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7 May

Today in Gosport’s Past:- on 7th May 1907, the death occurred of John Spencer (better known as Jackie Spencer). Yes, ’tis he of ‘Jackie Spencer’s Bridge’ fame. John was born in Andover in 1838, and in 1854, at the age of 16, he joined the new railway company at Andover in an unskilled capacity. At this time he was ‘stepping out’ with Jane Blake, who had also been born in Andover, and was six years older than him. They were married on Monday 5th November 1860 in Andover parish church, and since Jackie’s place of work had been transferred to Godalming, the pair of them set up home there; he was by then 22, and Jane was 28. They had a daughter, Ann, in 1864, and within three years, he had once again been transferred; this time to Alverstoke, where he held the position as the level crossing gatekeeper at Little Anglesey Road. The family lived in the gatekeeper’s cottage, the address being both No.1 Railway Cottage and 7 Little Anglesey Road, where they lived until his retirement, presumably this was in 1903. In 1867 Jane gave birth to a second daughter, Esther, who was christened at St Mary’s church in Alverstoke. The gatekeeper’s position at Little Anglesey Road was a fairly new post, as the Stokes Bay Railway had only been opened as recently as 6th April 1863; apart from his regular gatekeeping duties, he had been instructed by the railway company to do what was necessary to prevent local housewives from stealing the large chunks of chalk which formed much of the railway embankment to the north of Anglesey Viaduct, and to stop small boys chucking the chalk around. It would appear that he put much enthusiasm into this aspect of his work, which is probably why his name has lingered on. In 1898 the viaduct itself was replaced by a single-span iron bridge carrying two railway tracks across Alver Creek; this bridge still remains today, and is widely known by locals as Jackie Spencer’s Bridge. The Stokes Bay Railway closed at the end of October 1915, and since the track was lifted, the bridge has been a public right of way, and now forms part of the cycleway; in railway days a footbridge was attached to the bridge on the eastern side, connecting to the footpath leading to Clayhall Road, still there today. Clayhall Road used to cross the railway over Clayhall Arch, a brick-built bridge which was demolished in 1960; the resulting rubble was used for the infilling of Stokes Bay moat. The gatekeeper’s cottage was situated immediately north of the level crossing in Little Anglesey Road, on the eastern side of the tracks. Upon his retirement, Jackie & Jane vacated the cottage and moved into the house of their daughter Ann’s family home at 32 Park Road (now No.66). Ann had married George E Munday, a Royal Navy petty officer, in 1891, and they had made 32 Park Road their home. At the age of 22, Esther had married Walter James Munday (24), a carpenter & shipwright in Portsmouth Dockyard; he was the brother of George, so the two Spencer girls had married the two Munday brothers. Jackie died, aged 69, on Tuesday 7th May 1907 at 32 Park Road, with daughter Ann by his side. Cause of death would appear to have been a blood clot or a stroke. Following Jackie’s death, his wife Jane was, for reasons unknown, sent to the nearby Alverstoke House of Industry – to whit:- the Workhouse. It looks like the family didn’t get along… Jane died in the Workhouse in early April 1913, aged 80; she was buried in an unmarked grave next to her husband’s similarly unmarked grave in Anns Hill Cemetery on 10th April 1913; daughter Ann & her husband George Munday are also buried at Anns Hill Cemetery. Credits to original photographers.