Historical Plaque Properties


James Spooner - Organist - St. James' Church
17 Hamilton Street
Stratford, ON

The house at 17 Hamilton Street was built in 1914 by William Smith. Its first occupant was William H. Spooner, who was organist at St. James Anglican Church across the street.

William Henry Edwin Spooner was born in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England in May  1872. The only son of Dr. William Spooner and Susannah Clare, William had two sisters: Mabel Clare, born in 1870 and Lillian Mary, born in 1873.


In April 1897 William married Mabel Ernestine Sparks at All Saints Church, Stonycroft, Liverpool. Mabel, born in 1872, was the daughter of Robert Frederick Sparks and Sarah Suther Mackay. William and Mabel’s first child, Doris Newton, was born in December 1899 in Falmouth, Cornwall, England. A few years later, in 1903, the family left England and came to Canada. Their first home in their new homeland appears to have been on Alexander Street in Belleville, Ontario, where William found employment as an organist. Their second child, Norman Ray, was born there in September 1906.

By 1911 the family of four had relocated to Ottawa where they are living on Somerset Street. The census of that year gives William’s profession as church organist and music professor, suggesting that he also gave music lessors from his home.


In 1914 William secured the position of organist at St. James Anglican Church and the family of four came to Stratford. They moved into the newly completed house at 17 Hamilton Street.

The house was owned by William Smith, who lived next door at 11 Hamilton Street. Smith, who died in 1915 at the age of 79, was a prominent Stratford banker who had a long association with the Merchants’ Bank (later the Royal Bank of Canada). A native of Cumberland, England, Smith also had a 20-year connection, from 1861 until 1881, with the local militia, rising to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel; he twice saw active service: the Fenian Raids of the 1860s in Ontario and the Riel Rebellion in 1870 in what is now Manitoba.

The Spooners’ occupation of 17 Hamilton Street was brief; by the next year William J. Phelan, a manager at Woolworth’s, has moved into the house and the Spooners are living at 188 William Street. They then move to 112 Elizabeth Street (when William has a studio at 72 Ontario Street), 5 Nile Street and, by the time of the 1921 census, 190 Church Street. By 1923 the family has left Stratford.

Because of his profession William was relatively mobile and it is likely he and Mabel continued to move around Ontario. By 1935 they have settled in St. Thomas and are living on Rosebery Place, a few blocks from Trinity Anglican Church. Mabel dies in St. Thomas in 1947. By 1949 William is listed as “retired organist” and a year later dies in St. Thomas at the age of 78. They are buried in St. Thomas Churchyard/Old English Cemetery.