Thomas Thurtell

(1788—1875)



 BORN 14 July 1791 at Bradwell, Suffolk, England.
 BAPTISED 25 July 1791 at Bradwell.
 DIED 1875 in Norwich reg district.
 
 FATHER Thomas Thurtell (1765-1846)
 MOTHER Susanna Browne (1764-1848)
 
 MARRIED Sarah Brooks (1786-1859) on 3 May 1813 at Lakenham.


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Thomas’s father set him up in a considerable way as a farmer but he failed financially. He owed £4466, but made a composition with his creditors, of whom the chief was his father for £2578. Somehow, perhaps through the influence with the trade of his rascally friend Probert, Tom became, in 1822, the licensee of the Cock Tavern, Haymarket, where he installed his brother John as manager. The two rogues also determined to run a long firm business, a department of commerce in which their friend Probert was an expert.

Accordingly towards the close of 1822 they raised money on bills—£500 being lent by their father—and bought a quantity of such goods as John had been accustomed to handle in Norwich—bombasines, Norwich crapes, and other silk goods. Most of these, Tom’s, credit being low, were bought for cash in London of the wholesale houses, Todd, Morrison & Co. and Leaf & Co., also of Henry Dawson, of Norwich, and R. A. Dawson, of Leeds. These were all most respectable firms. Invoices for goods were later on produced by the Thurtells, purporting to show purchases by them of like articles from their Norwich cronies—Bullen and Bagshawe, but these, it was suggested, were merely designed to cloak their frauds.

Tom had already, towards the end of 1822, taken part of the premises of Joshua Penny, wine merchant, of 93 Watling Street, ostensibly as a warehouse for the bombasine goods. Yet evidence given later, and Tom’s own admissions, showed that the goods received were taken elsewhere, viz., to William Steadman’s, in Cumberland Street, New Road, and for the most part, speedily disposed of for cash, at a loss of 20 per cent, to the firm of Margrave & Co., a certain Snowden, a confederate of the brothers, acting as agent in these sales.

Such trading could have no honest purpose, and when it is stated that the supposed stock at Watling Street was insured, before any actual purchase, for nearly £2000 in December, 1822, and that the premises were completely gutted by fire on 26th January following, the thorough moral degeneracy of the brothers becomes obvious.

That both brothers were equally involved is unquestionable, though the controlling mind was John’s.

The County Fire Office refused to pay out for the fire, so Thomas sued the insurer and won £1900 in court. The insurer responded by arranging an indictment against the brothers for conspiracy to defraud the company.

In October 1823 John Thurtell and others murdered William Weare for which John was hanged in January 1824. Thomas was acquitted of complicity in the Weare murder.

On Thursday, 3rd June, the fraud proceedings initiated before the murder against Thomas Thurtell and others was heard in the King’s Bench before Lord Chief Justice Abbott and a jury. The Court pointed out that the issue was not whether the fire was accidental or felonious, but whether the accused had fraudulently conspired to claim in respect of goods not on the premises at the time, and so not destroyed by the perils insured against. In the end Thomas Thurtell and Snowden were convicted and sentenced to two years' imprisonment. The prisoners were removed to Newgate.

Thomas continued to be involved in debt and shady financial dealings.  


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