Dr Frederick Robert Spackman was born in 1820, the son of Robert Spackman, a surgeon in Lutterworth, near Leicester. He obtained his licence from the Society of Apothecaries in 1840, membership of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1842, his London M.B. in the same year and his M.D. in 1856. He was consultant physician at St Albans Hospital and in Harpenden took over the practice of Dr Kingston. From the gravestones, it seems that Dr Spackman’s first wife was Harriet Mary. No memorial to her remains but she is recorded as the mother of a Harriet Mary who died in 1846. The child Harriet is described as the eldest daughter of Frederick and Harriet and shares the grave with her sister.
The second wife was Caroline Harriet Johnson and she came from Lutterworth too, and was most likely married there [in 1844 – see Comment below]. In 1851 there were three children in the family: Harriet aged 4, Frederick aged 3 and Johnson 10 months. The baby is undoubtedly Caroline’s but the elder two were probably from the first marriage [see Comment below]
In 1851, the Spackmans were neighbours of Helen Brash, the Tea Dealer and Grocer, who used to hold penny readings in her house. We know that she used to live in one of the cottages on Church Green, known as Batchelor Row, and if that is where she was in 1851, and it seems very likely, then the Spackmans were also somewhere there before they moved to Bowers House, which must have been soon after the census.
Caroline had four more children, but three of them did not reach maturity. Jane Sawbridge, the cook, seems to have come to Harpenden with Caroline. There is a rather touching memorial to her in the churchyard which describes her as a “faithful servant and true friend for upwards of 68 years in the service of the Johnson and Spackman family” and she must have been very much missed when she died at the age of 83. Caroline died in 1859 when she was 43 and her father and husband gave the stained glass window in the south transept of the rebuilt church in her memory.
At the time of the 1861 census, Dr Spackman and four little children were living at Bowers and being cared for by Mary, his sister. Mary was married in 1863 and about this time too, the doctor married again. His third wife, Eliza Jane, was born in Grahamstown, Cape Colony. None of Caroline’s children had been baptized at Harpenden. As her father was a clergyman, perhaps they were taken to his church for him to perform the ceremony. The six children of Eliza Jane, however, were christened there. By all accounts it was a very happy family.
“A wise physician”
Dr Spackman was described as “a wise physician and a kind and faithful personal friend. All who knew him honoured him for his true liberality of sentiment and action, his high minded honour and integrity and his fidelity to a lofty standard of duty in every relation of life. None could find admission to the circle of the family without feeling that reverence and love for the head of the family that animated and guided all and made the home peculiarly happy”.
Apart from his ministrations to the sick, Dr Spackman played his part in village life, serving on various committees, such as that of the Lecture Institute and Reading Club, and most of his children and no doubt his wife, took an active part in the social welfare work in the village. Harriet, the eldest daughter, was prominent in a number of organizations and was Secretary of the Girls Friendly Society for 18 years. When she died in 1915 a brass tablet on the wall of the St Nicholas Chapel and the alter rails, were given by that Society in her memory. Rose married Dr Warington and was a well-loved step-mother to his children, and Etheldreda married Canon Vaughan’s curate, the Rev Colin J Creed.
Alice Spackman’s school
Alice was the one who went to Cheltenham College then trained as a teacher and ran the school at Bowers House. There were only a few children to begin with, three in fact, and it is very pleasing to record that two of these little girls were still living in Harpenden (in 1975) remained great friends and very fond of each other.
Later the school flourished and “Miss Alice” enlisted the help of her youngest sister Gertrude, and a friend who used to drive over from Mackereye End each day. Denis Wilson (brother of Theodora Wilson) “began a new phase by entering as a scholar at Alice Spackman’s school for little boys and girls on Thursday September 22nd .” (Theodora’s Journals, p.62).
One of the sons, Oscar, went to Canada, became a farmer and was a very hard man to work for. So said a local man who accepted the offer of a job there with him, but he did not stay very long. In 1879 Dr Spackman took on a young assistant, Dr William Henry Blake, who later went into partnership with him and eventually took over the practice. Dr Spackman retired in 1891 and after a long and painful illness, he died in 1892. His wife lived until 1900.