Selected correspondence of Robert Spence

Selected correspondence of Robert Spence

[This transcript is a compilation of letters transcribed in Philip Spence's Robert and Mary Spence of North Shields, two original letters from a small collection purchased by myself on eBay, and photocopies of original letters in the possession of Peter Robson]

Robert Spence to his wife Mary, 1823-05-06


London 5th Mo. 6th 1823.

[ . . . ] I got my three petitions properly tied up with pink tape [ . . . ] and then first called on Sir Matthew White Ridley [names of local M.Ps] with whom I had a very friendly interview—thence to Beaumont's, who was from home—from there to Charles John Brandling's, who was peculiarly kind and attentive to me—Lambton I found from home, the two former both gave me written orders to attend the House of Commons; I then went to John H. Ley, Esq., the chief clerk of the House, gave him my letter of introduction; when tired out I went to a Hotel and got some cold beef and returned to the Lobby of the House where I waited near two hours before the Speaker came to take the chair when Ley ordered his officers to show me to a seat and I got a most excellent berth—the forms are to a person not used to them most ridiculous in appearance and so much disorder and confusion I never saw in any deliberative body. One half do nothing but talk all the time the others are speaking—we were soon turned out on a division about the fishery for oysters and an odd sort of scramble ensued—on returning to the gallery I got a worse place, but the proceedings soon lost their interest [ . . . ] and except for the sparring of Brougham and the Attorney General there was little worth hearing.

Robert Spence to William Rowntree, 1827-05-05

  North Shields

        5th month 5th. 1827.

Esteemed Friend

             Wm. Rowntree

In consequence of a Letter from thy later employer Isaac Stickney dated 4mo 28th. which was forwarded to me in Scotland from whence I only returned this morning I am inclined to engage thee as an assistant in my business in lieu of Samuel Bleckly, to supply the sort of place he has held in a general superintendence of the concern—as regards salary I have no objection to fix the first year at £30 with a prospect of encrease for the succeeding in case of its being mutually desirable for the connection to continue at the rate of 10£ a year—and from the sort of influence a young man filling the post I have in view for thee, must necessarily gain over my connections in business, I think it is only reasonable to have an assurance from thee in writing that thou wilt not commence business in North Shields or immediate Vicinity, in making this proposition, I trust I am not influenced by anything improper, as on a former occasion several years ago, for want of this sort of understanding after a youth we took into our employ had in a few months gained a knowledge of our trade and connections he left us and commenced within a few doors for himself—

We endeavor to make our young men comfortable & as far as I know they are so;—they take it in turns to attend Weemday meetings every other week & are set at liberty as much as is practicable, to attend Monthly & Quarterly Meetings also:—they have their cloathing at Invoice prices—as to minor arrangements they may be left until we meet, provided thou art disposed after this general outline to accept the situation & I shall be glad to have a line to that purpose from thee—I think about the end of the present, or early in next month will be as convenient as any time for thee to come to thy friend sincerely

Robert Spence

I have to-day recd other 4 applications that I shall feel obliged by an early reply.—

Robert Spence to William Rowntree, 1828-11-16


North Shields 16th of 6th Month 1828

Wm Rowntree & Co to Robert Spence & Co
Remt 36 yds Carpet 3/4 £————
do 20½ for 20 Tartan 20  1:13:4
23 yds Norwich Crape 15  1:8:9
3 ys Bombaziene 2/6  —8:9

My dear friend,

Only one week has passed over since thou left us and yet that week has been so interspersed with variety that it seems more like a month—after parting with thee at South Shields the whole time at home and three out of the five to bed which had certainly the appearance of greater indolence than we are usually guilty of—after breakfast I again crossed the Tyne to accompany my Coun. J.J. Walker to Shortridge Glasshouse at the higher part of South Shields—and at abt ½ past eleven accompanied him to Newcastle returning late in the evening on 4th day our Monthly Meeting was [. . . ]ously attended especially by the junior classes—we had several very interesting communications from Danl. Oliver—Margaret Bragg Isabella Harris—George Richardson & Thomas Richardson, & Rachel Priestman in supplication—when, owing to Isabella Harris rising exactly at the same time, a little confusion took place but order was soon restored, by the latter giving way;—I thought it a very interesting meeting, & should have liked thee to have been present—we had little business. Henry Fearon & Wm. Pattisons certificates were recd. & thine ordered;—and as I am one of the preparers I suppose I may say thou has left us clear of marriage engagement, we had upwards of 20 youngsters to dine & only [ . . . ] children of the elder[side?] Thy kind letter I received in course and, agreeably to thy instructions, the Remt of Super [?] Carpet same pattn. as the Comr. Eliz. Nicholson sold—the Graham Tartan, Nor Crape &c &c are packed up and ready to be sent off addressed to thy care at Scarbro'.—we also intend to sent the Hogshead of Hats. I find including those bot of Elliot we have exactly 6 dozn. They shall be packed as carefully as we can manage—and I shall be perfectly satisfied with your decision respecting them.—it is possible we might dribble them off but it evidently appears the hatters here will retain that portion of their trade & what we do sell will be of the finer kinds. On sixth day I again went up to Newcastle abt. 7 o'Clock—having some business to attend to, and abt. ½ past 8 had the pleasure to welcome my dr. Mary & our young flock by the [Phanix?] all well—after taking some Tea we came down home having along with us Cousn. Thomas Hopkins & John Simpson—the former retd to Newcastle on 7th day morning—& we expect he will be here again soon—his object in visiting this part, in addition to seeing his relations, at Newcastle, is to gain information—

Yesterday we had John Baynes Thompson to tea & afterwards turned out 15 strong for a walk—it was a beautiful evening—I delivered thy message to James respecting thy intended publication on 7th day morning he, Cousn Thos Hopkins & Mr Simpson walked to the Haven—and mounted on my friend Grizzle I also repaired there, it was rather after thy time but delightfully fine—& for the first time this season, I too embraced the briney deep;—James in the fullness of his felicity clambered up the side of a pleasure boat & rejoined the watery element with such unmerciful vengeance that he actually forced blood out of his body a little below the navel & will not I think again venture on such a furious shock—it arose more from the position he went down in than the distance he was from the water;—in consequence of thy wish to have have his Brother, he had this morning written to Hawick & got me to add to his Letter—which I had great pleasure in doing—but I fear from his report it may be too late—

Mary Thistlethwaite & my daughter Rachel are going down along with Jas. to Alnick & Warkworth—it is Mary's farewell visitation & Rachel has never been there;—in about 10 days I suppose he will be paying you a visit at Scarbro'.—where I understand he may probably find thee, surrounded by the Dons that visit you at this glowing season, decking themselves out with "a goderick," "a noble lord" or a "bit of Blood"—your [cheire? cheine? cheese?] seems very likely to answer I should think at least if it does not I know it will not be thy fault.—

We are jogging along in the old way—with, I think, not one grain more animation in the town than for some time past—our own family circle is of course more associated in consequence of the addition it has received to is numbers—and I should have liked thee to see my twelvefold portion assembled on 7th day morning, & planted according to their ages in a row. it was a very interesting sight and one on which I believe it is allowable for  father to dwell with feelings of pleasure—all healthy—all well & all happy in such a tribe it is not often that so great a blessing is enjoyed.—This morning an account has been received of the death of Mary Wilson, sister of poor Mary Fearon, so far from healthy that I fear without care she will not survive her many years.

I have not time to read this over before post goes off and thou must therefore take it with all its horrors errors blushing thick upon it, & believe me with gt love

Thy affectionate friend

Robert Spence

Robert Spence to William Rowntree, 1830-02-21


North Shields 2nd month 21st 1830

My dear friend,

On referring to thy most acceptable & interesting letter of last month I feel annoyed to find it has remained so long unacknowledged. I could plead a variety of causes for this delay but as I am addressing a friend who knows the way in which my days are passed, & the great and almost endless multiplicity of engagements that are pressing constantly upon my attention, either of a private or a public kind he will not be surprised at it, or require any lengthened apology from me—

Soon after I wrote my last letter to thee along with my dear Mary and Jas N Richardson of Lisburn I went to Darlington to attend the Quarterly Meeting where I had thought it possible that we might have met thee or some other of our Yorkshire friends, but this year we had a much smaller attendance of Yorkshire friends than usual—it was a peaceful interesting and very agreeable quarterly Meeting—we had my sister Clapham and Wm. Wilsons home along with us—Jas N Richardson proceeding on his journey.

—Since then we had a very interesting Monthly Meeting at which George Richardson applied for a Certificate to visit the Eastern part of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire & attend the Quarterly Meeting at Leeds—Margaret Bragg for a Minute under an apprehension of having some religious engagement in the neighbourhood of Birmingham on her return from the ensuing Yearly Meeting in London—[so?] he excited a very interesting discussion respecting Danl. Oliver's proposed visit to Scotland of last Summer—which he withdrew from under discouragement, altho' the meeting urged him to proceed & on account of two friends having expressed some little hesitation she wished it to be considered as a burden resting on the Meeting—this view was not fallen in with—and as she had not been present when the subject was before the Meeting & Danl. withdrew his application for a Certificate, it was thought she had formed an incorrect judgment in the case—We had also a very long discussion respecting the notice of conduct in Certificates of removal, where individuals who might have claimed the attention of overseers for nonattendance of Meetings or other matters, which they might not have concluded on calling the attention of the Monthly Meeting to happen'd to remove—would it or would it not be proper to pass over such case, without notice—no decision was come to—some thought exposure would be improper others that it could not be avoided.—When at Newcastle we heard that Jonn & Hannah Backhouse had applied for Certificates to visit America, which were ordered & will be produced at our [??] at Gunderstone [?] where we are informed Isaac & Hannah Braithwaite intend to be—

On 2nd day last there was a very interesting meeting at Morpeth of the freeholders of the Inhabitants of the County relating to the present state of public distress that prevails so universally—I went over along with John Halsy, Hry Mitcalfe, John Dale & Henry Dale & was much interested especially with Liddel who spoke I think full an hour and a half—there were several other good speeches but his eclipsed them all—a petition was unanimously agreed to be signed by the high Sherriff on behalf of the Meetg—I also called to see poor Joseph Graham who has been sent to jail by an angry creditor at Sheffield & will have to come out under the Insolvent act—he got behind with selling Hats for Scott & then still worse from breaking his leg—no blame or dishonesty seems to rest on the case and I am trying to get a subscription to buy his little Stock [????] for him—he has 7 young Children and it is a pitiful case—I have written to several great folks but I suppose they are used to these things for not one of them as [sic] replied—I hope Miles will get me a few pounds in London—

A H Lesslie is giving up his business—& John Murray & James Beattie we hear are going to take it—Hannah Procter has been ill of the small pox, but is better—all the rest of our friends here well—we have had an unusually severe winter so far & the cold has been so great that it has been a difficulty to keep yourselves in moderate warmth, by either clothing or exercise—there have been many wrecks during the winter and more vessels have foundered than in any winter for many years past—the Loyal Standard Association is becoming a most useful benevolent Society for the poor families of those that suffer—

[nearly three pages more are illegible, due to overwriting at 90o across the text being too faint in the photocopy from which this is transcribed]

They affectionate fd.

Robert Spence                                                   

Robert Spence to William Rowntree, 1830-05-02


North Shields 2nd of 5th Mo 1830

My dear friend

It is high time to acknowledge my obligation to thee for thy kind letter and its enclosures—for all, of each of which I am obliged to thee—if ever thou comes in contact with a frank of the speakers, I should be glad to possess it, as the date of post office stamp establish the identity of the document.—It is now most likely that I may have the privelege of attending our approaching Yearly Meeting—as it is nearly fixed for a deputation to the Treasury consisting of John Finley, Alexr Crighton—Henry Mitcalfe & myself accompanied by Wm. Clark Esqr. of Benton & Hugh Taylor of Earsdon to be in London on or before the 14th Inst. in order to obtain a grant of an Independent Custom House for this place,—the Newcastle people or rather a portion of them having property near and on the Quay side oppose our wishes—and are sending a deputation with that view—Various memorials have been presented to the treasury on the subject from both Norh and So Shields—and also—from Whitby—Dundee The Dean of Chapter of Durham  &c &c—of the general merits of our case we consider such as that aided by the interest of the Duke of Northumberland we think we stand on strong ground—as our wish is not to deprive Newcastle of any thing it enjoys but simply to have the same facilities for these two towns to which above ¾ths of the shipping of the port belong—and this seems the more needful now that at least an equal portion of the coals are actually shipped either at Shields or within two Miles of it—14 years ago your ancient Town joined us in a memorial for what we now seek to possess—and considering that many of your Ship owners, and Masters of Ships frequenting the port, would be greatly benefited by having the power of entering their Ships & leaving them at Shields I wonder therefore that they do not at once follow the example of their neighbours at Whitby, who have to a Man joined heartily in support of our cause—I am afraid they do not see the thing correctly or else they would never hesitate, and altho' it may not be needfull yet every additional help strengthens the hands of those who have to advocate the cause however good that cause may be—John Finley had written to the Secy. of the Shipping Inst. at Scarbro' but hither to they have declined taking the matter up—I know this does not accord with the views of all, & it is a pity but those who are willing to have all the facilities that Trade ought to enjoy in its present depressed state, would join in a memorial in our favor.—I have given thee plenty on this subject thou wilt think—it is just now one of the uppermost that must be my apology.—Our Steam Ferry is progressing very satisfactorily & will ere long open out a new line of Coast road—

I hope thou intends to indulge us with a sight of thee this summer—now do not let thinking about it serve thee but try to realize thy intentions & pay us a visit—Shall I be likely to meet thee in London?—If I had simply consulted my own inclination I should have been there now—& then i might have got to the annual Meeting of the Bible Society which next to our own I think is the greatest treat a friend can partake of amidst the profusion of good things with which the great City abounds—

The poor King I fear is in very dangerous case—I should lament his removal—he has been so peaceably disposed that i fear we may not get a better.—

All our flock are well & unite me in dear love—believe me my dr friend

       Truly thine

Robert Spence                                                      

Robert Spence to William Rowntree, 1830-09-27


North Shields 27th of 9th mo 1830

My dear friend,

My transient visit to Scarborough left those sort of impressions that were calculated to excite a way to visit it, and as it is very uncertain when the opportunity for doing so may again present itself I feel disposed to talk to thee in this way in the mean time, and as my palaver may not possess much of merit or of interest I avail myself of a cheap mode of transmitting it to thee that thy disappointment may be less when its meagre aspect is exhibited—

I take it for granted that I am really in thy debt in this way, because I think I have not written since my return home, altho' it is possible I may, as I do not keep a Dr & Cr acct of these matters, & my memory is a treacherous one—if therefore I repeat a twice told tale thou must accept this as my apology—

My ride from Scarborough to Whitby was really a grand one—the sun rising in all its splendour from the ocean—& gilding the venerable piles of the old Castle made me fancy it still more beautiful & the situation more commanding and attractive than I did before at Whitby I had just time to swallow a hasty breakfast & speak to Jos. Sanders who came to see two of his neices off by the Coach to Stockton where we arrived in safety & from thence I secured an inside berth—which from the wetness of the evening proved a great comfort. I had Fanny Holmes from Ackworth—Elizh Yarrow & Hannah Brady & her baby as companions to Shields from Stockton—it was rather an odd junction—the first having come from Scarbro the 2nd from Harrogate & the others from Middleton all friends & from three watering places—the Steam Boat Company arrived nearly as soon as I did at the Tyne but from Esthers report I should have had a sickly passage of it, if I had joined them that I did not regret my determination to keep to terra firma—

Our "bishop of Durham" as he has been designated [Revd. ?] Salter, has been splicing himself to Sarah George by a priest at Durham—it seems an odd connection for a person to form at his time of life—a testimony of disownment has been ordered against him, & as he had all the full advantages of counsel, & experience, it seemed the only correct course—We have however another case where two first Cousns had gone to a priest to be married—before their attachment was known of, & as they have evinced considerable regret (I had almost said penitence) at the step they had taken we have decided, "That they shall not be allow to sit Meetings for discipline, that their Collections shall not be received, nor they relieved after the manner of poor friends, until they are restored to full unity with their friends" what Dost thou say to this state of suspending?? are we on tenable ground? or is it fraught with danger?—

Our daughter Mary has improved very much by her trip to a residence at Harrogate—and during the 5 weeks she was absent gained twelve pounds in weight—this is laying it on very briskly & proves the change had suited her well.—We have had regularly intermitting weather for some weeks past.—very far from favorable to the Harvest, & the chilly feeling of the latter part of Autumn is now daily to encounter—it is well that this district is not of much importance as respects the growth of culture of grain or I fear the lateness of our season would be severely felt—

What a Melancholy termination to poor Huskissons earthly career—few events could have occurred of a more strikingly mournful character—or more likely to make a very strong impression upon the mass of the population than this was—his character in private life seems to have been most amicable—and his talents for usefulness much beyond the possession of post of those by whom he was surrounded—there seems something in [sensitable?] in the event & it is therefore the bounden duty of [survors?] to endeavor to profit by this lesson of the great uncertainty of all our pleasures here—

Dost thou know that John Wilkinson is expected at our Quarterly Meeting—he has more than the [4 or 5 illegible words]—as is a very interesting man—I felt much obliged by thy kind attention in sending me a Scarbro paper with the truly spirited & interesting proceedings of thy fellow townsmen—

The Avarice of the priesthood seems likely to accelerate the degradation of the Church Establishment, & if they do not mend it will [...inate?] in her downfall.

With the kind regard of all my flock to thy self My love to J & D Stickney & thyself also believe me,

Thy affectionate friend

                       Robert Spence

Robert Spence to William Rowntree, 1830-12-30


North Shields 30th of 12th Month 1830

My dear friend,

The year is so near its close that unless I am industrious the new one will overtake me deeply in debt, and as I would gladly lessen the amount of my incumbrances before the present one has fled I have taken up my pen to hold a little social converse with thee, in the first place telling thee that the sight of they hand writing gratified me no little—for tardy as I am in my correspondence there is no-one more highly values the kind attentions of his friends or to whom it affords more substantial pleasure to feel that he holds the same place as ever in their interest, & affection, for after all many boasted independence, he is amongst the most dependent of beings—his comforts—his pleasures—his enjoyments in all their range, at least where rationality exists, most strikingly prove the truth of this position—that he is dependent upon others for nearly all the social enjoyments of life—and few things have contributed more to mine, than the pleasures I have derived from the correspondence of my friends—I am well aware we are not always in time for either writing or reading letters—but this only proves that imperfection hovers around us, and such will, & must be the case in this state of being—frailty and uncertainty are the imperishable inscriptions borne by all sublunary things—

Yesterday at Newcastle I heard of the sudden death of Joseph Gurney of Norwich, the Uncle of my partner Willm. Chapman—he had not been seriously ill—a little cold & cough but nothing to excite alarm—& had just spoken chearfully to his wife when he sunk down on the floor of his study about 10 oClock on 7th day last & immediately expired—it will be keenly felt by dr. Hannah Backhouse who had parted with him on leaving England with string impressions that she should never meet him more—his remains are to be interred on 1st day next—but probably all this may have reached thee before—

It is now very near the last day of 1830! how rapidly time wings its course, & brings us nearer to the final goal:—and what a train of solemn reflections crowd upon the mind when we turn our thoughts to the past & review the scenes for ever fled—whilst as regards the future it is all darkness & uncertainty—happily for our comfort the linaments arehid from our observation—& we have no other resource left but in faith & hope which chear our course and light our path in proportion as we cling unto them—farewell for the present it is midnight—1st of 1st month 1831

The year that was, exists no longer—a newer has arrived and altho' the first hour is not yet g[one] its claims to attention, & recognition are no longer doubtful—and the earnest desire of my heart is that the diligence of the future may in some measure make up the leeway of the past—what is gone cannot be recalled, the present only being ours—may we then my dear friend properly appreciate the blessings we enjoy, & endeavor with more  & more ardour to pursue those things that belong to our everlasting peace

My beloved Mary has recovered from her confinement remarkably well, & our little Emma seems a blooming hopeful blossom—the rest of our flock are all well & with dear love I wish thee, & believe me sincerely & affectionately Thy friend

Robert Spence

My dr. love to Isaac & Dory Stickney

Robert Spence to William Rowntree, 1832-10-12

  North Shields

12th of 10th Month 1832

My dear friend

The birth of an 18th child does not seem the most fitting subject upon which to commence an epistle to a Bachelor, and yet it is so natural for us to give expression to those things that are uppermost that my apology if apology is needful must be the pleasure that I feel in having my beloved MS safe in bed with the prospect of both she and our 14th daughter doing well—My dr. Mary had been in very delicate health for 8 or 10 weeks arising partly from a severe cold taken whilst paying visit to Margaret Bragg at Tynemouth, and a very troublesome cough had harrassed her exceedingly until about 10 days ago, when it left her, and on 4th day morning at 7 oClock she presented me with a very bonny blooming daughter which is yet nameless—we have now 10 all at home & in excellent health, and this together with the chearing prospect of my better halfs restoration to usual health is indeed cause for great gratitude & I think thou will rejoice with me—Robert is also at home in the shop and I hope likely to become useful in relieving his father before many years pass over from a part of those cares which a family large or small necessarily has attached to it;—indeed from all I can see or hear I do not think that bachelors escape with fewer than other men—& I am confident they do not possess so many comforts & privileges—do not think me impertinent for I am only giving expression to the conviction of my own mind;—4th day was rather an eventful one, it was our Monthly Meeting here, and in consequence of a recommendation of the case of our sister Sarah Foster from the select Monthly & Quarterly Meeting she was, at a joint conference of men & women friends recorded as a Minister, to I believe the general satisfaction of her friends—her appearances having of late become much more frequent, and I believe generally approved—she is attending on my beloved MS—and it seems her peculiar provence to tender herself useful, whereever sickness & distress or poverty & wretchedness prevail—I trust therefore it may tend to her own encouragement & benefit knowing she has the sanction of her friends in her still more public duties—

I had intended to tell thee my opinion on friends becoming legislators &c &c &c but my time is up & I can only add that with our united dear love I am

Thy affectionate friend

                         Robert Spence

My dr love to I. & D Stickney—

[PS] accept my grateful acknowledgment for thy kind & interesting letter & present which I admire much & feel interested in as likely to add to the convenience & beauty of your delightful town

Robert Spence to William Rowntree, 1831-12-31

  North Shields

12th mo 31st 1832 

My dear friend

Desirous before the few fleeting minutes of the present year are forever fled to acknowledge the receipt of they very kind letter by Elliott Crosson who was a total stranger to me as well as his cause, & respecting whom prejudice had indeed made strong impressions in many quarters where it will be no easy matter to remove it—the little I had heard had previously tended this way, but I am glad to say that a more full consideration of the subject, and a better acquaintance with him, have tended to dispel a great part of it—the object seems to me one in which every benevolent man may safely unite, if it be only for the sake of injured Africa—I regret however that he made but little out either at Shields or Newcastle—at Sunderland they gave him a cordial welcome, & cheared him on his course—& he was much delighted with the good friends of that place—he is now I expect in Scotland but I have not heard any thing of his success since he went North;—I felt quite obliged for the kind introduction of him and his subject which thou sent me—at the time it arrived I was under great anxiety respecting my dear better half, who had been for some time seriously ill—& was then at Benwell on account of her health—she is now I am thankful to say much better, and I hope will continue so—the infant (Lucy Fisher) who has also been ill, is again well, & all our numerous tribe, I am thankful to tell thee are in good health—it is now midnight—another year is numbered with the past—and I am now entering for the first time on 1833 and most ardently do I crave that the future may be more wisely directed than the past—for it is alas I feel, & know, there is much to lament—well my dear friend, the prize is still before us, & we must endeavor to press after it—for this night farewell—1st mo 1st 1833—

2nd of 1st month 1833—I had not opportunity to resume this letter yesterday—our Quarterly Meeting was at Sunderland, & along with 3 of my daughters, I attended it, left them behind me & returned home at night—we had Chas. Osborne with us who ministered to us at great length, and barring manner, very acceptably, but my English ears are not sufficiently in love with American song, to like the manner of it—more especially when John Pease is present who in the first meeting was silent, in the second he gave us some beautiful, deeply instructive, & excellent counsel concluding by a caution to friends against attending large public Dinners which he thinks it impossible for them to mix in, without some degree of contamination & subsequent injury to the spiritual life—his Brother Joseph the  newly elect MP was our assistant Clerk, and conducted himself most agreeably—we had a very interesting testimonial read respecting Isabella Harris—rather long, but containing much instructive information, & considering the very prominent station she had filled in society I do not know that it can be found fault with—today the Monthly Meeting also at Sunderland—where Jane Procter & John Richardson of Langburgh and William Backhouse Junr. to one of the Fryers of Raistrick are to present their Marriages—Rachel, & Robert along with Wm Pattison are gone to join the three already there so that my family will be well represented, altho neither my wife or I are there.—John Richardson will get a nice wife,—& what is still better a very good one—she has long filled a most useful and prominent part in all our public benevolent schemes in which females unite, & will be much missed—

The tories in this county have shewn their strength in a way that must be very annoying to Earl Grey & his colleagues—one of their numbers being returned for each division, & one of those (Mattw Bell) a most violent & sturdy opponent of the reform bill—this is too bad—& I cannot but think we are disgraced by the result of the contest however I have made up my mind to keep myself quiet & endeavor to move along as peaceably as I can in the station in which it has pleased providence to place me & leave politicians to settle these things as they like—with dr love to I & D Stickney & to thyself believe me

Thy sincere frd Robert Spence

Robert Spence to Mary, 1834-01-03

My beloved M.S.

North Shields, 3rd of 1st Mo. 1834.

Once more thou must be willing to submit to receive the daily lucubrations of thy loquacious husband not because he has aught of interest that might seem to call his pen into action, but having now, for almost half the measure of the days that have been his portion, been in the habit of talking to thee by the way as he has walked, he feels unwilling to deprive himself of the pleasure it has never failed to afford. A constant interchange of thoughts with those we love is one of the prime privileges of mortals and thou wilt give me credit for being disposed at any rate to do my part. [ . . . ]

Robert Spence to Mary, 1839-03-05

My beloved Mary

North Shields 3rd Mo. 5th 1839.

Amidst the tossings and turmoils of this troublesome world, what a consolation it is to turn the attention to those we dearly love, although when severed by absence from each other, the only means left is the one I am now pursuing for the interchange of some of those every day thoughts that present themselves—and which form so permanent a feature in the sum of comfort, and of misery with which our pilgrimage below is encircled. [ . . . ]

Robert Spence to his nephew Robert Foster, 1842-05-15


5/15 1842

My dear Nephew,

Mary informs me there is room for a note along with her envelope, and although I have nothing to say worth the trouble of perusing yet I am disposed to avail myself of her offer in order to tell thee that we have been much interested with the accounts thou has so kindly sent us of thy perigrinations so far—thou has elevated our notions of the beauties of the district we are planted in by informing us that a certain view of the Orwell is compared to the lake of Geneva—and, that when the tide is out it strongly resembles Jarrow slake—but perhaps thou means Jarrow Slake in a fog—a mantle in which it has very often been enveloped of late—The day you left us turned out so stormy that I blamed myself very much for not despatching you by rail instead of letting you go by sea—however as "all is well that ends well" I suppose it was all for the best you kept to your original plan—I almost envied thee thy ride from Yarmouth to Ipswich thy account of its beauties was so interesting—

It would be an unlooked for pleasure to meet my Bros & Sister Gilpin in London Sarah will I think be much astonished with the great city & its scenes of confusion & splendour—

We jog on very quietly—I have little new amongst us—Emanl Walmslys creditors have 7/6 in the £ offered by his friends—and John Fenwick tells me they do not expect his effects will ever realise that sum—

Roberts house gets on very well, the large furniture is mostly in, & this week a good many additions will be made to it—they are kept actively employed in preparing it—We had 3/5 averages home in one day—but other bills are small & few in number—My dr M the twins & all the rest join me in dear love to thee & all our Kindred Thy affectte

Uncle RS.—

I have got a wretched pen that will hardly scratch—Jos. has not come this eveg. we had him this day last week quite well—Tomorrow Jos & Sarah Watson & their Children all come for a week

Wm Brown, John Mizell & Jno Dixon are Guilford assignees

Robert Spence to Robert Foster, 1842-05-24

My dear Nephew,

5th Mo. 24 1842.

Many thanks for thy kind and interesting letter—and as London is a large place containing for anything I know many James and Sarah Gilpins (descendants of the redoubtable John, of course, I address a letter to my rambling brother and sister from Newcastle to thy care as more likely to reach its destination than thro' the General Post Office—it seems they have commenced their migratory system again & their last destination was Stamford Hill; it is not unlikely when this reaches thee their abode may be somewhere about the top of St. Pauls, Westminster Abbey, or some of those other objects of attraction with which the marvellous city abounds—perhaps I am going too fast, the Conclave at Houndsditch will not have finished their deliberations, in which case I suppose, one or the other will be met with there—

Yesterday my wife—the twins, Emma, Lucy, Sarah and three of her children went by the Railway to Willington to Tea. I joined them at 5 o'clock and Joseph met us from Newcastle—we had a pleasant visit, no noises to disturb us, or the matter ever named except by Jos. Procter to Jos Watson privately—who took him up stairs to tell him that Dr. Clancey is about to publish Drury's case in Richardson's Table Book—What a piece of folly—

Thy Brother Joseph was here on 1st day night quite well—to-day I hear Emanl Taylor has had an attack of paralysis at Shotley Bridge, his mouth much drawn on one side & has the use of some of his limbs gone—

Poor Robert Nicholson Elizhs son we are told to night as at the point of death, from Typhus fever she has come down from the Trinity House, Mile end road—how well it was she got placed there, or else she would have been quite destitute—how uncertain is life & all its pleasure & enjoyments—poor fellow married but a few months, with a prospect of having a fine Vessel placed under his command & every prospect of success before him—his poor Mother proved for & a fair chance of happiness for himself & wife & all blighted at once—My dr love to all my dr friends & relations in which all join me They affectte Uncle R Spence

Robert Spence to Mary, date not given

Elizabeth Procter is ill of a severe quinsey & during all this very wet weather the greater art of the roof of their house at Willington has been off.

The ghost must surely have been fairly driven out.

Robert Spence to Mary, date not given [after 1836]

[ . . . ] Emma who has got the mumps slightly, is with our grandson Willy comparatively well. They have not been to school to-day, nor has it been suitable for them to go to Tynemouth, it has been so showery, but they have had the company of their Cousins Mary, Elizabeth and Ann Clapham. [ . . . ]

Robert Spence to Mary, date not given

[ . . . ] the Scotch friends hope for some change in the system. We had a long battle about the matter, and both left as we began—thou knows the difficulty of moving a Richardson, and it was evidenced in perfection. [ . . . ]

Robert Spence to his son John, date not given

[ . . . ] We were much pleased with thy good report of thy journey to London [ . . . ] but really, young man, twice to the theatre and once to an oratorio, all in one week—looks like taking hasty steps to come under the lath of the law [Quaker discipline] and I cannot help thinking thou would have been as well employed, in resting after thy day's toil and they previous night's travel, and by that means have been in good case to meet thy friends at Reed's on 7th day, as by resorting to a place of diversion or amusement to kill time, although possibly it might be designated 'sacred' in order to catch those who might startle aside, if that were not made use of. Perhaps my dear son though mayst think I stumble at trifles perhaps it may be so. [ . . . ]

Mary Spence to her son John, date not given

[ . . . ] [Robert is] ready to doubt the propriety of so very distant a separation on the sole ground of pleasure[ . . . ] thy dear father has had a severe attack of his usual autumn complaint which makes him see things through rather a dark medium and he got quite anxious about you, perhaps more about your minds than your bodies, which, I trust, may not have suffered harm. [ . . . ]

Robert Spence to [probably ]Mary, dates not given, re Yearly Meetings

[ . . . ] Jos. John Gurney said he thought it would be more honourable at once to pay the money than by any sort of collusion appear to be trampling on our testimony—laying out silver spoons, etc., etc., was animadverted upon freely and fully and considered a species of collusion. [ . . . ]

[ . . . the meeting debated] whether a person buying an estate by which he became entitled to receive tithes would be considered a delinquent provided he did not receive them. [ . . . ]

[ . . . ] Jacob or Thomas Green from Ireland sang most melodiously his view on this important query, the 1st. [ . . . ]

Robert Spence to his family—letter attached to his will, 1845-08-06

Perhaps some of my dear children may feel a little disappointed that my provision for them is not greater; if this should be the case, tell them that their father coveted not riches, which are often a snare and source of much evil—but that he wished earnestly to obtain and to deserve the character of a man of integrity and uprightness, endeavouring to live without offence toward God and toward man [ . . . ] My large family, although attended with many anxious cares, have also been a source of inexpressible comfort, and the heritage with which the Lord has been pleased to bless my beloved Mary and me has been a goodly one, and fondly and earnestly do I desire that their children and children's children may be as great a comfort to them as ours have been to us.

As regards my beloved son Robert, who has long been my faithful and anxious helper in the Bank, I trust that my dear friend William Chapman will, both in consideration of his own merits of qualification for the post do what he can for my sake to obtain for him the appointment as my successor in the office I have held, the Directors could not confide the interests of the Union Banking Company here to better hands or where they will be more faithfully attended to. I consider him invaluable in the post he fills. My sons, John Foster Spence and Joseph Spence, will now divide the results of the business of Robert Spence & Co. between them, if such arrangements have not already taken place, and I trust that true harmony and fellowship my continue betwixt them that has hitherto been the bond of union throughout the late firm. I have full confidence that their love and affection for their dear Mother and sisters will induce my beloved sons to do everything in their power to promote their interest, their welfare, and their happiness.

And now my beloved wife, three sons, and all my other dear Children, that we all may be permitted to meet a family in Heaven is the earnest prayer of your tenderly attached.


North Shields,

     8th mo. 6th, 1845.


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