Ernest Spencer 1870 – 1952
Ernest came to photography as a profession late in life following a move from Ashton under Lyne to Llandudno in Wales in 1912 when in his forties.
By 1915 Ernest was advertising his Craig-y-Don Studio at 1 Mostyn Avenue, Llandudno and continued there until 1925 by which time he called his studio the Craig-y-Don Garden Studio. He continued to advertise until 1928.
Ernest opened a second studio in 1926 at 12 & 14 Gloddaeth & Great Orme’s Road and advertised until 1929 by which time he was 60 years of age. It is not known when he retired.
Three of Ernest’s sons, Herbert Needham Spencer, Ernest Spencer junior and Rupert Spencer were all involved with the studios.
Ernest died in 1952.
1871 – age 1, at Mount Pleasant, Hurst, Ashton under Lyne with parents and two sisters and one brother
1881 – age 11, at 55 Hillgate Street, Ashton under Lyne (occupation – felt hatter) with his parents, two sisters and four brothers
1891 – age 21, at Turner Street, Ashton under Lyne (occupation – circular sawyer) with his wife Fanny and their son Charly (sic) aged one year old
1901 – age 31, at 7 Hall Street, Ashton under Lyne (occupation – wood sawyer) with his wife Fanny, their three sons and one daughter
1911 – age 41, at 67 Leam Street, Ashton under Lyne (occupation – insurance agent) with his wife Fanny and four sons.
Ernest Spencer’s father was Lewis Spencer who was born about 1840 in Belper, Derbyshire and was a minder and a cotton mill driver. His mother, Elizabeth Spencer (nee Bramley), was born in 1839 in Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire.
Ernest was born in Ashton under Lyne in 1870 to an ordinary working class family, most of whom worked in the cotton mill. He was the fifth child of nine. His brothers and sisters were born between 1861 and 1880 as follows: Lewis Spencer (1861), Clementina Spencer (1863) in Stalybridge, Lancashire, Charles Spencer (1865) in Yorkshire, Elizabeth Ann Spencer (1867) in Stalybridge, Lewis Spencer (1872), Arthur Spencer (1874) in Ashton under Lyne, Lancashire, William Spencer (1876) in Ashton under Lyne and Lewis Spencer (1880) also in Ashton under Lyne. Two of his brothers, both named Lewis Spencer died within a month of their births in 1861 and 1872.
Ernest had many occupations; his first being a felt hatter at the age of 11 and then a sawyer and then he went on to be a railway goods checker and insurance agent before taking up professional photography.
Ernest was a Methodist and became one of the founding members of the Hope Chapel, Curzon Road, Hurst, Ashton under Lyne in the 1880s.
In April 1890, Ernest married Fanny Needham in Ashton. Fanny was born in 1869 in Chesterfield registration district in Derbyshire.
Their first child, Charles, was born in 1890 and by 1891 Ernest and Fanny were living at Turner Street, Ashton under Lyne and Ernest was a ‘circular sawyer’. The census recorded that they had a son called Charly (sic) who was one year old. Further children followed, Herbert Needham Spencer in 1893, Ernest Spencer junior in 1896, Alice Spencer in 1899 and Oliver Spencer in 1900 but unfortunately Olive died only 13 days after she was born.
Ernest’s father died in 1897.
By 1901 the family had moved to 7 Hall Street, Ashton under Lyne and Ernest was still described as a wood sawyer. They lived with their three sons (Charles, Herbert N and Ernest junior) and one daughter, Alice who was aged two years old. Alice also died young in 1903.
Another daughter, Edith, was born in 1902 but she too died in childhood in February 1904.
In 1911 Ernest and Fanny were living at 67 Leam Street, Ashton under Lyne. Ernest was an insurance agent and Fanny was a house keeper. They had four sons living at home, Charles Spencer aged 20 who was a ’piercer’ at the cotton factory, Herbert Spencer who was 17 and had the same occupation, Ernest Spencer junior aged 14 who was an apprentice at a printing works and Rupert Spencer aged five who was at school.
Tragically, the 1911 census records that Ernest and Fanny had had nine children altogether of which only four remained alive. Olive, Alice and Edith died young and two other children had also been born after 1901 but had not survived until the 1911 census. Only four sons lived into adulthood
On a brighter note, there was a family tradition to go to Aberystwyth on holiday before they moved permanently to Llandudno. Below is a picture taken near Llandudno in about 1909. It was also probably taken on a family holiday in Wales
In 1912, the year of his mother’s death, Ernest and his family located permanently to Llandudno, North Wales and lived at a house named Brookhurst in Queen’s Road off Mostyn Avenue.
The reason for Ernest’s move to Llandudno is not certain but it is thought that it was to open a studio and operate as a professional photographer.
In 1914, Ernest, at 44, was too old to be called up for the first world war. However, his three eldest sons did join up to a Welsh Regiment – and all survived.
However, it is interesting to note that Fanny had a brother, John Henry Needham, who also moved to Llandudno a few years after Ernest, in 1919, and owned Needham’s Bakery in Mostyn Avenue, Llandudno. A picture of his van is shown below. John Henry Needham later became Leader of Llandudno Council for a year in the 1930s.
By 1915 Ernest was advertising in trade directories as a photographer located at his Craig-y-Don Studio at 1 Mostyn Avenue – conveniently near his home – and continued to advertise until 1919. Although he appears to have stopped advertising, it is almost certain that he continued to operate there until he started to advertise again in 1925.
By 1925, although Ernest was advertising at the same address, he called his studio the Craig-y-Don Garden Studio and he continued to advertise in this manner until 1928.
In 1926, Ernest Spencer opened a second studio in Llandudno at 12 & 14 Gloddaeth Road & Great Orme’s Road which was advertised until 1929.
The original owner of the studio at Gloddaeth Road, from the 1860s, was Thomas Edge who took photos of all of Dean Liddell’s daughters there. One of the daughter s, Alice, was reputed to be the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’.
Ernest also became the organist of St. David’s Methodist Church in Mostyn Avenue, Llandudno.
The National Archives of Ashton Infirmary hold photographs that Ernest copyrighted. His photographs also appeared in various histories of the area and books on various subjects including hospitals and church and Sunday school anniversaries.
There was a strong family connection to photography. Ernest trained a niece, Emma, from Ashton under Lyne in the profession of photography which she did practice but there is no evidence of her advertising a studio of her own. Emma was the daughter of Charles Spencer, Ernest’s brother, who was not a photographer but he was a founder member of Hope Chapel, Ashton.
With the exception of Ernest’s son Charles, the other three sons, Herbert Needham Spencer, Ernest Spencer junior and Rupert Spencer, were at some time involved with the studio(s). Whether they were actually employees or also photographers with their own businesses is not known but a photographer called H N Spencer did have a studio at 31 Chester Road, Macclesfield, Cheshire in 1914. It is not known if this was Ernest’s son Herbert Needham Spencer.
What is certain is that Ernest junior died in 1930 at Llandudno Junction on a rail track. On the death certificate it states his occupation at the time as ‘photographer’. It is possible that one of the studios was run by Ernest junior but this is just speculation at the time of writing.
In later life Ernest Spencer senior moved from Queens Road to Penrhyn Bay near Llandudno where he eventually died of heart failure on the 13th February 1952 at the age of 82. He is buried in St. Tudno’s cemetery, Great Orme overlooking Llandudno Bay and his wife, Fanny, and their three sons are also buried there.
Below is a copy of Ernest’s death certificate.
The only one of Ernest’s children still surviving at the time of his death was his youngest son – Rupert.
Ernest Spencer’s Family
Father Lewis Spencer born 1840 in Belper, Derbyshire – a minder, cotton mill driver. Died 8 July 1897 in Ashton under Lyne
Mother Elizabeth Spencer (nee Bramley) born 1839 in Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. Died 3 August 1912 in Ashton under Lyne
Born 1870 in Ashton under Lyne
Married 16th April 1890 to Fanny Needham in Ashton under Lyne
Child 1 Charles Spencer, born 28 Sept. 1890 in Ashton under Lyne
Child 2 Herbert Needham Spencer, born 1893 in Ashton under Lyne. Died 1st Dec 1943 in Llandudno
Child 3 Ernest Spencer jnr. born 1896 in Ashton under Lyne. Died 1930 at Llandudno Junction
Child 4 Alice Spencer born 1899 in Ashton under Lyne. Died 15 Dec. 1903
Child 5 Olive Spencer born April 1900. Died May 1900 aged 13 days.
Child 6 Edith Spencer born 1902. Died 13 Feb. 1904
Child 7 Not identified
Child 8 Not identified
Child 9 Rupert Spencer Rupert Spencer (1905-1989)
Died 13th February 1952 aged 82 at Penrhyn Bay. Buried in St. Tudno’s cemetery, Great Orme
- Joanne Summerfield – email@example.com – great great niece of Ernest Spencer, family historian, who provided information for the story above
- Sandy Barrie for trade directory information
- Marcel Safier for additional data
- Ron Cosens for images from the Victorian Image Collection
Ernest Spencer – Gallery
Examples of Ernest’s photography are shown below. If you have any others, please Contact Us.