Richard James SPIERS (1806–1877)
His wife Mrs Elizabeth Phené SPIERS née Joy (1818–1858)
Their son Samuel Patey SPIERS (1840–1891)
St Giles section: Row 12, Grave B28

Richard Spiers's grave

The names of ELIZABETH SPIERS (buried 1858) and RICHARD JAMES SPIERS (buried 1877) have almost
worn away, but the words “ALSO OF / SAMUEL PATEY SPIERS / SON OF THE ABOVE” (buried 1891) are still clear

Richard James Spiers was born in 1806, the eldest son of Richard Spiers and Catherine Sirman (daughter of James Sirman of Oxford). His parents were married at St Peter-le-Bailey Church in Oxford on 17 September 1805 and had four children:

  • Richard James Spiers (born 16 June 1806 and baptised at St Mary the Virgin Church on 18 June)
  • Ann Spiers (born on 1 September 1807 and baptised at St Mary the Virgin Church on 3 September)
    Later (1) Mrs Samuel Patey and (2) Mrs Richard Mallam
  • James Spiers (born on 15 April 1809 and baptised at St Mary the Virgin Church on 1 May)
    Matriculated at the University of Oxford as a “chemicus et pharmacopola on 14 June 1832; died 27 April 1848 at Iffley
  • Catherine Sirman Spiers (born on 16 April 1811 and baptised at St Mary the Virgin Church on 11 August)
    Later (1) Mrs Edward Standen and (2) Mrs John Wilkins.

Richard James Spiers’ father (who had been matriculated by the University of Oxford as a privileged person on 19 March 1798) was a hairdresser and perfumer at 28 High Street, Oxford (one of the shops demolished in 1887 to make way for Brasenose’s High Street frontage); he also had property in St Peter-le-Bailey parish. In Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 28 October 1809 he advertised his shop as a “Peruque and Ornamental hair manufactory”.

At the age of 21, on 30 June 1827, Richard James Spiers was also matriculated at the University of Oxford as a privileged person, and he too was then a “tonsor” (hairdresser).

On 26 March 1834 Richard Spiers wrote in his Family Register “I took possession of No 102 High st.” This shop was described in a directory the following year as a stationery and fancy-goods shop, and later as a china and glass warehouse. The picture below was drawn by Cuthbert Bede for his book The Adventures of Mr Verdant Green, published in 1853.

102 High Street

The new undergraduate Verdant Green is taken in by the joke that Wordsworth wrote “Oh ye Spires of Oxford” in praise of the shop, which probably indicates how the name Spiers was pronounced. Mr Green ended up buying the following “remembrances of Oxford”: a fire-screen to be prepared with the family coat of arms for his father; another with a view of the High for his aunt; a netting-box, card-case, and a model of the Martyrs’ Memorial for his three sisters; and a paper-knife for himself.

In August 1836 Spiers, then aged 30, went on his last jaunt as a bachelor with his friend Edward Standen (1809–1845), a mercer and shirtmaker at 24 High Street opposite his shop, and who had married Spiers’s sister Catherine on 23 April 1833. Spiers describes his travels in Europe in his diary, which he entitled “Memorandum of an autumn tour in 1816”.


Elizabeth Phené Joy, Spiers’s future wife, was born on 16 June 1818, the eldest daughter of the Oxford tailor Thomas Joy and his first wife Martha, who lived in Oriel Street (St Mary Hall Lane), and had the following children:

  • Elizabeth Phené Joy (born at Oriel Street on 16 June 1818 and baptised at St Mary the Virgin Church on 6 July)
  • John Joy (born at Oriel Street in 1819 and baptised at St Mary the Virgin Church on 6 September)

Elizabeth’s mother Martha Joy died at Oriel Street on 30 August 1819 at the age of 24 after giving birth to John, and was buried at St Mary the Virgin Church on 4 September 1819: she shares her memorial in that church (below right) with her husband and his second wife.

Joy memorial

Elizabeth’s brother John appears to have died at Oriel Street the following year and was buried at St Mary the Virgin Church on 17 May 1820: a diamond-shaped tile on the floor of the church commemorates him.

 

On 5 April 1821 Elizabeth’s father married his second wife, Maria Thorp (born 24 March 1796), the youngest daughter of John Wise Thorp of Holywell parish, and they had the following children:

  • Sarah Joy (born at Oriel Street in 1822 and baptised at St Mary the Virgin Church on 22 May)
  • Mary Joy (born at Oriel Street on 2 April 1824 and baptised at St Mary the Virgin Church on 29 April).
  • Susan Joy (born at 10 Holywell Street on 18 October 1825 and baptised at Holywell Church on 13 December)
  • Helen Lawrence Joy (born at 10 Holywell Street in 1826 and baptised on 23 November; died aged one year and buried at St Mary the Virgin Church on 10 December 1827)
  • Francis William (born at 10 Holywell Street in 1831 and baptised on 31 March)
  • Arthur Thomas (born and baptised at Holywell Church on 14 July 1832; died aged ten days and buried at St Mary the Virgin Church on 27 July 1832.

10 Holywell

The family evidently moved from Oriel Street to 10 Holywell Street (right), a house belonging to the family of Thomas Joy’s second wife Maria Thorp, in 1824/5.

Elizabeth’s stepmother Maria Thorp died at 10 Holywell Street on 19 July 1832 at the age of 36, just after giving birth to Arthur, and was buried at St Mary the Virgin Church on 27 July. A diamond-shaped tile in the floor of that church commemorates Maria and her babies Helen and Arthur.

Elizabeth’s father Thomas Joy died at 10 Holywell Street on 6 November 1833 at the age of 44 and was buried at St Mary-the-Virgin Church on 9 November: he is also remembered on a floor tile there.

Joy diamond

Elizabeth’s step-uncle William Thorp (who served his first term as Mayor of Oxford in 1833/4) came to live with the children in 1834, when he was a widower of 49.


On 15 July 1837, Richard James Spiers (31) married Elizabeth Phené Joy (19) at Holywell Church. Their wedding tour lasted 3½ months, and again Spiers kept a journal, describing their travels to the Isle of Wight, Belgium, Germany, Austria, and Italy, and back through Austria, Germany, and Holland, and then home to Oxford via London.

Mr & Mrs Spiers
Richard and Elizabeth Spiers on 22 June 1854.
Three months later, Mrs Spiers gave birth to her
eleventh child; and four years later (after giving
birth to another two children again) she died

They had thirteen children over the next eighteen years:

  • Richard Phené Spiers (born at 102 High Street on 19 May 1838 and baptised at St Mary the Virgin Church on 17 June)
  • Samuel Patey Spiers (born at 102 High Street on 27 March 1840 and baptised at St Mary the Virgin Church on 26 April). Spiers later added to his Family Register that he was christened by “Cardinal Newman”.
  • Frank Edward Spiers (born at 19 St John Street on 21 July 1841 and baptised at St Giles’s Church on 1 September)
  • Elizabeth Joy Spiers (born at 14 St Giles’s Street on 11 July 1843 and baptised at St Giles’s Church on 9 August 1843)
  • Charlotte Horn Spiers (born at 14 St Giles’s Street on 5 December 1844 and baptised at St Giles’s Church on 6 January 1845)
  • Alice Jane Mary Spiers (born at 14 St Giles’s Street on 7 March 1846 and baptised at St Giles’s Church on 15 April 1846)
  • Agnes Ellen Spiers (born at 14 St Giles’s Street on 15 May 1847 and baptised at St Giles’s Church on 7 June 1847). Died aged 3 weeks on 12 June 1847
  • Walter Lewis Spiers (born at 14 St Giles’s Street on 27 July 1848 and baptised at St Giles’s Church on 1 October 1848)
  • Florence Ellen Pigott Spiers (born at 14 St Giles’s Street on 10 June and baptised at St Giles’s Church on 8 November 1850)
  • Agnes Decima Spiers (born at 14 St Giles’s Street on 27 September 1851 and baptised at St Giles’s Church on 29 October 1851)
  • Arthur Hood Spiers (born at 14 St Giles’s Street on 7 July 1853 and baptised at St Giles’s Church on 25 September 1853)
  • Ernest George Spiers (born at 14 St Giles’s Street on 15 September 1854 and baptised at St Giles’s Church on 16  September and again on 3 November 1854)
  • Hubert William Spiers (born at 14 St Giles’s Street on 31 July 1856 and baptised at St Giles’s Church on 12 November 1856).

Richard and Elizabeth began their married life over the shop at 102 High Street.

On 31 October 1840, Spiers wrote in his family register: “I qualified as Commissioner of the Thames, 6th district to Cricklade.”

By the time of the 1841 census the family was living at 19 St John Street with two servants, and Spiers was described as a perfumier. He recorded in his Family Register for 4 March 1841: “Rosehill priory first occupied by father & mother”, and in the 1841 and 1851 censuses, his parents can duly be found in retirement in Iffley.

14 St Giles'

 

On 6 January 1842 Spiers wrote in his diary of events: “I took possession of 14 St Giles’, sleeping there for 1st time”. The family was to live in that house (right) for 35 years, and the last ten of their thirteen children were born there.

Their baby daughter Agnes died at this house aged three weeks on 12 June 1847, a year before St Sepulchre’s Cemetery opened, and was buried in St Giles’s churchyard on 14 June 1847.

Spiers meticulously recorded details of his family in a notebook with the title Lett’s Family Register and Perpetual Diary: Intended as a journal of domestic occurrences such as births, deaths, marriages, and other remarkable events. Here he recorded the heights and weights of all his children each year, and as he included himself we learn that he was 5ft 9¾in tall, while his wife was 5ft 3¼in.

He also records the family illnesses: of his twelve children who survived babyhood, eleven endured measles, whooping cough, and chickenpox; two endured diphtheria; and six endured scarlet fever, of whom five survived.

 

Spiers was elected Sheriff of Oxford for 1851/2, and Mayor of Oxford for 1853/4.

Spiers: Reception

The above picture taken from the Illustrated London News of 1 July 1854 shows Spiers and his wife presiding over a banquet in the old Town Hall. The text in the newspaper reads:

Renowned as the city of Oxford has ever been for its hospitality, and for the liberal spirit which has characterised those who have filled the office of Chief Magistrate, it has been the particular study of the present Mayor (R. J. Spiers, Esq.) to please his native city in a still prouder position in those respects. On Tuesday, the 22nd ult., a banquet was given at the town hall, which, in point of elegance and splendour, far surpassed the ordinary style of corporation entertainments. On this occasion, in addition to his corporate friends and fellow-citizens, the Mayor had invited the leading members of the University and county gentry — including Sir H. Peyton, Bart.; the High Sheriff; the Right Hon. J. W. Henley, M.P., Mr J. H. Langston, M.P.; the Right Hon. E. Cardwell, M.P.; Mr G. Harcourt, M.P., &c….

The Reception by the Mayor and Mayoress in the Town-hall on Thursday evening was brilliantly attended. The invitations were extended to 1000. The object of this gathering was to bring again together the most distinguished members of the University, the county gentry, and the citizens, and to place before their notice works of art, rare literary works, and other objects calculated to gratify intelligent curiosity, and afford intellectual enjoyment. In this object the Mayor and Mayoress most eminently succeeded.

The town-hall presented a most brilliant appearance, for around its walls were hung some of the choicest works of Millais, Hunt, Collins, Ansdell, Allom, Prout, D. Cox, and others illustrious in art; while on stands in many parts of the room were ranged a collection of water colour drawings, by some of the most distinguished artists of the present day. In the various recesses and in the centre of the room were models of the most finished pieces of sculpture, by Calder Marshall, Macdowall, and others, imparting a degree of grace and beauty to the scene which could not be surpassed.

Soon after eight o’clock the company began to assemble. The list of guests included many of the most distinguished names in literature, science, and art. As they arrived they were introduced by Stewards to the Mayor, who then introduced them to the Mayoress, and she, as well as the Mayor, gave to each a cordial welcome. About ten o’clock the whole of the company had arrived, and, notwithstanding that upwards of 1000 persons were congregated together, there was an entire absence of confusion and pressure, owing to the excellent arrangements laid down and the admirable manner in which they were carried out by the Stewards, who undertook, as a labour of love, the duties which were assigned to them….

The Town-hall-yard was covered with a spacious tent, in which refreshments were dispensed. The Public Library was crowded during the night with parties examining the beautifully illustrated works, lent for the occasion by the Architectural Society, other public bodies, and private individuals….

In the 1850s Spiers had two shops: he sold fancy articles in his shop in the High, and china at 46 Cornmarket Street.

His father died in Iffley at the age of 79 on 6 January 1856.

Spiers was a prominent freemason, and on 8 January 1857 was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

In 1858 Spiers’s wife Elizabeth died suddenly from heart disease in their bathroom:

† Mrs Elizabeth Phené Spiers née Joy died at 14 St Giles’s Street at the age of 41 on 29 October 1858 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 4 November (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church).

Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 6 November 1858 reported on the inquest into her death:

AWFULLY SUDDEN DEATH OF MRS. SPIERS. — We deeply regret to have to record the sudden death of Mrs. Spiers, wife of Mr. Alderman R. J. Spiers, a lady much esteemed throughout Oxford, who was discovered dead in her bathroom on the night of Friday the 29th ult. It appeared that at about eleven o’clock the deceased lady proceeded to take a bath, leaving Mr. Spiers and one of his sons engaged in writing. Some time afterwards, finding that Mrs. Spiers had not gone to her bed-room, Mr. Spiers went to the bathroom, and found her lying on the floor beside the bath, and apparently in a lifeless state. Medical assistance was procured without loss of time, but all was of no avail, as there in reason to believe that the deceased had breathed her last half-an-hour before she was discovered by her disconsolate husband. An inquest was held on the body, a post mortem examination having previously been made, and it was clearly proved that the deceased died of disease of the heart, under which she must at the time have been suffering, and a verdict to that effect was returned by the Jury. — Mrs. Spiers, who was in her forty-first year, has left twelve children to mourn their sad and sudden bereavement, besides a large circle of friends, who knew and appreciated her many amiable qualities. Mr. Alderman Spiers, it will be remembered, filled the office of Chief Magistrate of this City in 1854, and during his mayoralty gave his memorable Conversazione at the Town Hall, when upwards of 1200 persons were present, and the guests were received by Mrs. Spiers with much affability. But it was in the domestic and private circle that her amiable qualities were more prominently seen, and few who ever visited it will forget that happy home of which she was the very light and centre. The suddenness of the blow which has rendered desolate that home, and deprived a large and young family of a devoted and affectionate parent, has awakened general sympathy, and few have passed away from us whose amiable qualities will be more fondly cherished in remembrance. — The funeral of the deceased took place on Thursday last, and her remains were interred in the St. Sepulchre burial-ground, a large and sorrowing circle of relatives and friends following her to her last home.

Her youngest child Hubert William Spiers, who was only two at the time of his her death, died from scarlet fever at the age of three just over a year later on 6 January 1860. His burial at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 8 January was recorded in the parish register of St Giles’ s Church, and he was probably placed in this grave with his mother.

The 1861 census shows Spiers as a widower, described as a “China & Glass Merchant, Fancy Manufacturer, Stationer & Perfumier & Alderman & Magistrate”. His shop had by then expanded to include 103 High Street, and his second son, Samuel Patey Spiers (21) was described as “Assistant and superintendent of my business”.

In 1868 Spiers & Sons were appointed stationers and china & glass merchants to the Prince of Wales. By 1871, Samuel Patey Spiers (31) managed the stationery side while his younger brother Frank (29) was in charge of the china. Both sons were unmarried and living over the shop with their sisters Elizabeth (27) and Florence (20), who were managing the household with two servants.

The Spiers business must have gone downhill under the management of Spiers’s sons, because Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 1 June 1872, under the heading “Local liquidation cases”, reported that the following petition had been filed:

Re Richard James Spiers, china merchant, stationer, and general fancy warehouseman, trading under the style of “Spiers and Son.” On the 17th of June, in the Clarendon Hotel.

Spiers resigned from being an Alderman in the year of his bankruptcy, and took no further part in public affairs.

At the end of 1872 Spiers moved out of 14 St Giles’s Street, taking a lease on Huntercombe at 9 Blackhall Road. This was a large house with four sitting rooms, seven bed and dressing rooms, a bathroom, and an additional two-storey building at the back.

Richard Spiers died in 1877:

† Richard James Spiers died at Huntercombe, 9 Blackhall Road at the age of 71 on 28 September 1877 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 2 October (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church).

His personal effects came to nearly £2,000.

His obituary in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 29 September 1877 read:

THE LATE MR. R. J. SPIERS.— Our obituary to-day records the death of another old and much respected citizen, Mr. Richard James Spiers. Mr. Spiers had for many years conducted the well-known business in the High-street, and was distinguished as a man of considerable taste. He was a Justice of the Peace for the City; he served the office of Sheriff in 1851, and of Mayor in 1853, and a very handsome testimonial was presented to him for the spirited manner in which he had performed the duties of that office. He was elected an Alderman in 1851, but he resigned his gown in 1872, since which period he has taken little or no part in public affairs. He stood very high as a Freemason, having filled the highest offices in the Lodges here, and only a short time ago a splendid testimonial was presented to him, at the hands of Prince Leopold, for the many services he had rendered to the Cruft and as a mark of esteem on the part of the brethren. Mr. Spiers had been gradually declining in health for some months, and his death is deeply deplored by his numerous family and his many friends.

Just four days after his funeral, on 6 October 1877, his house was advertised for sale in Jackson’s Oxford Journal:

“Huntercombe,” Black Hall Road, Oxford.
Mr. F. R. PIKE
Begs to announce he is favoured with instructions by the representatives of the late R. J. Spiers, Esq., to dispose (by PRIVATE CONTRACT), — Of the above charming SEMI-DETACHED VILLA, pleasantly situated within five minutes walk of the centre of the city, and within two minutes of the Parks, the New Museum, Keble College, the Schools, and other principal University Buildings; it contains four sitting rooms, seven bed and dressing rooms, bath room, one large attic, excellent domestic offices, and cellarage, large garden in high cultivation, with two-story buildings at the back easily convertable into stable and coach-house. The fittings throughout are of a very superior quality and in the most exquisite taste, and every modern improvement in the way of ventilation, heating apparatus, and other sanitary appliances has been adopted.


Samuel Patey Spiers

Samuel (born 1840) managed his father’s business for some years, and lived with him at 14 St Giles’s Street. A report in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 26 September 1868 when Samuel was successful in getting a vote shows that he lived at the third floor front of his father’s house, and paid £17 10s. a year for his room and partial board.

On 12 July 1877 (just three months before his father’s death), Samuel Patey Spiers married Mrs Elizabeth Ann Foster, née Prickett (born in Oxford in 1837/8), the widow of John T. Foster and daughter of James & Elizabeth Prickett, who are also buried at St Sepulchre’s, at St Andrew’s Church in Headington. Samuel was aged 37 and Bessie, as she was known, was 39.

On 17 May 1879 Samuel announced in Jackson’s Oxford Journal that he had purchased the whole of the stock of the late Mr R. J. Spiers at greatly reduced prices, and was offering it for sale at a reduction for cash of from 15% to 50% in his father’s old shop.

On 1 September 1880 his wife, aged 42, gave birth at Wychbourne, Woodstock Road to twin boys: Richard Aubrey Howard Spiers and Hubert Frank Spiers. Hubert was baptised (privately) at Ss Philip & James’s Church on 12 September, and Richard on 10 October.

The 1881 census shows the family living at Wychbourne, which was then numbered 55 Woodstock Road. Samuel was described as a stationer and china and hardware merchant employing eighteen hands, and as well as his wife and twin babies, his wife’s daughter Beatrice K. Foster (15) was living with them. They had four servants: a cook, nursemaid, general domestic, and (even though the twins were now seven months old) a monthly nurse .

The business Spiers & Son finally closed in 1890.

At the time of the 1891 census Samuel, now described as a retired stationer, his wife Elizabeth, and their eleven-year-old twins were living at 18 High Street with Elizabeth’s sister, Mrs Mary Foster (59), who was a widowed hotel proprietress. Also living with Mrs Foster were her niece Beatrice Foster, and her nephews Frank and Charles Foster. (Their home is now the right-hand part of the Mitre.)

Later that year Samuel Patey Spiers moved down to Bournemouth to live, but soon afterwards died there from influenza:

† Samuel Patey Spiers died at Burghclere, Lyall Road, Bournemouth at the age of 51 on 27 November 1891 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 2 December (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church).

His personal estate came to £2,882 7s. 2d.

Samuel Patey Spiers’s wife

Mrs Elizabeth Ann Spiers was living at 1 Turl Street, Oxford when she was the executor of her husband’s will. At the time of the 1901 census she was living at 63 Iffley Road in 1901 with her daughter Beatrice Foster (35) and two servants, and the situation was the same in 1911. She died on 13 April 1914, but because her burial is not recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church, it is unlikely that she was buried with her husband Samuel.

Samuel Patey Spiers’s twin boys
  • Richard Aubrey Howard Spiers was working as a clerk in a pottery at the time of the 1911 census and living at 17 Coburg Mansions St Pancras. He was then a bachelor of 30 and had two journalists boarding in his house. In 1913 he married Flora Godfrey at Brentford. They had two sons: Richard G. M. Spiers (born in Brentford in 1913) and Michael T. Spiers (born in Deptford in 1937). They later lived at Huntercombe, 51 The Avenue, St Margarets-on-Thames, Twickenham. Richard Aubrey Howard Spiers died at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London at the age of 51 in 1931. His body was brought back to Oxford, and he was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery.
  • Hubert Frank Spiers married Frances Henrietta Dolores Jackson in Lewisham in 1913. His wife died in Camberwell in 1929, and he died in Oxford at the age of 63 in 1944.

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