SPURRIER, Christopher (1783-1876), of Upton House, Poole, Dorset
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Family and Educationb. 16 Aug. 1783,1 2nd but 1st surv. s. of William Spurrier, merchant, of Poole and 2nd w. Ann, da. of Peter Jolliffe, surveyor of customs, of Poole. m. 22 Sept. 1814,2 Amy, da. of George Garland†, merchant, of Poole, 2da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1809. d. 13 Nov. 1876.
Sheriff, Dorset 1825-6.
The Spurriers, who became one of Poole’s leading Newfoundland merchant families, appear to have come from the town of Wareham in the seventeenth century. Walter Spurrier, who was living in Fish Street in 1690, began as a sailor in the Newfoundland fishing fleets and became a merchant. His sons followed him into the business, opening up the previously unexploited fishing grounds off St. Mary’s Bay, Newfoundland. One of them, Timothy (1672-1756), the chief architect of the family’s rise to power and fortune, served as mayor of Poole three times between 1722 and 1731. In 1747 one of the six Spurriers in the corporation was William, who was mayor on four occasions between 1784 and 1802. He took over the Poole firm of Waldren and Young and by 1785 had become head of one of the largest and most prosperous Newfoundland trading companies.3
William’s son and namesake with his first wife Mary (d. 27 July 1781), who had been a partner in the firm since at least 1791, died on 18 Apr. 1800, aged 37.4 His younger half-brother Christopher, whose mother belonged to another of the principal mercantile families of Poole, replaced him as partner, and in 1804 became a member of the corporation.5 He was encouraged by his ambitious father to stand for Poole, on the retirement of the wealthy merchant George Garland at the general election of 1807, when he offered, in an address of 20 Apr., as a ‘free and independent character’, who made ‘no professions of attachment to any men whether in administration or opposition’. However, confronted with a coalition, he backed down on 2 May and in the ensuing contest voted for his substitute, George’s brother Joseph Garland. It was later revealed that William Spurrier had obtained the writ and delayed delivering it to the sheriff (his brother-in-law) to buy time for Christopher’s nomination. For this transgression he received a severe reprimand from the Speaker in July 1808.6 On the death of his father, 20 Mar. 1809, Christopher Spurrier succeeded to control of the family business, which included a bank in Poole. He took as partners his maternal uncle Peter Jolliffe and his nephew William Jubber Spurrier.7 It is conceivable that he was the Christopher Spurrier who matriculated at St. Mary Hall, Oxford in December 1810, ‘aged 26’; but it seems far more likely that this was one of his late brother’s sons. He was listed among the stewards for a London meeting of the friends of Constitutional Reform in 1811.8
In 1809 Spurrier helped to return George Garland’s son Benjamin Lester Lester* for Poole on the understanding that he would be supported by Garland, who spent several thousand pounds cultivating an interest for him, at a future election. Before his marriage to Garland’s daughter (which took place the day after the marriage settlement had been signed on 21 Sept. 1814), Spurrier, whose wayward private conduct had already caused the Garlands alarm, threatened to break it off unless Lester made way for him at Poole. He was offered £2,000 by Garland towards a seat elsewhere and agreed not to stand, but he went back on his word in 1817, claiming that Garland had promised him support, and persisted in standing at the general election of 1818, when he finished bottom of the poll.9 A gambler and a spendthrift, with little interest in supervising the family business, Spurrier built Upton House in 1818 ‘at great expense’, diverting the turnpike road in order to enlarge the surrounding parkland.10
At the general election of 1820 Spurrier, who raised a £12,000 mortgage on his mansion and sold the Compton Abbas estate for £16,500 to finance the campaign, ducked another challenge at Poole and stood for the open and venal borough of Bridport, where he was helped by the retiring Member Henry Charles Sturt. After a severe contest, he was returned in second place as one of the ‘popular’ candidates.11 He voted with opposition on the civil list, 5, 8 May, against the appointment of an additional baron of exchequer in Scotland, 15 May, for inquiry into military expenditure, 16 May, and against the aliens bill, 1 June. He was unseated on his opponent’s petition alleging bribery, 20 June 1820. Although still bitterly aggrieved, Garland later that year attempted a reconciliation with the Spurriers, who resided in France in the early 1820s, but their quarrel was not patched up until 1824.12 Spurrier was spoken of as a possible candidate at Poole during the speculation over the likelihood of a dissolution in September 1825, when he successfully tendered his vote in the mayoral election. He proposed William Ponsonby* at the general election in 1826, when he split for him and his Whig colleague Lester against Sturt.13 He is not known to have taken any further part in politics.
There was no curb to Spurrier’s profligacy and in 1825 he was forced to put Upton House up for auction; it was eventually sold in 1828 to Edward Doughty, formerly Tichborne. Paintings and plate went to pay off his mounting gambling debts and it is said that he wagered and lost his last silver teapot on a maggot race. In July 1830 the firm of Spurrier, Jolliffe and Spurrier, which had failed to diversify to compensate for the general decline of the Newfoundland trade, collapsed owing £26,077. There followed a sale of the company’s Poole and Newfoundland properties, including a fleet of 11 ships and business premises in Placentia Bay, Oderin, Barren Island and the Isle of Allan. After the creditors had been paid, Amy Spurrier (d. 28 July 1841), who had lived largely apart from her husband after the crash, managed to recover £5,000 from his estate.14 Their only surviving child, Amy, married Ernst, Baron de Linden of Württemberg, who probably had to support his father-in-law in old age. Spurrier, who apparently travelled abroad after 1830, died in Chelmsford in November 1876.15
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Authors: Robin Healey / Stephen Farrell
- 1. Ex. inf. I.K.D. Andrews, former Poole Borough Archivist, who kindly supplied other details upon which this biography is based.
- 2. Dorset RO, Lester-Garland mss D/LEG F23, f. 56.
- 3. D. Beamish, J. Hillier and H.F.V. Johnstone, Mansions and Merchants of Poole and Dorset, i. 13-16; C.N. Cullingford, Hist. Poole, 124, 137-8.
- 4. Gent. Mag. (1800), ii. 697; MI, St. James’s, Poole; J. Hutchins, Dorset, i. (1861), 49.
- 5. Dorset RO, Poole borough recs. DC/PL CLA43.
- 6. Poole Mus. Service, addresses, printed poll list (1807); Beamish, i. 18; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 137.
- 7. Gent. Mag. (1809), i. 286; PROB 11/1495/234; Beamish, i. 18.
- 8. Beds. RO, Whitbread mss W1/4455.
- 9. Lester-Garland mss F21, ff. 171, 173; F23, ff. 20, 48, 55, 60; F24; F62; Late Elections (1818), 257; Beamish, i. 18-19; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 138.
- 10. Hutchins, Dorset, iii (1868), 308.
- 11. Salisbury Jnl. 13, 20 Mar.; Star, 14 Mar. 1820; Beamish, i. 19.
- 12. Lester-Garland mss F23; Beamish, i. 19.
- 13. Dorset Co. Chron. 22 Sept. 1825, 15 June 1826; Poole borough recs. S1660.
- 14. Beamish, i. 19-23; M. J. Bright, Growth and Development of Commerce and Industry in Poole, app. 2; Gent. Mag. (1841), ii. 331.
- 15. Beamish, i. 23-24; Chelmsford Chron. 23 Nov. 1876.