Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Jenner, Thomas (1637-1707)

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JENNER, Sir THOMAS (1637–1707), baron of the exchequer and justice of the common pleas, born in 1637 at Mayfield, Sussex, was eldest son of Thomas Jenner of that place, and Dorothy, his wife, daughter of Jeffrey Glyde of Dallington. He was educated at Tunbridge grammar school, under Dr, Nicholas Grey [q. v.] In 1665 he became a pensioner of Queens' College, Cambridge, but left without taking a degree. He entered the Inner Temple in 1658, and was called to the bar in 1663, after which he practised chiefly in the court of exchequer. In 1683 Charles II, having withdrawn the charter of the city of London, appointed a lord mayor, two sheriffs, and a recorder. The last office was bestowed on Jenner. Owen Wynne, writing to Lord Preston, then envoy extraordinary in France, in a letter dated 4 Oct. 1683, now among the Netherby MSS., describes the new recorder as 'a councillor and an exchequer practitioner who is a very loyal, zealous gentleman.' A few days earlier Jenner was knighted, and received the only reward of his loyalty which he was able to hand on to his descendants, an 'augmentation' of arms. In the following January he was made king's sergeant. As king's sergeant and as recorder he took an important part in the state trials of the next two years, including those of Algernon Sidney, Cornish, and others. In the parliament of 1685 he represented the borough of Rye, until in 1686 he was raised to the bench as a baron of the exchequer. With the majority of the judges, Jenner gave judgment in favour of the king's claim to the dispensing power which was raised in the case of Sir Edward Hales [q. v] [cf. Herbert, Sir Edward, titular Earl of Portland].

In October 1687 Jenner was appointed one of the three royal commissioners to inquire into the appointment of a president of Magdalen College, Oxford. The other commissioners were lord-chief-justice Wright and Cartwright, bishop of Chester [see Hough, John]. Jenner's diary of the proceedings is now in the library of Magdalen College. The part taken by him was small, and although he appeared to browbeat the fellows in public, he really worked in their interests. With the Bishop of Chester, who favoured severer courses, he more than once 'had some words,' and Cartwright sought to have him dismissed from the commission. In the end Jenner voted against the expulsion of the fellows. Just before his return to London from the Magdalen visitation, Jenner recorded his feelings in these terms: '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 and honourable persons, which rendered me less capable of those great and most difficult affairs. Always doubtful of my own suffciency to acquit myself in high matters, and that they would be too high for me, yet out of duty and much obedience I did submit to it.'

According to Luttrell, Jenner's conduct at Oxford was too independent to allow him to retain favour at court. Nevertheless in July 1688 he was promoted to the common pleas. But the revolution soon involved him in ruin. On the night of James II's flight Jenner was one of those who endeavoured to escape to France with the king, on which occasion a 'general pardon' and 400l. in money were stolen from his chambers in Serjeants' Inn; but he was taken at Faversham and brought to Canterbury, where he and others remained under arrest. Early in January 1688-9 he and his fellow-prisoners were committed to the Tower, 'being charged with subverting the protestant religion and the laws and liberties of the kingdom.' Shortly after they were admitted to bail, but when the Convention parliament voted that Jenner 'had a principal concern in the arbitrary proceedings of the late reign,' he was committed to the custody of the sergeant-at-arms. He was released when parliament was prorogued in January 1690. In 1691, when the Act of Indemnity was passed, Jenner was excepted from its provisions, but no proceedings were then taken against him. In Norember 1691 one of his sons was given into the custody of a messenger of parliament for circulating libels against the right of 'their majesties' (i.e. the Prince and Princess of Orange) to the crown. Thereupon the father was charged with having levied fines in James's reign to the amount of 3,000l. on dissenters without returning the money into court. Jenner pleaded the 'general pardon' from King James, which had been stolen; special mention was said to be made there of those fines, which had probably gone direct to the king. The plea was allowed, and the prosecution failed.

Expelled from the bench by William III's government, Jenner resumed his practice at the bar, and as late as 1702 he is recorded as defending a prisoner. He died at his house at Petersham on 1 Jan. 1707, and was buried in Petersham Church, where a tablet to his memory, with his arms, and a long inscription composed by his daughter Margaret, Lady Darnell, still exists. A portrait of Jenner, a miniature by Zincke, is in the possession of his descendant, Herbert Jenner-Fust, esq., of Hill Court, Gloucestershire.

On 1 Jan. 1660-1 he married, at the church of St. Mary Woolchurch Haw, in the city of London, Anne, daughter and heiress of James Poe of Swinden Hall, Kirkby Overblow, Yorkshire, by whom he had eight sons and two daughters. Through his wife's mother, Julian, daughter and eventually heiress of Richard Fust of Hill Court, the property and name of the Fusts came to Jenner's descendant Sir Herbert Jenner, in 1841 [see Fust, Sir Herbert Jenner-.]

[Foss's Judges of England, vol. vii.; The Royalist, January 1891; London Gazette, 1683-1691; MS. Diary of Sir T. Jenner in Magdalen College, Oxford; Publications of the Oxford Historical Society, vol. vi.; Autobiography of Sir J. Bramston, Camden Soc., vol. xxiii.; Luttrell's Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs from 1678 to 1714; Netherby MSS., Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep.; Act of Indemnity, 1691; Register of St. Mary Woolchurch Haw; epitaph of Sir T. Jenner in Petersham Church; family papers.]

H. J.