Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Phesant, Peter

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PHESANT, PETER (1580?–1649), judge, son of Peter Phesant, barrister-at-law, of Gray's Inn, by his wife Jane, daughter of Vincent Fulnetby, was born probably at his father's manor of Barkwith, Lincolnshire, about 1580. The father was reader at Gray's Inn in Lent 1582, and also attorney-general in the northern parts. The son, on 26 Oct. 1602, entered Gray's Inn, where he was called to the bar in 1608, elected ancient in 1622, being then one of the ‘common pleaders’ for the city of London, bencher in 1623, and reader in the autumn of 1624. On 19 May 1640 he was called to the degree of serjeant-at-law, and on 10 March following was prayed as counsel by attorney-general Sir Thomas Herbert on his impeachment, but excused himself on the score of ill-health. In 1641 he was justice of assize and nisi prius for the county of Nottingham. He was recorder of London in the interval, 2–30 May 1643, between the dismissal of Sir Thomas Gardiner [q. v.] and the election of Sir John Glynne [q. v.]

On 30 Sept. 1645 Phesant, who had been recommended to the king for a judgeship in the parliament's propositions for peace of 1 Feb. 1642–3, was voted a judge of the court of common pleas by the House of Commons, and on the 28th of the following month was sworn in as such. On the abolition of the monarchy he accepted a new commission on condition that the fundamental laws were not abolished. He died on 1 Oct. following, at his manor of Upwood, near Ramsay, Huntingdonshire, and was buried in Upwood church.

Phesant married, about 1609, Mary Bruges, of a Gloucestershire family, who, dying about the same time as himself, was buried by his side. By her he had several children. Phesant's epitaph credits him with ability, conscientiousness, and courage.

[Philipps's Grandeur of the Law, p. 195; Oldfield and Dyson's Tottenham, p. 82; Marshall's Genealogist, iv. 25; Douthwaite's Gray's Inn; Foster's Gray's Inn Admission Register; Overall's Analytical Index to Remembrancia, p. 511; Parl. Hist. ii. 1125, 1327; Dugdale's Orig. p. 295, Chron. Ser.; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1635–1636 p. 194, 1637–8 p. 197, 1649–50 p. 197; Cal. Committee for Advance of Money, vol. i. (1642–5), p. 312; Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. App. p. 64, 5th Rep. App. p. 89, 7th Rep. App. pp. 29, 46; Clarendon's Rebellion, bk. vi. § 231; Whitelocke's Memorials, pp. 174, 178, 378, 409; Sir John Bramston's Autobiogr. (Camden Soc.); Inderwick's Interregnum, p. 155; Noble's Protectoral House of Cromwell, 3rd edit. i. 430; Brayley's Beauties of England and Wales, vii. 549*.]

J. M. R.