Manuscripts and Special Collections

Biography of John Albert Bentinck (1737-1775; naval captain and M.P.)

John Albert Bentinck was the second son of Count William Bentinck and Countess Charlotte Sophie of Aldenburg. He was a grandson of the 1st Earl of Portland. He never knew his mother, as she separated from his father when he was around a year old. 

Despite his Dutch and German parentage, Bentinck inherited the Terrington St Clements estate in Norfolk which had been owned by his grandfather the 1st Earl of Portland, and he settled in England.

Destined for a British naval career, he first went to sea at the age of 14 and by June 1753 had set sail for Newfoundland as the midshipman of the Penzance.

After serving on numerous ships in various locations, in 1759 Bentinck found himself being promoted to the rank of Captain of the Dover, which was on Baltic convoy duty. Again, he moved around from ship to ship, but in 1762 he was superseded in charge of the Niger for ignoring orders. Luckily, his interest and connections meant that this demotion did not cause long-term damage to his career.

Bentinck also pursued a political career. His father had considerable influence with the Duke of Newcastle, and using his connections he was elected as M.P. for Rye in 1761. He played little part in politics, however, speaking only once in the House of Commons - understandably enough in a debate on longitude at sea. His political inactivity led to him losing his seat in 1768.

Bentinck was also well known as an inventor, and as an improver to mechanical devices - especially those used in ships. He gave his name to 'Bentinck shrouds', the 'Bentinck boom' and also to a triangular mainsail which became known as simply 'the Bentinck'. Perhaps his most important innovation, though, was the Cole-Bentinck pump, a much more reliable and efficient version of a standard chain pump, which became standard issue for all ships in the Royal Navy.


Captain John Bentinck, 1737-75, and his son, William Bentinck, 1764-1813, by Mason Chamberlin, 1775. (c) National Maritime Museum. Source:


Captain John Bentinck, 1737-75, and his son, William Bentinck, 1764-1813, by Mason Chamberlin, 1775. (c) National Maritime Museum. Source:


In 1763 he married Renira (1744-1792), daughter of John, Baron van Tuyll van Serooskerken and had:

  • William (1764-1813), Vice-Admiral in the Royal Navy
  • John (1771-1804), a cleric
  • Charles John (1773-1781)
  • Henry Saville (d 1776 as an infant)
  • Sophia Henrietta (1765-1852) m Admiral Sir James Hawkins-Whitshed in 1791
  • Charlotte Frances (1768-1850), m Sir Robert Shore Milnes, Baronet, in 1785
  • Harriet Elizabeth (1770-1806), m Admiral Sir George Martin in 1804

Archive Collections

Published Sources

  • Randolph Cock, 'Bentinck, John Albert (1737–1775)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [, accessed   11 Dec 2014] .
  • L.B. Namier and J. Brooke, eds., 'Bentinck, John', The history of parliament: the House of Commons, 1754-1790, 3 vols. (1964); repr. (1985)


Manuscripts and Special Collections

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