PELHAM, Herbert (1545-1620), of Fordington, Dorset

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



Family and Education

b. 27 Dec. 1545,1 o.s. of Anthony Pelham of Bucksteep, Warbleton, Suss., and Margaret, da. of one Hall, wid. of one Pierce.2 educ. Queens’, Camb. 1562; G. Inn 1588.3 m. (1) with £500, Catherine, da. of John Thatcher of Priesthawes, Westham, Suss., 2s. 1da.; (2) 12 Feb. 1594, Elizabeth (d. 15 Jan. 1633), da. of Thomas West†, 2nd Bar. de la Warr, 3s. 2da. suc. fa. 1566.4 d. 12 Apr. 1620.5

Offices Held

Sheriff, Surr. and Suss. Apr.-Nov. 1576, 1590-1;6 j.p. Suss. 1582-7;7 freeman and jurat, Winchelsea, Suss. 1583;8 commr. sewers, Suss. 1602-5-at least 1617, Kent 1603.9


This Member came from a junior branch of the Pelhams of Laughton in Sussex and was the first cousin twice removed of Thomas Pelham*. Pelham inherited lands in several counties, including Lincolnshire and Sussex, to which he added by marriage and purchase; he also had some interest in the iron industry both in Sussex and in Ireland.10 Although it was reported in 1587 that he was ‘a favourer of good religion’, he was put out of the commission of the peace in that year for his lack of judgment and obstinacy.11 His finances deteriorated in the 1590s and he was forced to sell much of his property in Sussex. He moved to Dorset, where he acquired the manor of Compton Valence on his second marriage and leased another, Fordington, where he settled.12

In 1603 Pelham joined his brother-in-law Lord de la Warr (Thomas West†) in signing the Sussex petition in favour of puritanism that was drafted shortly after the Millenary Petition was presented to the new king.13 In 1604 he was returned for Reigate, probably thanks to his kinsman, lord treasurer Buckhurst (Thomas Sackville†), who owned a moiety of Reigate manor and who had purchased property from Pelham three years previously. It is possible that Pelham’s financial difficulties motivated him to seek parliamentary protection.14

Pelham was named to 17 committees in the first Jacobean Parliament. Three of the six to which he was named during the first session were for church bills, and the first of them, for reform of the ecclesiastical courts (16 June 1604), was entrusted to his care. A bill on ecclesiastical government was also delivered to him when it was referred to the same committee three days later. There were no further recorded proceedings in respect of either bill.15 On 2 June, after the rising of the House, Christopher Parkinson*, a Gray’s Inn lawyer, delivered to the Speaker a petition given to him by Pelham that had been submitted by a puritan printer, William Jones. The contents of this petition are unknown, but Jones had earlier been imprisoned after giving the Speaker a bill declaring Bishop Bancroft guilty of treason for protecting the publishers of appellant tracts during the last years of Elizabeth’s reign. Pelham’s interest in this business is unclear, but interestingly a puritan minister named Anthony Erbury, who had been involved in organizing the 1603 Sussex petition, was living in the house of Pelham’s brother-in-law De La Warr and had drafted the bill.16 Pelham’s other committees were on bills for the preservation of coppices (2 Apr.), for fen drainage (12 May), and for confirmation of letters patent (3 July).17

In the second session Pelham was named to only two committees, to study means of providing for a resident and learned ministry (22 Jan. 1606), and to consider another bill on ecclesiastical government (25 Feb. 1606).18 In the third session a private bill to enable Pelham to sell Swineshead manor in Lincolnshire so that he might pay off his debts and advance his grandchildren was introduced on 17 Feb. 1607. Committed three days later, it proceeded no further.19 Pelham was named to five committees in this session. These concerned bills to reform abuses in the Marshalsea Court (10 Dec. 1606); prevent the execution of ecclesiastical Canons unconfirmed by statute (11 Dec. 1606); confirm grants made to the City of London and the London livery companies (4 May 1607); regulate tenements and improve Church endowments (both on 15 May 1607).20

During the fourth session Pelham was embroiled in legal troubles, possibly as a result of financial difficulties arising from the failure of the 1607 bill. Sir George More sought privilege for Pelham on 21 Mar. after a Chancery writ ordering Pelham was served on him. The matter was referred to the committee for privileges, and although parliamentary protection was finally granted on 2 May, doubts surfaced three days later after it emerged that Pelham was actually the plaintiff. As a result the case was referred back to the privileges committee. On 26 Apr. Pelham himself moved for parliamentary privilege concerning a further suit that was being heard in the Exchequer, whereupon the serjeant-at-arms was sent to stay proceedings. On his return, however, the serjeant reported that the lawyers for the prosecution were determined to proceed if called upon by the court. Moreover, an unnamed Member objected that, as Pelham had recently given his consent to the hearing of the suit, and his opponents had retained counsel, the case should be allowed to proceed. The Commons remained unwilling to waive Pelham’s privilege, but asked Pelham’s opponents informally to halt proceedings, which they agreed to do. By 3 May, however, Pelham had evidently withdrawn his objections to the suit, as permission ‘for Mr. Pelham to proceed in the Exchequer notwithstanding a former stay’, was requested by Anthony Irby.21

Pelham was named to four committees in this session. These were to consider another bill for the preservation of timber (22 Mar.), an explanatory bill on highways (30 Mar.), a bill concerning Leadenhall market (19 Apr.), and some petitions submitted by messengers, possibly the servants of the serjeant-at-arms (17 July).22 He left no trace on the poorly documented fifth session.

Pelham did not sit again, but in 1614 he again promoted a bill to allow him to sell his lands to pay his debts. Although vigorously opposed by Sir Henry Poole, who unsuccessfully moved to hear counsel for Pelham’s children, so that they ‘sustain no prejudice’, it was committed on 17 May after (Sir) Henry Carey, who was married to a Pelham of Laughton, replied that the bill was not intended to prejudice the heir, ‘for the heir doth follow it’. Poole nevertheless had his way on the third reading (23 May), when the bill was rejected by 201 votes to 133.23 Pelham was buried at Fordington on 21 Apr. 1620 and administration of his estate was granted to his eldest son on 27 May. His grandson sat for Essex in 1654.24

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / Ben Coates


  • 1. C142/145/12.
  • 2. Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lii), 767.
  • 3. Al. Cant.; GI Admiss.
  • 4. Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. cxvii), 53-54; Add. 33188, ff. 168-9.
  • 5. WARD 7/64/33.
  • 6. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 137.
  • 7. Cal. Assize Recs. Suss. Indictments, Eliz. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 167, 260.
  • 8. E. Suss. RO, WIN/54, ff. 190-1; Cal. of White and Black Bks. of Cinque Ports ed. F. Hull (Kent Recs. xix), 324.
  • 9. C181/1, ff. 27v, 51, 108v; 181/2, ff. 134v, 292v.
  • 10. L.F. Salzman, ‘Inning of Pevensey Levels’, Suss. Arch. Colls. liii. 59; APC, 1595-6, p. 453.
  • 11. H. Ellis, ‘Certificate concerning Justices of the Peace in 1587’, Suss. Arch. Colls. ii. 60.
  • 12. G.M. Cooper, ‘Some Account of Michelham Priory in Arlington’, Suss. Arch. Colls. vi. 160; P.S. Godman, ‘Manors of Cowfold’, Suss. Arch. Colls. lxii. 59; [R.G. Bartelot], ‘Pelham of Fordington’, Som. and Dorset N. and Q. xvii. 103.
  • 13. T.W.W. Smart, ‘Extracts from the Mss of Samuel Jeake’, Suss. Arch. Colls. ix. 47
  • 14. Cooper, 160.
  • 15. CJ, i. 241b, 247b, 993b, 994b.
  • 16. Ibid. 210b, 253a, 985a; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 109; W.H. Curtis, ‘William Jones: Puritan printer and propagandist’, The Library (ser. 5), xix. 41-2; HMC Hatfield, xv. 262-3.
  • 17. CJ, i. 189b, 207b, 252b.
  • 18. Ibid. 258a, 274a.
  • 19. Ibid. 336a, 338a
  • 20. Ibid. 329a, 329b, 368b, 374a.
  • 21. Ibid. 413a, 421b, 423b, 424a, 425a; ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 8.
  • 22. CJ, i. 413b, 416b, 419a, 451a.
  • 23. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 89, 267, 318-19.
  • 24. Bartelot, 103; PCC Admons. 1620-30 ed. J.H. Morrison, 83.