Born: Gilbert Ormerod Spence was born in Stockton on 24th September 1879. He was the son of Henry Grant Spence, a manager at a Thornaby shipyard, and Eliza Dorothea Spence.

Educated: Gilbert Spence was educated at Oatlands, Harrogate and then at Uppingham School.

Married: G.O.Spence was unmarried during his time in office as mayor of Thornaby, when his mother undertook the duties of mayoress.


Home: East Hartburn and Kirklevington.

Known for: Gilbert Spence joined the army in 1900. By 1910 he was a Lieutenant Colonel, commanding the 5th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. He served as a Thornaby town councillor and was Mayor of Thornaby in 1912. He fought with his battalion in the First World War at Passchendaele and the Somme. During the war, he painted more than 100 watercolours depicting life at the Front. After the war, Colonel Spence returned to the Thornaby shipyard of Richardson, Duck and Company where he was a manager. He was made Deputy Lieutenant of County Durham in 1921 and appointed to the Order of the Bath. His paintings are regarded as an important record of life at the Western Front.

Died: Colonel Spence died in a car accident on 28th November 1925.

Further Information: Website:

“Durham at the Opening of the Twentieth Century” James Jamieson (1906)