Colonel Charles Louis Spencer DSO CBE (1870-1948)

Colonel Charles Louis Spencer was a merchant, a soldier, a yachtsman and a generous donor to museums in Glasgow and Edinburgh and a donor to The National Trust for Scotland.

He was born in 1870 to John and Robina (nee Jarvie)   Spencer (1 ) then living at 165 Hill Street, Glasgow. John Spencer had been a manufacturer of optical and photographic equipment, in business with his father, John senior,  with premises at 34 Union Street, Glasgow. (2)  John senior retired in 1869 and the business closed down. ( 3) By 1872 young John was a merchant, at 125  West Regent Street, Glasgow. The family home was at 2 Rosslyn Terrace, Victoria Park, Glasgow. ( 4) By 1881, they were living in Bridge of Allan and John is listed as a foreign merchant. (5 )

Charles was educated at Kelvinside Academy (6 ) and then from 1895 to 1896 at the College Chaptal in Paris. This was a college dedicated to the education of young men, destined for a career in commerce and industry, in science and languages. (7 ) His father John died in 1890. (8)  His mother moved to Edgehill, Horselethill Road, Glasgow and her children John, Elizabeth and Ann lived with her. They had a cook, a laundress and  a table maid. (9)

Charles and his older brother John carried on their father’s business. (10)       Their father’s   inventory (11)   published after his death  gives an idea of the scope of their  business in Canada, the USA, Calcutta and Colombo. The brothers were admitted to the Merchants House in 1912. (12 )

Charles had a long association with the Lanarkshire Volunteers Royal Engineers (13)     During the First World War, he was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Engineers and served in France and Flanders.  (14)    He was thrice mentioned in dispatches and received the DSO in 1918.(15) and in 1919 he was appointed a  CBE (16)

He was a yachtsman and gained his Master’s certificate in 1897.  He was Commodore of the Clyde Cruising Club and Flag Officer for 23 years. He sailed in his yacht RON and King George V was a frequent guest. (17 ) He collected, fashioned and repaired ship models and some of these are now in Glasgow museums’ collection.(18 ) On board ship sailing from India or from Canada he spent time making ship models. His book Knots , Splices and Fancy work went to several editions. (19 )

His brother John made a study of the Darien scheme and when he died in 1939 ( 20) his collection of papers was left to the University of Glasgow where they are kept as the Spencer Bequest in Special Collections. (21)

Charles was a member of the Society of Antiquaries in Edinburgh. He was a Councillor from 1922 to 1937.(22 ) Charles and his sister Ann lived together at 5 Great Western Terrace and also bought a house at Warmanbie in Dumfriesshire in 1933.(23) In 1940 they wrote to Glasgow City Council (24 ) offering;

Figure 1. Pirie, George; Black Setter; © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection
  1. Two pastel drawings by Sir James Guthrie: Ploughing and The Smiddy; An oil painting      Black Setter by Sir George Pirie and The Steeple Chase by Joseph Crawhall
  2. 12 items of arms and weapons
  3. A collection of Japanese swords
  4. 16 books relating to arms and armour

In addition Colonel Spencer wanted to place on permanent loan several models of sailing ships.(25 )

The National Museums of Scotland received the rest of his weapons collection. This comprises 18 crossbows, 7 prodds,1 windlass,4 cranequins   and 8 crossbow bolts. (26

Another donation should be noted. He had inherited two small islands in Loch Lomond in 1911 from Donald Macgregor of Ardgarten and in 1943 he gave them to The National Trust for Scotland.(27 )

Charles and John had set up a Trust  to  maintain the upkeep of the Nunnery garden in Iona.(28 )

Charles died at Warmanbie  in 1948. (29 )       His sister Ann died in  1952. (30 )


I am pleased to acknowledge the help I received from Roderick Mc Callum from the Annandale Museum with respect to documents relating to Colonel Spencer’s time in Warmanbie  and to his death there.


  1. National Records of Scotland Statutory Births 1870
  2. National Records of Scotland Census 1861
  3. Edinburgh Gazette April 1870
  4. Post Office Directories, Glasgow 1872
  5. National Records of Scotland Census 1881
  6. Who Was Who 1941-1950
  7. College Chaptal: Vie de Chaptal:
  8. National Records of Scotland Statutory Deaths. 1890
  9. National Records of Scotland  Census 1891
  10. Post Office Directory Glasgow 1910
  11. National Records of Scotland Wills and Inventories 1890
  12. Request for membership, Merchants  House Archives, Glasgow Mitchell Library
  13. Annandale Observer 7th May 1948
  15. Who Was Who 1941-1950
  17. Clyde Cruising Club -100years. Personal communication
  18. Malcolm, Emily and Harrison, M.R.    Glasgow Museums: the ship Models. Seaforth Publishing, 2019
  19. Spencer, Charles Louis.  Knots Splices and Fancy Work. Brown, Son and Ferguson, Glasgow. 1938
  20. National Records of Scotland Statutory Deaths. 1939
  21. University of  Glasgow. Special Collections
  22. Proceedings of Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1922 personal communication.
  23. Annandale Observer 7th May 1948
  24. Minutes of Glasgow City Council April 1940
  25. Malcolm, Emily and Harrison, M.R.    Glasgow Museums: the ship Models. Seaforth Publishing, 2019
  26. National Museums of Scotland .personal communication
  27. /Bucinchandcreardoch
  28. Annandale Observer 7th May 1948
  29.  National Records of Scotland Statutory Deaths. 1948
  30. National Records of Scotland Statutory Deaths. 1950

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.