Paul Frecker
Fine Photographs

Major John Spicer
6 July 1863

Volume 10, page 339, sitting number 13,724.

[Identified only as ‘Major Spicer’ in the Silvy daybooks, this is probably Major John William Gooch Spicer, an army officer who made a fortune by investing in a brewery.]

Born on 14 March 1817 at Guildford in Surrey, John William Gooch Spicer was the eldest son of John William Spicer. He was baptised on 4 April 1817 at Esher in Surrey. On completing his education at Eton, he enrolled in the army, serving in the 3rd Dragoon Guards and in the 9th Lancers. He was subsequently a Major in the Surrey Militia.

On 14 October 1845, ‘John Spicer, Esq., late Captain in the 9th Lancers,’ married Juliana Hannah Webb Probyn, at St Mary the Virgin, Shenfield, Essex. The bride was the only daughter of the late Reverend Edmund Probyn, Rector of Longhope and Abenhall in Gloucestershire.

The couple appear on the 1851 census living at Esher Place in Surrey, the residence of John Spicer senior and his wife Hannah. The household included eighteen live-in servants, with a carpenter and several gardeners living in outlying buildings around the estate.

When the census was taken in 1861 John and Juliana were living at Newham Lodge, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. The household included eight children, a governess and nine servants.

In 1864 Spicer purchased Spye Park, a large estate near Chippenham in Wiltshire. He demolished the original 17th-century house and, between 1864 and 1868, had a new house constructed in red brick. ‘Major and Mrs Spicer happily inaugurated their new and splendid mansion by issuing invitations to their neighbours far and near’ inviting them to ‘a ball on a grand scale’ (Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette, 21 January 1869).

When the census was taken in 1871, the family were living there with nineteen servants including a butler, an under-butler, two footmen and a groom, with other grooms, several gardeners and a gamekeeper living nearby in their own households.

Major John William Gooch Spicer died, aged 66, at Spye Park on 4 July 1883, leaving an estate valued at £353,552.

‘Major Spicer had been unwell for a considerable time previous to his death, and during the last twelvemonths was more or less an invalid, having since Christmas been confined to his room. […] Personally the gallant major was greatly beloved and respected by everyone who had the good fortune to come in contact with him. Shrewd, energetic, and a thorough man of business, he was at the same time of the most genial and courteous disposition; alike both for his own friends and poorer acquaintances, he ever had a kind word and a cheery smile. In promotion of the welfare and happiness of those amongst whom he lived, Major Spicer at all times took a deep interest […] and the poorer inhabitants of the locality generally have lost a great benefactor’ (Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette, 12 July 1883).

code: cs1563
John William Gooch Spicer, John Spicer, Major John Spicer, Captain John Spicer, Spye Park, Camille Silvy, Silvy