PENNINGTON, John (?1737-1813), of Muncaster, Cumb.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



4 Dec. 1781 - 1796
1796 - 1802
1806 - 8 Oct. 1813

Family and Education

b. ?1737, 1st s. of Sir Joseph Pennington, 4th Bt., by Sarah, da. of John Moore, of Som.; nephew of Sir John Pennington, 3rd Bt.  educ. Winchester 1754.  m. 26 Sept. 1778, Penelope, da. and h. of James Compton, 1s. d.v.p. 2da.  suc. fa. 3 Feb. 1793; cr. Baron Muncaster [I] 21 Oct. 1783, with sp. rem. to his bro.

Offices Held

Ensign 3 Ft. Gds. 1756, lt. and capt. 1762; maj. 2 Ft. 1765; lt-col. 37 Ft. 1773; ret. 1775.


In 1774 Pennington’s father contested Cumberland; and Pennington himself was invited by the party opposed to the Lowther-Portland compromise to stand for Carlisle, but his acceptance came too late. He had ‘aspired some time to the representation of the county’, and at the county meeting of 11 Sept. 1780 attacked ‘with uncommon warmth’ Henry Fletcher, one of the sitting Members; and ‘concluded his speech by saying, since he thought the county so poorly represented, he would stand forth as a candidate though ever so weakly supported’.1 His chief hope lay in securing the support of Sir James Lowther; and when Lowther turned against him, he declined the poll.

He was returned with the support of Administration at a by-election for Milborne Port (‘I have heard’, wrote Rockingham to Grafton on 3 May 1782, ‘that Mr. Pennington paid a considerable sum for his seat, and which I have heard was not very convenient to him’).2 His first recorded vote was for Administration on Lowther’s motion against the war, 12 Dec. 1781. In the critical divisions of February and March 1782 he at first abstained (20, 22 Feb.), and then voted with Opposition (27 Feb., 8, 15 Mar.)

On the formation of the Rockingham Administration the Duke of Grafton pressed for an office for Pennington, and between 26 Mar. and the end of July 1782, wrote about it to Rockingham or Shelburne at least once a week. ‘A reasonable offer to Mr. Pennington’, he wrote to Shelburne 26 Mar., ‘is really so near my honour, having passed my word to him upon it when I quitted office ...’; and on 5 Apr. he talked about ‘an uneasiness that has hung upon my mind for so many years, and which makes me now very unhappy’.3 It appears to have been the result of a promise made to Pennington’s father, when he resigned his place at the Board of Customs in 1769.4

Pennington wanted a place of business, and Grafton thought that ‘the Board of Trade, if to be kept up, would answer every expectation’.5 But the Board of Trade was to be abolished; and ‘to create a new permanent office (for a Member of Parliament) merely for the purpose of accommodation’, wrote Rockingham, 11 Apr.,6 ‘would be a sort of measure ... very contradictory to the principles which your Grace and all of us have held’. Next, Grafton asked for the mastership of the Household which was refused; instead Rockingham offered a place not tenable with a seat in Parliament. ‘Anything out of Parliament could not be acceptable’, replied Grafton on 4 May, ‘... The delay that this business has met with ... makes my solicitation so uncreditable ... that it becomes me now to lay before his Majesty the necessity I am under of asking his permission to withdraw.’ Shelburne smoothed the matter over by promising that something should be done, and there for a month it rested. Then Pennington himself suggested a solution.

Mr. Pennington has indeed a very good property in Ireland [wrote Grafton to Rockingham, 12 June] and tells me that by the foreclosing of a mortgage he will become possessed of a large landed property indeed in that kingdom: your Lordship knows that he is indeed of a very ancient family here, and his father an old baronet. If he was to be made an Irish peer it would at once put an end to all the difficulties of placing him elsewhere.7

Rockingham admitted that ‘Mr. Pennington in point of family and in point of the property which he has and will be heir to, has much better pretensions than many have had who have been heretofore made Irish peers’;8 and promised that he should be included in the next creation. Finally—

After much conversation [wrote Grafton to Rockingham on 19 June] I have been able to convince Mr. Pennington that the certainty of his being created an Irish peer whenever any are made stands on grounds so secure as to admit of no reasonable doubt ... It allows me now to consider myself as part of an Administration which I honour and respect; and I trust that the patent may be so drawn as to include Mr. Pennington’s one brother, the same as if Sir Joseph was now made a peer.9

When Shelburne took office and Fox and his friends resigned, Grafton revived the idea of a place for Pennington and suggested that of surveyor general—‘It is an office where he would do great good, and requires an active man.’10 That was rejected, and so also was Grafton’s suggestion of a seat at the Admiralty Board; and Pennington had to rest content with the promise of an Irish peerage.

Pennington voted for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, and was classed by Robinson as a follower of Shelburne. When the Coalition took office, Fox assured Grafton that Pennington would receive his peerage as promised; which he did. No political obligation was incurred, and Pennington voted against Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783, and supported Pitt. He voted for parliamentary reform in 1783 but not in 1785. Six speeches by him are reported between 1782 and 1789, none of any consequence.

He died 8 Oct. 1813, aged 76.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Portland to Egremont, 30 Aug. 1780; George Mounsey to Portland, 11 Sept. 1780, Thomas Benson to Portland, 11 Sept. 1780, Portland mss.
  • 2. Grafton mss.
  • 3. Lansdowne mss.
  • 4. Sir Joseph Pennington to Grafton, 8 Dec. 1782, Grafton’s reply, 12 Dec., Grafton mss.
  • 5. Grafton to Shelburne, 26 Mar. 1782.
  • 6. Grafton mss.
  • 7. Rockingham mss.
  • 8. To Grafton, 13 June 1782, Grafton mss.
  • 9. Rockingham mss.
  • 10. Grafton to Shelburne, 6 July 1782, Lansdowne mss.