Spencer William Gore (1850 - 1906)

Lawn tennis champion and land surveyor
and his son
Spencer Frederick Gore (1878 - 1914)
Artist

sometime residents in Mead House, Epsom


Awaiting permission to use image of Spencer William Gore

Lady Augusta Lavinia Priscilla Ponsonby, second daughter of the fourth earl of Bessborough, married William Thomas, Earl of Kerry M.P., during 1834.  Lord Kerry died in 1836 and his widow married the Hon. Charles Alexander Gore, Commissioner of Woods and Forests, brother of the fourth Earl of Arran. From this marriage she had two daughters, and three sons, namely Sir Francis Charles Gore, Solicitor to the Board of Inland Revenue, Spencer William Gore and Dr Charles Gore, Bishop of Worcester. Her second husband died in 1897 and Augusta, Countess of Kerry, died aged 90, at her home West Side House, Wimbledon Common in 1904.

The three Gore boys went to Harrow school where Spencer William stood out as an athlete and became a distinguished cricketer, playing in the Harrow XI 1867 and for Surrey in 1874 & 1875.

Spencer W. Gore, who had been born at Wimbledon on 10 March 1850, married Amy Margaret Smith, 9 January 1875. He subsequently became a partner with his father-in-law, Edmund Smith, in the firm of Smith and Watkins, Agents and Receivers to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, Whitehall Place, London. Later the company was renamed Smiths and Gore.

The baptism of Amy and Spencer's second child, Kathleen Amy, was recorded at St Martin's parish church, Epsom, on 5 April 1877 [Reg. Epsom 3/1877 as Gore, Female]. It appears that prior to that date the family had moved into Mead House on South Street. This property has been demolished for an office building to be put up on the site but a photograph survives from around 1870.

Old Mead House c1870
Old Mead House c1870 photographed by G.S Snashall, Artist, Epsom Bazaar
Image courtesy of W Saunders © 2010

Spencer Gore held an opinion that "That anyone who has really played well at cricket, [real] tennis, or even rackets, will ever seriously give his attention to lawn tennis, beyond showing himself to be a promising player, is extremely doubtful; for in all probability the monotony of the game would choke him off before he had time to excel in it." Nevertheless he entered the first lawn tennis championships staged by the All England Croquet Club, on its ground off Worple Road, Wimbledon, in order to raise money for the purchase of a horse drawn roller.

Open to all-comers, each of the 22 competitors paid an entry fee of one guinea, spectators were charged a shilling apiece to watch the final. Gore was tall and agile. As a raquets player, his tactic was to rush the net, which then sagged in the middle, volley and hope that passing shots in response might be caught by the net rising to almost five feet at the posts. On Thursday 19th July 1877 he triumphed over William Marshall in the final to become the first ever Wimbledon champion. He was presented with the silver challenge cup and a purse of 12 guineas. In the following year, however, Gore was beaten by Frank Haddow who used the lob effectively to take the title in straight sets. Gore then withdrew from tournament tennis but continued to play socially and later wrote about his 15 years of experience in the game.

Amongst the baptisms at Christchurch, Epsom, is registered Spencer Frederick Gore on 7 July 1878 [Reg. Epsom 9/1878]. In the 1881 Census, the Gores were enumerated at South Street, Epsom with Spencer William's occupation given as 'Crown Receiver and Surveyor'. It seems that he may only have held the house on lease and vacated it before 1890. The 1891 Census listed Spencer W. Gore in Westlands, West Hill Road, Wandsworth, aged 41, Land Agent & Surveyor, attended by a number of servants: Spencer Frederick Gore was boarding as a pupil of Fitteshanger Lodge School and his mother was visiting her sister-in-law Mary C. L. Herbert in Moreton Say, Shropshire.

On 29 July 1896, some years after the Gores had left, the property Mead House was offered for sale by auction. It is identified as 'Lot Two' on the following plan:-

Plan from the 1896 Sale Particulars - click to enlarge
Plan from the 1896 Sale Particulars - click to enlarge
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

As shown by the accompanying particulars, the extensive grounds incorporated a 'Tennis Lawn'

Description of Lot 2 in the 1896 Sale Particulars - click to enlarge
Description of Lot 2 in the 1896 Sale Particulars - click to enlarge
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Eventually the Gores settled at Holywell Park, Wrotham, Kent. In a catalogue from a previous sale in 1885 a description of its grounds reads:- "The pleasure grounds which are tastefully laid out, are studded with ornamental shrubs and timber, the gardens are well stocked with flowers, vegetables and thriving fruit trees, and have the convenience of Greenhouses and two Hot houses fitted with furnaces, complete Heating apparatus, etc., with Potting shed and Fuel Store".

There are a number of reports of visits to friends' country houses by Spencer Gore, senior, who took his banjo with him: "days were spent in the tennis court and evenings were devoted to billiards and comic songs from Mr Gore". He was recognised as the author of a popular song, 'Jerry' in 1885.

Evidently Spencer William Gore enjoyed considerable professional success becoming Crown Receiver for eight Counties in the North of England: he was thereby responsible for 10,000 acres of agricultural land and 1090 of woodland which produced gross revenues approaching £30,000. For this work alone Gore's firm charged about £1500 p.a. He became Chairman of the Harrow Park Trust, established in 1885, and was the School Governors' Land agent between 1893 and 1902.

Arround 1904 Gore ran into difficulties with his business and he abandoned the family although retaining some contact with his son Spencer Frederick Gore. The London Gazette recorded the dissolution of Messrs Smiths, Gore, Norton & Co by mutual consent with effect from 31 January 1906, when Spencer William Gore retired from the partnership. A Bankruptcy Notice against Gore was issued by Lionel Hart (carrying on business as Edwards & Co, [Solicitors?] 17 Sackville Street, Piccadilly) dated 9 March 1906. On 19 April 1906, Spencer William Gore, of 10 Little College Street, Westminster, died in the Granville Hotel, Ramsgate. Administration of his estate was granted to John Mantell, a jeweller, but the deceased's effects amounted to only £100. Nevertheless, proceedings under 351 of 1906 in the High Court of Bankruptcy resulted in the payment of 17/6d in the £1 by 25 March 1907; the Trustees were released on 6 March 1908.

Holywell Park in Kent seems to have been sold by 1902 [It has now become a residential home for the elderly]. Mrs Amy Margaret Gore moved to Garth House, Hertingfordbury, Hertfordshire, a much smaller house, in 1904 and eventually obtained a pension from her late husband's firm.

Self Portrait By Spencer Frederick Gore
Self Portrait By Spencer Frederick Gore (1878-1914)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Her son Spencer Frederick Gore became a talented painter and full particulars of his eventful life may be read in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography accessible through the Surrey Libraries website.

Letchworth Station 1912 By Spencer Frederick Gore
Letchworth Station 1912 By Spencer Frederick Gore (1878 - 1914)
(Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons

The Camden Town Group artist 'Freddie' Gore spent the summers of 1907-10 in Hertingfordbury and the house and garden, and local views were shown in his paintings. Gore lived in Richmond from 1912 and in March 1914 caught pneumonia which proved fatal. His mother brought his body to Hertingfordbury. After his funeral was held in St Mary's Church there he was buried in the churchyard.

He died on 25 March 1914 leaving £588:14:0.

His widowed mother lived on until 1944 when she passed away aged 94, formerly resident at Bailiff's House, Meopham, Kent, a property which had been owned by her late son-in-law William Allan Smith- Masters [Death registered North Bucks 12/1944]. Her daughter Mrs Kathleen Amy Smith-Masters, nee Gore, survived until 1965 and left an estate of £109,544.


Brian Bouchard © 2010
Member of Leatherhead and District Local History Society

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