Nathaniel Spens Family Heritage


Nathaniel's Father, James Spens (1797-1870)

James Spens, the son of Colonel James Spens was born Jan 9, 1797 and was a copperplate printer master by trade. James married Isabella Irvine, the daughter of the late John Irvine, potter of Westpans. James and Isabella gave their names for marriage by proclamation at the Cannongate Parish in Edinburgh on May 16, 1817. James was living at Parries close, Cannongate and Isabella was from Reids Close, Cannongate, Drummonds Land 2nd Story.  The above photo was sent by email by David Cunningham, a descendant of James and Isabella through their daughter Sarah.

James's parentage has not been clear.  Michael Spens, Baron of Wormiston, Fife, Scotland, assisted me (Louise Brown) in the Spens research. We have concluded that James Spens, the father of Nathaniel Spens, the artist, is the eldest son of Colonel James Spens, the son of Nathaniel Spens Archer to the Queen, of Craigsanquar, Fife, Scotland. It appears Nathaniel's father James was born (probably in Edinburgh) prior to the Colonel's second marriage but nearly 9 years after his first wife died. When James's second wife, Frances, died in India without children, Colonel James Spens returned to England and had his son James baptized in London on 2 March 1801. Baby James is not mentioned in the Indian military records. The widowed Colonel seems to have placed young James in the care or guardianship of his brother, Dr. Thomas Spens. Colonel James Spens married again in 1804 and did not name another son James. Dr. Thomas Spens had a son named James born 28 Nov 1811. Colonel James Spens's third wife must have had hopes of her eldest son being the heir, and Colonel James's new family predominate after Thomas and James's father, Dr. Nathaniel Spens, Archer to the Queen, dies. Of the children born to Colonel James Spens, only James Spens and a younger son named Nathaniel had posterity. Nathaniel was named the heir, and James, the rightful heir, was never listed in the Burks Landed Gentry Records.

The birth date for James Spens that the family has of Jan 9, 1797 fits James's age given on the 1851 census. James's first marriage to Isabella Irvine does not name a father for James. Perhaps because the Colonel did not acknowledge him as his son after his marrige to Elizabeth Joanna Davidson on 6 Feb 1804, James did not acknowledge the Colonel as his father. On his second marriage record on 30 July 1855, James named his Uncle Thomas Spens, Dr. as his father. James went on to name his first son Thomas and his second son James which child died and he later named his 8th child James. This child lived two weeks and died also. His last son also named James (Robert Henry James Davison Spens).



Sarah Spen, Nathaniel's sister of Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northumberland, England

Sarah was widowed thee times. She married Thomas Matthews, Cuthbert Douse and John Stonehouse 



Bessie (Elisabeth) Spens, Nathaniel's sister of Glasgow, Soctland

Bessie married John Leck