Thomas Spencer (Marks and Spencer)

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Thomas Spencer's grave in Whittington, Staffordshire

Thomas Spencer (1852 – 25 July 1905) was a founder of Marks & Spencer, a major British retailer. He was born in Skipton, Yorkshire and married Agnes Spencer Whitfield at St Saviour, Cross Green, Leeds in 1892.

He was a cashier from the wholesale company I.J Dewhirst and in 1894 he joined Michael Marks to form Marks & Spencer. Spencer decided that the £300 required for a half-share in the business would be a good investment.

The running of the business was split between Spencer, who managed the office and warehouse, and Marks, who continued to run the market stalls. Spencer had developed some important contacts while working for Isaac Dewhirst and these allowed him to get the best prices for goods by dealing directly with the manufacturers. Together, Spencer and Marks were able to open stores in Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Sheffield, Bristol, Hull, Sunderland and Cardiff.

A new warehouse in Manchester was built in 1897. This store became the centre of a business empire that by then included thirty-six branches. New stores had been built in Bradford, Leicester, Northampton, Preston, and Swansea. London had a total of seven branches.

In 1903, Marks & Spencer became a limited company. Spencer's original £300 investment had grown to a value of £15,000 and he retired later that year.

Spencer's wife Agnes was born in the village of Marton, now a part of Middlesbrough. The couple met and married in Leeds. Agnes funded charitable work such as the Church of St Agnes in Easterside, Middlesbrough. She died in 1959 and is buried in the graveyard of St Cuthbert's Parish Church in Marton.

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