SPOTTISWOODE, Andrew (1787-1866), of 9 Bedford Square, Mdx. and Broome Hall, Dorking, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1826 - 1830
1830 - 21 Mar. 1831

Family and Education

b. 19 Feb. 1787,1 4th but 3rd surv. s. of John Spottiswoode (d. 1805) of Spottiswoode, Berwick and Margaret Penelope, da. of William Strahan†, king’s printer, of Little New Street, London. educ. Edinburgh h.s. m. 16 Mar. 1819,2 Mary, da. of Thomas Norton Longman, printer, of 39 Paternoster Row, London, 2s. 3da (1 d.v.p.). d. 20 Feb. 1866.

Offices Held

King’s printer, 1830-55.

Sheriff, London and Mdx. 1827-8.


Spottiswoode was descended from an old Berwickshire family, who in John Spottiswoode (1565-1639) could boast an archbishop of St. Andrews and lord chancellor of Scotland. His second son Sir Robert Spottiswoode (1596-1646) was executed by the Covenanters. Sir Robert’s grandson John Spottiswoode (1666-1728), an eminent advocate and legal author, recovered the forfeited lands and barony of Spottiswoode in Berwickshire.3 With his wife Mary Thompson of Fife he had two sons, John, the father of this Member, who succeeded to the family estate, and Robert, who became an attorney in London. In 1779 John Spottiswoode married the daughter of William Strahan, a master printer in London, who since 1770 had held a third share in the patent of king’s printer, in which he was succeeded on his death in 1785 by his son Andrew Strahan, Member for various constituencies, 1796-1820. He operated as king’s printer with Charles Eyre at 8 East Harding Street, Shoe Lane, off Fleet Street, and ran separately his private printing business in nearby Little New Street and New Street Square.4

John Spottiswoode, who evidently became a partner in his brother-in-law’s private business in 1784, had six sons: of these, William, the second, died, aged 17, in 1800, and Henry, the youngest, died, aged 13, in 1806.5 The previous year John, the eldest (1780-1866), succeeded his father, whose personalty was sworn under £12,500, to the Scottish estate and property in Tobago.6 By his will, William Strahan had provided £5,000 for the benefit of the existing and future children of his daughter Margaret, who died in 1794. This was used to set up a fund, under the management of his trustees Andrew Strahan and Thomas Cadell, of £6,802 in the three per cents. From this Andrew Spottiswoode, John’s third surviving son, obtained £2, 871 when he came of age in 1808.7 After schooling in Edinburgh, he began work in his uncle’s private printing house, and eventually went into partnership with him. In 1819 he and his youngest surviving brother Robert, born in 1791, took over from Strahan the active management of the concern, which became known as A. and R. Spottiswoode. They installed steam printing and acquired and rebuilt additional premises in the area of New Street Square and Shoe Lane.8

At the general election of 1826 Andrew Spottiswoode was returned unopposed for Saltash on the Russell interest.9 He presented an Edinburgh petition for repeal of the corn laws, 20 Feb. 1827.10 He voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. He was in the Tory minorities against the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May, and the Coventry magistracy bill, 11, 18 June. He voted for the grant for Canadian water communications, 12 June 1827. He voted against repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and Catholic claims, 12 May, and presented a Saltash petition against the latter, 6 June 1828. He voted with the Wellington ministry on chancery delays, 24 Apr., the ordnance estimates, 4 July, and the customs bill, 14 July. On 5 June he commented that the London bankers and merchants who complained about the practice of driving cattle to slaughter through the streets of the City should be prepared to pay for an abattoir system out of their own pockets. He presented a Saltash petition for the abolition of slavery, 23 June 1828. Planta, the patronage secretary, predicted in February 1829 that Spottiswoode would vote ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation, but he seems to have abstained, though he presented a hostile petition, 17 Mar. He was on holiday at Tunbridge Wells in September 1829.11

On 21 Jan. 1830, following the death of John Reeves the previous August, Spottiswoode received a 30-year patent as king’s printer. He voted against the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., Lord Blandford’s reform scheme, 18 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. 1830. He divided against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May. He was in the Protestant minority against the Galway franchise bill, 25 May. On 13 May, presenting a petition complaining of the practice of interment in the churches and churchyards of London from an individual peddling a plan for a cemetery outside the city, he recounted from personal experience some of the vile nuisances which resulted. He called for the establishment of a permanent commission to regulate the whole metropolis, but did not move, as the petitioner wished, for the appointment of a select committee: ‘I think that committees are more remarkable for finding out abuses than remedying them, and my object is not to blame but to remedy’. The following day he apologized for having unintentionally offended the vicar and parishioners of St. Giles’s by his remarks on the state of their churchyard. He voted against abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June. He thought it ‘highly desirable’ that reform of the magnitude proposed in Poulett Thomson’s usury laws amendment bill should be ‘thoroughly considered’, 15 June. He had no confidence in Acland’s much altered coach proprietors bill, which seemed to him to ‘hold out encouragement to carelessness’, 9 July 1830. At the general election of 1830 he was a late candidate for the open and expensive borough of Colchester, standing on the Blue interest with the backing of the corporation and declaring, among the customary cant, his ‘firm attachment to the constitution in church and state’. He finished second in the poll to the radical sitting Member Harvey, well ahead of William Mayhew*, a reformer.12 Ministers of course listed him as one of their ‘friends’. Chairing the Colchester Blues’ celebration dinner, 28 Oct. 1830, he claimed to have been returned unfettered and independent and promised to support and promote the agricultural interest, though he declined to commit himself to specific measures.13

On 5 Nov. 1830 Harvey’s radical associate Hume raised in the House the question of Spottiswoode’s patent as king’s printer, complaining that in renewing it government had ignored the recommendation of the select committee of 1810, suggesting that it enabled its holder to profit greatly at the expense of the public, and alleging that it was an unwritten part of the contract that ‘one of the king’s printers is always to be in Parliament and vote for ministers’.14 O’Connell seconded his motion for the production of the relevant papers. In his indignant reply Spottiswoode said that the costs to the public had been greatly exaggerated, and repudiated Hume’s allegation that

I have made a compact, by which I am to sit in this House and vote for ministers. I deny and cast back that aspersion in his teeth. No man here, or set of men shall have the control or command of my vote. Does it follow, because I differ from ... [Hume] in opinion, that I am corrupt? It is too much the practice now to use that kind of language, but I utterly deny its applicability to myself.

In a later exchange with Hume, he insisted that ‘they are my own opinions, and none other, that govern my vote’. He was in the ministerial minority on the civil list, 15 Nov. The following day Mayhew petitioned against his return, alleging malpractice by the returning officer and bribery by Spottiswoode, but crucially arguing that his patent as king’s printer disqualified him, as a government contractor.15 At the anniversary dinner of the Essex and Colchester True Blue Club, 23 Nov. 1830, Spottiswoode observed sarcastically:

The [Grey] ministry are pledged to bring forward measures of reform, which are to satisfy everybody, and restore the nation to its pristine brilliance and prosperity. If they do this, we have nothing more to say.

He deplored the disturbed state of neighbouring countries, where ‘the spirit of turbulence and revolution, accompanied with diabolical practices’, was rampant. He attributed the relative tranquillity of Essex to the benevolence and wisdom of its landlords, who knew that ‘it is a false notion, by reducing the wages of the labourer a shilling, that the farmer relieves his own burdens’. Yet he wanted condign punishment for miscreants.16 He gave somewhat evasive and unhelpful evidence to the select committee on the king’s printers, 2 Mar. 1831.17 On the 21st (the day before the second reading of the reform bill, which he would certainly have opposed) the Colchester election committee, deeming him to be disqualified by his patent, unseated him. Mayhew boasted in Colchester that he had ‘thrown [Spottiswoode] back (never to emerge) into the press room of the king’s printer, and ... saved the country ... thousands per annum’.18 Spottiswoode, who does not appear to have tried to re-enter Parliament, was again called before the select committee, 30 Mar. 1831.19

Andrew Strahan, a bachelor, died the following August 1831. By his will, dated 19 Mar. 1830, he left his property in Kent and Surrey to his great-nephew William Snow, who took the name of Strahan. He gave Andrew Spottiswoode a legacy of £15,000, and bequeathed to Robert his patent as king’s printer and share in the stock and materials of that business. To both Spottiswoode nephews he left his house in Little New Street, two adjoining houses, the lease of the printing office in New Street Square and his share in copyright. They were entitled to an eighth share each in the £181,224 residue of a personal estate which was sworn under £800,000.20 After the sudden death of Robert, aged 40, at Carlisle in September 1832, Andrew Spottiswoode (to whom his brother left £5,000) remained in sole charge of the private firm of Spottiswoode and Company for the next 16 years, as well as continuing to operate as king’s printer with Eyre and Spottiswoode.21 In 1837 he achieved some notoriety by organizing a nationwide subscription to help finance petitions against the return of Irish Catholic Members at the recent general election: he and his associates became known as ‘The Spotttiswoode Gang’.22 In January 1845 he failed to convince Sir Robert Peel of the worth of a pamphlet by one Taylor advocating a return to ‘a government paper currency to represent taxation, prices and a liberal minimum of wages for labour on public works’.23 In 1848 he took in as partners in Spottiswoode and Company his second son George Andrew and Thomas Clark Shaw. He retired from the business in 1855, having already handed over his patent to his elder son William (1825-83), who achieved great distinction as a mathematician and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Thus the personal link between Spottiswoodes and Eyre and Spottiswoode, which were respectively continued by the two branches of the family, was ended.24 Spottiswoode died in February 1866 at his London home at 12 James Street, Buckingham Gate. By his will, dated 7 Aug. 1860, he left his wife his shares in the Stationers’ Company, together with his books, furniture and household goods. To William he devised his freehold property, to George a silver inkstand and to his daughters Rosa and Augusta equal shares in the proceeds of four life assurance policies and 13 shares each in the London Gas Light Company.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Add. 48837, f. 11.
  • 2. Gent. Mag. (1819), i. 274. Burke LG gives 5 Mar.
  • 3. Oxford DNB.
  • 4. HP Commons, 1754-1790, iii. 489-91; HP Commons, 1790-1820, v. 301-2. R.A. Austen-Leigh, Story of a Printing House (1912), 10-11; W.B. Todd, Dir. of Printers, 186.
  • 5. Add. 48837, ff. 11, 31.
  • 6. Gent. Mag. (1805), i. 189; PROB 11/1424/302; IR26/98/208.
  • 7. Add. 48837, ff. 32, 46.
  • 8. Austen-Leigh, 36-38; P.A.H. Brown, London Publishers and Printers, 185; Todd, 182; Add. 48904, f. 309.
  • 9. Lincs. AO, Tennyson d’Eyncourt mss H98/2d/30.
  • 10. The Times, 21 Feb. 1827.
  • 11. Add. 48905, ff. 65, 70, 73, 75, 80, 82.
  • 12. Colchester Gazette, 31 July, 7 Aug. 1830.
  • 13. Ibid. 30 Oct. 1830.
  • 14. See also Extraordinary Black Bk. (1832), 572-3.
  • 15. CJ, Ixxxvi. 100.
  • 16. Colchester Gazette, 4 Dec. 1830.
  • 17. PP (1831-2), xviii. 23-29.
  • 18. CJ, lxxxvi. 411; Colchester Gazette, 26 Mar. 1831.
  • 19. PP (1831-2), xviii. 82-84.
  • 20. Gent. Mag. (1831), ii. 274-5; C.H. Timperley, Dict. of Printers, 918; PROB 11/1790/542; IR26/1273/457.
  • 21. Gent. Mag. (1832), ii. 386; PROB 11/1808/726; IR26/1306/705; Austen-Leigh, 38.
  • 22. O’Connell Corresp. vi. 2472, 2515, 2520, 2531; Holland House Diaries, 376; Greville Mems. iii. 403-4.
  • 23. Add. 40558, ff. 109, 111.
  • 24. Austen-Leigh, 41, 51, 56.