WITHOUT William Spranger it's likely we wouldn't have one of the city's major attractions we enjoy today – Tudor House Museum.

William Francis Gummer Spranger was born April 7th, 1848 at Bridport, Dorset and his early years were spent at Hursley near Winchester.

In January, 1873 he married Mary Spranger, the daughter of the Reverend Spranger in the Church at Hursley and, unusually, took his father-in-law’s surname.

The Sprangers moved to Southampton in the 1880’s, living first at Windsor House, 2 Cumberland Place.

William inherited his father-in-law’s estate worth £86,000, a very considerable sum at the time.

He then lived at Springhill Court in Hill Lane. It was enlarged, becoming one of the largest houses in the town.

In the grounds was the ancient Conduit Head of the Colwell Spring.

In the 13th century Franciscan monks piped water from here to the Friary near God’s House.

Springhill Court was bombed in 1940 and replaced by Nazareth House.

Spranger’s main work was in the field of education.

He was the first vice-chairman of the then new Borough Education Committee in 1902.

He was also Chair of Governors of both Taunton’s and King Edward VI schools.

He purchased the land at Highfield Uplands on which Taunton’s School was later built.

William was a member of the governing body of University College, the forerunner of the University of Southampton, a magistrate and a local councillor.

However, he is best remembered in Southampton for restoring Tudor House in St Michael’s Square.

He acquired the dilapidated building in 1886 along with the adjoining Norman House known as King John’s Palace.

At that time, the premises were leased to a number of businesses, including a dyers and a bookbindery. The Norman House was being used as a coal store by Beavis’s coal merchants.

Construction began on Tudor House in 1491 by Sir John Dawtrey.

After his death in 1518 his widow married Sir Richard Lister (or Lyster), Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer and later Lord Chief Justice to Henry VIII.

Lister retired to his Southampton house in 1552.

In the Victorian and Edwardian periods the house was sometimes referred to as Henry VIII's Palace or Old Palace House.

In the late 18th century the property passed into the hands of the Bernard family, after whom Bernard Street is named.

Ownership remained in this family until 1860 when it was acquired by William Lankester, principal of the well-known firm of Southampton iron and brass founders.

For much of the second half of the 19th century it was used for industrial and commercial purposes.

In 1883 the central portion was leased to George Cawte, bookbinder, and the northern section to George Henry Pope, dyer and furniture cleaner.

Spranger had to wait for business leases to expire before he could start work on Tudor House itself.

Between 1898 and 1910 extensive and meticulous restoration work was undertaken.

Externally, this involved removing the stucco from the walls and restoring as far as possible the original Tudor brick and timber work.

The front of the ground floor was restored to replace the shop fronts built in the 19th century.

Despite the restoration, the main structure of the building remains much as it was during the 16th century.

In 1911 Spranger persuaded the council to purchase the house with a view to converting it into a museum. Southampton’s first museum was duly opened in July 1912.

Rowland Nicholas was appointed as the first honorary unpaid curator. He reported that during the museum’s first year of business, 18,400 people signed the guest book and probably double that number visited the building.

Nicholas served the museum for more than twenty years.

Second World War bombing led to almost 45,000 buildings in Southampton being damaged or destroyed.

Luckily for Sotonians, Tudor House survived with only minor repairs needed.

Today it is Grade 1 listed and a much loved attraction thanks to William Spranger.

Spranger died June 8, 1917.

His funeral took place at St Michael’s Church where he was a Churchwarden and he was buried at the Old Cemetery in Hill Lane.

One tribute at the time said: “If ever a man closed his eyes in the world without having made an enemy it was the late Mr. Spranger.”

Martin Brisland is a tour guide with SeeSouthampton.co.uk .