PELHAM, Henry (1597-at least 1660), of Gray's Inn, London and Freiston, Lincs

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



1640 (Apr.)
1640 (Nov.)

Family and Education

bap. 9 June 1597,2 3rd s. of Sir William Pelham† (d.1629) of Brocklesby, Lincs. and Anne, da. of Charles, 2nd Bar. Willoughby of Parham.3 educ. Trin. Camb. 1615; G. Inn 1616;4 embassy, Brussels, Dresden and Prague 1620-1.5 unm. d. aft. 1660.

Offices Held

Dep. recorder, Grantham, Lincs. by 1634-47;6 recorder, Lincoln, Lincs. 1642-58;7 ancient, G. Inn 1645.8

Commr. swans, Lincs. 1635, oyer and terminer 1645,9 New Model Ordinance, 1645, assessment 1645, (Lindsey, Kesteven and Lincoln) 1647-8, militia, 1648,10 sewers, Lincs. and Notts. 1654-d.11

Commr. exacted fees 1634,12 Admlty. 1645,13 Gt. Seal 1647;14 Speaker of House of Commons 30 July-9 Aug. 1647.15


Pelham’s family originated in Sussex. His grandfather, a younger son, was a distinguished Elizabethan soldier who began buying land in Lincolnshire in about 1565 and rapidly built up a substantial estate.16 Pelham himself was commended for being the most pious among six brothers. He studied to become a lawyer, and at his own expense accompanied his cousin Sir Edward Conway I* on a fruitless diplomatic mission to the Continent in 1620.17 In his absence he was elected for Grimsby, nine miles from Brocklesby. When the third Jacobean Parliament met, his eligibility was ‘much questioned’, and 7 Feb. 1621 Sir George More, as chairman of the privileges committee recommended a search for precedents. The difficulty arose, as Pelham’s kinsman Sir George Manners pointed out, because his absence overseas was voluntary rather than the result of enforced royal service, as had been the case with Sir Thomas Edmondes* in 1606. However, Sir Thomas Hoby hoped that the Commons would resolve that Pelham might be sworn in when he arrived back in England with the ambassadors.18 The question was respited, and apparently never raised again. Conway and Sir Richard Weston* had returned by 10 Mar. 1621, and Pelham ‘coming, when the Parliament had sat six weeks or above, was admitted a Member of the House’.19 His only committee appointment was on 21 Apr. to consider a bill to restrain the use of gold and silver in apparel.20 He played no known part in the second sitting.

Pelham was never called to the bar, but retained his chambers in Gray’s Inn, and acted as legal adviser to both Manners and the 1st earl of Lindsey.21 He was re-elected for Grimsby to the next four Parliaments, but left no trace on the records of the Commons in 1624 or 1625. In 1626 he was appointed to and chaired the committee of a Leicestershire estate bill, which he reported on 4 May.22 In the third Caroline Parliament he made his first recorded speech, on 1 Apr. 1628, in the debate about arbitrary imprisonment, attacking the attorney-general (Robert Heath*) for ignoring both statutes and precedent in the Five Knights’ Case, which established the Crown’s right to imprison those who had refused to pay the Forced Loan.23 When the Lords proposed to change the description of the oath administered by the Loan commissioners from ‘unlawful’ to ‘unwarrantable’ in the Petition of Right, Pelham objected on 20 May that the latter was ambiguous.24 The following day, during the debate on the bill to allow clergy the right not to subscribe to some of the Canons introduced in 1604, he urged that no clergymen should be required to subscribe any further than was stipulated by the Elizabethan Act of 1571.25

During the debate on the most appropriate way of presenting the Petition of Right to the king (27 May), Pelham opposed the suggestion of turning into a bill, since ‘if we go that way, the king cannot in honour accept it’.26 He moved on 30 May that the patent granted to Sir Thomas Monson* for the sole writing of letters and bills for the Council in the North should be declared unlawful ‘because there was no fee reserved’.27 Pelham’s only committee appointment in the first session was to hear the complaints of the puritan bookseller, Michael Sparkes, and William Nowell’s* petition against Sir Edward Mosley* (20 May).28 In the second session he argued that parliamentary control of taxation should be established before the bill for Tunnage and Poundage was read (26 Jan. 1629).29 His only committee appointments were to consider increasing trade (11 Feb.) and a private Essex estate bill (12 February).30

On the death of his father in 1629, Pelham inherited Newstead Abbey, which he re-let to his brother, Sir William, for £60 a year.31 He represented Grantham in the Short and Long Parliaments of 1640, and served briefly as Speaker during the absence of William Lenthall* in 1647. He was among the secluded Members listed for recall in 1660, but he did not attend.32 He seems to have lived on after the Restoration, but the date of his death is unknown. His nephew, George Pelham, sat for Grimsby in the Exclusion Parliaments.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Paula Watson / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Secluded at Pride’s Purge, 6 Dec. 1648. Readmitted 21 Feb. 1660.
  • 2. Brocklesby Par. Reg. ed. C.W. Foster, 49; Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lii), 765-6.
  • 3. E.G. Pelham and D. McLean, Some Early Pelhams, 239.
  • 4. Al. Cant.; GI Admiss.
  • 5. Chamberlain Letters ed. N. E. McClure, ii. 350.
  • 6. Lincs. AO, Grantham bor. min. bk. 1, f. 6; Grantham Hall Bk. ed. B. Couth (Lincoln Rec. Soc. lxxxiii), 97.
  • 7. Lincs. AO, L1/1/1/6, p. 76; Lincs. N and Q, viii. 137.
  • 8. PBG Inn, i. 354.
  • 9. C181/5, ff. 15, 252.
  • 10. A. and O. i. 422, 641, 968, 1086, 1239.
  • 11. C181/6, pp. 39, 390.
  • 12. C181/4, f. 159.
  • 13. B. Whitelocke, Mems. of Eng. Affairs, i. 427.
  • 14. A. and O. i. 995.
  • 15. CJ, v. 259, 269.
  • 16. Pelham and McLean, 183; C. Holmes, Seventeenth-Cent. Lincs. 75-6.
  • 17. Letters of Lady Brilliana Harley ed. T.T. Lewis (Cam. Soc. lviii), 114.
  • 18. CJ, i. 511b, 513b, 522a, 523a.
  • 19. Nicholas Procs. 1621, i. 26-27; CD 1621, ii. 33, 41; iv. 29; v. 443.
  • 20. CJ, i. 584b.
  • 21. A. Fletcher, County Community in Peace and War, 13, 58; HMC Rutland, i. 520.
  • 22. Procs. 1626, iii. 14, 156, 157, 160.
  • 23. CD 1628, ii. 236.
  • 24. Ibid. iii. 501.
  • 25. Ibid. 522.
  • 26. Ibid. 628.
  • 27. Ibid. iv. 31.
  • 28. Ibid. iii. 492.
  • 29. CD 1629, p. 109.
  • 30. CJ, i. 928b, 929a.
  • 31. Lincs. AO, Yarb. 3/1/1/6, 7.
  • 32. M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 299-300.