Thomas Thurtell

(1765—1846)



 BORN 1765 at Norwich, Norfolk, England.
 DIED April 1846 probably at Lakenham, Norfolk, England.
 BURIED New Church, Lakenham, Norfolk
 
 FATHER James Thurtell (1737-1801)
 MOTHER Winifred Nunn (c1740-1795)
 
 MARRIED Susanna Browne (1764-1848) on 25 September 1787 at St Mary’s, Blundeston, Suffolk.
 CHILDREN   Thomas Thurtell (1788-1788)
James Thurtell 1 (1789-1789)
Susannah Thurtell (1790-1871)
Thomas Thurtell (1791-1875)
James Thurtell 2 (1792-<1800)
John Thurtell (1793-1824)
William Thurtell (1795-1877)
Charles Thurtell (1796-1856)
Henry Thurtell (1797-1827)
Helen Thurtell (1798-1811)
Harriet Thurtell (died as infant 1800)
Mary Thurtell (1799-1849)
James Thurtell 3 (1800-1800)
George Thurtell (1801-1848)
Jacob Thurtell (1801-1862)


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Thomas was a highly respected and opulent merchant of Norwich and mayor of Norwich. He had a tempestuous, violent, unforgiving nature. Lived at Harford Hall Farm, Ipswich Rd, Lakenham. Thomas was born in Norwich, he actually moved with the family to Lothingland at the age of about 8 or 9 and only came back to the Norwich area (Lakenham) in his middle 40s, around 1811. There are written records of his arguing, like his brother John, with Rev. Norton Nicholls, Rector of Bradwell, over the payment of tithes and other things. (Rev Norton Nicholls was well-regarded as a scholar, partly because of his friendship with the poet Thomas Gray. Some have claimed that there was a homosexual attraction between Gray and Nicholls.)

In Thomas’s enthusiasm over his political opinions, the welfare of his sons must have been neglected, for John was hanged for murder, George, a gardener at Eaton, spent his last days in jail, while Thomas was a confirmed gambler, and spent much of his time in the Brown Bear Inn in London.

A prominent member of the Whig party in Norwich, he became a member of the Norwich Common Council in 1812, alderman for Conisford Ward in 1814, sheriff in 1815 and mayor in 1828. He was mayor in 1829 when the Old Fye Bridge was built, as indicated on a brass tablet uncovered in 1932 when the bridge was widened. It is most noteworthy that he was chosen as mayor even after the trial and execution of his son John, whom he had disowned.

His residence was Harford Hall farm, by Harford Bridge, on the Ipswich Road, in Lakenham Parish, 2 miles south of Norwich. (Harford Hall has been demolished.) We are told that he farmed this property under a landlord by the name of Southwell (property records for the farm show that Thomas occupied it as lessee between 1811 and 1819). He, his wife, and a daughter are buried in the new church at Lakenham; and a child and grandchild are buried in the churchyard of Lakenham Old Church. He had done his best to set his sons Thomas and John up in business in 1814, and they purchased and manufactured silks and bombasin for him. Later they became involved in something underhand that he (the father) knew nothing about.[This is unproven, but certainly nobody at the time ever accused Thomas senior of being involved in his sons’ insurance scam.] Nevertheless, he appears to have survived this scandal, and others that followed in connection with his sons, with undiminished reputation.

His mayoralty appears to have been extremely tempestuous and his critics vocal; and the dreadful legal troubles of his sons must have caused much grief, but in the obituary on his death it is stated that he was universally esteemed as an honest and upright man.

Thomas and Susanna Thurtell had 15 children, of which 9 reached adulthood. The eldest surviving son, Thomas, was involved in a life of crime with his brother John, the murderer. Another son was a merchant seaman who drowned at Canton, China (before 1824 if he is the one John refers to, before his execution, as another favourite son of his mother); another died while in jail for theft.

The hanging of John for murder created a great stir in England at the time, and owing to the scandal, several members of the family changed or added to the name i.e. Great-grandfather (a cousin) became Alfred Thurtell-Murray, his brother James became James Murray and a nephew took the name of Turner.

In the index of Norwich City Officers Thomas appears in 1815 as Alderman, South Conisford, and in the same year as sheriff. He is listed on the wall of the Guildhall as being mayor of Norwich in 1828.

On 28th April 1829, Thomas Thurtell, as a magistrate, convicted a James Thurtell (born 1811, said to be no relation) of stealing shoes and sentenced him to transportation to Australia for 7 years. James arrived in Sydney on 19 February 1830. He married Maria Jane Culverson on 22 September 1841 in Bathurst. James and Maria are said to have had 9 children. James died on 8 August 1861. In April 1857 a James Thurtell was allotted 2 roods of land in Carcoar.

Eastern Daily Press reported on 21 September 1932:

Old Fye Bridge. An interesting discovery was made during the reconstruction of Fye Bridge on Monday. A piece of masonry was taken from the old bridge to the Westwick Depot, and there, lodged between two pieces of stone, was found the engraved brass plate commemorating the foundation of the original bridge.

The plate, although over 100 years old, is in splendid condition, and the engraving on it is a wonderful piece of work, the inscription is as follows:

 
The first stone of this bridge was laid on the 2nd day of June A.D. 1829, in the 10th year of the reign of King George the Fourth; by Thomas Thurtell Esq., Mayor of the City, and John Browne Esq., Treasurer of the Tonnage Revenues.
William Simpson Esq., Town Clerk
A.A.H. Beckwith Esq., Chamberlain
F Stone Esq., Architect.
 


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