studio of Godfrey Kneller, Sir Thomas Pelham, later 1st Lord Pelham of Laughton (c.1653–1712)

Photo courtesy of Tom St Aubyn (All rights reserved)


Country House
Raynham Hall
Sir Thomas Pelham, later 1st Lord Pelham of Laughton (c.1653–1712)
The Stone Parlour
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 122 cm, Overall width: 99 cm
studio of Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723)
Catalogue Number
  • Inscribed bottom right: ‘Ld. Pelham’


Thomas Pelham, 1st Baron Pelham (c.1653–1712) was a moderate Whig politician, described by the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury as one of the ‘honestest of men and most true to the interests of the public’.1 He was the first son of the politician Sir John Pelham (1623–1703), 3rd Baronet of Laughton, in Sussex, and Lucy, daughter of Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester. Thomas continued to represent their local constituency of Lewes between 1679 and 1702 and then Sussex (1702–5). He was a commissioner on the Board of Customs (1689–90) and was a spokesman for the Treasury in the Commons for periods between 1690 and 1702. His first wife, Elizabeth (c.1664–1681), whom he married in 1680, was the daughter of another Whig politician, Sir William Jones, and was said to have ensured he stayed a Whig, though in later years he increasingly followed the independent ‘Country’ line. One of their two daughters, Elizabeth (d. 1711), married Charles Townshend, 2nd Viscount Townshend (1675–1738), nicknamed ‘Turnip Townshend’ for his championing of the value of turnips in successful crop rotation. Pelham married his second wife, Grace (1668/9–1700), the daughter of Gilbert Holles, 3rd Earl of Clare, in 1686, and their two sons both became prime minister: Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and 1st Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyme (1693–1768), whom Kneller painted,2 and Henry Pelham (1694–1754). Pelham succeeded his father as 4th Baronet in 1703 and used his connections to secure himself a peerage, being created Baron Pelham of Laughton in 1706.

Oliver Millar, during a visit to Raynham in 1995, noted that RN57 was in the ‘style’ of Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646–1723), adding that it ‘could be right’. The suggestion here is that it is probably by Kneller with assistance from an artist working in his studio. A version of lesser quality, probably a later copy, but with the landscape view more visible, and inscribed ‘Thomas, the first Lord Pelham’ is in the National Trust Collection at Clandon Park (NT 1441484). Judging by the sitter’s apparent age, the portrait was probably executed around 1700, when Pelham would have been about fifty years old. The handling of the painted robe is similar to that of Kneller’s portrait of Johan Hulft of 1697 (Gelderland Collection, the Netherlands, 1990.10.7), and there is no indication in the portrait that Pelham had yet received the barony.

by Emily Burns


Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, Portraits in Norfolk Houses, ed. Rev. Edmund Farrer, vol. 2, Norwich : Jarrold and Sons, 1928, vol. 2, pp. 226–7, no. 16 (‘SIR THOMAS PELHAM BART., 1ST LORD PELHAM’)

Paul Mellon Centre Archive, Oliver Millar, 'Notes on a Visit to Raynham Hall', ONM/1/22, 8 April 1995, p. 21


  1. B. Rand, ed., The Life, Unpublished Letters and Philosophical Remarks of Anthony, Earl of Shaftesbury, London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1900, p. 487.

  2. National Portrait Gallery, NPG 3215; University of Nottingham, UON.082.


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