Circa 1898 Palmer children

Spencer Palmer children about 1898

James and Amy Spencer Palmer had seven children: Arthur Hugh in 1888 and Lucy Evelyn in 1890, Ellen Irene (Nell) in 1892, Nina Irene (Nina) in 1894, Charles Stanley (Charlie) in 1896, Robert Lewis (Bob) in 1898, and Florence Margaret (Peggy) in 1900.  Between 1891 and 1902 the family were living at 1 The Plain and from 1902 onwards they lived at Coronation House at 13 High Street.  Click here to read more about James

The photo above is thought to have been taken about 1899 shows James and Amy and their six older children.

Further photos of James, Amy and their children can be found in the Family Album – click here to see these photos

Some of the children were educated at Miss King’s “Dame School” but when she married they were taught by a retired schoolmaster called Richard “Dicky” Fill.  Many of them attended Thornbury Grammar School but the older ones left to go to the Merchant Venturers’ School and Colston Girls’ School in Bristol.  They used to catch the 8am train daily and return in the evening.

Arthur Hugh Spencer Palmer – the eldest son Arthur was born in Bristol.  He attended Thornbury Grammar School, where he was taught by George Nixon, and then Merchant Venturers’ School in Bristol.  He seems to have been a lively young man, very much in the mould of his father.  A report in “The Cornishman” newspaper of Thursday December 12 1907 gave one interesting report of his activities, whilst he was still in his late teens;

Many of our readers will remember that on 7th September 1906 Mr Arthur Hugh Spencer Palmer of Coronation House, Thornbury, Gloucestershire had a narrow escape at Cape Cornwall cliff.  On the above date he accidentally fell over and was in a most perilous position but was rescued by a band of Cornish men who risked their lives in saving him.  Miss Martha May, of Market Square, also rendered timely help by bringing a rope.  Mr Palmer has not forgotten his rescuers, and has sent to Miss May a large portrait of himself with a massive frame and has also suitably rewarded the others.’

The 1911 census shows that he was aged 22 and still living with his family and that he was a dental student.  In May 1911, soon after that census, he qualified as a dentist and emigrated to what was then called British East Africa to take up a post as an assistant to a Dr Grice in Nairobi.  East Africa Pioneer Company’s records show that he served with them and that by 1919 he was entitled to the Victory Medal and British War Medal for his service.

The Gazette of 16th March 1929 had a report of him and what became a well known encounter with Arthur Conan Doyle who toured in Kenya and other far flung areas of the world giving illustrated talks on spiritualism.  Despite creating Sherlock Holmes the greatest fictional detective with the most logical mind, Doyle seems to have been unusually credulous.  For example, he was also known for his support of the Cottingley Fairies.  During his lecture in Nairobi Doyle showed a slide of a ghost in a well known haunted house in Somerset.  When he got to the point of declaring the photograph undoubtedly genuine, Arthur Spencer Palmer stood up and said “I am that ghost.”  He went on to explain that he visited the house in 1909 and as a joke with some friends he dressed in a night gown and was photographed whilst he “grimaced”.  Arthur Conan Doyle said he would never show that photograph again but a series of articles and letters to the East African Standard appear to show that the episode rankled with Conan Doyle who later demanded proof of the forgery.

We are grateful to Pauline Montgomery for the information that Arthur was a believer in both British Israelism – the belief that people in northern and western are the descendants of the ten lost tribes of Israel, and also  pyramidology – where the Great Pyramid of Giza is supposed to foretell the future.  He wrote about this latter interest in 1931: The Great Pyramid.  This is a 27 page pamphlet which possibly originated as an article in “The East African Standard” and was reprinted as a pamphlet by Covenant Publishing  in London.  There are at least two copies of this article, one in the Brigham Young University and the other in the papers of a Leonard Leopold Mackall, held in the John Hopkins University Library.

Arthur Hugh Spencer Palmer died on 8th February 1945 aged 57 after a long illness and was buried at the Forest Road Cemetery in Nairobi in Kenya.

Lucy Evelyn Spencer Palmer – Lucy gained a degree and became a teacher.  She taught at various schools including St Margaret’s School Burnham on Sea, Hitchin Girl’s Grammar School in Hertfordshire, and the Duchess’ School at Alnwick until she was appointed to a lectureship in English and French at Portsmouth Training College.

Ellen Irene Spencer Palmer– Nell also taught music and then went to live in Africa.  She may have gone to South Africa because her uncle, Frederick Roach was there.  Frederick had worked as a railway clerk and was a schoolmaster in Yate by 1881.  Later as the Right Reverend Frederick Roach DD he became Assistant Bishop of Natal.  Nell taught music at Pietermaritzburg and much later she married Mr Fred Steart there.

Nina Irene Spencer Palmer – Nina too was a teacher but then married a chemist called Sydney Buckle at Thornbury in 1922 and they had a shop in Torrington, Devon.  Although her father James approved of the match, he felt he could not attend the wedding at the church because he was a devout member of the Plymouth Brethren.  He had started a “little Exclusive Brethren meeting in Thornbury and the Sunday Breaking of Bread was held in our nursery for many years till a small room could be rented elsewhere”.

Charles Stanley Spencer Palmer in 1915

Charles Stanley Spencer Palmer – born in Thornbury on 26th January 1896.  He was educated at home before being admitted to the Grammar School on 16th September 1909.  He left school after only one year on 28th July 1910 to go fruit farming in Canada.  He was only 15.  He started working as a rancher although he served with the 30th B.C. Horse from May 1912, when he would have only been sixteen, to May 1914.  He enlisted in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force in Vancouver on 4th January 1916 when he was 19.  Charlie was described in the Army records as being unmarried, height 6 ft 1 inch, chest 41 inches expanded with 4 inch range, fair complexion, blue eyes and brown hair.  He had three moles on left shoulder, neck and under right atilla.  Charles was serving in the 50th Battalion Canadian Infantry (Alberta Regiment) when he died on 2 September 1918 aged 22.  He was killed when his regiment took part in the battle that seized control of the western edge of the Hindenburg Line.  We understand that 5,600 Canadians were killed in this battle.  He was remembered at Vis-En-Artois British Cemetery, Haucourt.  The photo on the left was taken of Charles in 1915.


C Palmer Grave 1

Charles SpencerPalmer

His sister said that Charlie’s death was due to concussion from a nearby shell, and later on his uniform was sent back home intact, without a trace of violence.  Many months later came a letter from a sergeant named Leicester Longden, who had managed to find out the address, saying that Charlie had as he put it “Helped him avoid the sin of this world” and saying that he had no doubt where Charlie was now.”

Peggy, Charlie’s younger sister, had a diary which described the scene when the telegram to inform the family arrived at their High Street home.  The afternoon postal delivery had just arrived at the shop when she realised that one of the letters was edged with black.  The family was gathering for tea.  She saw her father come in from the shop for his meal and then look at the post.  He said nothing but he pulled his peak cap over his eyes and went back into the shop where he was alone for a few minutes.  When he returned to the tea table he seemed cheerful and talked to the family.  It was only after the family’s meal that he took his wife upstairs and broke the news to her.  He later said that he had asked the Lord how to tell her.

Robert Lewis Spencer Palmer – born on 2nd April 1898.  He was educated at home, but being admitted to the Grammar School on 16th September 1909.  He left school in the 5th Form on 30th October 1914 intending to become a motor engineer.  Bob also served in 1st Devon Regiment during the war.  He was reported missing in the Spring of 1918 but a few weeks later it was officially confirmed that he was a prisoner of war in Germany.  Bob returned home to Thornbury on Christmas Eve 1918.

He was listed in the electoral registers of 1921 and 1927 as living at home.  He was a member of the Thornbury Tennis Club and in 1925 he represented them in the inter club men’s singles tournament at the West of England Championship at Redland Green.  He lost 6-2 and 6-1.  We understand from a descendent that Robert was discouraged from following his dream to become a motor mechanic by his parents.  He went to college in Bristol and became a pharmacist.  At college he met Monica Andree Edwards who came from Reading.  They married in Reading in 1931 and moved to Clacton-upon-sea where they opened a Pharmacy.  They stayed there until the 2nd World War.  They moved to Reading to escape the danger of the Germans dropping their bombs on Clacton on their way back to Germany.  They opened another Pharmacy in Reading.  Robert and Andree (as she was known) had two children Patricia Joan Mary and Anne Virginia.  Robert died in 1973 and Andree died in the 1990’s.

Peggy Palmer

Florence Margaret Spencer Palmer – Peggy was born on 27th July 1900.  She was educated at home before being admitted to the Grammar School on 17th January 1910.  She had a year at a private boarding school in Burham from September 1910 to July 1911 before she returned to the Grammar School and she remained there until the 6th Form which she left on 15th December 1915.  She became an extremely talented musician, even at an early age.  A Gazette report dated 27th February 1915 shows that Peggy, as a pupil of Mabel G Smith, has been successful in gaining a Senior Exhibition (value £9 9s) from Trinity College of Music in London.  Peggy was the first in the British Isles in terms of age and marks, being three years younger than any other exhibitioner and gaining 100 marks out of 100.

Peggy was a scholar and Chappell gold medallist for keyboard at the Tobias Matthay Piano School in London.  She attended the Royal Academy of Music and studied composition with B J Dale and Sir Ivor Atkins and was acquainted with the celebrated pianist Dame Myra Hess.  She also became the friend of Evelyn Rothwell, the future Lady Barbirolli.  Peggy became accompanist and secretary to the Salvation Army evangelist “La Marechale”.  “La Marechale” was Mrs Catherine Booth-Clibborn, the daughter of William Booth, and she took the Salvation Army ideal to France.  Later Peggy became music mistress at Clarendon School Malvern (1929-48) and afterwards taught piano and composition privately, becoming a visiting teacher of piano at several schools in the Bristol area, including Redland High School (1948-58) and St Brandon’s School, Clevedon (1959-61).

Many of Peggy’s compositions were for use at Clarendon School; they included pieces for piano and ‘cello and much vocal music.  She wrote “A Pianist’s Book of Chimes”.  Dr. Kinnear met her in 1935 at the home of the Bible teacher Harold St John of Malvern, Worcestershire, and recognised the quality of her work.  She was exceptionally gifted as a pianist, and had every reason to expect a future as a solo performer at concerts but after being confirmed in the Church of England, she found it difficult to reconcile secular success with the kind of humble service she thought God wanted her to do.  However she was delighted to be asked to be the Music Editor for the collection of Amy Carmichael’s songs with music published as Wings by SPCK in 1960.  She revised arrangements by other composers as well as contributing some of her own to the publication.  Peggy’s name is associated with the hymn tunes “Ellasgarth” and “Nativity”.  She also composed the music for “The Gate of the Year”, a musical setting of a poem by M Louise Haskins called “God Knows” (the poem was used by King George VI in a Christmas broadcast.

The photo above on the right shows Peggy in 1949.  She died in Bristol on 29th March 1987.