George Percival Spooner

From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group

Son of Charles Easton Spooner, George was born in Beddgelert on 13 June 1850 and died in London 21 January 1917. He trained as a mechanical engineer, receiving formal education at Harrow and Karlsruhe Polytechnic and was "Articled to" his father in both civil and rolling-stock engineering and apprenticed at Boston Lodge. He was a keen photographer, remembered for monopolizing the Bron y Garth bathroom.[1] Percy designed the FR locomotives James Spoooner (named after his grandfather), Taliesin and Merddin Emrys. His design was improved to create Livingston Thompson. He also designed the bogie carriages and guards vans of the 1870s. He was appointed Engineer 1872, acting Locomotive Superintendent in 1873 and Locomotive Superintendent in 1879.

He was sent to India in 1880 in disgrace after an affair with one of the servants, Ellen Davies. They had a daughter Kate Ellen (Kitty) in 1878. In India he became the assistant Locomotive Superintendent of the Metre Gauge Holkar (Scindia-Neemuch) State Railway and by 1882 was District Locomotive Superintendent of the metre gauge Rajputana-Malwa Railway.In February 1885 he became acting Locomotive Superintendent for the metre gauge Nagpur & Chhattisgarh Railway, only to be appointed to the Bolan Railway in November of the same year.Ironically he was appointed to be District Locomotive Superintendent to the Oude & Rohilkhund Railway in August 1889 just before his father died. He returned to England in 1890 and after extending his furlough a couple of times he resigned from the Indian railways from 16th May 1893 and occupied himself with the construction of scientific instruments and, in collaboration with Tom Casson (brother of Randal and father of Lewis, the actor), the improvement of small pipe organs. With the Cassons he sank most of his savings in the Positive Organ Company, but although the firm made many organs which survive and are notable for their ingenious devices, especially a bottom-note lock-and-cancel feature simulating a pedal board, it was not a financial success. He lived with Kitty and family and later in Islington. In the 1914 war he became a Sergeant in the Special Constabulary at Kings Cross. Dan Wilson suggests his death was tragic. A high explosive works at Silvertown blew up on 19th January 1917 and Percy left the house to view the huge fire that followed. In his absence burglars ransacked the house of all the Spooner silver and heirlooms from Bron y Garth and his big coin collection. The shock was such that he suffered a stroke and died two days later on 21st January at Islington Infirmary. The model Topsy was at Islington and passed to his family. He was a fulfilled and much-loved man and hardly (except in the narrowest conventional sense of cash and position) the failure he has sometimes been painted. Nothing further is known about his wife who does not appear to have returned from India with him although by the 1901 census he is a widower. George Percy Spooner was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery.

An article by Peter Johnson in Heritage Group Journal No. 146 adds to our knowledge of G P Spooner and his daughter.[2] Johnson warns about uncritically accepting the account of events passed down in families. For example the story that 'G. P. Spooner went to India in disgrace because of his illegitimate daughter.' The child as born in 1877 but Spooner did not go to India until three years later. His daughter's mother was Ellen Davies, shown on the Census return as the wife of William Davies, a master mariner, but this may have been written as such to cover for her illegitimate daughter.


  1. ^ Wilson D H (1977) Spooners up to Date, FRM No. 77, page 23.
  2. ^ Peter Johnson (2021) "G. P. Spooner and his daughter.", Festiniog Railway Heritage Group Journal, Issue 146, page(s): 15

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