Rev Edward Pele (1582 - 1643)

(Also spelt Peale or Peele)

The Vicar of Fordington & Rector of Compton Vallance

©Compiled by Michael Russell OPC for Fordington March 2009

The Rev. Edward PELE was born in the year 1582 in Cumberland where the Peele family name is of long standing. Unfortunately I have not been able to locate a baptism but he would have been from a reasonably well to do family as they were able to send him to Oxford to be educated. Queens CollegeGN1 was founded in 1341 with a preference for inhabitants of Cumberland and Westmoreland and by the year 1400 this had become a monopoly. It was therefore the natural college for him to be sent to and he matriculated there on 6th February 1600/1 at the age of 18GN2. Whilst at the college he was heavilly influenced by the growing puritan movement and would certainly have been interested in the 1604 conference at Hampton Court.

Following his accession in 1603 James I arranged a conference at Hampton Court in order to settle religious differences between the Puritan wing of the Church and the bishops. The Puritans were pressing both for a number of liturgical changes and for the bishops to be deprived of a share of parochial tithes. Their demands were set out in what was known as The Millenary Petition. At the outset the king had been minded to agree to the latter request, to the consternation of the bishops. The conference opened on 14 January 1604 and in the end the bishops prevailed: no changes were made.

Edward Pele duly obtained his Batchelor of Arts degree at Queens College on 11 July 1605 but he had already decided to join the church so never went on to obtain his MA there. A leading speaker who pleaded the puritan cause at the Hampton Court Conference was the Master of Emmanuel College Cambridge, Laurence Chaderton and it was to this college that Edward Pele turned for his future.

Emmanuel CollegeGN1 was by Oxford standards a newly formed institution being established in 1584 by <<<Sir Walter Mildmay (1520-1589) a man of puritan sympathies on the site of a former priory of the Dominican Order. It was specifically set up to provide training and education for protestant preachers to the same thoroughness as their Dominican predecessors. Laurence Chaderton(1538-1640) >>> was the first ever Master of the Collegebeing and although his pleas for the Puritan Cause at the conference were not accepted the conference was effectively the catalyst leading to the preparation of a new English Bible: the King James Bible. It was decided to proceed with a completely new translation to replace the Geneva bible in current use. This bible, first published in England in 1560 (1569 in Scotland) was much disliked by James for its marginal notes which challenged his divine primacy as monarch.

Edward Pele entered Emmanual College on 5th July 1608 and because of the exacting standards required for preachers had to start more or less from scratch with his study. He was however immediately surrounded by people of like views and the College was a hotbed of puritan zeal with the Master of their college Laurence Chaderton a key member of the committee established to review the bible. Edward obtained his BA degree in the same year that the King James Bible was published i.e. 1611. He was ordained into the church probably as a deacon on 6 June 1614 but so far I have not discovered where he served his curacy. He went on to obtain his Master of arts degree at Emanuel College in 1615.

King James Bible Published 1611

Vicar of St George's Church Fordington 1616
On 23 Oct 1616 he was duly appointed VicarGN3 of St George’s church in Fordington and the likelyhood is that he married shortly before coming to the parish. As a puritan Minister he found a kindred spirit in the charismatic John White, the rector of nearby Holy Trinity Church in Dorchester, and they soon became close friends. John White knew about and had a particular interest in the new translation of the Bible as two Fellows of his at college were among those appointed to undertake the task with Chaderton and Edwards first hand knowledge of proceedings would no doubt have been the subject of much debate between them. It is not surprising therefore to find Edward a few years later being listed as one of the 119 backers of the Dorchester Company and associated with the drive to establish a puritan colony in New England.

St George's Church Fordington

Associations with the Pelham FamilyGN10
Soon after arrival in Fordington Edward Pele became closely associated with one of his senior and most respected parishioners called Herbert Pelham (1546-1620). He had a distinguished background as the son of Anthony Pelham of Bucksteep (Warbleton) Sussex. After education at Cambridge he was to become sheriff of Surrey and Sussex and burgess of Winchelsea and Reigate. He lived initially at Hellingly and Crawley in Sussex and married twice, first to Catharine Thatcher with whom he had three children (Herbert born c1580; John born c1584 and Margaret). In 1587 he bought the Manor at Michelham in Sussex but in later life fell heavily into debt and had to sell most of his property. His second marriage was to Elizabeth West at Wherwell Hampshire on 12 Feb 1593/4 by whom he had 3 more sons (Thomas, Anthony, and Jonathan) and two more daughters (Anne and Elizabeth). He then appears to have settled with his large family in Fordington and then Compton Valence.GN4

Although Herbert Pelham was by then a man of 70, they had a lot in common. Herbert had been educated at Queens College Cambridge where he matriculated in 1562 at the age of 20 and although this was some time ago his second son Anthony Pelham had entered Emmanuel College on 18 May 1615 the same year Edward obtained his MA there. Influenced by Edward Pele, and the preachings of John White, Anthony Pelham obtained his BA in 1619/20 and went on to take holy orders, obtaining his MA in 1624.GN5 [I have not been able to discover his career record in the church but his wife's name was MaryGN10 and he died a cleric in Fordington in 1659, leaving his estate equally distributed to his children - transcription of his will is on this site].

It must have been a blow therefore when Herbert Pelham died suddenly intestate and was buried by Edward Pele in St George’s churchyard on 21st April 1620.GN6 & 10 His children of course continued as parishioners and the following year on 2 May 1621 Edward married Herbert’s daughter, Anne Pelham to the Reverend Edward Clarke. He was assistant to John White in DorchesterGN7 which demonstrates what a tight knit group of puritans this had become. Edward's association with the family continued with Herbert’s eldest son Thomas Pelham (c1626-1673) marrying Blanche Eyre the daughter of Robert Eyre of Wells in Somerset on 4 Sep 1621. Their first child Robert Pelham was baptised by Rev Edward Pele in Fordington on 12 Nov 1622 and his daughter Elizabeth soon followed on 9th May 1624. Thomas Pelham was captain of the Dorset Militia (1622-1629) and chose William Whiteway the younger (The Diarist) as his lieutenant and both became investors in the Dorchester CompanyGN7. Two of Herbert’s sons by his first wife Catharine Thatcher also played their part (Herbert born abt 1600 and his younger brother William) Herbert became an investor in the re-constituted New England CompanyGN9 and both brothers emigrated to New England. William on the Abigail as a part of Winthrop’s fleet in 1630 and Herbert in 1635.

I have not so far been able to locate Edwards Pele's marriage but we know from his will that her name was Alice. His eldest son took his name and Edward Pele junior was born in 1617 the year after he arrived in Fordington. The parish registers however have not survived for that year so unfortunately his baptism is lost. They do show however that two subsequent children were christened in St George's Church. A daughter Elizabeth Pele who was baptised on 9th February 1622, and a son Thomas on 5th March 1626. It is clear however from his will that he had six children living when he died so the others may have been baptised later at Compton Vallance.

Emigration of Parishioners
I have written at greater length in the short biography of the Rev. John White about the moves being made to establish a puritan colony in New England. Edward Pele played his part in encouraging participation in these schemes and because passenger lists were not kept it is difficult to establish exactly how many went from Fordington but we do know of a number like John Meech and John Stickland. Also among his parishioners were the Sprague family who emigrated and for which I have a written separate short biography. The three Sprague brothers Ralph, Richard and William all sailed on the Abigail on 20th June 1628 with the Governor John Endicott and of course William Pelham. Some nine months later their families joined them when they sailed on the Lyon’s Whelp.

Rector of Compton Vallance

The Church at Compton Valence is dedicated to the slain Archbishop Thomas Becket.
It still has its tower rebuilt in 1437 by Thomas Walden but the rest of the church was again rebulit between 1838/40.

It was probably with the influence of the Pelham family that on 6th June 1628 Edward Pele was made Rector of Compton Vallance which lies about 8 miles to the west of Fordington, and moved there to live with his family. He was given a newly appointed curate called Robert Turchin [or Tutchin] to help look after Fordington. From his arrival Robert Turchin signed all the parish registers as curate apart from the burial register for 1632 which was signed by Edward Pele as Minister. On the 15th January 1632/3 GN8 he also buried at Compton Vallance Herbert Pelham's widow Elizabeth and on 31st March 1633 he said goodbye to another old friend at Fordington the churchwarden of St George's, Anthony Eames and his family as they sailed for New England on the ‘Recovery of London’.

On 25 July 1633 Edward preached at the Assizes held before the Lord chief Justice Richardson and Baron Denham. There is a short note in William Whiteway’s diary that four of the offenders tried that day were subsequently executed.

Church records show that Edward Pele remained Vicar of St George’s until his death in 1643 but clearly after his move to Compton Vallance in 1628 the parish was more or less run by the incumbent curate. Robert Turchin left on 30 July 1634 when he moved (still as a curate) to Charminster. His place at Fordington was taken on 29 Oct 1634 by another newly appointed curate called William Strong who moved to become rector at Moor Critchel in 1640. His place in turn was taken by John Marshe until the death of Edward Pele and the appointment of a new vicar in 1643.

Mr William Whiteway made the following notes in his diary about this situation:-
‘Date 30 July 1634 - Mr Strong, a fellow of Catherine Hall in Cambridge, was accused by one of his companions for scandalous words spoken against the present Archbishop of Canterbury, and the late Archbishop of York - Harsnet: for which he resigned up his fellowship to the house , and another was chosen fellow. He shortly after married a rich young widow in Cambridge, being employed by Mr Goodwin to court her for him and in November following, Mr Tutchin removing to Charminster, he was by Mr Pele settled in the vicarage at Fordington.’

William Strong is in the Dictionary of National biography and described as an independent divine, born in Durham. He was indeed educated at Cambridge graduating with a BA from St Catharine Hall of which he was elected fellow on 30 Dec 1631. The Cambridge University Alumni shows that his fellowship was suspended in 1634 the same year that Edward Pele selected him as his curate at Fordington. This says much for Edwards views on the debate raging within the church over freedom of worship. As I indicated above William Strong became Rector of Moor Critchell in 1640, but he was driven out in 1643 when the royalists obtained the ascendancy in the country and he fled to London where he met a cordial reception, and frequently preached before parliament.

Assembly of Divines 1642
On 9 April 1642 Parliament finally agreed on a proposal put forward in the previous year to establish a body of divines for the purpose of advising it as to the best form of church government that should be adopted. A bill was introduced on 9th May that two divines were to be nominated by the knights and burgesses of each county in England. The ordinance summoning the assembly was issued on 12th June and the two representatives put forward for Dorset were the Rev John White and the Rev Edward Pele.GN9

On or about the 2 August 1643 Edward Pele died at Compton Vallance, although it was not until 1648 that an Administration over his estate was granted to his relict Alice. It is not clear why there was such a long delay and although the will was given verbally the most likely cause was the Civil War as the situation around Dorchester was quite serious in June 1643 (See my comments under John White's biography). I have transcribed a copy of Edward PELE's Will which is available on this site. It is interesting that Thomas Pelham the 2nd son of Thomas, and grandson of Herbert Pelham (1546-1620), was to be appointed Rector of Compton Valence on 5th March 1661, a post that he seems to have retained until his death in 1691.

Post Script :- According to the Oxford Alumni the Rev. Edward Pele's son (also called Edward born in 1617) was educated at Magdalen Hall in Oxford which he entered on 15 July 1636 at the age of 19. He in turn had a son,again called Edward, who when his time came was also educated at Magdalen. He was accepted in 1664 at the age of 17 and obtained a BA from Hart Hall in 1667/8; and an MA in 1670. He also took holy orders and was appointed Rector of Cattistock in Dorset on 24 April 1678, a position he held until 17 Nov 1681GN11.

Genealogical Notes:-

GN1. From the official histories of Queens College Oxford and Emmanual College Cambridge

GN2. Oxford University Alumni - register of students, graduates, and officers who attended Oxford University between 1500 and 1886. Original data: Foster, Joseph. Alumni Oxonienses: The Members of the University of Oxford, 1715-1886 and Alumni Oxonienses: The Members of the University of Oxford, 1500-1714. Oxford: Parker and Co., 1888-1892.

GN3. The Clergy of the Church of England database (CCEd) is an online database of clergy of the Church of England between 1540 and 1835. This database is still being compiled (Feb 2009) and may not therefore contain all entries for a particular church or indiviual. It is best to check both sets of data if location is known as some entries have not been carried across to the individuals record yet.

GN4. Background to Herbert Pelham from "Magna Carta Ancestry by Douglas Richardson, Kimball G Everingham and 'The New England Historical & Genealogical Register 1879 published by Heritage Books Maryland pages 287/8 - currently available on line at Google Books.

GN5. Cambridge University Alumni - list of all known students, graduates, and officers at the University of Cambridge, England, from 1261 to 1900

GN6. Baptisms and marriages in Fordington have been transcribed on this site.

GN7. William Whiteway of Dorchester - His diary 1618-1635 based on notes compiled by Thomas D Murphy Dorset Record Society

GN8. The date of her death at Compton Vallance is alternatively given in "Collins Peerage of England" by Arthur Collins as the 15th January 1639. I do not currently have access to Compton Vallance parish registers so I am unable to check which is correct.

GN9. Page 335 John White Founder of Massachusetts by Rose-Troup ublished 1930 by GP Puntnam's Sons [See also The Confession of faith--etc which lists the Divines which attended and show both John White and Edward Pele of Compton Valence.]

GN10 The Visitation of Dorset 1677, Page 53/4. Administration of his estate is recorded in Somerset Notes and Queries Volume III Published 1893 edited by Frederick William Weaver and Charles Herbert Mayo page 51 where it refers to Harbart PELHAM of Fordington with administration granted to his son Harbart PELHAM of Hastings Sussex with consent of his relict Elizabeth

GN11 Thomas Pelham MA (c1626 -1690) was the 2nd son of Thomas Pelham (1595/8-1673) of Compton Valence. His elder brother Robert Pelham (1622-1682) was Sheriff of Dorset in 1677. Thomas studied at New College Oxford being awarded a BA (16 Nov 1649) and MA (15 Jul 1652) before being incorporated into Cambridge in 1658. He served in the Parliamentary Army and was ordained a deacon and priest on 2nd March 1661 being appointed Rector of Compton Valence 3 days later. He married Hester the daughter of William Oviett and they had a son William baptised 10 June 1667. Thomas was buried at Compton Valence in 1690. His father pre deceased him in 1673 leaving a will which is available to view on and held at DHC Ref Ad/Dt/W/1673 event record 15 . It was dated 22nd Dec 1673 and proved by his executrix his lawful daughter Katherine PELHAM (bap 9th May 1624 Fordington) on 14th Jan 1673/4 who inherits all his estate apart from a bequest to his son Robert.

GN12 Located Feb 2011 : Access is needed to documents held at the Dorset History center in Dorchester (I live in Wales) which may add to the information above A2A Ref: ' Compton Valence Rectory Dorset COMM/2/196 6 July 1658 (endorsed 20 & 25 Aug 1658)' Contents are listed as a) Thomas Pelham, MA, Fellow of New College, Oxford; b) Death of Edward Pele; c) Thomas Pelham esq, of Compton Valence

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