Pelham Surname Genealogy
Pelham, thought to have derived from the Old English peol
meaning “house by the pool” and ham or “homestead,”
cropped up in various places in England.
Book in Hertfordshire, later became the village of Ferneux Pelham. Pelham manor in Cambridgeshire, part of the
Bishopric of Ely, was held by Peter de Pelham in 1201. Either
of these two place-names may have
been the origin of the influential Pelham family of Sussex.
Pelham Resources on
to family lore, the Pelham family in Sussex has as its emblem the
buckle – the result
of a supposed surrender of the French king to Sir John
Pelham in 1356 after the Battle of Poitiers.
Tradition says that when the king handed over his sword, Pelham
sword buckle and henceforth used it as his crest.
A more prosaic ancestry has these
Pelhams originating from Cambridgeshire.
John Pelham was a vicar at West Wickham in 1347 and a later John Pelham,
the son of a sometime
coroner in Sussex.
John Pelham’s fortunes rose during the reign of Henry IV and, on the
death in 1413, he was named as one of the five executors of his will. From that point onward the Pelham family of
Sussex was a wealthy and influential one.
Their principal homes in Sussex were Laughton Place from 1390 to
Halland Place from 1595 to 1730, and Stanmer
House near Brighton from 1730 to 1926.
1545 Sir Nicholas Pelham defended the Sussex coast against an attack by
marauding French. His exploit was
recorded on a memorial in St Michael’s Church in Lewes:
French sought to have sacked Seaford
This Pelham did repel them back
William fought on French soil at Le Havre in 1562 and later served as
Justice in Ireland. His son Sir Thomas
was made a baronet in 1611 and a subsequent Sir Thomas was the father
British Prime Ministers during the time of the Whig supremacy:
- Henry Pelham in
- and Thomas Pelham-Holles, the Duke of Newcastle, in
One Pelham family came from
Chichester in Sussex. Peter Pelham, who
had been born there in 1695, was trained in London in the then new
mezzotint engraving. He left London for
America in 1725. Another
Pelham line, traced from Playden in the
early 1700’s and later settling in Brede, emigrated to Australia in
Elsewhere. Pelhams from Sussex spread
England. They came to Brocklesby near
Lincolnshire in 1565 and, as the Earls of Yarborough, have remained
this day. In Brocklesby Park stands the Pelham Mausoleum, completed in
Another line was to be
found in Hull where Peregrine Pelham had been apprenticed to a merchant
1620’s and became a prosperous merchant there himself.
He was an ardent Parliamentarian and one of
the regicides of the King in 1649.
However, the Civil War had ruined him and he died penniless the
Pelham had been among the founding investors of the Massachusetts Bay
in 1630. In 1638 he departed for America
with four of his children and bought a house in Cambridge,
Massachusetts. During his short time in
America he was
appointed the first Treasurer of Harvard University and his house almost
He returned to England in 1646.
But his daughter Penelope remained to marry Josiah Winslow in
Peter Pelham, who had
arrived in Boston in 1725, made his mark there as a portrait painter. One son Henry, another painter and engraver,
was a Loyalist who departed America for London in 1776.
Another son Peter was an organist and
harpsichord teacher who made his home in Williamsburgh, Virginia:
- one of his
sons William was a well-known bookseller and publisher in Boston in the
18th and early 19th centuries.
- another son Charles fought in the Revolutionary
War and later settled in Maysville, Kentucky. His
grandson John Pelham, born in Alabama, was an artillery
the Confederate cavalry during the Civil War. He
was dubbed the
for his military prowess and personal courage.
Pelham is a well-known place-name
in the New York area but has no connection with the Pelham family. Thomas Pell bought the area known as Pelham
from the local Indians in 1654. He named
his manor Pelham in honor of his tutor Pelham Burton.
If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:
to Henry IV in the
early 1400’s, was the forebear of the Sussex Pelhams.
Henry Pelham and Thomas Pelham-Holles, the Dukes of
served as consecutive Prime Ministers of England in the mid-18th
John Pelham was a Confederate cavalry
officer during the Civil War who was dubbed the Gallant Pelham because
military prowess and personal courage.
Select Pelhams Today
- 800 in the UK (most numerous
- 1,000 in America (most numerous in Florida)
- 400 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)
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