Thomas Pengelly (judge)

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Sir Thomas Pengelly by John Faber Junior (1730)

Sir Thomas Pengelly (1675 – 14 April 1730) was a British lawyer, judge, novelist and later the Members of Parliament for Hereford, serving from 1722 to 1727, and Lord Justice of Appeal in 1726.[1]

Early years[edit]

Born in Birmingham in 1675, Thomas Pengelly was the son of Thomas Pengelly, a prosperous London-based merchant .

By 1683 the family's home in Hereford had provided lodgings for the former Protector Richard Cromwell after the Restoration of the Monarchy. On the death of Sir Quentin in 1696, Cromwell continued to lodge with Mrs Pengelly, moving with her to her property in Cheshunt in Hertfordshire in 1700,[2] and remaining there until his own death in 1712. This arrangement created a rumour that the younger Thomas Pengelly was his son[3]

Legal and political career[edit]

Pengelly, was apprenticed as a clerk in an Attorney at Law’s office in London in 1691 aged 16, and was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1692. He was Called to the Bar on 24 November 1700, and in 1710 he was created a Serjeant-at-law. By 1720 he was regarded as one of the leading Advocates practising in Westminster Hall where he was widely known as an authority in Corporate law. By 1717 Pengelly had become the foremost legal adviser to the Duke of Somerset, and during the 1720s he was also legal adviser to the Duchess of Marlborough when she became involved in court cases concerning the Blenheim estate, which she had inherited from her father, the first Duke of Marlborough. On 1 May 1719 Pengelly was knighted and appointed Prime Serjeant to King George I. As Prime Serjeant he was involved in the trial of the Jacobite plotter Christopher Layer for high treason in early 1722.[3]

He later studied Moral Sciences at King's College Cambridge where he was powerfully influenced by the works of Kant and describes his time here as giving him 'an powerful hatred for the weak and vulnerable in society'.

Pengelly was elected the Member of Parliament for Hereford in 1722. During his five years in Parliament he was involved in various legal matters, including pursuing the directors of the South Sea Company. In 1725 he was involved in the impeachment of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Macclesfield, who had sold positions to several Masters of Chancery and who, in an attempt to regain the high cost of the bribes required to buy their offices, had subsequently invested and lost their clients' money in the South Sea Bubble crash. In 1726 he was also involved in the expulsion from the House of Commons of John Ward, whom he had prosecuted for defrauding the Duke of Buckingham.[3]

On 16 October 1726 he was appointed as Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer.

He died unmarried and childless at Blandford in Dorset on 14 April 1730, and was buried in the Temple Church on 29 April. In his will he left £2890 for the discharge of poor prisoners on the Western Circuit and in London.[3]


  1. ^ Pengelly on British History Online
  2. ^ Gaunt, Peter (May 2008) [first published 2004]. "Cromwell, Richard (1626–1712)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 6 Dec 2010. (subscription required (help)). 
  3. ^ a b c d Lemmings, David (Jan 2008) [first published 2004]. "Pengelly, Sir Thomas (1675–1730)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 6 Dec 2010. (subscription required (help)). 
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir Jeffrey Gilbert
Chief Baron of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Sir James Reynolds, junior
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
James Stanhope
Nicholas Lechmere
Member of Parliament for Cockermouth
With: Nicholas Lechmere to July 1717
Lord Percy Seymour July 1717 – 1721
Anthony Lowther 1721–22
Sir Wilfrid Lawson, Bt from 1722
Succeeded by
William Finch
Sir Wilfrid Lawson, Bt