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British TaxidermistsPeter Spicer of Leamington

Peter Spicer’s Family

By 4 May 2024May 19th, 2024No Comments

The Spicer Family Were Taxidermists | Naturalists | Furriers | Glovers | Plumassiers | Artists | The business ran from 1864-1959 | 

The Spicer Family Were Taxidermists | Naturalists | Furriers | Glovers | Plumassiers | Artists | The business ran from 1864-1959 | 

It’s a family affair

Peter Spicer’s mother, Emma, continues his father’s taxidermy business before she dies in 1874.

Peter Spicer’s sons William and Gilbert become naturalists & taxidermists, eventually taking over the business.

Peter Spicer’s sons become upstanding citizens of Leamington, leading clubs and societies in the town.  They are also both artists, like their father.

Peter Spicer’s daughter Louisa marries an artist, George Jack, who works in the Spicer business.

Peter Spicer’s cousin, E.F. Spicer apprentices to Peter, and opens his opens business after 1872 in Birmingham.

If you wish to have a copy of the Spicer family tree, please contact me.

Read the article on the Spicer Business

Peter Spicer married twice and had eight children

Peter Spicer (1839-1935) was married firstly to Ann Ward of Leamington in January 1865, and they had six children, only three of whom survived. He lost his first wife and a newborn child when they both died after childbirth. It appears that his daughter Ann died on 27th August 1874 less than a month after being born and her mother, Ann, died just 5 days later on 2nd September 1874. What a tragedy.

The infections of TB, Pneumonia and Bronchitis were very common at that time, being in the top 10 reasons for death, and it is possible that both mother and child were infected.  1874 was a bad year for Peter Spicer since his mother, Emma, also died in the same year.

In September 1877 three years after his first wife died, Peter married his housekeeper, Lavinia Williams who came originally from Cirencester, with whom he had two children, Percy (b. 1879) then Gilbert Harry (b. 1880 d. 1968).  Sadly, Percy later died age just 5 yrs.

Lavinia died in 1926 age 76.  Peter died in 1935 age 96.  They are buried together in the Leamington Cemetary.

His sons, William Sydney Spicer & Gilbert Spicer joined the business

Peter’s two sons William Sydney (b. 1869 d. 1960) from his first marriage to Ann Ward, and his son Gilbert Harry (b. 1880 d. 1964) from Peter’s later marriage to Lavinia Williams eventually both joined the business in Leamington when they came of age – William probably in about 1883 and Gilbert probably in about 1894 when age 14yrs.   The stepbrothers worked together in the business up until 1920.

Peter’s daughter Louisa (b. 1845) also contributed to the success of the business and showed some of the same tendances as her siblings, since she married George Jack, an artist in Warwick in 1864. George went on to work for the Spicer business, and as an artist he surely would have been most useful with the scenery and the compositions of the cases.

Peter’s cousin Edward Francis Spicer also worked in the family business in the early days as an apprentice up to 1872 and then left, got married, and created his own business as a taxidermist about 30 miles away in Birmingham. Most interestingly, I found two newspaper clippings of Peter Spicer specifically disassociating the Spicer business in Leamington with the Spicer business in Birmingham.  This could have been due to a family dispute, but I find no specific evidence for that, so I must be content with speculating on that one.

Peter Spicer's sons: William Sydney and Gilbert Harry

The Two Spicer Stepbrothers William Sydney and Gilbert Harry:  Outstanding Citizens

Gilbert Harry Spicer had several interests and was also known as an artist like his father. He became a Fellow of the Zoological Society FZS like his father, and I’d say that Gilbert attempted to mix his talents and tried to be a businessman while his stepbrother William and his father, Peter were the natural taxidermists. Because the stepbrothers both worked in the Spicer business, they did not have a taxidermy label of their own.  I do not believe it’s possible to identify their individual taxidermy work because by the time they joined just before the end of the 19th century the whole business relied upon the skills of multiple employees.

Gilbert was also interested in the Theatre, just as his stepbrother, William, was interested in musicals and operatics. In 1898 Gilbert appeared in the cast of a benefit, supported by Miss Ellen Terry, in aid of the NSPCC playing a banjo in one of the music sections. We also see his name in reference to playing in local concerts in the early 1900s.

During the early 1900s Gilbert had also been made Honorary Curator of The Leamington Municipal Museum, only resigning in 1914 after Mr W. Ewart Owen, was made Chief Curator, having previously been its Head Librarian. It appears that Gilbert Spicer had taken issue with some of the actions and perspectives of the Committee (nothing changes, does it?!) and he had felt compelled to withdraw. Just like his stepbrother, William, Gilbert was very much involved with local society and held positions of local prominence.

In 1919 Gilbert Harry and his wife Dorothy had a tragedy with their one-year-old child, Richard, who died in their home.  He was suffocated by an accidental gas leak caused by his mother’s skirt catching on a poker in his bedroom.  Sad times indeed.

William Sydney Spicer was also one of the leading founders of the Warwick and Leamington Operatic Society which was founded in 1921 and opened in January 1922 with its first production, (a comic opera which deals with the themes of death – how appropriate?!), “The Mikado” by Gilbert & Sullivan at the Theatre Royal in Leamington.  William played the part of “Pooh Bah” which is a baritone role described as “The Lord High of Everything Else” so I think we can say with confidence that he was a prominent member of the community and a business leader, just as his stepbrother Gilbert Harry was. These two boys were from a good and upstanding family!

William Sydney Spicer

William married Emily Franklyn Gibbs in 1894 and they had three daughters.

Sadly, after a long illness Emily died in 1923.

Records show that age the 55 and just a few months after Emily had died, William married again in 1924.

Lilian Mary Russell (b. 1885 d. 1964) became his new wife after they married in Hackney, London in November 1924. I note that she was 16 years younger than William.  It makes me wonder if he knew her before his first wife died.

She lived in Hackney at the time of their meeting in 1924, and the celebrated Hackney Empire (opened 1901 and designed by Frank Matcham) was a huge attraction with its twice daily variety shows.  We know that William liked musical theatre. I wonder if they met there? We will never know.


Read the article on the Spicer Business


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