Spelman, John (1495?-1544) (DNB00)
|←Spelman, Henry||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 53
Spelman, John (1495?-1544)
|Spelman, John (1594-1643)→|
SPELMAN, Sir JOHN (1495?–1544), judge of the king's bench, born about 1495, was son of Henry Spelman, recorder of Norwich in 1491. The Spelman family were of ancient descent, being sprung from Hampshire, where in the time of Henry III they held the manor of Brockenhurst; in the fourteenth century they appear to have settled in Norfolk, where they held the manor of Bekerton in the fifteenth century. The judge's father, Henry Spelman of Bekerton, by his marriage with his second wife, Ela, daughter and coheiress of William de Narborough, became possessed of the property at Narborough, which subsequently became the home of the family (Blomefield, History, vi. 450, 454). Spelman was the youngest of seven children of his father's second marriage. Early in life he was sent to Gray's Inn to study law (cf. Foster, Gray's Inn Reg. pp. x, 9). He became a reader of the inn in 1514, and was appointed to the same office a second time in 1519 (Dugdale, Origines, p. 292). He was called to the degree of the coif in Trinity term 1521, and was made king's serjeant in April 1529 (Letters and Papers, Hen. VIII, vol. iv. pt. ii. p. 2435). He was appointed (14 July 1530) one of the commissioners to make inquisition in the county of Norfolk as to the possessions held by Wolsey therein, and again as commissioner in August 1530 to make an inquisition of lands given by Wolsey to Christ Church, Oxford, previously to his attainder (ib. p. 2946). In February 1532 he was acting as a justice of assize, and was created a judge of the king's bench in 1533 (Dugdale, Chronica Series, p. 82). He was present at the coronation of Anne Boleyn in June 1533, and reported the manner of attendance of the judges (Cotton MSS. Vesp. cxiv. 124). In 1535 he acted as a commissioner on the trials of Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher, and again on 13 May 1536 as one of the special commissioners of oyer and terminer for Middlesex who were appointed to return all indictments found against Queen Anne and Lord Rochford (Letters and Papers, Hen. VIII, vol. x.). For such services he received in April 1537 a grant in fee of the manor of Gracys in Narborough, Norfolk, belonging to the suppressed priory of Penteney (ib. vol. xii. pt. i. p. 512).
Spelman appears to have been a discreet courtier, and, at Thomas Cromwell's request, appointed the latter's nominee as clerk of assize on 12 April 1538, though regretfully writing ‘Albeit I intended to promote one of my own sons.’ He died on 26 Feb. 1544, and was buried in Narborough church. The brass of Sir John in judge's robes over his tomb is engraved in Cotman's ‘Norfolk Brasses.’
Spelman married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir Henry Frowyk of Gunnersbury in Middlesex, brother of Sir Thomas Frowyk [q. v.], chief justice of the common pleas, by whom he left a family of thirteen sons and seven daughters. His second son, Henry, was father of Sir Henry Spelman (1564?–1641) [q. v.] A younger son, William Spelman, was educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and spent a considerable portion of his life in the Netherlands, where in 1523 he was engaged in a secret mission on behalf of the king of Spain (Tanner MS. lxxx. 21 et seq.). He was the author of ‘A Dialogue or Confabulation between two Travellers, sometimes Companions in study in Magdalene College, Cambridge, the one named Viandante, the other Seluaggio.’ This piece, in manuscript, was formerly in the collection of Dawson Turner. William Spelman married Catherine, daughter of Cornelius von Stonhove, a Dutch judge.[Foss's Judges; Blomefield's Norfolk; Visit. of Norfolk (Harl. Soc.), p. 264; Norfolk Archæological Soc. Publ. vol. vii.]