SPENCER, Sir John, 4th Bt. (c.1650-1712), of Offley Place, Herts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1705 - 1708

Family and Education

b. c.1650, 2nd surv. s. of Sir Brockett Spencer, 1st Bt., of Offley Place by Susanna, da. of Sir Nicholas Carew† of Beddington, Surr.  educ. Magdalen Hall, Oxf. matric. 12 July 1667, aged 17; I. Temple 1668, called 1675. unmsuc. nephew in estate and as 4th Bt. Aug. 1699.

Offices Held

?Sheriff, Bedfordshire 1698.


Spencer, inheriting his £1,500 p.a. estate and title from his nephew who died unmarried at the age of 21, was the undistinguished end of a line of Hertfordshire baronets which had already become extinct once, before its re-creation in 1642. He was nevertheless well connected with prominent critics of the Stuarts, such as his father-in-law Sir Nicholas Carew, and Sir John Maynard*, whose daughter married Sir John’s brother, Sir Richard, 2nd Bt., though Spencer was also the brother-in-law of the staunch Tory Granado Pigot*. Given his legal training, he may have been the John Spencer who was in the office of the clerk of faculties and dispensations in Chancery in 1692, and who was fined in 1696 for not reading at Clement’s Inn. He may also have loaned £500 to the government in 1695, but is unlikely to have been the merchant of that name who traded with the East Indies at about the turn of the century. In 1705 Spencer ousted the Country Tory Thomas Halsey from one of Hertfordshire’s county seats, and was duly marked by Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) as a ‘gain’ for the Whigs. Another analysis of MPs categorized him as a ‘Churchman’, though his return had probably been assisted by Nonconformist votes. Moreover, the four meetings licensed in his own parish of Offley between 1691 and 1704 suggest that he may have been broad-minded in his attitude to Dissent. He voted on 25 Oct. 1705 for the Court candidate as Speaker, and in February 1706 supported the Court in proceedings on the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill. In April 1706 he signed the Hertfordshire address of congratulations on the victory at Ramillies, and was ranked as a Whig on two lists compiled in 1708, but lost his seat at the general election that year. He seems to have turned from national to local affairs, becoming a zealous justice, and was partly responsible for the construction of Hitchin’s bridewell. He died, unmarried, on 16 Nov. 1712, when the Offley estate passed to his four sisters, and thus eventually into the Gore family.1

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Mark Knights


  • 1. Top. and Gen. iii. 31; Dorm. and Ext. Baronetcies, 500; CSP Dom. 1691–2, p. 538; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 915; xvi. 209; Bodl. Rawl. lett. 92, f. 297; W. Urwick, Nonconformity in Herts. 663; Herts. Co. Recs. i. 68–69; R. Hine, Hist. of Hitchin, ii. 299–300; Clutterbuck, Herts. iii. 111.