Sam Spode (1798-1872)
by Peter Roden
*One of the most interesting and enigmatic characters in the Spode family was Sam Spode. He was the grandson of Josiah Spode I.
|'Distant view of Hobart Town, Van Diemen’s Land, from Blufhead' c1825|
The return to England was probably the result of 'a near tragic accident' on 30th March 1825 reported in the 'Hobart Town Gazette & Van Diemen's Land Advertiser'.
|Report of Sam Spode's accident (detail), Hobart Gazette Friday 1 Apr 1825|
Whether this serious and life-changing accident contributed to Sam’s discontent with life in Hobart, we can only speculate. It has been suggested that this accident may have caused a medical condition, unknown then but now called ABI or Acquired Brian Injury. It is a condition which may cause irrational behaviour, and may have caused him to give up life in Hobart, not to mention his subsequent inability to enjoy a conventional family life, as we shall see later.
When he returned to England from Van Diemen's Land in 1826, Sam and his family were initially taken in by his sister Sarah, who had married the potter Charles James Mason, and lived in his mansion, 'Heron Cottage' at Heron Cross in the Staffordshire Potteries. Sam's first wife, Mary Crewe, having been so gravely injured in the accident in Van Diemen's Land died within a year of their return to England and his children subsequently spent a lot of time at Heron Cottage. Although Sam married his second wife soon after the decease of the first, and for a few years continued to look for work as a lawyer, two of his early paintings were done at Heron Cross. One is now in the Raven Mason Collection at Keele Hall, (its subject is the Mason home at Heron Cross), the other, illustrated here, is now in my possession, having recognised the similarity therewith of what an auctioneer could only describe as children in 'an industrial landscape'. Those children are likely to be Sam's daughter Mary, my Great Grandmother, and her cousin, Sam's niece, Florence Elizabeth Mason.
|'Children in an Industrial Landscape'|
The output of his paintings was prolific, I have records of 400 auctions of his paintings in the last 40 years, one of which was inscribed 'Copenhagen, the charger of the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo - the 100th picture of him painted by Mr Spode'.
|The racehorse: 'Sam Spode'|
There is also a group of very similar portraits of horses in stables, e.g. 'Caractacus', (Derby winner in 1862), 'Favonius' (Derby winner in 1871), and 'Charley' (probably a hunting horse):
|'John Dawson Duckett on the Lad'|
|'Earl of Lonsdale on his Old Favourite Tempest'|
There is lovely group of paintings from the 1860s of portraits of horses in rural Irish landscapes:
|'Landscape with Grey Hunter and Dog'|
|'A Favourite Hunter, a Pony and a Dog in a Mountain River Landscape'|
'Having finish'd 'Dicks' picture, I'm so far explicit,
Other horses to pourtray, I beg now to solicit,
Or I must move off back to England I fear,
But I'd much rather stay, and be painting well here!'
His family life was turbulent, to say the least. By the age of 40, he had been widowed three times, and subsequently had at least two more wives, though he wasn't widowed again after his third wife died!
In 1865, despite his fourth English wife still being alive, Sam claimed to be a bachelor and married an Irish girl named Delia in Dublin, by whom he may well have had a couple of children previously. He died in Dublin on 31 March 1872, following which Delia was granted administration of his meagre estate. However, his death was registered by a Teresa Spode, whose relationship to Sam we can only speculate.
Because Sam worked solely on commissions, he never exhibited for the art world, and so he has been relatively unknown and unrecognised. I had long wanted to try to rectify the conspicuous lack of published information about Sam, and had an illustrated article about him published in Antique Collecting magazine in October 2011. However many auction houses continue to give his wrong dates when they have one of his paintings to sell.
Click HERE for more of Sam Spode's paintings which can be found on the ArtUk website.
|'A Dark Bay Horse Held by a Trainer in a Landscape'|
If you want to know more about Sam, his paintings and his family, please contact me via this contact form HERE> marking it for the attention of Peter Roden.
Note from Spode History blog author Pam Woolliscroft:
*This first appeared as a guest blogpost by Peter Roden in 2015. It now has its own page. It was updated 5th February 2019 by Pam Woolliscroft with thanks again to Peter Roden and some Spode family members who, in turn, shared information with us both.
Peter Roden is a direct descendant of Samuel Spode (1757-1817), who was the younger son of Josiah Spode I (1733-1797) founder of the Spode company.
Peter is responsible for most of the detailed and up-to-date research into the Spode family history, conducted over many years. He has kindly shared it with me over the years for which I am eternally grateful. His careful, detailed work has brought new insight not just into the wider Spode family but also into the history of the Spode company and its associated pottery factories. Go to my booklist and look under Roden for details of publications.
Review/details of one of his books 'Copyhold Potworks & Housing in the Staffordshire Potteries 1700-1832' can be found HERE>.
It can be obtained price £25 [+p&p (£4.50 UK p&p)] from:
Wood Broughton Publications
1 Wood Broughton Barn