Sir Henry Spelman, antiquary, historian and author, was born in Norfolk in 1563/4, son of Henry and his second wife Frances (Saunders) and grandson of Sir John Spelman (d.1546), judge. He attended Cambridge university and entered Lincoln’s Inn to study law. On 18 April 1590 he married Eleanor L’Estrange and they had several children (Sir John (d.1643) became an author and married Anne Townshend, and Clement (d.1679) rose to be a baron of the Exchequer and married Mary Mason). Henry was knighted in 1604 and later moved from Norfolk, where he had served as sheriff, to Tothill Street in Westminster, near the Abbey. In 1620 he became a member of the New England Company. He wrote several learned works on legal and ecclesiastical history and died on 1 October 1641 at his son in law’s house. He was buried in the south ambulatory of the Abbey near the door to St Nicholas’ chapel. Eleanor had been buried near the entrance to St Benedict’s chapel on 25 July 1620. Henry’s grave was not marked until 1867 when Dean Stanley inserted a stone inscribed simply:
“Sir Henry Spelman. Antiquary. 1641”
A photograph of the stone and photocopy of the engraving can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004