Members in 1648, yet did it with civility’, and even procured 40 of his friends to vote for the seating of Edmund Ludlow on the merits of the Hindon return. An inactive committeeman, he was appointed only to the committee of elections and privileges, and to those to prepare the customs and excise bill, to prevent inconveniences from grants made since the outbreak of the Civil War, and to promote fen drainage.4

Pelham was re-elected in 1661 at the cost of £192 2s.6d. He was again inactive, being named to only 34 committees throughout the Cavalier Parliament. He had an interest in three iron-works in the Weald, and was among those appointed to consider a petition in 1662 against the import of iron. In the next year he was added to the committee to report on defects in the Act of Uniformity, the Militia Act and other legislation, and in 1664 he served on the committee for settling marshes gained from the sea, which concerned his rights as vice-admiral. He was appointed to the committees for two of the estate bills promoted by his wife’s brother-in-law Lord Strangford (Philip Smythe). In a debate on 8 Jan. 1667 concerning reasons to be presented at a conference on public accounts, he was teller against the motion that it was unparliamentary to disclose any part of a bill to the King until it had passed both Houses. He was one of those ordered to bring in a supplementary militia bill in 1668, when he was included in the list of Ormonde’s friends. In the following year Sir Thomas Osborne noted him as one of the Members who usually voted for supply, and his name appears on the Paston list. Shaftesbury, however, marked him ‘thrice worthy’ in 1677, and he was one of the nine Members sent to attend the King on 17 Dec. 1678 with the resolution on the charges against Ralph Montagu*.5

Pelham’s re-election in February 1679 cost him only £198 10s.0d. He was marked ‘worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list, but was totally inactive in the first Exclusion Parliament, being absent from the division on the bill. Together with his brother he stood again in August against the ardent exlusionist (Sir) John Fagg I. They were returned at the cost of £253 4s.0d., probably a joint account, but again Pelham was totally inactive. He did not stand in 1681. As a deputy lieutenant he took part in searching for and disarming suspects after the Rye House Plot. He was himself presented with his brother as disaffected by the grand jury in 1684, but the bench refused to accept so vague a charge, and he remained on the commission of the peace till removed by the Privy Council in 1687. Presumably he remained a deputy lieutenant even then, for in May 1688 he told the lord lieutenant that he saw no reason for taking off the Penal Laws or the Tests, and would vote for those candidates ‘whom he shall think to be loyal persons, and fit to serve the King and their country’. James II’s electoral agents correctly expected him to be elected for Sussex, and hopefully described him as a moderate. He welcomed the Revolution, advancing loans and supplying ordnance to the new regime, and regained the county seat without a contest. But he again served on no committees in the Convention, obtaining leave to go into the country on 15 May 1689. He was listed as supporting the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations, and he remained a court Whig until he retired from politics in 1698. He died in his 80th year, the result of a carriage accident, and was buried at Laughton on 20 Jan. 1703.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: B. M. Crook


  • 1. Did not sit after Pride’s Purge 6 Dec. 1648, readmitted 21 Feb. 1660.
  • 2. J. Comber, Suss. Genealogies, Lewes, 208; Add. 32683, f. 62.
  • 3. C181/6/367, 7/55; Ind. 24557; Suss. Arch. Colls. xiv. 59.
  • 4. Suss. Arch. Colls. xxiv. 5; Keeler, Long Parl. 301-2; A. Collins, Hist. and Gen. Table of Pelhams (1755), 561; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 606; Add. 33148, f. 106; 33151, ff. 1-4, 7, 12, 15, 45; Voyce from the Watchtower, 123.
  • 5. Add. 33151, f. 1.; Add. 33155.
  • 6. Add. 33148, ff. 204, 207; CSP Dom. July-Sept. 1683, p. 50; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 1, p. 433; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 608; Luttrell, v. 261.