PELHAM, Edmund (d.1606), of Catsfield, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

5th s. of Sir William Pelham of Laughton, being 3rd s. by his 2nd w. Mary, da. of William, 1st Baron Sandys, ld. chamberlain to Henry VIII; half-bro. of Sir Nicholas Pelham. educ. G. Inn 1563, called 1574. m. Ellen or Helen, da. of Thomas Darrell of Scotney, 5s. 3da. Kntd. 1604.

Offices Held

Of counsel to Winchelsea 1579, to Cinque Ports 1582, Hastings prob. by 1583, Rye by 1584; brodhull rep. for Hastings 1583; j.p. Suss. from c.1583; pens. G. Inn 1586, Autumn reader 1588, Lent 1601; serjeant-at-law 1601; chief baron of the Exchequer and PC [I] 1602.1


Though Pelham was a close kinsman of the leading Sussex magnate, Lord Buckhurst, they were not on good terms. Pelham’s own family standing and legal career in the Cinque Ports, however, freed him from the necessity of relying on Buckhurst’s favour. In the Commons Pelham spoke on an election return (12 Nov.), and was appointed to committees on the lands of Lord Mountjoy (24 Nov.), defence (8 Dec.) and corporations (12 Jan. 1598). As a burgess of a port town he could also have sat on committees dealing with monopolies (10 Nov. 1597), navigation (12 Nov.), the Great Yarmouth charter (23 Nov.), mariners (9 Dec.) and corn (3 Feb. 1598).2

Pelham had been put on the Sussex commission of the peace despite his wife’s recusancy and his own reputation as ‘a cold professor in religion and a lawyer much in London’. The deputy lieutenants described him towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign as the chief justice of the peace in his district, but ‘very backward in religion and cometh to church but slackly’, not having taken communion for a year. Nevertheless, he was appointed an Irish judge and made serjeant. Buckhurst wrote to Cecil, 19 Oct. 1601, ‘the arrival of the Spaniards hath daunted him extremely ... and if he could tell how to go back, he would’, and, next May, John Chamberlain: ‘Now he hath got the coif he makes no haste, but had rather tarry by it here’. He arrived in Ireland during the summer of 1602. There was a dispute with his predecessor, (Sir) Robert Napier, and it was agreed to pay Pelham from 20 Apr. In the summer of 1603, Pelham went on circuit through Ulster, the first English judge to do so, and reported

that the multitude that had been subject to oppression and misery did reverence him as if he had been a good angel sent from heaven, and prayed him upon their knees to return again to minister justice unto them.

Described as a ‘very learned and worthy judge’ his patent was renewed by James I, and he was knighted at Greenwich. He returned to Ireland soon afterwards and in the following spring was on circuit in Neath.3

While living at Drogheda, he made his will, dated 5 July 1604. He left a life interest in Catsfield to his wife and £200 each to his daughters, annuities of £15 to his younger sons, and lands and law books to the heir Herbert. The widow was executrix and residuary legatee, and his brothers-in-law, Henry Darrell and Thomas Tinkell, overseers. Pelham died at Chester on his way home from Ireland, on 4 July 1606. On 30 Nov. 1609 his will was proved for his widow, who was still in trouble over her religion.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: R.C.G.


Sometimes Edward in contemporary documents.

  • 1. DNB; Suss. Arch. Colls. xiv. 107; Suss. Genealogies, Lewes Centre, 206-7; Mousley thesis, 659-60; PCC 103 Dorset; HMC 13th Rep. IV, 357; Rye hundreds accts. 1573-93, f. 228; Winchelsea hundreds, no. 4, f. 130; Cinque Ports black bk. f. 45.
  • 2. Mousley thesis, 264-70; G. Inn Pens. Bk. i. 38, 73, 79, 88, 89; Cinque Ports black bk. f. 45; Rye hundreds accts. 1593-1606, ff. 65, 70; D’Ewes, 555, 556, 562, 570, 592; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 113, 119; Harl. 75, ff. 125, 127, 134, 142-3.
  • 3. HMC Hatfield, ii. 502; Lansd. 82, f. 103; Suss. Arch. Colls. lix. 30, 56; APC, xxx. 30, 308.
  • 4. HMC Hatfield, xi. 437; Chamberlain Letters ed. McClure, i. 144; CSP Ire. 1601-3, pp. 485-6; 1603-6, pp. 111, 282, 522; PCC 103 Dorset; Suss. Arch. Colls. xlix. 56.