James Spooner (Person)

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James was largely responsible for the building of the FR and its development over the first 20 years. He was a surveyor, almost certainly employed by the Ordnance Survey when he first came to North Wales. The second Double Fairlie to be built for the FR was named after him.

The Spooners lived in Maentwrog between 1818 & 1824 when they moved to Wm. Madocks' former home, Tanyallt, later moving to Morfa Lodge, Portmadoc.

He twice surveyed a route to Portmadoc. The first, in 1825, largely followed that of the later Croesor Tramway, serving the mines on the western slopes of Moelwyn Mawr and Moelwyn Bach by means of 3 inclines.

His later survey of 1830-31 established the route of the Festiniog Railway as built (1832-36). A somewhat similar route had previously also been surveyed by W.A.Provis in 1824-5.

James Spooner oversaw the construction of the line, following the successful Act of 1832, though as he had not trained as a civil engineer the Company employed Thomas Prichard to assist. Prichard had worked with the Stephensons on the building of the Chester & Holyhead and was well qualified for the task.

After the railway opened, he became the manager; from 1844 until his death in 1856 he was a paid officer of the Company. During the 1850s he instigated the process of upgrading the permanent way in anticipation of his ambition to employ steam locomotives.

It appears that from 1835, around the time of the death of W.G. Oakeley, until around his own death, he also acted as Quarry Agent and Engineer to Mrs Oakeley.

He was born in 1790 in Powick, Worcestershire, married to Elizabeth Easton on 30 August 1813 and died in Portmadoc on 18 August 1856. He is buried in the churchyard of St Cynhaearn, Ynyscynhaearn, Pentrefelin.

James and Elizabeth had ten children:-

  • Matthew, (1814-1834), the eldest, was unconnected with railways and died in France.
  • James Swinton, (1816-1884), became an engineer. He left N. Wales in 1851 and spent some time in the Antipodes before returning to survey the route of the Tal-y-llyn Railway.
  • Caroline, (1817-1829), accidently shot dead by Matthew
  • Charles Easton , 1818-1889, trained as a civil engineer under his father and Thomas Prichard during the construction of the FR. Took over as FR Co. Secretary when his father died.
  • Louisa Matilda, (1820-1886), Did not marry. Lived with Charles Easton after his wife died.
  • Thomas John, (1822-1881), was a lawyer and did much legal work for the FR especially land transfer. Apparently he was not a very good lawyer and lost of lot of the family money through his incompetence. Married Elizabeth Fenton French.
  • Amelia Spooner (Amy), (1824-1922), Did not marry
  • Elizabeth, (1827-1912), married Karl E. Rother
  • Harriet, (1830-1914), married Edmund Spenser Tiddeman. One of their daughters (thought to be probably Nora, the youngest) was involved in the Spooner Boat accident.
  • William, (1834-1870), Married Elizabeth Gregory

His wife Elizabeth died in 1850 and he married Eliza James the same year. This was not a popular move with his children. When he died she took everything and left despite his will clearly stating that his estate was only her's for her lifetime and eventually was to pass equally to his children. Perhaps his mistake was making her the executor.

(Information taken from The Spooner Album - ACG, Dan Wilson article in FRM 77 and other sources)

See also[edit]