Pennington, John (DNB00)

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PENNINGTON, JOHN, first Baron Muncaster in the peerage of Ireland and fifth baronet (1737–1813), born in 1737, was the eldest son of Sir Joseph Pennington, fourth baronet, and Sarah, daughter and sole heiress of John Moore, esq., of Somerset. The family came originally from Pennington in Furness, Lancashire, but had resided at Muncaster, on the river Usk, in Cumberland, since the middle of the thirteenth century. They had also acquired property, chiefly by marriage, in Westmoreland and Yorkshire. Closely connected with the Percys, the Penningtons bore the Percy arms with a slight change.

The most distinguished ancestor, Sir John Pennington (d. 1470), accompanied Henry Percy, seventh earl of Northumberland (1421–1461), on expeditions into Scotland, and was concerned more than once in ‘certain riots and misgovernances in Yorkshire’ (cf. Nicholas, Proc. of Privy Council, v. 271). He remained faithful to the house of Lancaster during the wars of the Roses, and is said to have given refuge to Henry VI at Muncaster, probably after the battle of Hexham, in 1464. Henry is said to have presented him with a cup, which became known as the ‘luck of Muncaster,’ and is still at Muncaster Castle. He died on 6 July 1470 (cf. Foster, Peerage; Transactions of the Hist. Soc. of Lanc. and Cheshire, 1867–8, p. 65; Jefferson, Hist. of Allerdale Ward, p. 330).

Muncaster's great-grandfather, William Pennington (1655–1730), who was cousin to Admiral Sir John Penington [q. v.], was created a baronet on 21 June 1676. Ferguson is wrong in identifying him with William Pennington the ‘most munificent Patron and ever-bountiful Friend’ of Lilly the astrologer (see Lilly, Life and Times, pp. 28 sq.) The latter may have been the baronet's uncle, who died in 1683. Sir William acquired the manor of Warke or Wartre in Yorkshire by his marriage with Isabel, daughter of John Stapleton, esq. He died at Muncaster on 1 July 1730. There are two portraits of him at Muncaster Castle.

His son, Sir Joseph Pennington (1678–1744), second baronet and Muncaster's grandfather, educated at Queen's College, Oxford, was appointed comptroller of the excise cash on 3 Dec. 1723, and represented Cumberland in parliament as a supporter of Walpole from 1735 till his death. An inscription to him in Muncaster church calls him ‘the most worthy friend and patriot.’ There is a portrait of him in the castle. He married Margaret, fourth daughter of John Lowther, first viscount Lonsdale [q. v.] She died on 15 Sept. 1738, and was buried in Bath Abbey (Gent. Mag. 1738, p. 49). Besides a daughter Katherine (who married Robert Lowther, esq., governor of Barbados, and was mother of James, first earl of Lonsdale), he had four sons, two of whom predeceased him. The other two succeeded in turn to the baronetcy. The elder of these, Sir John Pennington (d. 1768), third baronet, succeeded in April 1731 to his father's place of comptroller of the cash of the excise (Gent. Mag. 1731, p. 219), and represented Cumberland from 1744 till his death. He was colonel of the Cumberland militia during the siege of Carlisle by the rebels in 1745 (Mounsey, Carlisle in 1745). On 24 April 1756 he was appointed lord-lieutenant of Westmoreland (ib. 1756, p. 206). He died unmarried, and the baronetage passed to his younger brother, Sir Joseph Pennington (1718–1793), fourth baronet, and father of the first Lord Muncaster, who was appointed commissioner of the lotteries in 1755 (ib. 1755, p. 234), and died at Warter Hall, Yorkshire, on 4 Feb. 1793 (ib. 1793, i. 186). There are portraits of him in the dining-room and library at Muncaster Castle. He had three sons and four daughters.

The eldest son, John, first lord Muncaster, entered the army as an ensign in the 3rd footguards on 17 Sept. 1756, and became lieutenant and captain in 1762. In 1765 he exchanged into the 2nd footguards as major, and in 1773 became lieutenant-colonel of the 37th regiment of infantry. He met Dr. Johnson in the same year at Sir Eyre Coote's house at Fort George, Scotland (Boswell, ed. Hill, v. 125–7), and debated with him the comparative merit of discipline in semi-savages such as the Arabs and trained troops. The colonel, who took the side of the Arabs, had the best of the argument. Boswell also records a conversation between Johnson and Pennington on Garrick's acting.

Pennington soon retired from the army and entered upon a political career. In 1780 he came forward as a candidate for Cumberland in opposition to the Lowther candidate, but did not go to the poll. After the election he issued an address ‘To the Gentlemen, Clergy, and Freeholders of the county of Cumberland, and of Great Britain in general,’ in which he maintained that Sir James Lowther had at first given him his support and then canvassed against him. On 4 Dec. 1781 Pennington was returned for Milbourne Port, one of Lord North's boroughs, and was re-elected in 1784 and 1790. He was an early friend of Pitt, and on 28 May 1796 was returned for Colchester as his supporter. He was elected for Westmoreland on 2 June 1806, and re-elected on 6 Nov. of the same year, 5 June 1807, and 12 Oct. 1812. Meanwhile he had been created (21 Oct. 1783) an Irish peer, with the title of Baron Muncaster. On 20 March 1789 Muncaster seconded a motion by Mr. Beaufoy for leave to bring in a bill providing for an annual commemoration of the revolution of 1688. The motion was carried unanimously (Parl. Hist. xxvii. 1336). On 14 Dec. 1790 Muncaster ‘pronounced an eulogium on the convention with Spain’ (ib. xxviii. 981).

Muncaster corresponded on very intimate terms with William Wilberforce both on public and private matters. Wilberforce on one occasion wrote to him: ‘I believe you and I are tuned in the same key, as the musicians speak, and that we strike, therefore, in unison’ (Wilberforce Corresp. i. 68). Muncaster published in 1792 ‘Historical Sketches of the Slave Trade and its Effects in Africa.’ Milner, dean of Carlisle, and Mason the poet were also among his friends and correspondents.

Muncaster nearly rebuilt the castle from which he took his title, greatly improved the park, and erected a series of memorials of the Pennington family in the chancel of Muncaster church, where there is an inscription to himself. He died at his seat on 8 Oct. 1813. By his wife Penelope, daughter and heiress of James Compton, esq. (she died by an accident while canvassing Westmoreland for her husband on 15 Nov. 1806), he had three children; a daughter, Maria Frances Margaret, who married, in 1811, James Lindsay, twenty-fourth earl of Crawford and Balcarres, and died in 1850, alone survived him. The title of Muncaster and the seat in parliament for Westmoreland passed to his younger brother,

Lowther Pennington, second Baron Muncaster (1745–1818). Lowther entered the army as an ensign in the Coldstream guards on 4 July 1764, became lieutenant and captain in 1772, captain and lieutenant-colonel in 1778, major-general in 1793, lieutenant-general on 26 June 1799, colonel of the 10th royal veteran battalion in 1806, and full general on 25 April 1808. While serving in America in 1777 he killed in a duel at New York Captain Tollemache, ‘on a foolish quarrel about humming a tune’ (H. Walpole to Countess of Ossory, 13 Nov. 1777). In June 1795 he was colonel of the 131st foot, called ‘Penington's regiment,’ and was soon after placed on half-pay. He lived for some time in Chelsea, and died at his house in Grosvenor Place on 29 July 1818, being buried in the vaults of St. George's, Hanover Square. By his wife Esther, second daughter of Thomas Barry, esq., of Clapham, and widow of James Morrison, esq., whom he married in 1802, he had an only son, Lowther Augustus John, third lord Muncaster (1802–1838). The latter's son, Gamel Augustus Pennington (1831–1862), was fourth lord Muncaster, and was succeeded by his younger brother, Josslyn Francis Pennington (b. 1834).

[Foster's Pedigree of Pennington, Baron Muncaster, privately printed, 1878; Lodge's Peerage of Ireland; Ferguson's Cumberland and Westmoreland M.P.'s, p. 428; Lysons's Magna Brit. iv. p. lxi.; Gent. Mag. 1813, ii. 405; Whellan's Cumberland and Westmoreland, p. 490, &c.; Nicolson and Burn's Cumberland, ii. 20; Jefferson's Cumberland, ii. 228; Ret. Memb. Parl.; Hart's Army Lists; Biogr. Dict. of Living Authors, 1816; W. Wilberforce's Correspondence, passim; authorities cited.]

G. Le G. N.