PELHAM, Thomas (c.1653-1712), of Halland, Laughton, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



25 Oct. 1678
Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679
Feb. 1701
Dec. 1701

Family and Education

b. c.1653, 1st s. of Sir John Pelham, 3rd Bt. m. (1) lic. 26 Nov. 1679, aged 26, Elizabeth (d. Oct. 1681), da. of Sir William Jones of Ramsbury, Wilts., 2da.; (2) 21 May 1686, Lady Grace Holles (d. 13 Sept. 1700), da. of Gilbert Holles, 3rd Earl of Clare, 2s. 6da. suc. fa. as 4th Bt. Jan. 1703; cr. Baron Pelham of Laughton 16 Dec. 1706.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Suss. 1677-80, 1689-90, j.p. by 1680-7, ?1689-d., dep. lt. by 1701-d., v.-adm. 1705-d.; steward, honour of Eagle 1707-d.2

Commr. for customs 1689-90; ld. of Treasury 1690-1, 1698-9, 1701-2.3


In 1678 Pelham’s father included in his accounts £3 11s.‘expenses at Grinstead when I went about the election’, and that, with £20 ‘given to Tom when he went before the election’, must have sufficed. Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’, but he made no speeches and sat on no committees in the Cavalier Parliament. There was a contest at the general election, but Pelham was not opposed, his father paying £22 12s. ‘at Grinstead at Budgens when Tom was elected’. Again Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’, but he was appointed to only two committees and like his father abstained from the division on the first exclusion bill. The Pelham interest at East Grinstead would always be overshadowed by the Sackvilles, and at the next general election Pelham transferred to Lewes, six miles from Laughton. Economy was not the motive, for this time Sir John recorded £40 15s.6d. ‘paid Mr Middleton for Tom’s election’. But security of tenure was achieved, for Pelham held the seat without a break until he was elected knight of the shire in 1702. His marriage took place before the second Exclusion Parliament, and according to Lady Sunderland, Pelham became ‘a slave to his father-in-law’s humours. ... He must be violent or not live with father Jones.’ Nevertheless his only committee was the committee of elections and privileges, and he voted against the impeachment of Halifax. At Oxford he was again appointed to the elections committee, and also to consider a more convenient meeting-place for the House. He was approved for re-election by the Sussex Whigs in September. He gave evidence of character on behalf of John Hampden in 1684, and was removed from the commission of the peace with his father and uncle three years later. He left no trace on the records of James II’s Parliament.4

Pelham attended the meeting of Members of Charles II’s Parliaments after the Revolution, and on 26 Dec. 1688 proposed Henry Powle as Speaker. He was a moderately active Member of the Convention, being appointed to 13 committees, acting as teller in four divisions and making four recorded speeches. Although a placeman and a Whig, he made it clear from the start that he favoured moderation. He moved that Dr Sharp should have the thanks of the House for his sermon on the anniversary of Charles I’s execution, even though he had unwittingly given offence by praying for ‘his most excellent Majesty King James’. Though a staunch Anglican, he made his mark in the House by offering a proviso to the bill for establishing the coronation oath, which would have empowered the King to give his consent to any change of form or ceremony in the church. He was totally opposed to the doctrine of constructive treason in the Lords’ bill read in the House on 6 Apr. and moved to throw it out. He urged all possible leniency in the case of his non-juring cousin, (Sir) Henry Monson; ‘if any man have a title to your favour, he may’. On 25 July, Pelham was sent to the Upper House to desire a conference on coffee, tea and chocolate duties. He served on the committees to annul the attainder of Algernon Sidney and to consider the petition from the widow of Sir Thomas Armstrong. But he opposed the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations, acting as teller for the wrecking amendment which would have included in it James II’s Whig ‘regulators’. On the other hand, he was teller for the bill to compensate (Sir) Thomas Pilkington and others who had been fined for the riot at the sheriffs’ election in London in 1682.5

Pelham remained a Whig under William III without losing the esteem of the other side of the House. He was raised to the peerage in 1706, and died of apoplexy on 23 Feb. 1712. He was buried at Laughton, leaving his elder son ‘the richest heir in England’. Both his sons became Prime Minister, the elder as Duke of Newcastle, the younger as MP for Sussex from 1722 to his death in 1754.

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: B. M. Crook


  • 1. J. Comber, Suss. Genealogies, Lewes, 209-10.
  • 2. Sir Robert Somerville, Duchy of Lancaster Official Lists, 217.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1689-90, pp. 54, 514.
  • 4. Add. 33148, ff. 201, 204, 207; CJ, ix. 587; Sidney Diary, i. 261-2; ii. 129, 134; CSP Dom. 1680-1, p. 473; Luttrell, i. 299.
  • 5. Grey, ix. 38, 200, 236, 243; CJ, x. 323, 339.