The troubles of Thomas Pestell came to a head at Lambeth on 21 November 1633. He was the victim of an improbable alliance between a godly nobleman, a Laudian judge, three alehouse keepers, a few tithe resisters, some Ashby nonconformists, “mad Stacey,” and a determined troublemaker. This ambitious Leicestershire parson, already embittered by failure, was humiliated by the Court of High Commission. Led by Archbishop Laud, the court declared that Pestell “had to the scandal and reproach of his ministerial function many ways demeaned himself”: he was ordered to grovel before his critics and pay his enemies' expenses. It could have been very much worse. The offenses of contempt of ecclesiastical authority, admitting excommunicates to communion, and performing clandestine marriages, “although they were in themselves no way justifiable but worthy of severe punishment,” were set aside for the moment and never resurfaced. An allegation of vexatious litigation had already been dropped, a charge of seditious preaching was “not sufficiently proved,” and “for his quarrelling and fighting, and giving cause to have him bound to the peace before the temporal judges, this the court much misliked though they would not censure him for it.” Formally, Pestell was only punished for jeering at the earl of Huntingdon, mocking Sir John Lambe, and sending two of his parishioners on a wild-goose chase—but his once-promising career was in ruins.
Thomas Pestell was born in 1585, the son of a Leicester tailor. He went to Cambridge as a sizar, took his M.A. in 1609, and was presented to the Leicestershire rectory of Coleorton by Sir Thomas Beaumont in 1611.