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The SPENCER Family.
by ARVD

In the year 1833 died Clarke Spencer, who was butler and house-steward to the Misses Clough of Feltwell Hall, Norfolk. The Cloughs of Feltwell date back to the time of Charles I, if not earlier, the last male representative of the family being Cyrill Clough who died in 1805 and left three daughters, Pleasance, Rebecca and Catherine to succeed him. Pleasance and Rebecca lived and died unmarried at Feltwell Hall; Catherine married William Newcome of Hockwold.

On 11th November, 1753, Thomas Spencer of Feltwell St. Mary and Mary Clarke of Feltwell St. Nicholas, single persons, were married at St. Nicholas' Church. There were two sons and four daughters of the marriage and the youngest but one of these six children was Clarke Spencer. He was born in 1768 and entered service at Feltwell Hall as a young man; he lived in and his wages were 28 per annum and a suit of livery. The Clough livery consisted of a dark green coat, red waistcoat, black velvet smalls or knee breeches and white silk stockings with buckle shoes.

He was in constant attendance on his two Mistresses, the Misses Pleasance and Rebecca Clough, who held him in great esteem. On Sunday he would escort them to Church, carry their Prayer Books and see them in to their seats; should either or both of them be out walking in the parish, he as often as not would be in attendance; or should they be out driving their carriage paying calls, or taking the air, he would be on the box-seat. He married twice in life; his first wife was Amy Horn who died in 1799 leaving two sons, Thomas and Robert, of whom no trace is forthcoming; his second wife was Ann Young, one of the maids in service at the Hall, by whom he had nine children. Ann, who was born in 1783, was a Northwold woman and came into some money from her people; part of it was spent on her large family and with the remainder she built the three cottages opposite the School now occupied by Mr. E. Cole, Mr. Brown and Mrs. Lawrence; she lived in Mr. Cole's house and the other two were let.     (To continue the Clough Family Loop click here)

Bringing up a family of nine children when the husband's wage was 28 a year, was no easy matter, even in those days when money had a far greater purchasing power; there was no waste, the daily fare being bread and vegetables, with a piece of pork on Sunday and not over much of it. Beef and mutton were not sold at Feltwell; there was a pork butcher's shop only in the parish; tea was a luxury and quite out of the question, best green tea being 4/- an ounce. Clarkc Spencer was 65 years old when he died and his widow, a woman of strong character, though she had turned 50, started a Dame's School, and what is more made a success of it. Miss Clough, of the Hall, to help her old maid-servant paid for 20 or more children to be taught to read and to knit; the School was held in her own house and assisted by her unmarried daughter she carried it on until well advanced in years.

A hundred years ago few people in Feltwell, comparatively speaking, could write; a glance at the marriage registers belonging to the Parish Church would show that many could not even sign their name, but made a mark instead. Writing was not taught at the Girls' School which was under a mistress, assisted by two or three of the elder girls. The Boys had a school, which is now the Infant School, with a separate master over them and they were taught to write with slate and pencil. Mrs. Clarke Spencer wrote an excellent hand and was much in demand at Feltwell; she would go about here and there writing other people's letters for them; there would be an invitation to take tea and, knowing that it meant a letter, she would set out fully prepared with her writing paraphernalia; tea was a luxury in those days and well worth the trouble of writing a letter; for years she was the Village Scribe; she died in 1870 at the ripe old age of 87 years.

Of Mr. and Mrs. Clarke Spencer's nine children, three were sons - John, Edward, William; and six were daughters - -Mary, Elizabeth, Ann, Susan, Jane, Ellen.

John Spencer, born in 1805, was the eldest of the family and was apprenticed to a blacksmith but not taking to the trade ran away, when 17 years old, and enlisted in the Army in, I believe, a mounted regiment, and rose to the rank of Drill-Sergeant. He served for 26 years of which 21 were done in India-without home leave. On arrival home from India he was stationed at Ely and on presenting himself in uniform to his mother was not recognised by her. On leaving the Army he married Susanna Brown, of Stow, and set up in the grocery business in High Street, Feltwell, in a shop by the Blue Cafe, now the property of Mr. Parke Ashton. His wife ran the business while he himself travelled around, holding drill classes at various centres in public buildings and at private houses. He was known as Soldier Spencer and died in 1863 at the age of 58 years. There were four children of whom two only lived to grow up, a daughter named Elvina, a certificated school-teacher, who became Mrs. Chessnutt; and a son named Theodore, the father of Mr. Percy Spencer who for many years was in charge of the Y.M.C.A. Hut at Feltwell.

Edward Spencer, the second son, born in 1813, became a blacksmith and worked in the Naval Dockyard at Sheerness; he married Jane Stallon, a Feltwell woman, in 1843 and died at a comparatively early age.

William Spencer, the youngest son, was born in 1817 and started life as a tailor in London, but returned to Feltwell and set up business in the house next door to his mother; he then moved into the house now known as the Old Post Office. He was a man of parts and, not being greatly in love with tailoring, took to land surveying with marked success. Later in life he became Postmaster at Feltwell and Rate Collector. One of his daily duties as Postmaster was to fetch the afternoon mail from Lakenheath Station, and this was done week in and week out on foot. He married twice in life, his first wife being Martha Spencer, of Feltwell, who died In 1849, aged 28 years; by her he had a daughter, Emma Jane, who kept a School at the Old Post Office and also gave music lessons; she was organist at the Parish Church and died unmarried in 1892 at the age of 45 years. His second wife was Mary Spencer, of Feltwell, and by her he had a son who died an infant, and a daughter Anna. He died in 1890, aged 73 years, and Miss Anna, who carried on the Post Office and Rate Collecting, still lives in the house of her birth which she and her father, between them, have occupied for some 94 or 95 years.

Of Mr. and Mrs. Clarke Spencer's daughters, Mary the eldest was born in 1808 and married a Scotchman named Andrew Purvis who worked at Woolwich Arsenal. There were two sons of the marriage, John and Alexander, each of whom entered the Royal Navy and rose to the rank of Chief Engineer. John eventually became Chief Engineer on the Royal Yacht be longing to the Khedive of Egypt and died there.

Elizabeth Spencer, the second daughter, born in 1809, was from all accounts rather eccentric. She was a head-laundress and held various situations at or near Richmond; the last being under Lady John Chichester at Twickenham. She appears to have made good money and spent every penny of it, chiefly on dress. She died unmarried at Richmond in her 84th year and though she was not in actual want at the time, there was barely sufficient, when everything was realised, to meet the funeral expenses. She was a fine, tall, well set-up woman. In Miss Anna Spencer's possession is a full-length silhouette of her; also a well-executed miniature portrait in colours.

Ann Spencer, the third daughter, was born in 1812 and married a blacksmith named John Beckett, of Mileham, Norfolk.

Susan Spencer, the next daughter, was born in 1815 and in 1846 married Hardman Prior, of Brandon, Suffolk, a bootmaker by trade. He moved to Feltwell and kept a druggist’s and stationer’s shop, as well as bootmaking, at the shop on the hill now owned and occupied by Mrs. Orange. He died in 1863 at the age of 46 years and his widow carried on the business. Before marriage Susan held writing classes in a hired room at Oak House; writing in those days was not taught in the Girls School at Feltwell. There were three children by this marriage, of whom two died at an early age; the other, Sarah Elizabeth, died unmarried at the Old Post Office in 1938 aged 85 years.

Jane Spencer, who was born in 1819, being frail and delicate, lived at home and assisted her mother in the Dame’s School; she died unmarried at the age of 81 years in 1900.

Ellen Spencer, the youngest of the family, was born in 1821; she was a high class dressmaker and in 1853 married Daniel Lambert, who farmed land in Feltwell; they lived on the Hill in the house now owned and occupied by Mr. Herbert Banham. There was one child of the marriage, a son, named King Richard, who became a Missioner and whose duties as such, took him to all parts of the country; he married three times in life, his first wife being Rosa Holland and his second wife Elizabeth Des’Forges, of Feltwell, who died in middle age; he then married his deceased wife's elder sister, Iley Des'’Forges, who lived to be 92 years of age and died a widow at Cambridge in 1946. Mr. and Mrs. Des’Forges, the parents of Elizabeth and Iley, lived at Hill House, Feltwell; they were Lincolnshire people and of French extraction; he farmed land on the Hithe Road and somewhere about 1875 the family moved to Langley, near Loddon, Norfolk. Daniel and Ellen Lambert in their old age moved to Cambridge, where their son King Richard had made his home, and died there.

Mr. and Mrs. Clarke Spencer, their nine children and their fourteen grandchildren have all passed away with one notable exception; their grand-daughter, Miss Anna Spencer, now in her 90th year, is still with us and will be, we sincerely hope, for many years to come.

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