Penington, Isaac (1587?-1661) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 44
Penington, Isaac (1587?-1660)

by Charlotte Fell Smith
Date of birth c.1584 in the ODNB.

PENINGTON, or PENNINGTON, Sir ISAAC (1587?–1661), lord mayor of London, born in London about 1587, was eldest son of Robert Penington (d. 18 April 1628), a merchant of London, by his first wife, Judith, daughter of Isaac Shetterden of London. He was grandson of William Penington, born at Henham, Essex, and buried at St. Benet's, Gracechurch Street, London, on 11 Nov. 1592. Admiral Sir John Penington [q. v.], whose financial and domestic affairs Isaac helped to direct, was his second cousin. The family invariably spelt their surname with a single n in the first syllable.

Isaac received a good education, and succeeded to his father's business as a fishmonger, as well as to his estates in Norfolk and Suffolk. He was elected an alderman of London 29 Jan. 1638, and was discharged 23 Oct. 1657. He was an ardent puritan. At the church at Chalfont St. Peter, Buckinghamshire, where he purchased an estate before 1635, he refused to comply with the injunction for bowing at the name of Jesus, and complaint was made to Archbishop Laud (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1635–1636, p. 556).

In 1638 Penington was chosen high sheriff of London (ib. 1638–9, p. 59). His house was in Wood Street, Cheapside, and he was a prominent member of St. Stephen's Church, Coleman Street (cf. Archæologia, l. 23 sq.). He was returned to both the Short and Long parliaments in 1640 as member for the city. On 11 Dec. 1640 he presented a petition to the commons from fifteen thousand citizens against the innovations of Archbishop Laud. Penington's influence in the city was invaluable to parliament, on the outbreak of hostilities, in raising loans and supplies for the army. It is said that he impoverished himself in the cause. On 21 Nov. 1640 he announced in the house that his constituents had subscribed 21,000l. They afterwards undertook to raise 60,000l.; but on 23 Jan. 1640–1 Penington informed the commons that, in consequence of the restoration of Godfrey Goodman [q. v.] to his see, they had decided to lend nothing. Clarendon says that he informed parliament at the beginning of March ‘that the money the house stood in need of, or a greater sum, was ready to be paid to whomsoever they would appoint to receive it’ (Rebellion, ed. Macray, iii. 92). During the short recess taken by parliament in September and October 1641, Penington sat on a committee of both houses, which met twice a week.

On 16 Aug. 1642, after the royalist lord mayor, Sir Richard Gurney [q. v.], had been expelled by parliament from his office, Penington was chosen to succeed him, and the commons gave him special permission to remain a member of their house (Commons' Journals, ii. 723). Clarendon says he forbore to sit after his election. Charles I never acknowledged the legality of the appointment (Rapin, Hist. of Engl. ii. 468); and in January 1643 he demanded that Penington and three others should be delivered into custody as persons notoriously guilty of schism and high treason. Penington and his friends published ‘The Declaration and Vindication of Isaac Penington, now Lord Mayor of the Citie of London, of Col. Ven, Capt. Mainwaring, and Mr. Fowke … in answer to sundry scandalous Pamphlets, wherein they are charged to be the maine incendiaries of these present troubles in the City of London,’ 4to, London, Feb. 11, 1642–3. The next year Penington was again elected lord mayor. He was colonel of the 2nd or white regiment of the forces of the city of London (Harl. MS. 986). During his mayoralty Penington showed his puritanic fervour by issuing a proclamation, dated 19 June 1643, decreeing that milk be sold in the city on Sundays only before the hours of eight in summer and nine in winter (Broadside in Brit. Mus. 669, f. 7 [22]).

On Saturday, 26 Nov. 1642, he issued, in his official capacity, a proclamation ordering the collection of 30,000l. by Tuesday. The ministers were directed to stir up their parishioners, the churchwardens to make the collection on Sunday after service, and to bring reports of their procedure to a committee of the lords and commons sitting at the Guildhall on the ensuing Monday (The Discovery of a Great and Wicked Conspiracie, &c. … whereunto is added an Order by the Lord Mayor for the Raysing of 30,000 li in the City of London,’ &c., 28 Nov. 1642). This action again evoked threats from the king, and Penington's friends published ‘An Humble Remonstrance’ in his vindication, 14 Jan. 1642–3.

In April 1643 ‘A Trve Declaration and Just Commendation of … Penington … in advancing and promoting the Bulwarkes and Fortifications about the City and Suburbs, with a Vindication of his honour from all the Malicious Aspersions of Malignants,’ was published by W. S., 4to, London (King's Pamphlets, E. 99 [27]). In August 1643 (Clarendon says on a Sunday) Penington summoned a municipal council to frame a petition to the commons against the lords' propositions for peace and accommodation.

Among his friends were John Milton and John Goodwin [q. v.], whose church he attended. In 1642 Penington had been appointed lieutenant of the Tower, and held the post until deprived by the self-denying ordinance in 1645. In this capacity he conducted Archbishop Laud to the scaffold on 10 Jan. 1645 (cf. Commons' Journals, iv. 706). Penington was appointed a member of the commission for the trial of the king, but he did not attend the sittings till Saturday, 20 Jan. He was present on the first three days of the following week, and again on the day that the death-warrant was signed, but he declined to append his signature. He was, however, afterwards appointed one of the committee to confer with trustees for the sale of the king's goods.

On 14 Feb. 1648 Penington was appointed one of the council of state, and reappointed for the following year on 13 Feb. 1649, and again on 16 Feb. 1650. On 5 Dec. 1651 he took the oath of secrecy at the council at Whitehall. He was on the committees for foreign affairs, the admiralty, and other purposes; and was one of the most regular attendants at the council. He occupied lodgings in Whitehall. His services to the Commonwealth were rewarded by grants of lands in Norfolk and Buckinghamshire, houses and tenements in the city (some of which were purchased on the sale of bishop's' lands, and were granted at the Restoration to George Morley [q. v.], bishop of Worcester) (Lords' Journals, x. 640; Commons' Journals, v. 161). He had already been granted 3,000l. on 6 May 1647 for satisfaction of his losses and damages (Lords' Journals, ix. 177, 178).

Soon after 6 June 1649, he was knighted by the speaker of the commons, on the recommendation of the house (Metcalfe, Book of Knights, p. 204). A satire entitled ‘Hosanna, or a Song of Thanksgiving sung by the Children of Zion,’ London, 1649, purported to include a speech by Penington at the dinner given at Grocers' Hall to the speaker, lieutenant-general, and others, on 7 June 1649.

About 1655 Penington suffered a complete reverse of fortune. He was prosecuted for debt, having borrowed money to pay to parliament for the maintenance of the army. On 25 May and 13 July 1655 he appealed to the Protector; his petition was read before the council, and proceedings were stayed (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1655–6, pp. 172, 179, 235, 244). At the Restoration Penington was attainted of treason with the other regicides. He was committed to the custody of the sergeant-at-arms on 15 June 1660, and was brought up for trial at the Old Bailey on 10 Oct. On the 16th he pleaded ‘not guilty,’ protesting his ‘ignorance of what he did.’ The jury convicted him, and he was committed a prisoner to the Tower, where, after rather more than a year's imprisonment, he died on 17 Dec. 1660. An order was issued for the delivery of his body to his friends. The place of his burial is not known.

Penington married, first, on 7 Feb. 1614–15, Abigail, daughter of John Allen of London, by whom he had six children, viz.: Isaac [q. v.] the quaker; Arthur, who became a Roman catholic priest, and was living in 1676; William (1622–1689), a merchant of London, who also became a quaker and follower of John Perrot [q. v.]; and three daughters: Abigail (married about November 1641), Bridget, and Judith. Letters from Isaac Penington the younger to his sister Judith imply that she also became a quaker. Penington married, secondly, Mary, daughter of Matthew Young. A portrait of him, as lord mayor, wearing the chain and badge of office, is prefixed to ‘A True Declaration and Commendation of Alderman Penington for Promoting the Fortification of the City,’ 1643, 4to (Bromley, Cat. of Portraits, p. 128). The same is given in Thane's ‘British Autography.’

Penington was a sturdy and austere puritan. When he expressed violent disapproval of his son Isaac's joining the quakers, the son retorted that his father's religion was formal and invented, the result of fear lest wrath should overtake him.

[Authorities quoted; Foster's Penningtoniana, p. 66; Webb's Penns and Peningtons, pp. 1–3, 74–90; Stow's Survey, ed. Strype, ii. bk. v. pp. 143, 144; Stoughton's Ecclesiastical Hist. of England, i. 103, 109, 115; Gardiner's Fall of the Monarchy of Charles I, ii. 26, 90, and Hist. of the Civil War, i. 14; Hanbury's Hist. Mem. relating to Independents, ii. 141, iii. 391 n., 393; Clement Walker's Hist. of Independency, p. 170, pt. ii. pp. 103, 113; Nalson's Trial of King Charles, i. 2, 17, 25, 37; Noble's Regicides, pp. 120–6; Clarendon's Rebellion, ed. Macray, bk. iii. par. 66, 92, iv. 12, 182, v. 441 n. vi. 143, 191, 203, 204, 216, 225, 228, vii. 170, 202; Ludlow's Memoirs, iii. 40; Cal. State Papers, 1625–62; Calendar of Comm. for Compounding, pp. 2, 64, 355, 805, 2050; Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. pp. 68, 152, 155; Verney Papers (Camden Soc.), p. 24; Smyth's Obituary (Camden Soc.), p. 55; Whitelocke's Memorials, pp. 39, 66, 71, 143, 245, 381, 444; Lipscombe's Hist. of Bucks, iii. 240; Hasted's Kent, ii. 851; Blomefield's Norfolk, i. 159; Rapin's Hist. of England, xii. ed. 1730, pp. 51, 587; Bromley's Cat. of Portraits, p. 128; Cobbett's State Trials, iv. 1069, 1078, 1080, 1093, 1094, 1099, 1121, v. 994, 999, 1195, 1198, 1199, 1221, 1222; Records of Buckinghamshire, vol. vii. No. 2, pp. 110, 112; Gent. Mag. 1821, pt. i. p. 583; Thane's British Autography, ii. 37 (and portrait); Hubbard's Hist. of New England, published by the Mass. Hist. Soc. 2nd ser. vols. v. and vi. 349; Masson's Life of Milton; Forster's Arrest of the Five Members, pp. 124, 155, 157, 174, 309, 340; Records of St. Stephen's, Coleman Street; Commons' Journals, vi. 101; Remembrancia, pp. 66 n., 200; Nalson's Collections, ii. 773, 776; Laud's Works, iii. 245, iv. 10, 32, 114, 429; Sharpe's London and the Kingdom, ii. 169, 173, 302; Addit. MS. 12496, f. 252; Tanner MS. in the Bodleian, lxiv. 40, lxxxix. 25.]

C. F. S.