Album of watercolours presented to Tyneside politician to go under the hammer

An album of paintings presented to Joseph Spence is to be sold by Newcastle auctioneers Anderson & Garland

Anderson and Garland Images from the Spence Album
Images from the Spence Album

Artists and more than 2,000 supporters gathered around their candidate who had suffered defeat in a bruising Tyneside Parliamentary election.

They presented businessman Joseph Spence with an album of original paintings after he was beaten while standing for the Liberals in the 1885 General election in the Tynemouth constituency.

The contest was played out against the backdrop of the scandal of a national divorce court case involving the prominent Liberal Sir Charles Dilke and the family of the sitting Liberal MP for Tynemouth Thomas Eustace Smith.

After a tempestuous campaign the Tynemouth seat was won by the Conservatives, against a national surge of support for the Liberals nationally which put them in power.

Anderson and Garland Images from the Spence Album
Images from the Spence Album
 

Now the album presented to Joseph Spence is to be sold today (Tuesday) by Newcastle auctioneers Anderson & Garland and is expected to make between £1,500-£2,500.

“The strain of the campaign broke Spence’s health and shortened his life,” said auctioneer John Anderson.

“The beautiful hand-tooled leather album with its red silk interior was a sort of consolation gift.”

Spence retired from public life, retaining only his post as treasurer of the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade, and died four years later.

Anderson and Garland Images from the Spence Album
Images from the Spence Album
 

The seven watercolour paintings in the album are of Tynemouth, North Shields and Whitley Bay scenes by leading artists Robert Jobling, Henry Hetherington Emmerson, Charles James Spence, John Chambers and Aaron Watson – all believed to be suuporters of Spence.

Joseph Spence, from a Quaker family, ran a tailoring and drapery business in North Shields with his brother and was a JP, a councillor, and a member of the River Tyne Commission and the Tynemouth School Board.

He was persuaded to stand against Thomas Eustace Smith, the wealthy son of the founder of Smith’s Dock shipyard in North Shields, with splits among the Liberals marking the election and Joseph Cowan using his Newcastle Chronicle newspaper to attack Spence.

The Conservative candidate RS Donkin also poked fun at Spence in his election speeches, calling him a puppet.

Anderson and Garland Images from the Spence Album
Images from the Spence Album
 

The calligraphy address to Spence in the album says that “upwards of 2,200” supporters “express their appreciation of the spirit with which you responded to their urgent solicitation to uphold the Liberal cause in a grave and difficult crisis and for the admirable way you conducted the contest.

“The peculiar circumstances preceding attending this election were such as could not fail to render the contest both painful and arduous to you.”

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