Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pelham, Thomas (1728-1805)

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PELHAM, THOMAS, first Earl of Chichester (1728–1805), born on 28 Feb. 1728, was the son and heir of Thomas Pelham, esq., of Stanmer, Sussex, by Annetta, daughter of Thomas Bridges, esq., of Constantinople. His grandfather, Henry Pelham, clerk of the Pells, who died in 1721, was a younger brother of the first Baron Pelham of Laughton. The father, after having been a merchant at Constantinople, was M.P. for Lewes from 1727 to 1737. He died on 21 Dec. 1737 (Gent. Mag. p. 767). His correspondence between 1718 and 1737 is among the Pelham MSS. (Addit. MS. 33085).

After spending a few months at Cambridge, the younger Pelham went in 1749 to Florence, where he was entertained by Sir Horace Mann, and formed an unsuitable attachment for the Countess Acciajuoli. In the summer of 1750 he was at Hanover, and dined with the elector.

Meanwhile he had been elected to parliament, on 13 Dec. 1749, for Rye. Being appointed a commissioner of trade on 6 April 1754, he accepted the offer of a seat for Sussex from his cousin, the Duke of Newcastle, and represented the county from May 1754 till Nov. 1768. In 1761 Pelham was named a lord of the admiralty. On 23 Oct. 1762 his relative Newcastle informed him of his intention not to serve under Lord Bute, and asked Pelham's advice. In the same year, when the duke obtained for himself the barony of Pelham of Stanmer, the reversion of it was secured by the patent to Pelham (Walpole, Mem. George III, i. 156; Jesse, George III, i. 122).

On the formation of the first Rockingham ministry in July 1765, Pelham was named comptroller of the household, and was sworn of the privy council. When Newcastle followed Rockingham out of office a year later, Pelham resigned. On this occasion Newcastle recommended all his friends to the king's favour, ‘and my cousin Pelham in particular.’ But neither Newcastle nor the Duke of Portland thought Pelham's resignation necessary. On the death, in Nov. 1768, of Newcastle, with whom Pelham was in confidential correspondence till the last, Pelham became Baron Pelham of Stanmer and head of the family. In 1773 he obtained the lucrative sinecure of the surveyor generalship of the customs of London, the reversion to which he had obtained in 1756.

From 1774 to 1775 he also held the nominal office of chief justice in eyre north of the Trent, which he gave up on his appointment as master of the great wardrobe. The offer of the latter office was ‘quite unexpected and unasked.’ The office was abolished in 1782, and Pelham was its last holder. He continued to attend occasionally the debates in the House of Lords, and in 1788 his name was attached to the two protests drawn up against Pitt's provision for the expected regency (Rogers, Protests of the Lords, iii. 228, 230). Walpole ranks him among ‘court ciphers,’ and always refers contemptuously to ‘Tommy Pelham.’ He was intimate with the Princess Amelia, second daughter of George II, and when she died in 1786 acted as one of her executors (Addit. MS. 33135).

On 23 June 1801 Pelham was created Earl of Chichester. He died, on 8 Jan. 1805, at his country house of Stanmer, Sussex, and was buried at Laughton in the same county.

Pelham married, on 15 June 1754, at Mortlake, Anne, daughter and heiress of Frederick Meinhard Frankland, third son of Sir Thomas Frankland, bart. She died on 5 March 1813, having had three sons and four daughters. Three of the latter and one of the former predeceased their parents. The surviving daughter, Amelia, died unmarried in 1847. The eldest son, Thomas [q. v.], and the third son, George [q. v.], are noticed separately.

[The Pelham MSS. presented to the British Museum in 1887 by the present Earl of Chichester contain a large quantity of private and official correspondence of the first earl. See also Lodge's Genealogy of the Peerage; G. E. C.'s Peerage; Ret. Memb. Parl.; Gent. Mag. 1805, i. 91; Ann. Reg. p. 459; Walpole's Corresp. 1891, ii. 221–2 n. iii. 48, iv. 287, 454, Mem. George III, i. 45, 156, ii. 194, Last Journals (Doran), i. 520; Haydn's Dict. of Dignities; Luard's Grad. Cant.; Horsfield's Hist. of Lewes, i. 340, gives the Pelham pedigree.]

G. Le G. N.