Spence trained in the office of John Bryce before setting
up his own practice in 1837, and later taught
He designed Italianate buildings for Glasgow's early
department stores including, Arthur & Fraser, 14 Buchanan Street
(1873) and Macdonald's, 21-31 Buchanan Street (1879).
At Arthur & Frasers, Spence became associated with one of the city's oldest
and most celebrated sculpture groups: the Tontine Heads, and one of the city's
most interesting carvers:
W J Maxwell
The 18th Century Tontine Heads were incorporated into the new facade
as window keystones by its builder, Peter Shannan, who commissioned Maxwell
to carve four new heads to complete the group.
Spence extended the building to 116-20 Argyle Street, with an identical facade, for
which he commissioned Maxwell to carve a further eight keystone heads (1873).
He also designed two of Glasgow's earliest theatres, both of which
were gutted by fire and demolished:
The City Theatre, Glasgow Green (dem. 1845) and the Theatre Royal,
Dunlop Street (1839-40, dem. 1879).
The latter was the first Victorian building in Glasgow to incorporate
a multi-figure sculpture scheme, and provided
first commission for portrait and allegorical statues: John Henry Alexander,
Thalia and Melpomene.
The Theatre Royal was gutted in 1863, sold to the Union Railway company, 1866,
and finally demolished in 1879.
Also lost is MacIntyre's Corner, a warehouse on the south east corner of
High Street, which featured a statue of Britannia by
dem. 1949); the Egyptian-style Randolph & Elder's Engineering works, 13-23 Tradeston
Street (1858, dem. 1970); and Paisley's Warehouse, 72 Jamaica Street (1854-6, dem. c. 1989).
Spence eventually moved to Helensburgh, where he died at his home at Ardlui, on 22 June
1883, leaving an estate valued at £2.414.8s.9d.
He was buried in Glasgow's Necropolis, where his stone is now broken and concealed by ivy.