BENCE, John (1622-88), of Bevis Marks, London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



9 Nov. 1669
Oct. 1679

Family and Education

bap. 3 Oct. 1622, 1st s. of Alexander Bence of Aldeburgh, Suff. and London by 1st w. Anne Aylett of Rendham, Suff. m. (1) by 1653, Judith, da. of Peter Andrews, merchant, of London, 1s. d.v.p. 1da.; (2) lic. 10 Dec. 1661, Joan (d. 16 Jan. 1685), da. of Sampson Cotton, merchant, of London, wid. of John Wood, merchant, of London, s.p. suc. fa. by 1663.1

Offices Held

Jt. farmer of add. customs 1662-7; jt. receiver of crown rents [I] 1665-70; commr. of revenue [I] 1671-5.2

Asst. R. Adventurers into Africa 1663-72, sec. by 1665; commr. for assessment, London 1664-80, Aldeburgh 1673-80; alderman, London 1664-5; asst. Grocers Co. 1664-87, warden 1667-8, master 1668-9; asst. R. Africa Co. 1672-3, 1675-7, 1680-2, 1685-7; commr. for recusants, Suff. 1675; dep. lt. London 1676-?83; freeman, E.I. Co. 1678.3


Bence’s family had been prominent in the commercial and municipal life of Aldeburgh since Tudor times, and first sat for the borough in 1624. His father, a London Grocer, acted as parliamentary commissioner for the navy during the Civil War, representing Aldeburgh (together with his uncle Squire Bence) until Pride’s Purge, and sitting in the first Protectorate Parliament for the county.4

Bence does not seem to have inherited the Presbyterian leanings of the older generation of his family. A merchant trading with Portugal, Brazil and the Levant, he invested £1,500 in the Africa Company, of which he became secretary, and went into partnership with the Cromwellian financier Sir Martin Noel to farm the additional customs duties on wine, tobacco, silk and linen. He sat for Aldeburgh in 1659, but was defeated in 1661. ‘In the plague year’, according to his grandson, he ‘got a great estate’, and paid £720 to be excused from the office of alderman. Together with his brother, Sir Alexander Bence of Dublin, he was appointed to receive on behalf of the crown a year’s rent from all lands in Ireland returned to Roman Catholic proprietors or in which the Adventurers were concerned. In this capacity, as the King wrote to Ormonde in 1666, they were ‘serviceable to us, and have increased our revenue’.5

Bence, who had inherited property in and around Aldeburgh, defeated the official candidate Samuel Pepys in the by-election of 1669, but was included in the opposition list of the court party. An inactive Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was appointed to only 27 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in three sessions. He helped to manage conferences on the bills to prevent surrender of ships to pirates and to prohibit the planting of tobacco in England, and was among those instructed to draw up reasons against the export of wool. As one of the disappointed syndicate, headed by Lord St. John (Charles Powlett I) and Sir William Bucknall, who advanced £207,400 to the crown for the customs farm in 1671, he was awarded fee-farm rents to the value of £1,066 p.a., and in the same month married his daughter to Sir Vere Fane with five or six thousand pounds down, though ultimately her portion amounted to £40,000. He and his brother also joined the syndicate formed by Lord Ranelagh (Richard Jones) to farm the whole of the Irish revenue for five years, a contract that was particularly attractive to the Bences because they were heavily in debt to the crown on their previous farms. He was appointed to the committees for regulating the Greenland and plantation trades (22 Mar. 1673), en