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PETT, Peter (1610-c.1672), of Chatham, Kent.
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Family and Education
b. 6 Aug. 1610, 5th but 2nd surv. s. of Phineas Pett (d.1647), master shipwright, of Chatham by 1st w. Anne, da. of Richard Nichols of Highwood Hall, Hendon, Mdx. m. (1) 8 Sept. 1633, Katherine (d.1651), da. and coh. of Thomas Cole, merchant, of Woodbridge, Suff., 6s. (2 d.v.p.) 4da.; (2) Mary (d.1664), da. of William Smith of Greenwich, Kent, serjeant-at-arms to Charles I, s.p.; (3) lic. 11 Dec. 1665, Elizabeth, da. of George Pitt of Harrow, Mdx., wid. of Sir Henry Hatton of Mitcham, Surr., s.p.1
Master shipwright, Chatham by 1644-67; commr. for assessment, Kent 1649-52, 1657, Jan. 1660-3; navy commr. Chatham 1648-67; j.p. Kent by 1649-67, Surr. 1652-?59; commr. for scandalous ministers, Kent 1654, sewers, Medway marshes Dec. 1660.2
Pett’s family had dominated the naval shipyards since Tudor times. He served as his father’s assistant at Deptford and Woolwich and, like his father, supported Parliament during the Civil Wars. In I642 he secured the ships at Chatham against surprise by the King’s forces, and in 1648 he was appointed commissioner of the navy there, assuming control of the yard. He represented Rochester in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament, and was re-elected to the Convention. But on! 5 May 1660 the Council of State ordered him to join the fleet to supervise the removal of republican insignia. He returned with the King, to whom he ‘gave’ an entertainment at Chatham; but according to Sir William Batten all the expenditure of his journey ultimately fell on the public purse. Although doubtless a court supporter, he left no trace on the records of the Convention, and gave way to Batten at the general election. But he continued to hold office, though totally unfitted for the responsibility, till 1667, when ‘the fanatic Pett’ became a convenient scapegoat for the naval disaster in the Medway. ‘It is believed [he] will prove a very great criminal’, wrote John Milward, ‘but much friended by the old gang’. On 31 Oct. he was brought to the bar of the House, and after further examination it was resolved to impeach him. The articles were reported by (Sir) Robert Brooke on 28 Nov., but not carried to the Lords until the final week of the session. The impeachment was never revived, and Pett was allowed to retire into obscurity, having, as Samuel Pepys noted, feathered his nest to some purpose. In his will, dated 13 Apr. 1663 but not proved till 2 Dec. I672, he mentioned property in Kent and Suffolk; but no other member of the family sat at Westminster, though his namesake, the advocate-general for Ireland, was a Member of the Dublin Parliament, and another cousin, Sir Phineas Pett, was court candidate for Rochester in 1688.3
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: M. W. Helms / Basil Duke Henning
- 1. The Ancestor, x. 157, 169.
- 2. DNB.
- 3. A. M. Everitt, Community of Kent, 113, 264, 317; CSP Dom. 1659-60, pp. 431-2; 1660-1, pp. 57, 110; Pepys Diary, 16 May, 6 Sept. 1660, 12 July 1663, 13 Apr. 1664, 17 May 1665, 13, 19 June 1667; Milward, 128, 177-8; CJ, ix. 14, 20, 27, 94; Marvell ed. Margoliouth, i. 160; PCC 153 Eure; The Ancestor, x. 164.