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Richard Spencer/Chessell, Gwen/Hardb/1920694404/S003-G
University of Western Australia Press
Captain Sir Richard Spencer RN was a nineteenth century man of action. He was adventurous, resourceful, devoted to those in his care—and had, as Gwen Chessell puts it, ‘a quarterdeck manner’.
He is remembered today as the early Government Resident of the fledgling settlement in Albany on the south coast of Western Australia. Albany was a shanty town when the ship bearing Richard and Ann Spencer and their nine children, soon to be ten, anchored in Princess Royal Harbour in 1833. Their carefully selected goods—from window frames, glass and roof slates to assorted fruit trees—were carried precariously ashore. The family all but doubled the town’s population.
Richard Spencer worked diligently to administer the turbulent pioneer settlement, living peacefully with the local Aboriginal people and helping guarantee Albany’s future as a settlement and port. He established Strawberry Hill Farm and built a comfortable home there for his family.
All this he achieved in middle age. The story of his early life in the Royal Navy of Admiral Lord Nelson’s day is told here for the first time. Zealous, intrepid to the point of foolhardiness, and a hero to his men, Captain Spencer was a rising star during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
Gwen Chessell has uncovered the richly varied life and career of an important figure in Australia’s early colonial history. She tells his story with authority, understanding and vivacity, whether she is describing activity aboard a fighting ship or the domesticity of the Spencer household.