JENNER, Sir Thomas (c.1638-1707), of Petersham, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. c.1638, 1st s. of Thomas Jenner of Mayfield, Suss. by Dorothy, da. of Jeffrey Glyde of Dallington, Suss. educ. Tonbridge g.s.; Queens’, Camb. 1655; I. Temple 1656, called 1663. m. 1 Jan. 1661, Anne (d.1698), da. and h. of James Poe of Swinden Hall, Kirkby Overblow, Yorks., 11s. (8 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. 1668; kntd. 4 Oct. 1683.1
Jt. steward, Windsor Castle 1672-3; commr. for assessment, Surr. 1673-80, London 1679-80, bencher, I. Temple 1682; recorder, London 1683-6; j.p. Kent, Mdx., Suss. and Westminster 1683-9; dep. lt. London 1685-9.2
Serjeant-at-law 1683, King’s serjeant 1684-6; baron of the Exchequer 2 Jan. 1686-July 1688; commr. for ecclesiastical causes 1687-Oct. 1688; j.c.p. July 1688-9.
Jenner came of a widespread Sussex yeoman family. His father was presumably an Independent and a parliamentary supporter, becoming a j.p. and the mainstay of the county militia during the Interregnum. Jenner appears to have combined his legal studies with service to the Roman Catholic zealot, Lord Powys; but after qualifying as a barrister he did not question the establishment. His practice was not impressive, but as ‘a very loyal, zealous gentleman’, he was appointed recorder of London under the new charter, acted for the prosecution in several state trials, and was nominated by James II for Rye in 1685. An active Member, he was named to ten committees, none of which was of much political importance, but including those on the bills for regulating hackney coaches, rebuilding St. Paul’s, and relieving London widows and orphans. He must have given satisfaction to the Government, for he was raised to the bench early in the New Year and gave his opinion in favour of the dispensing power. In his diary for November 1687 he wrote:
I did not seek any public place, because I never thought myself proper for such employ, my conversation having been most among the middle sort of men, not with great or honourable persons, which rendered me less capable of those great and most difficult affairs. Always doubtful of my own sufficiency to acquit myself in great matters and that they would be too high for me, yet of duty and too much obedience I did submit to it.
As a member of the second ecclesiastical commission he was unable to avoid taking a prominent part in the attack on Magdalen. When the president protested against these proceedings ‘there was a tumultuous hum, or acclamation, made by the bystanders’; whereupon Jenner bound him over to appear in the King’s bench. But he did not vote for the expulsion of the remaining fellows. It was rumoured that ‘he would have his quietus’, but he was merely transferred to the bench of common pleas.3
The Revolution ended Jenner’s public career. He fled with James, but was captured at Faversham and sent to the Tower. When he appeared before the Commons on 28 Oct. 1689 he was
charged with giving his opinion on the dispensing power, acting in the ecclesiastical commission, and particularly against Magdalen College. He answered that he could not deny what they charged him with; that what he had acted amiss he hoped would be less aggravated against him because his temptations were great, he had a wife and ten children and but a small estate; he had been nine or ten months in prison, that this was the first time he had heard what he was charged with; he was not prepared to give an answer but desired time.
According to Morrice he might have been discharged four days later, but for one Member, who described the judges as ‘more than double offenders’, and alleged that no man had been ‘more forward and active in the Magdalen College business’. In his own defence Jenner said that:
The business of the dispensing power did not come originally before him. ... Lord Chief Justice Herbert [Sir Edward Herbert] required their opinion, and the authority of others inclined him to be of their minds, etc.; that his name was put into the ecclesiastical commission without his knowledge when he was in the country, etc.; that he was against the legality of the commission, but was over-voted.
He was released when the Convention was prorogued, but excepted from the Act of Indemnity in 1690. He resumed his legal practice, and successfully pleaded a pardon from James II when accused of extracting £3,000 from dissenters, not returned into the Exchequer. He died on 1 Jan. 1707 and was buried at Petersham, the only member of his family to sit in Parliament.4
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: Basil Duke Henning
- 1. DNB: Manning and Bray, Surr. i. 442; PCC 33 Hene.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1671-2, p. 325; 1673, p. 223; 1685, p. 56; HMC Lords, iii. 46.
- 3. Suss. Arch. Colls. xxiv. 35; Thurloe, iv. 240; Herbert Corresp. (Univ. Wales, Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. xxi), 31; HMC 7th Rep. 366; Evelyn Diary, iv. 342; Kent AO, NR/AEp/50; Magdalen Coll. and James II (Oxf. Hist. Soc. vi), 134, 211; Macaulay, Hist. 952; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 2, p. 649; CSP Dom. 1686-7, pp. 112-13.
- 4. Clarke, Jas. II, ii. 254; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxiii), 124; Morrice, 646, 649, 670; Luttrell, ii. 612; iii. 37.