PELHAM, Thomas (1597-1654), of Laughton and Halland, East Hoathley, Suss.

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.)
1654 - 28 Aug. 1654

Family and Education

bap. 22 Sept. 1597, o.s. of Sir Thomas Pelham, 1st bt.†, of Halland and Mary, da. of Sir Thomas Walsingham I* of Scadbury, Chislehurst, Kent.2 educ. Emmanuel, Camb. 1615; G. Inn 1615.3 m. (1) settlement 23 June 1615, with £5,000, Mary (bur. 7 Mar. 1635), da. and coh. of Sir Roger Wilbraham* of Nantwich, Cheshire, 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 4da. (2 d.v.p.); (2) 7 Dec. 1637, Judith (bur. 21 Oct. 1638), da. of Sir Robert Honywood of Pett, Charing, Kent, wid. of John Shurley of Lewes, Suss., 1da. d.v.p.; (3) 3 June 1640, with £2,500, Margaret, da. of Sir Henry Vane* of Fairlawn, Kent, 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. as 2nd bt. 2 Dec. 1624. bur. 28 Aug. 1654.4 sig. Thomas Pelham.

Offices Held

J.p. Suss. 1622-d.;5 commr. subsidy, Suss. 1624, 1626, 1641-2,6 oyer and terminer, Home circ. 1624-42, Suss. 1627, 1644, sewers, Kent and Suss. 1625-9, 1640, 1645, Suss. 1625, 1630-1, 1637-41, 1653,7 Forced Loan, Suss. 1626-7,8 martial law 1627;9 dep. lt. Suss. 1627-at least 1645;10 commr. charitable uses, Suss. 1629-38,11 maltsters 1636,12 assessment 1643-52, sequestration 1643, levying money 1643, defence 1643, 1644, gaol delivery 1644, New Model Ordinance 1645, militia 1648.13


The Pelhams, one of the most prominent families in East Sussex, were descended from the illegitimate son of John Pelham, who first represented the county in 1399 and rose to become treasurer under Henry IV.14 Based at Laughton, six miles north-east of Lewes, they were among the wealthier Wealden landowners directly involved in the iron industry in the sixteenth century.15 They were also strong supporters of the Reformation, with the head of the family in exile at Geneva during the reign of Queen Mary. Pelham’s father, who sat for Sussex in 1586, was one of the wealthiest men in the county, purchasing the castle, lordship and rape of Hastings from the 3rd earl of Huntingdon in 1591, and one of the earliest baronetcies in 1611. On Pelham’s first marriage in 1615 he received a third of his father’s estate, and was sufficiently prosperous to purchase a manor in Burwash, Sussex, in 1619.16

Pelham entered Parliament for East Grinstead in 1621. His paternal grandmother had been the aunt of Thomas Sackville†, 1st earl of Dorset, and it is possible that his father persuaded the 3rd earl, the dominant electoral patron in the borough, to nominate Pelham in exchange for supporting for Dorset’s steward, Richard Amherst*, at Lewes.17 Returned for the county in 1624, and re-elected the following year, having succeeded to his father’s estate and title, Pelham left no trace in the surviving parliamentary records of this period. It was presumably his own choice not to sit in the next two parliaments.

Pelham’s estate, concentrated largely in the Pevensey and Hastings rapes of east Sussex, was sufficiently large for him to be deemed capable of lending £100 towards the Privy Seal loan of late 1625, although his assessment was reduced to £60 the following March.18 In early 1627 he was appointed to the lieutenancy, and a year later granted a reversion of the manor of Preston in Sussex, together with his cousin Anthony Stapley*. He joined with Stapley in the foundation of a puritan lectureship in Lewes at about this time, and in 1631 he compounded for knighthood at £200.19

Pelham played a vital role in the administration of East Sussex in the 1630s.20 In addition he was increasingly prosperous, enabling him to invest £12,000 in further Sussex property in 1634. An innovative livestock farmer, he enjoyed a landed income of up to £2,700 annually. His profits from the iron industry, however, could be as much as £4,000 a year, and he was said to be ‘none of the most scrupulous’ where money was concerned.21 An enthusiast for the traditional country pursuits, such as falconry, hunting and litigation, he delighted in the exchange of hospitality with friends and relatives. He was also a regular visitor to London, whence he was careful to bring back presents for his growing family, for whom he eventually took a house in the Strand. His annual expenditure accordingly rose during the decade from about £2,000 to over £4,000.22

Despite increasing ill health, he was returned for the county at both elections in 1640. A moderate supporter of Parliament in the Civil War, he withdrew from county administration after the king’s death. He was, nevertheless, elected to the first Protectorate Parliament, together with his eldest son, John, but died before it met, and was buried at Laughton on 28 Aug. 1654. Despite three happy marriages and a wide circle of friends and interests, he complained in his will that he had experienced ‘nothing but vanity and vexation, and for minutes of peace and prosperity enjoyed have had months of troubles and disquietude’. He asked to be buried ‘without pomp, feast or heralds, having observed the abuse of them at such times’. His eldest son, John Pelham, had already sat for Hastings in the Long Parliament and represented the county in nine parliaments between 1654 and 1698.23

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Did not sit after Pride’s Purge, 6 Dec. 1648.
  • 2. CB, i. 8-9.
  • 3. Al. Cant.; GI Admiss.
  • 4. CB, i. 9; Suss. Gens.: Lewes Cent. comp. J. Comber, 208; Add. 5697, f. 265; 33188, ff. 98-125; Bodl. North c.4, f. 40; C. Dalton, Hist. of Wrays of Glentworth, ii. 114.
  • 5. C231/4, f. 145; CUL, Dd. viii. 1.
  • 6. C212/22/23; E179/191/377a; SR, v. 66, 156.
  • 7. C181/3, ff. 111, 166v, 165v, 216; 181/4, ff. 18, 37v, 73v; 181/5, ff. 69, 167, 206, 222, 235, 253; 181/6, f. 23.
  • 8. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 144; C193/12/2, f. 59.
  • 9. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 461.
  • 10. SP16/70/89; Add. 33058, f. 71.
  • 11. C192/1, unfol.
  • 12. PC2/46, f. 273.
  • 13. A. and O. i. 94, 116, 150, 235, 451, 540, 624, 640, 976,1094, 1242; ii. 44, 479, 676; C181/5, f. 235.
  • 14. HP Commons, 1386-1421, iv. 40.
  • 15. H. Cleere and D. Crossley, Iron Industry of the Weald, 149.
  • 16. VCH Suss. ix. 3; E. Pelham and D. McLean, Some Early Pelhams, 267; PROB 11/145, f. 217v; CB, i. 8.
  • 17. Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 20-1.
  • 18. Pelham and McLean, 267; A. Fletcher, County Community in Peace and War, 13; APC, 1625-6, p. 371.
  • 19. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 11; Add. 33145, f. 28v; E401/2450, unfol.
  • 20. Fletcher. 241.
  • 21. Ibid. 14, 20, 53; J. Cornwall, ‘Farming in Suss. 1560-1640’, Suss. Arch. Colls. xcii. 73, 77, 82; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, v. 442.
  • 22. Fletcher, 28-30, 34, 43-4, 54; Add. 33145, f. 78v; W. Raynes, ‘Letter of Congratulation’, Suss. Arch. Colls. ii. 100.
  • 23. Fletcher, 41, 222, 282; M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 301-2, PROB 11/241, f. 387; HP Commons, 1660-90, iii. 218-19.