Patrick Spens, 1st Baron Spens

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Spens
Chief Justice of India
In office
Monarch George VI
Preceded by Srinivas Vardachariar (acting)
Succeeded by H. J. Kania
Member of Parliament for Kensington South
In office
23 February 1950 – 8 October 1959
Preceded by Richard Law
Succeeded by William Roots
Member of Parliament for Ashford
In office
17 March 1933 – 1943
Preceded by Michael Knatchbull
Succeeded by Edward Percy Smith
Personal details
Born William Patrick Spens
(1885-08-09)9 August 1885
Died 15 November 1973(1973-11-15) (aged 88)
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Hilda Mary Bowyer (m. 1913; d. 1962)
Kathleen Annie Fedden Dodds (m. 1963)[1]
Alma mater New College, Oxford

William Patrick Spens, 1st Baron Spens, KBE, PC, KC (9 August 1885 – 15 November 1973) was a British lawyer, judge and Conservative politician. He served as Chief Justice of India from 1943 to 1947.

Spens was the eldest of the six children of Nathaniel Spens, a chartered accountant and managing director of state liquidation, born in Glasgow and of Frimley, Surrey, and Emily Jessie Connal.[2][3][4] His parents were of Scottish descent. Spens was educated at Rugby and New College, Oxford, and was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in 1910. He served in the First World War as an adjutant in the 5th battalion of the Queen's Royal Regiment. After the war Spens started practising as a lawyer and became a King's Counsel (KC) in 1925. He unsuccessfully contested St Pancras South West in the 1929 general election, but was elected for Ashford in 1933. In 1943 Spens was unexpectedly appointed Chief Justice of India. He retained this post until 1947.

He served from 1947 to 1948 as chairman of the tribunal set up to arbitrate between Indian judges disagreeing over the concept and substance of the Partition of India which had been announced by Lord Mountbatten and was being detailed by Sir Cyril Radcliffe's two boundary commission (one for Bengal, one for present-day Pakistan).[5][6]

Spens returned to Britain in 1949, and the following year he was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Kensington South. He stood down from Parliament in its recall for the 1959 general election.

Spens was knighted in 1943, appointed a KBE, becoming Sir William, in 1948 and admitted to the Privy Council in 1953. After his retirement from the House of Commons in 1959 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Spens, of Blairsanquhar in the County of Fife.

Spens married firstly Hilda Mary, daughter of Wentworth Grenville Bowyer, in 1913. They had two sons. After his first wife’s death in 1962 he married secondly Kathleen Annie Fedden, daughter of Roger Dodds. Lord Spens died in November 1973, aged 88. He was succeeded in the barony by his eldest and only surviving son, William.


  1. ^ "Spens, Baron (UK, 1959)". Cracoft's Peerage. Retrieved 25 April 2017. 
  2. ^ 1901 census retrieved 2013-07-16
  3. ^ The Scottish Nation; or the Surnames, Families, Literature, Honours and Biographical History of the People of Scotland William Anderson (1867), A Fullarton, Edinburgh
  4. ^ The London Gazette 21 July 1891 p 3894
  5. ^ Smitha, F. The US and Britain in Asia, to 1960. MacroHistory website, 2001.
  6. ^ Read, A. and Fisher, D. (1997). The Proudest Day: India's Long Road to Independence. New York: Norton pp 440-470


  • Blake, Lord, Nicholls, C. S (editors). The Dictionary of National Biography, 1971-1980. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.
  • Kidd, Charles, Williamson, David (editors). Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage (1990 edition). New York: St Martin's Press, 1990,[page needed]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Michael Knatchbull
Member of Parliament for Ashford
Succeeded by
Edward Percy Smith
Preceded by
Richard Kidston Law
Member of Parliament for Kensington South
Succeeded by
William Lloyd Roots
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Spens
Succeeded by
William Spens