GRACE SPENCE [1805-1870]


Julia Crawley

Grace Spence was one of ten children of Joseph Spence and Rachel Sutcliffe, both Quakers. She was born on the 11th October 1805 at Birstwith House, Birstwith, Yorkshire and attended Ackworth School in Pontefract in Yorkshire at about the age of 10yrs.

I suspect that Grace traveled to Devon some time in the 1830's and was employed by her future husband Sir Alexander Cockburn-Campbell, Bart.* one of the founding members of the Plymouth Brethren and his wife Margaret** to look after their two daughters.

There is an entry in The Inquirer [Feb 1838] of a Grace Spence being baptized by immersion on 30 June 1837 in the Baptist Church, Wellington in Devon. This is probably the same Grace.

In the 1841 Census for Exeter, Grace is listed in the employ of Sir Alexander. His wife had died in childbirth in February the same year. In letters, now in the Battye Library in Perth, Western Australia, which Grace wrote before she married, she mentions the girls as if they were under her care. She corresponded with them regularly until her death and was obviously very fond of them.

In 1842 the marriage of Grace and Alexander took place in the Superintendents Registrar's Office at Knaresborough, Yorkshire:

21st July 1842 Alexander Thomas Cockburn Campbell of full age Widower Baronet of Clifton Place St Sidwell Exeter; Father Alexander Cockburn, Gentleman; to Grace Spence of full age Spinster of Birstwith; Father Joseph Spence, Farmer.
Witnesses: W. Wellesley***, Rachel Spence, Thomas Cartwright [Supt. Registrar].

They continued to live in Devon and this is where their three children were born - Alexander, the 3rd baronet, his brother Thomas the 4th baronet and Cecilia their daughter.

In 1855 the family moved to Heidelberg in Germany and her journal written at this time, provides some interesting descriptions of places they visited. The family remained in Heidelberg until 1858 when towards the end of that year Sir Alexander left for Western Australia to take up the position of Superintendent of Police in Perth and then Magistrate at Albany on the south coast. Grace never traveled to W.A. even though it was mentioned in one of her letters that she was thinking of joining her husband. From what I can discover, Sir Alexander only went back to England the once - in 1869 - a year before Grace died and about 10 years after he first went out to Australia. He then returned to W.A. a few months after his wife's death and died in April 1871 in Albany three weeks after having married for the 3rd time.

According to Grace's journal in 1859 she and the children went to Vevey in Switzerland and stayed "two winters" and from there to Guernsey in April of 1861 - "our destined home" where, it seemed, they remained for three years. On August 3rd 1864 she left Guernsey with her sons for Southampton. Her daughter Cecilia stayed in Guernsey. On the 6th August 1864 her second son Thomas sailed for Western Australia and Grace and her eldest son Alexander continued on to Birkdale Park, Southport where they stayed with her sister and brother-in-law [Rachel and William Turner] for a few weeks until the end of September the same year when they returned to Guernsey.

Alexander, whose health was never good also went out to visit his father in 1867 but returned to England as he didn't enjoy colonial life and died in London in 1871, a few months after his father. He never married but according to his sister Cecilia's diary, was engaged to "a charming Irish girl" and "who died in his arms" in 1864 whilst living in Guernsey.

His brother, Sir Thomas Cockburn-Campbell became the 4th baronet and was my g-grandfather - he bought land and farmed and then went into politics and became the first president of the Legislative Council in W.A. He was also editor and part-owner of The West Australian. He spoke French and German fluently and was very musical.

Cecilia sailed out to W.A. a year or so after her father died to visit her brother and tie up loose ends concerning her father's estate. A bit of a mystery as to where she died but I do know she became a Roman Catholic, never married and was a companion to Lady Weld, the wife of the Governor of Western Australia and themselves Catholic. When they left W.A for Tasmania in the late 1800's Cecilia went with them - and at this stage I do not know if she ever returned to England.

In letters written by Grace to a friend, she appeared to change her address quite often and either stayed with friends or family. At one stage she was living in a house belonging to the Wellesley family. From all accounts her husband was not very good with money and I believe the likely reason for Sir Alexander going to Australia in the first place was for financial reasons. I don't think Grace had an easy life but she comes across in her letters as a very gentle, kind and religious woman who constantly worried about her family and didn't appear to complain.

At the end of March 1868, Grace returned to Europe and was in Switzerland until March 1870 either staying with friends and family or renting an apartment. She returned to England only nine weeks before she died and went to live with her sister, Rachel in Southport.

At the time of her death on 31st July 1870 she was visiting Waterhead, Ambleside, Westmoreland. Her daughter Cecilia and son Alexander were with her when she died. Her husband was at the funeral and she was "interred in a very old burial ground belonging to "Friend" near the Esthwaite water of the old town of Hawkshead" on the 7th August 1870. Her small rounded headstone is engraved - "Grace Cockburn Campbell of Southport - Died at Ambleside 31st of 7th month 1870 - Aged 65 years."

Obituary - from The Illustrated London News - August 13, 1870
Grace, Lady Campbell, wife of Sir Alexander Thomas Cockburn-Campbell, Bart., of Gartsford, Ross-shire, died on the 31st ult. aged 65. Her Ladyship was the daughter of Joseph Spence, Esq., of Birstwith, in Yorkshire, and became, in 1842, the second wife of Sir Alexander Cockburn-Campbell by whom she leaves two sons and one daughter, Cecilia. Of the former, the elder, Alexander, born in 1843, is heir-apparent of the baronetcy, which was conferred, in 1815, on Sir Alexander Campbell, a gallant Peninsular officer, who commanded the fourth division of the British army, and was severely wounded at Talavera.

* Sir Alexander Cockburn-Campbell was the second baronet of Gartsford and one of the founding members of the Plymouth Brethren. He inherited the title from his grandfather Sir Alexander Campbell who at the time of his death in 1824 was Commander of Forces in Madras.

** Margaret Malcolm was the eldest child of Major-Gen Sir John Malcolm - Governor of Bombay, Envoy to Persia and close friend and confidante of the Duke of Wellington. Margaret was a first cousin to Sir Alexander - their mothers were sisters.

*** W. Wellesley was The Hon. William Henry George Wellesley [1806-75] son of the first Baron Cowley the youngest brother of the Duke of Wellington. William was also a Plymouth Brother.

Sources: Grace Cockburn-Campbell letters - Battye Library, Perth, Western Australia.
Grace Cockburn-Campbell's Journal.
Letters of Cecilia Cockburn-Campbell.
Yorkshire Quaker Digests at the Society of Genealogists, London.
Burial Records, Quaker Meeting House, Colthouse, Hawkshead, Cumbria and photo of headstone.
Photo-copies of original Birth, Marriage and Death details.
Richard Walker - historian and researcher of the Quakers in the Knaresborough area.
Timothy Stunt - writer and historian of the Plymouth Brethren.
1841 England Census.

Julia Crawley - g-g-grand-daughter of Grace Spence.
York, 6302
Western Australia
June 2008