Benson, Robert, Baron Bingley 1676-1731, politician, was the son of Robert Benson, of Wrenthorpe, Yorkshire—a gentleman described by the proud Lord Strafford as an attorney, and no great character for an honest man, and by Sir John Reresby in his Memoirs (ed. 1735), p. 23, as a man of mean extraction and of little worth—by Dorothy, sister of Tobias Jenkins, M.P. for York city, who afterwards married Sir Henry Belasyse. From his father the younger Benson inherited an estate of 1,500l. a year, which, in spite of very handsome living, he largely augmented in later years. In 1702 he was returned to parliament for the borough of Thetford, retaining his seat until 1705, when he was elected for the city of York, and continued to represent it until his elevation to the peerage. He began life as a whig, but was induced to join the tories, though he remained very moderate in the expression of his political views. In Harley's administration he became a lord of the treasury (10 Aug. 1710), and when his chief was elevated to the peerage Benson became chancellor and under-treasurer of the exchequer and a privy councillor (June 1711). These appointments were retained by him until he was raised to the peerage, 21 July 1713, as Baron Bingley, of Bingley, Yorkshire, a creation which led to some indignation among the more rigid members of the peerage, and provoked some pleasantries over his want of a coat of arms. Charles Ford writing to Swift at this time said that Lord Bingley had disobliged both sides so much that neither will ever own him, but notwithstanding this prophecy he was appointed (December 1713) ambassador extraordinary to the court of Spain. In 1730 the post of treasurer of the household was conferred on him, but he held it only for a year. He died on 9 April 1731, aged 55, and was buried on 14 April in St. Paul's chapel, Westminster Abbey. Through the friendship of Lord Dartmouth he was introduced to and married, at St. Giles-in-the-Fields, Middlesex, 21 Dec. 1703, Lady Elizabeth Finch, eldest daughter of the first Earl of Aylesford. She died 26 Feb. 1757, and was buried with her husband in St. Paul's chapel. A copy of verses on her vanity in old age is printed in Horace Walpole's Letters (ii. 205). They had issue one daughter, Harriot (who inherited 100,000l. in cash and 7,000l. a year in land), the wife of George Fox, who afterwards took the name of Lane, and was created Baron Bingley in 1762. Robert Benson, Lord Bingley, had an illegitimate daughter, to whom he left large sums. He also left a considerable legacy to Anna Maria, wife of John Burgoyne, and, in certain eventualities the residue of his estate to her son and his godson, John Burgoyne, the general. Horace Walpole said (Letters, vi. 494) that the general was a natural son of Lord Bingley, and the statement has been often repeated, but it does not seem to rest on any foundation of fact. Lord Bingley took great interest in architecture; Harcourt House, Cavendish Square, London, was built by him in 1722, and originally called Bingley House.

     Chester's Westminster Abbey Registers, 331-32, 390, 413, 450
     De Fonblanque's Burgoyne, 5-8
     Burke's Extinct Peerage
     Wentworth Papers, 84-85, 133, 347-8, 442.

Contributor: W. P. C. [William Prideaux Courtney]

Published: 1885