William Thompson-86th Archbishop of York

William Thomson


William Thomson was the 86th Archbishop of York from 1863 to his death at around 7am on 25th December 1890. William is buried at York, but the railed enclosure of graves in St. Nicholas grounds are for various members of his family. In the Tower Exhibition Room there are three memorial brasses for the family, one is for William himself.

William Thompson was born on 11th February 1819 and baptized at Holy Trinity Church on 5th March 1819 (when his father, John, was a draper at 37, King Street. His wife was Isabella).

He was educated at Shrewsbury School from age 11 (January 1831) and then Oxford Queens College from 1836 to 1840. From its foundation in the fifteenth Queens had been exclusively for pupils from schools in the former counties of Cumberland & Westmoreland.  The horse drawn coach journey from Whitehaven to Shrewsbury cost £5. From London (via Kendal) the journey took 22 hours, thus averaging around 14 m.p.h. According to the “West Cumberland News” of 4th June 1938 he had previously been educated at the Private School of Pastor Archibald Jack of the Congregational Church- opened in 1828 to support his meagre income of £120 per year. This school was in the garden of a house in Waterloo Terrace (Reverend Jack’s home since 1824). The future Archbishop was the top boy of the class.

Very many Shrewsbury pupils went on to Cambridge University (via the Scholarship route)- which required an in depth knowledge of the Classics, whereas William preferred the route of scientific and logical studies. One of his masters, indeed, rebuked him for neglecting to study Thucydides.

Thomson was instrumental (while dean, see below), in having the 1854 Oxford University Reform Bill passed, which swept that restriction away along with many other reforms. That Bill followed on from the 1850 Royal Commission on Oxford Colleges. He also transformed the very lax accounts of the College.

He is said to have dropped the p from his name at around the time of ordination, and became Thomson- thinking this was less plebian.

William’s Father and Grandfather

John Thompson’s father is said to have been William Thomson, a minister from Bridge of Allan, but later of Glasgow where he was buried with some of his children. However the documentary evidence for this is currently non-existent. William, his brother Robert and sisters Jean and Margaret were sent to live with Walter at Whitehaven.

In the 1841 census John & Isabella were living at Kelswick House (in the 21st century, the Chase Hotel) with William, also daughters Jean (20), Isabella (14), and sons Charles Robert (9), John (15), and Edward (12) where he remained until the 1871 census.

In 1851 he was with his daughters Jean (25), Isabella (20) and son Charles Robert (19). Isabella, William’s mother, died at the age of 59 on 25th July 1847, and is on one of the St. Nicholas gravestones (buried on the 28th). At the 1851 census John employed 12 men and 4 apprentices.

John had gone on a three week trip to London five weeks before his death, and had taken ill on his journey home. He had therefore stopped off at Bishopthorpe two weeks before his death at 7.35 pm on 18th April 1878. John (of Scottish ancestry) apprenticed as a draper with his uncle Walter at 61 Roper Street, moving to 37 King Street in 1813, then to 51 King Street in 1835. He was also a member of the Whitehaven Volunteers who drilled at Brimstone Hill, High Street. Sometime between 1835 and 1841 he had Kelswick House built, designed by the Architect Mr. Bosward (who also designed the Trustee Savings Bank). He retired in 1856, when the business was handed over to Messrs Fisher & Coulthard. From 1850 to 1853 and 1859 to 1870 he was also one of the 14 elected Town & Harbour Trustees. Lord Lowther was one of the others, who also appointed 6 more. He was also a director of the Bank of Whitehaven (established 1st February 1837), a director of the Cleator Moor Hematite Iron Company and a governor of the Infirmary. He was also a member of the Burial Board from its establishment until 1875, so was instrumental in the creation of the New Cemetery. He was also a Magistrate and politically a Liberal. Originally his religion was Presbyterian (at the Low Meeting in the Market Place, now the United Reformed Church), but when that Church split, he moved to St Nicholas Church, where he was a vestryman for very many years. He was also an original shareholder of the Whitehaven Theatre from 1843.

In 2010 the Roper Street shop is the LXVII Furniture Shop; 37 King Street is the northern half of the British Heart Foundation Furniture/Electrical Store, and 51 King Street is the northern half of the Currys store.

William’s Mother and Aristocratic Links

Isabella Thompson (her maiden name), his wife, was the daughter of a master cabinetmaker from Chapel Street (but connected with the old Whitehaven Kelswick family). John and Isabella married at Holy Trinity Church on 29th February 1812. Her mother was Ann Home, descendant of Patrick Hume of Polwarth, Berwickshire (son of the 1st Earl of Marchmont), hence the use of the Home Christian Name through the generations. This is of the Home of Hirsel, Coldstream – the same family as Sir Alec Douglas Home, 20th century Home Secretary. The actual family tree link is not very clear, and was in dispute in the first half of the nineteenth century.

The funeral of John, William’s father

John’s coffin was brought back to Whitehaven by train on 23rd April 1878, conveyed by hearse to Kelswick House, and he was then buried in Grave 4G3 at Whitehaven Cemetery on Friday morning 26th April 1878. The granite obelisk at that grave has the following inscription on its south face: IN MEMORY OF/JOHN THOMPSON/WHO ENTERED INTO REST/AT BISHOPTHORPE/ON THE 18TH OF APRIL 1878/AGED 87 YEARS/ALSO OF ISABELLA/HIS WIFE/WHO ENTERED INTO REST/ON THE 25TH OF JULY 1847 AND WHOSE REMAINS WERE BURIED AT ST NICHOLAS CHURCHYARD. There is a brass plaque to them in the Tower Exhibition Room. It refers to the East Window of St. Nicholas being dedicated to them by their daughter Isabella. Unfortunately that window was destroyed in the 1971 fire.

William’s Brothers and Sisters:

Isabella: She was baptized at Holy Trinity on 25th June 1826, by which time the family were living at 2 Corkickle Place. She was the only occupant of Kelswick House (apart from servants) in the 1881 census, and can’t be traced in the 1891 census. However no one was living at Kelswick House at that date. She died on 26th November 1897 at ‘Archers’, Archers Road, Millbrook, Southampton, and was buried in grave 4G4 at Preston Quarter Cemetery on 1st December 1897. There is a brass plaque to her in the Tower Exhibition Room of St. Nicholas Church.

Agnes: She was baptized at Holy Trinity on December 20th 1816 , died on 22nd October 1819 and was buried in the St. Nicholas family enclosure on 24th October 1819 aged 3.

Ann: She was baptized at Holy Trinity on August 20th 1814, died on 4th June 1823 (buried on the 6th), aged 8, and is on the gravestones in the St. Nicholas family enclosure.

Walter Home: He was baptized on 6th December 1823, when the family were still living at the King Street shop. He died on 10th October 1848 and was buried in the St. Nicholas family enclosure on 13th October 1848 aged 24

Jean: She was born on 22nd August 1812, and baptized on 13th September. In 1851 she was still living at Kelswick House. She never married, and died on 10th October 1879, aged 67, at 24 Bloomsbury Street, London. Her body was returned to Whitehaven for burial in grave 4G2 in the family enclosure at Preston Quarter Cemetery on 15th October. The inscription reads: To a beloved Sister/Jean Thompson/died Oct 10th 1879. Her will left all her estate of £11,000 to her sister Isabella.

Charles Robert: He was baptized at Holy Trinity on 15th September 1831. From the 1851 census we know that he became an Articled Clerk & Solicitor. No other details have been traced.

John: He was baptized on 25th August 1821 and became a Doctor of Medicine. His wife was Sarah Jane (nee Jefferson), and he died on 28th October 1866 at the age of 45. In the 1858 & 1861 Trade Directories he is shown as living at 32 to 33 Queen Street, but by 1864 is at 72 Lowther Street. The marriage was in the September quarter of 1851 in the Cockermouth Registration District. Sarah Jane died just 5 months after John on March 8th 1867, at the age of 44. Both are buried in plot 4G3 at Preston Quarter Cemetery, with John senior. They are remembered on the East face of the obelisk: IN MEMORY OF/John Thompson M.D./Died October 28th 1866/Aged 45 Years/Sarah Jane his wife/Died March 8th 1867 Aged 44 Years.  Grave 4G1 (a brick lined 8½ feet deep grave) is for two of their young sons-Edward who died September 13th 1857 aged 14 months (baptized at St James on 29th July 1856), and John Polwarth who died on December 30th 1860 aged 2 years (baptized at St James on 8th January 1859). Edward was actually buried from Holy Trinity Church. The use of the Christian name Polwarth is an interesting reminder of his grandmother’s ancestry.

Edward: He was baptized at Holy Trinity on 2nd October 1828. No other details have been traced until an entry in William’s diary that Edward died in late 1873 in Paris from pleurisy and inflammation of the lungs- William was there at the death. Edward was buried on the Isle of Wight.

There is another stone in the family enclosure at St. Nicholas which is inscribed as follows. Their position in the family tree is not currently known.

IN MEMORY of/John Thompson/who was lost at sea/December 1794/ann his wife/died November 24th 1836/Edward the son of/john and ann thompson/died july 13th 1840/elizabeth their daughter/wife of john wulff of ballaughton/who died at douglas march 28th 1866/and was interred at kirk braddon.

William’s early career

William gained his 3rd Class BA in 1840 (and became a Fellow of the College in the same year).

Although a third would now be considered a low grade it was common in those days. Interestingly some of his lowest marks were in the logic papers. He, however, continued to study logic, Aristotle and Plato, and produced his first book: “Outline of the Laws and Thought”. This was considered to be one of the best books on the subject and was used as a University text book throughout the nineteenth century.

He was ordained in 1842 and served his title at St. Nicholas, Guildford. There he came into contact with Samuel Wilberforce (the Bishop of Oxford), who recognized William’s qualities. It was he who organized the second curacy at Cuddesdon from 1846, which he commenced on Christmas Day of that year. At that time the population of Cuddesdon was under £500, but the curacy paid £100 and a free house- far better than any of the curacies in Whitehaven at that date.

In 1845 he was recalled by Queens College to become Tutor, then successively Dean and Bursar. In 1856 he gained the degree of Doctor of Divinity. He was Select Preacher to the University in both 1847 and 1856.

In 1842 (aged 23) he published a treatise on logic entitled “Outline of the Necessary Laws of Thought, and in 1868 gave an address to the Edinburgh Philosophical Society “The Limits of Philosophical Enquiry”. While Fellow he contributed the chapter “Crime and it’s excuses” to the 1855 Oxford Essays.

While on a rare holiday in September 1851 he met the Bishop of London (Tait) in Vienna, with whom he was to work later after his preferment to Canterbury.

He was also Editor of a volume entitled “Aids to Faith” (1862), and wrote the introduction to the Synoptic Gospels in “The Speakers Commentary”. He also contributed the articles on Jesus Christ and the Gospels to Smith’s “Dictionary of the Bible”. He also wrote poetry (mostly unpublished). He was a supporter of the Temperance Movement.

In 1853 he delivered the Bampton Lectures, on the theme of the atoning work of Christ in relation to some Ancient Theories. In 1855 he was made a fellow of the Royal Society & the Royal Geographical Society, and later a fellow of the Chemical Society.  In 1858 he was made the Preacher at Lincoln’s Inn (chosen from thirty candidates)- the Law Chambers in London, and had two volumes of his sermons there published in 1861. This position has often led to greater promotion for its holders.

Also, in January 1858, on a journey back to Whitehaven his diary records a trip to Cleator Moor- a town of then 2,500 people- where he visited the blast furnaces.

In July 1855 he married Zoe Skene (whose Greek mother had the wonderful name of Rhalou Rizo Rangabe, and the daughter of James Henry Skene, the British Consul to Aleppo, Syria and a soldier in the Crimean War) in the Oxford Registration District. He also became Vicar of All Souls, Langham Place (a Royal appointment, offered to him by Lord Palmerston on the suggestion of the Earl of Carlisle) and a Queen’s Chaplain, which he was until his death. From her gravestone we know that Zoe was born on 5th June 1835. By marriage and appointment to Langham Place he forfeited his Queens Fellowship. In October 1855 he was offered the post of Provost of Queens, at the very young age of 36, a post he held until preferment to Bishop in 1861. While provost he was instrumental in reforming the University curriculum, and building Oxford Museum. In particular he overhauled the content of the Theological courses.

Again Lord Palmerston (the Prime Minister) was instrumental in obtaining for William the Bishopric of Gloucester and Bristol. He was consecrated to the post at Lambeth Palace Chapel (along with the new Bishop of Honolulu) on the day after the death of Prince Albert (15th December 1891), but held the position for just 10 months before his final preferment- the specific choice of the Queen herself over her Prime Minister. He never actually took up residence in the Diocese of Gloucester.

The Archiepiscopacy

His election to York was confirmed on 23rd January 1863 at St. James, Piccadilly (London) and he was enthroned Archbishop on 25th February 1863.

Over 3,000 people were present at that service, where he was inducted into the “real, actual and corporeal possession of the See”.

As Archbishop he was described as a Moderate Orthodox Evangelical. He backed Archbishop [of Canterbury] Tait in having a private members Bill passed into Law: the Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874 (passed into law on 5th August). This aimed to limit ritualism in services, then being promoted by the Anglo Catholic wing of the Church- adherents of the Oxford movement. This act was to lead to the imprisonment of a number of High Church clergy (usually for Contempt of Court, having failed to follow court orders to comply with the Act). As a result he was unpopular with many of the clergy, but his down to earth approach meant that he was popular with the laity. As late as 1860 the use of the surplice was a novelty in the Church of England- black gowns being the norm and the use of the invocation “In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost” unheard of, seen as being Romish. Legally speaking the use of incense, of candles upon the altar, of altar frontals and the like required a faculty. His stand on Ritualism was based on a rigorous academic approach to what divided the Protestant Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1878 he was instrumental in obtaining the appointment of a Royal Commission on Church Patronage, to modernize ancient practices and enfranchise the ordinary man in the pew- specifically in getting the clergy paid out of endowments, rather than through rates and taxes upon the working classes. His diary shows that he had been planning many of these reforms since 1843, when in his first curacy. One of his first actions was to get another £470,000 added to the resources of the Diocese (£320,000 of this came from the Ecclesiastical Commisioners) to increase clergy pay, and provide new parsonage houses and churches. In 1861 over 30% of the livings in the Diocese had no parsonage house, and 25% had an income of less than £100 per year also most of the major cities also had just one church for every 10,000 population.

All this had practical effects- like increasing the number of confirmations by 30% in his first seven years to just under 6,000 per year. In 1866 the Prince and Princess of Wales stayed at Bishopthorpe while visiting the City.

In 1883 the steel workers of Sheffield presented him with a cabinet of 500 pieces of sterling silver cutlery to mark their regard for all he had done for the working man.  At his first visit to the city in 1869 some 978 men gathered to hear his speech. Subsequent meetings in the Drill Hall and the Albert Hall drew audiences of 3,000 to 6,000 working men. The City was in desperate need of both new houses and new churches. The Archbishop became great friends with a huge benefactor- John Brown. He had made money from making armour plates, and he wanted to give that money back to the people who had made him rich. He totally funded the building of All Saints, Brightside at a cost of £11,500 (opened on February 5th 1869).  Between 1865 and 1877 nine churches were opened in the city - three in the two days of August 6th & 7th 1869. On 9th October 1869 at three services he preached to a total of 4,500 people.  In the great 1876 mission in two weeks of October the Archbishop preached and spoke to over 25,000 people in all manner of places. On one day in August 1874 he opened 5 schools in the city.

In 1877 it was proposed that Sheffield should be part of the new Diocese of Wakefield but the working people in public meetings refused to be severed from their Bishop Thomson in the Diocese of York. The 275,000 population was one quarter of the whole population of the Diocese of York.

Meanwhile the Archbishop had formed both the Sheffield Church Extension Society and the Diocesan Conference. The Conference was to bring together clergy and laity for mature discussion, specifically to make it the Church of the people. The first meeting in 1869 was in Sheffield, then Middlesborough, Hull and Doncaster. The last great meeting he attended in Sheffield was on 22nd April 1890. Thousands had been present the previous day to see him lay the cornerstone of Carbrook Church, then thousands more to hear him present a service of plate to the Archdeacon of Sheffield, at the request of the working classes of the city. Through his deeds and empathy to the working man he truly advanced the cause of God.

In 1864 he returned to Whitehaven. On the Sunday of his visit he preached at St. Nicholas Church in aid of the Additional Curate’s Society. As well as being met by the Clergy and Church Officers the Volunteers (Rifle and Artillery) formed an Honour Guard. The opening voluntary was “March of the Israelites” and the Anthem at Morning Prayer was Whitfield’s setting of Psalm 76. The sermon was on the text Acts 26, vv 27 & 28. Psalm 150 was sung during the offertory which raised £23. The concluding voluntary was “The Gloria of Mozart, Mass 2”. His Grace also attended Evensong where he preached on a text from the Book of Revelations. Two days later the Clergy and Church Officers attended an audience with the Archbishop at his Father’s Home, Kelswick House. He took his departure the following day by the 10.27 train, but not before donating £20 to the Infirmary, 5 guineas (£5.25) to each of the two Volunteer brigades and £1 to the Working Men’s Reading Room.

A full account of the visit is in the Cumberland Pacquet of 22nd and 29th August 1864 (which reproduces both sermons and the two addresses verbatim).

In the 1871 census the Palace family is shown as having 14 servants- a Butler, an Apparitor (an Ecclesiastical type of senior servant), 10 general servants, a cook and a nursery nurse.

At York Minster he oversaw the restoration of the South Transept, completed in 1874 and reopened officially on 12th November. This was work which had been commenced by his predecessor, but had been stalled for want of cash and cost over £10,000, after an appeal was launched by the Archbishop.

In 1873 he preached a memorable sermon to the British Association at Bradford Parish Church on the relations of scientific and spiritual truth.

In 1877 he laid the foundation stone of the new buildings of the Yorkshire College at Leeds. This was to be one of the parts of the later Victoria University (a new University for the north including Owen’s College in Manchester and colleges in Liverpool).

In 1879 he published “The Limits of Philosophical Enquiry” and “Life in the Light of God’s World” (a collection of 25 sermons preached between 1859 and 1869 at diverse occasions).

In 1882 he opened a new parochial mission hall which later became Hull Grammar School.

In 1884 the Diocese presented Mrs Thomson with a marble bust of her husband. That is now at Old Nunthorpe, the home of his son Wilfred.

On 15th May 1888 he returned to Whitehaven to open the new Whitehaven Free Library (the two speeches he gave that day were published in a booklet held by WRO reference YDX 350/1/2), to replace the former Public Subscription Library at the Mechanics Institute. Free Libraries came about through an Act of 1850. Whitehaven voted by two to one to have such a Library, at that date York had rejected one by a similar margin. The first speech was to open the library, the second at a Public Meeting at the Oddfellows Hall that evening. The library was paid for by an extra penny rate in the pound. On Sunday 13th May 1888 he had preached at Evening Service at St. Nicholas Church on Hebrews 4: 14ff. Interestingly the booklet was published by the York Free Library Committee, almost certainly to promote their cause.

Over the course of William’s archiepiscopacy the population of the diocese grew from 900,000 to 1.3 million. By 1884 the three archdeaconries had to be expanded to four, the original 26 rural deaneries had become 32, and the number of benefices had grown from 537 to 626. Over one hundred new churches had been opened, together with a number of mission rooms. In 1862 to 1865 the average number of confirmations annually was 4,651. By November 1872 his diary records confirming over 2,000 people in a week in Hull and Sheffield. In 1882 there were 9,192 confirmations- often over 700 in a day. Between March 4th and November 1873 he took 46 confirmation services.

by 1886 to 1889 the figure was 8,958. Archbishop Thomson hugely favoured the appointment of clergymen from the diocese to outsiders.

William often worked 16 hours a day, could write up to 80 letters a day and often walked the 3 miles from the palace into York, even late in life completing this distance in 35 minutes or less. He had no regular Domestic Chaplain after 1876 although the Bishop of Sodor & Man sometimes assisted with Confirmations. He was writing letters until 5 pm on 19th December 1890- the day he took ill

With the growth of the Diocese a Suffragan Bishop (of Beverley) was created at William’s specific request in 1889. The Archbishop nominated the first holder of the post: the Archdeacon of York Robert Jarratt Crosthwaite, also Rector of Bolton Percy, a close personal friend. He had been William’s Domestic Chaplain and Private Secretary from 1866 to 1869, and then his Examining Chaplain from 1883 to the end.

William’s death and funeral

The Archbishop had suffered a stroke while staying at “Lingholme”, Keswick on 14th September 1890 directly after attending morning service at Crosthwaite Church. His health began to deteriorate on Saturday night 19th December, after two days of examining the ordination candidates. On Sunday 20th he went into a coma, from which he never recovered. He died of this diabetic coma, with all his family around him, save his third son, Basil (who was in Fiji, see below) and daughter Ethel (poor health) at 7am on Christmas Day 1890.

The funeral was at 2.45 pm on 29th December 1890, in his private chapel at Bishopthorpe (until 1899 this tiny chapel was also the Village Church, it is now known as the Chantry Chapel and is ruined). He was then laid to rest in the adjacent graveyard.  He was borne to his grave by sixteen working men of Sheffield. There are four graves in the compound: The first is to him and wife Zoe. The second is to daughter Zoe Jane and husband Revd. Joshua Hoyle, the third to a Walter Home Thomson (died 1897, his position in the family tree is unclear), and the last to a Marie Thomson (again it is not clear exactly who she was). A Memorial service was held in York Minster at noon, and also at Carlisle Cathedral simultaneously to the funeral. He is the only archbishop to be buried at Bishopthorpe.

On Sunday 27th all the Whitehaven Churches played the Death March in Saul, as a mark of respect and Church bells in all 4 Anglican Churches were tolled from 2.30 to 3.00 on the 29th. The same marks of respect were accorded at Carlisle Cathedral.

The people of Sheffield paid one more tribute to their beloved Archbishop- a public fund was started which raised the money to erect a marble bust of him in Sheffield Parish Church, which was unveiled before a vast congregation on 22nd June 1891. Underneath is the inscription: “The Peoples Archbishop. In loving and grateful memory of the Right Hon. and Most Reverend William Thomson, D.D. Lord Archbishop of York, Primate of England and Metropolitan, who entered into rest 25th December 1890, aged 71. This bust was erected by the working people of Sheffield, who have recognized in him a great leader of thought, a brave and noble defender of the Christian Faith, and a true and sympathising friend.”

Zoe, his wife, died at the age of 78 at Hampton Court Palace, on December 20th 1913, but is buried at Bishopthorpe with her husband.

The Bishopthorpe Graves



on the front edge of the grave: SO HE GIVETH HIS BELOVED SLEEP PS CXXVII.2





William’s Family

They had 7 children:

Ethel Zoe: Born in 1857, she married a Clergyman, Frederick William Goodwyn (her father’s Private Chaplain at that date) in York in the June quarter of 1887. By 1891 they were living at Rotherfield, Sussex, in 1901 at Eastbourne, and she died in the March quarter of 1941 at Hailsham.

Wilfred Forbes Home: He was born on 29th March 1858. When his father was translated to York he was sent away to Worsley’s School Hendon (Middlesex then, Greater London now). At the 1881 census he was visiting a family on Anglesey, and became a banker. In 1891 he was living with his mother at Nunthorpe White House in the Castlegate ward of York (Parish of St. Mary Bishophill). This is just two miles away from Bishopthorpe. By 1901 his mother had moved away, and he had inherited the house. On 1st June 1899 he married Ethel Henrietta Parker (23 years his junior). He died at the age of 80 in York, on 29th January 1939. Ethel was the daughter of the Hon. Reginald Parker and Katherine May Ames (both of Macclesfield). Wilfred became the 1st Baronet Thomson of Old Nunthorpe, York on 3rd July 1925. He was also a partner in the York banking firm of Beckett & Co. The baronetcy is currently held by Wilfred’s grandson (Frederick Douglas David, born 1940, the son of Ivo Wilfrid Home Thomson 1902 to 1991). They also had a daughter, Sibell Doreen (born June quarter 1900). In 1918 Ethel wrote the definitive book on William Thomson’s life-“The Life and Letters of William Thomson”.

Jocelyn Home: He was born on 31st August 1859, and was sent to the same private school as his brother., and then Eton From there he joined the Royal Artillery in 1878 and went with M Battery 6th Brigade to South Africa  in March 1879.He commanded the mounted gunners in Captain Yeatman-Biggs expedition in search of the King. He was awarded the South Africa campaign medal.  In 1881, at the age of 21, he was a Lieutenant (living in lodgings at the Cambridge Hotel, Shoeburyness)-: presumably garrisoned at the Napoleonic fort there. In 1882 he was selected by the Royal Society to observe the transit of Venus at Barbados. To do this required the transportation of a 3 ton telescope from England. In 1885 he was posted to the Royal Horse Artillery and served in Egypt for two years, being promoted to Captain in January 1887. He then served as Secretary to the War Office Committee on Explosives until 1899, living at Erith (Kent). In 1891 he went on a special mission to Canada in connection with cordite, and was appointed Chief Inspector of Explosives in 1903. He then moved to 18 Draycott Place in Chelsea. He was appointed Companion of the Bath (Civil Division) on 28th June 1907 but shot himself on 13th February 1908, having been in great distress since a nervous breakdown in August 1907. He wrote four books on explosives and petroleum. He is buried at Brompton Cemetery. In 1901 he had been awarded the Belgian order of Leopold. In 1886 he had married Mabel Sophia Paget of Chipping Norton (but born Yorkshire) there were no children. She died in 1948 and was one of the first Christian Scientists in this country.

Basil Home: He was born on 21st April 1861, and was sent away to the same school as his two brothers. He then went to Eton College and New College, Oxford. While at Eton he was very much involved in the boating and musical life. However he was only there for two terms, before leaving with severe depression. In 1881 to 1882 he was a farmer in Iowa. In 1883 he secured a Cadet position in the Colonial Office, and was posted to Fiji, but was invalided back to the UK with malaria late in that decade. Around 1890 he married a Grace Webber. In 1891 he returned to Fiji, and later to Tonga where he was Assistant Premier. In 1893 he resigned from the Colonial Office and returned to the UK, mainly because of the poor health of his wife. He then read for the bar at the Inner Temple and was admitted in 1896. Through Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise (an old Etonian he had worked with in Tonga) he was then given the governorship of Northampton Prison (and later Cardiff, Dartmoor and Wormwood Scrubs). From 1908 to 1913 he was secretary of the Prison Commission. In June 1913 he was appointed Assistant Commissioner (Crime) with the Metropolitan Police. He was therefore head of their CID, and became a spymaster, working closely with MI5. In 1919 he was appointed Director of Intelligence at the Home Office, in charge of MI5 and MI6. In 1921 he fell out with Lloyd George and was asked to resign. He was awarded the Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1916, and Knight Commander (KCB) in 1919. He died at Staines, aged 77, on 26th March 1939. In 1935 he wrote “The Story of Scotland Yard” .Far more detail on Basil’s fascinating life is available on Wikipedia.

Zoe Jane: She was born in 1863, according to the 1871 census. She married the Revd Joseph Hoyle in the March quarter of 1891, and had 4 children. She died in 1940, and her husband died in 1947 - both are buried at Bishopthorpe next to her father.

Beatrice Mary: She was born on 7th January 1865 and died on 24th February 1933. In April 1886 she married Henry Edward Preston of Moreby Hall, Stillingfleet, Yorkshire. They had two children Lieut. Col Thomas Preston of Moresby Hall (born 6th December 1886) and Beatrice Zoe Preston. Thomas Preston married Gladys May Love (the daughter of Joseph Horatio Love) on 24th January 1917. Henry Edward Preston (13th July 1857 to 5th June 1924) was the only son (of three children) of Captain Thomas Henry Preston and Georgina Genevieve Louisa Campbell. The Preston family were merchants and bankers from Leeds. The hall was built in 1828 to 1833 and the family lived there until 1985.

They had three children Pamela Josephine Preston (married 20th July 1946 to Major Morris Herbert Lee), Felicity Anne Preston (married 6th September 1947 to Robert Arthur Home Cooper) and Anthony Thomas Preston (born 4th October 1924, married Kathleen Rosemary Alix Stewart Thomson on 3rd January 1951). From this marriage came David Thomas Preston (born 29th October 1951).

Alexandra: She was born in 1867 and married Lt Col. John Studholme D.S.O. , C.B.E. of Coldstream, New Zealand. They had four children before she died in 1907:  John Morton Rangabe Studholme, Sir Richard Home Studholme, Derek Skene Studholme and Humphrey Francis Studholme.

Richard lived at Pembroke House, Send, Wiltshire and had two children; Rosemary Ann Home and John Richard Julius. Rosemary married Joseph Los Chovanec (of Toronto) in 1958 then Gordon William Luker in 1970.

Derek (M.B.E.) continued to live at Coldstream, and married Elizabeth Janet Crawford, then Ella Frances Olive Anson. From the first marriage there were three children- Aline Janet, Joseph John Anson and Richard Crawford.

All this biographical data for Alexandra (and there is far more) is from the book ‘Coldstream: The story of a sheep station on the Canterbury Plains 1854 to 1934, published privately in 1985 at Christchurch, available on line at ‘The Peerage.com’- Person Page 21095.

One of Zoe’s (William’s wife) sisters (Jane) was the mother of the wife of Captain Scott, the Antarctic explorer.

In April 1878 Bishopthorpe Palace was in quarantine as most of the children had scarlet fever (Beatrice was the worst affected). This month of illness and his father’s death caused great stress to William, who had to continue his business, but also to return home every night, frequently not arriving home until 2am. He felt the after effects on his own health for the rest of his life. Private correspondence to the Bishop of Manchester and his wife shows how close he came to a physical breakdown several times.

William had several pet dogs during his time at Bishopthorpe- the last, a terrier called Scamp, was devoted to its master. During William’s last illness it barely left his side, laying on the bed for much of the time. After his death a marble monument was erected in York Minster (created by Hamo Thorneycroft)- the figure of Scamp was placed at the feet of the recumbent effigy.



Another Whitehaven Bishop

As a last comment William Thomson is not the only person with Whitehaven links to be elevated to the bishopric, as the curate of St. James’ from 1881 to 1883, John Francis Welsh was the Bishop of Trinidad from 1904 until his death in 1918. In his case St James was his only experience of Parish Ministry, as he subsequently became a lecturer at St. Bees Theological College to 1886, then the Principal of St. Boniface College, Warminster, before his elevation.

The Story of a relative who was transported to Australia

Research by Nina Butler of 329 East Kurrajong, New South Wales, Australia in connection with the planned building of a new bridge has shed new light on the origins of the family and of a long forgotten (in England) story of a convict made good. The story is well known in Australia but it was not until the research into the original version of this pamphlet was made public in the ‘Whitehaven News’ that the positive link could be made with the Archbishop’s family.

William (Minister of Bridge of Allan, whose child John born in 1792 was the father of William, Archbishop) and his brother Walter (of Whitehaven, to whom William senior’s children were sent) were two of the six children of John & Agnes (nee Hilson) Thompson of Yetholm in the Scottish Borders- the end of the Pennine Way, born 1762 and 1765 respectively. The other children were Margaret (1761), John (1767), Robert (1770) and Andrew (1773, baptized 7th February).

Andrew was well educated locally in Yetholm, and in due course, with his brothers, joined the family weaving business. However ill health forced him to give up weaving and to take up studies for the excise. He remained friendly with one of his father’s journeymen, John Aitken. In 1790 Aitken was suspected of two burglaries in Yetholm and fled leaving the stolen property in a chest in his room. Andrew sometimes spent the night in this room. He was caught there, prosecuted and pleaded guilty (possibly under duress) at Jedburgh Justiciary Court to the theft of cloth worth £10. There is an unconfirmed possibility that the stolen cloth may have belonged to the family business- which may explain the treatment of his estate after his death (see later)- the original court papers, which may shed further light on this, are being traced. On 22nd September 1790 he was sentenced to 14 years transportation. On 17th July 1791 he was embarked with 409 other convicts on the Pitt in Yarmouth Roads, Isle of Wight. The ship, after 29 convicts had died on passage, arrived at Sydney, Australia on 14th February 1792. His diligent and intelligent approach to all that he did was soon noticed by Governor Phillip who recommended him to Governor King.  As early as 1793 he was appointed as a Policeman (initially at Toongabbie) and rose to become Chief Constable as soon as 1796- a position he held until 1807. He was granted an absolute pardon in 1797. He continued to enjoy the patronage of the succeeding governors Bligh and McQuarie. In 1796 he was granted land at West Pennant Hills- now known as Thompsons Corner and the site of the town Public School. However the first building here was the first general store in the area- founded by Thomas Thompson (not known to be a relative).

He made his home at Green Hills, New South Wales on an acre of land leased from the government and rose to become one of the most prosperous men in the Colony- being at various times a bridge builder (at South Creek in 1802- the first toll bridge in the area), farmer and considerable land-owner (other land owned included Agnes Banks, Penrith), boat owner/builder (of 4 ships) and trader (as far as Tahiti for pork), brewer, salt manufacturer and tanner.

While still Chief Constable he took a leading part in rescues from the terrible Hawkesbury floods of 22nd/23rd March 1806, and later in the similar floods of 30th July/1st August 1809 (although by then he had been dismissed as Chief Constable following a dispute concerning Governor Bligh in which Thompson became probably incorrectly implicated). Between the two floods he personally rescued 109 people. However on the latter occasion he contracted a chest complaint which was to ultimately be terminal. These floods and Thompson’s part in the rescues are well documented in the Sydney Herald newspaper.

His farming interests included being overseer of two farms on the Hawkesbury River, set up as Model Farms by Governor Bligh, using convict labour as an example to other settlers- it was the activities of these farms which led to the troubles stated above. His dismissal as Chief Constable gave him more time to devote to his business interests. Lieut-Governor Foveaux gave him a grant of land in MacQuarie Place where he built a town house. As reward for his role in the 1809 floods Lieut-Governor Paterson granted him 1,000 acres of land at Minto which he (Thompson) named St. Andrew’s. Also the leases of land for his salt works and brewery were made into grants. The salt works was in Broken Bay- initially on Dargar Island, later on the 120 acre Scotland Island- named by Thompson after his homeland. In 2005 the Island invented its very own flag- something Thompson would surely have been proud of.

When Governor MacQuarie arrived in January 1810, he quickly appointed Thompson (already in poor health arising from cold and immersion in the 1809 floods) as Justice of the Peace and Chief Magistrate of Green Hills, the first emancipist to be appointed to such a position. He was then also appointed as one of the trustees of the new turnpike road between Parramatta and the Hawkesbury River- although that was to be a politically difficult appointment.

Andrew Thompson died, a bachelor, of a chest complaint on 22nd October 1810 aged 37, a hero of the colony of New South Wales and was given a large ceremonial funeral. He was the first person to be buried in the grounds of the yet to be built St. Matthew’s Church. The epitaph for his gravestone was written by Governor McQuarie himself and can still be seen today.

Three months after Andrew’s death Gov. McQuarie named Thompson Square after his “friend” and renamed the settlement of Green Hills as Windsor in tribute to their shared Scottish background (McQuarie was from the Isle of Ulva off the Isle of Mull). McQuarie, as a friend of William Wilberforce, was a committed emancipist. He freed thousands of convicts, giving them land, jobs and responsibility, very much shaping the egalitarian character of the Australian nation.

Both men were powerful role models of Scottish values.

Thompson left around £20,000- one quarter to his friend Governor McQuarie. Half of the legacy was left to his remaining family in Whitehaven- to Walter and to the surviving children of William senior.

The administration of the estate continued into the 1830’s, no doubt not helped by the many months it would then take for a simple exchange of correspondence between Australia and the UK. However the real problem was the obduracy of the family in the UK who refused to receive their share of the legacy. It can only be presumed that this was a classic example of certain branches of certain parts of the Christian Church in those times- in this case an inability to forgive a “youthful indiscretion” committed nearly a generation earlier, assuming that he was even guilty anyway- an unwillingness to recognize and celebrate the good which he had done with the rest of his life, so unlike the attitude of his adopted country. From the papers associated with the administration of the will we learn that Andrew had offered to take two or more of William senior’s children from Walter. In spite of the fact that Andrew could have offered them an undoubtedly better life than in Whitehaven, Walter refused the offer- again we can only speculate whether this was because of the seeming disownment of Andrew by the family. We can also establish from these papers that William senior (of Bridge of Allan) was apparently dead by no later than 1810.

Walter died on 23rd January 1828 and was buried on the 26th at Workington St. Michael’s Church. However his will was not proved until 1845, and then at Canterbury. That will is now in the National Archives. It seems probable that the long delay in proving this will (and the unusual location) was due to the outstanding issues of the estate of Andrew.

In any event much of that part of his estate which should have come to the UK reverted to the Government by one means or another.

This booklet has been produced for the Friends of St. Nicholas Gardens jointly by Stuart Nicholson of the Parish of Whitehaven and Anne Cook of ‘The Beacon’, Whitehaven. The original idea and inspiration came from Margaret Crosby of the Whitehaven News on behalf of the Friends of St. Nicholas Gardens.

We also acknowledge the inspiration of Gerard Richardson of the Whitehaven Festival Company to create a display to him (from the memorial plaques and this leaflet) in the Exhibition Room of St. Nicholas Tower Chapel.

This is our humble tribute to this Son of Whitehaven.


The inestimable assistance of the staff of Whitehaven, Barrow, Carlisle, Preston, York, Northallerton and Chester Record Offices in providing access to a variety of historical sources is acknowledged.


The text may be freely reproduced, but the source must be cited.

Dated 11th February 2011, Version 2 issued Advent 2012




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