PERSHALL, John (1672-1706), of Great Sugnall and Horsley, Staffs.
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Family and Education
bap. 7 Oct. 1672, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Pershall, 3rd Bt., of Great Sugnall and Horsley by Anne Medcalfe, illegit. da. of Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Chesterfield. m. lic. 15 May 1690, ‘aged 21’, Charlotte (d. 1756), illegit. da. of Thomas, 2nd Baron Colepeper, 2s. d.v.p. 3da. (1 d.v.p.).1
The Pershall family had owned land in the Eccleshall area of Staffordshire since Adam de Pershale purchased Horsley during Edward III’s reign. It remained the main seat of the family until Pershall’s grandfather, Sir John Pershall, 2nd Bt., built a new residence at nearby Sugnall on an estate worth an estimated £1,500 in 1696. Pershall married during the lifetime of his father and may have found life difficult financially because his father refused to settle estates on him for the support of his family, while his wife’s portion remained unpaid. In the early 1690s he had problems both in enforcing Lord Colepeper’s settlement of 1688 which placed lands in trust to raise a portion of £3,000, and in receiving the arrears of a pension of £600 p.a. granted by Charles II which Colepeper had bequeathed to her. In both cases the obstruction was caused by Colepeper’s legitimate daughter Catherine, the wife of Lord Fairfax (Thomas*). By an agreement made with Fairfax in May 1697 certain lands were assigned to Pershall in lieu of the £4,480 now owed to him. These were conveyed to him permanently in 1699 after Fairfax’s failure to redeem them. They were eventually sold after his death for over £3,400.2
Although Pershall’s grandfather was dead by 1692, the presence of at least two other namesakes makes it difficult positively to identify him in contemporary correspondence. He may have been a signatory to a circular letter supporting the claims of the Tory, Sir Walter Bagot, 3rd Bt.*, to the vacant county seat in Staffordshire in October 1693. Furthermore, he almost certainly wrote two letters indicating staunch support for Edward Bagot* in the event of a contest in the election for knights of the shire in 1698. He also had parliamentary ambitions of his own, being cited by Philip Foley* as one of many possible candidates for Stafford in the by-election caused by the death of Jonathan Cope I* in 1694. Pershall next made an interest in the run-up to the election of January 1701, although his father seems to have vetoed his candidature on the grounds that there was no likelihood of him carrying it against two Foleys. When Philip Foley declined to stand, John Chetwynd* stepped in to partner Thomas Foley III*. In the election held the following November, Pershall was successful probably because Chetwynd was unpopular with both the burgesses and the Foley family.3
Pershall’s election was counted as a gain for the Whigs by Lord Spencer (Charles*), an assessment corroborated by Robert Harley’s* analysis of the new Parliament which also classed him as a Whig. Inside the Commons he was very active, considering he was sitting in the House for the first time. He served as a teller on seven occasions, usually on matters of political importance. On 29 Jan. 1702, he was a teller against a successful motion which found the Earl of Peterborough guilty of ‘indirect practices’ in the Malmesbury election. He also acted as a teller on 24 Feb. on the Coventry election case when an attempt to adjourn discussion on the report was lost, leading to three officials of the corporation being taken into custody. On 26 Feb. he was a teller against a motion to delay consideration of the report of the committee of the whole on the rights and liberties of the Commons of England, whereupon the House reasserted its privileges and the rights of subjects to petition the King to dissolve Parliament. He next served as teller on 13 Mar., against the choice of the Tory Hon. John Granville* as chairman of the committee of the whole on supply for the better support of the new Queen’s household. Towards the end of the month, on 28 Mar., he was again concerned in the proceedings on the Coventry election, telling against a motion that one of the aldermen was guilty of breach of privilege for using threatening language towards the man assisting the serjeant-at-arms in the execution of the Commons’ previous order of 24 Feb. He acted as a teller on 9 Apr. in favour of the committal of an Irish forfeitures relief bill. His final tellership on 19 May was very revealing of his religious attitudes: on another bill relating to Irish forfeitures he successfully opposed an amendment to a clause which sought to add the words ‘according to the usage of the Church of England’, and thus limit those able to benefit from the bill to Anglicans.
It is possible that this high-profile Whiggery was not popular in Stafford as Foley and Chetwynd were unopposed at the election of 1702. Sir Charles Lyttelton, 3rd Bt.†, noted that ‘Mr Pershall did not stand, nor would scarce any [have been] for him if he had’. In November 1702, however, in response to internal divisions in the corporation, he approached Philip Foley with a proposal to concert elections to the common council so that ‘one of your family and mine may represent the corporation of Stafford while this generation of men are living’. This suggestion evidently came to nothing for Pershall was not a candidate at the by-election caused by Chetwynd’s death in December 1702. In March 1705, Lord Paget was keen for him to come in at Stafford should Thomas Foley III not stand. He died in the summer of 1706, predeceasing his father by six years. In his will he ordered his lands to be sold to raise the sum of £300 p.a. for his wife and portions of £1,500 for each surviving daughter and gave directions for his burial in Eccleshall church. The provisions of his father’s will in 1712 may offer an insight into Pershall’s religious views for it made different provisions according to whether his granddaughter (Pershall’s daughter) Arabella married a Protestant of the Church of England. If she did not, most of her inheritance was to be held in trust for the first of her children to be brought up an Anglican.4