Henry Thurtell


 BORN 15 January 1797 at Bradwell.
 DIED October 1827 at Canton, China.
 FATHER Thomas Thurtell (1765-1846)
 MOTHER Susanna Browne (1764-1848)


Henry Thurtell (1797-1827) — Research by Susan Miller

The Bradwell Parish Record shows that Henry, son of Thomas Thurtell and Susanna his wife (née Browne) was born Jan 1797 and was baptized privately on 15 January 1797 at St. Nicholas, Bradwell, Suffolk.

The London Times of 19 March 1825, reported:

BOW STREET — Yesterday. Henry Thurtell, brother to John Thurtell who was executed for the murder of Weare, and to Thomas Thurtell, who is now in Newgate under sentence for a conspiracy, was brought before Thomas Halls Esq., the sitting magistrate, charged with stealing a silver watch … [from a] publican of the name of Bradbee, landlord of the White Swan public-house, in … Chancery Lane. The prisoner stands about six feet in height, and has the rough and hardy appearance of a seafaring man. His features bear a strong resemblance to John Thurtell’s, but his hair and complexion are much darker.

During the hearing, it was learned that Henry Thurtell had been out to sea for about four and a half years and had only returned to England a little more than three months earlier. Thomas Halls, the sitting magistrate at Bow Street, stated he saw pretty plainly into the case. Mr. Fean, who was in charge of a nearby pub, the White Lion, and who had located Henry Thurtell, was brought in to testify. According to the Times report, he advised that when he seized Henry Thurtell by the collar and charged him with stealing Mr. Bradbee's watch, his answer was I know I did it; I took it because I want to be sent out of the country — the public point at me, and I am sick of the world. Henry Thurtell repeatedly refused to explain his thoughts or provide an explanation to Mr. Halls. The prisoner repeated that he had nothing to say. I am ready, said he, to go wherever you choose to send me, and I wish to go.

The Times report continues:

MR HALLS: I perceive by a document among these papers that you have been honourably serving your country for more than four years, and that your conduct has been such as to obtain the … approbation of your commander. There are certain … circumstances, of a very melancholy nature, to which I need not more particularly allude, which seem to have produced a strong effect on your mind, and in consequence of which perhaps some ignorant persons may have cast reflections on you; but those circumstances can have no effect upon me. I wish you to go to trial if I feel it my duty to commit you, perfectly free from prejudice, and it is therefore that I feel really anxious to hear any thing you can say in the way of explanation, in order that it may be recorded with the accusation against you.

Prisoner: I can only repeat, Sir, that I have nothing to say.

MR HALLS: Well, I dare say you can perceive, and well appreciate my object. I mean it in kindness to yourself. Come, now, answer me plainly, like an honest man and a seaman — what do you think of the view I have taken of the subject?

The prisoner’s lip quivered while the worthy magistrate was last addressing him, and, after a short pause, he said: I feel your kindness, Sir, and I thank you. I came home some months ago after an absence of four years in the service of my country, during which time, as you perceive by that certificate [from Admiral Cochrane we understood] I conducted myself as a British seaman ought to do. When I came to this country, I wrote to my father and friends, and the answer I received was, that they did not want to see me — they wished to have nothing to say to me. Since that I have cared very little about myself: I am pointed at wherever I go, and the sooner I am disposed of the better. I would rather — Here the prisoner stopped, his feelings appearing to choke his utterance, and in spite of an evident endeavour to repress them, tears gushed from his eyes. He struck his hand upon the bar, and turned hastily from the spectators, as if to hide his emotion. The tone and manner in which the address was delivered produced a very powerful effect upon the auditors, several of whom we observed could not help shedding a tear.

The prosecutor stepped forward, and begged that the case might proceed no farther. He would rather lose his watch ten times over.

MR HALLS: Thurtell, you are yet a fine young man, and may live to earn an honourable fame. Will you go to sea?

Prisoner: I will, sir.

MR HALLS: Then you are discharged, and I hope I shall hear a good account of you. The prisoner bowed, and quitted the office.

The London Times of Thursday, November 16, 1826, reads:

INSOLVENT DEBTORS’ COURT. Henry Thurtell (brother of the notorious John Thurtell) was brought up on Tuesday morning to be heard on his petition. Previous to his arrest, he was Master at Arms of the Warren Hastings East Indiaman, and was now brought up from the Marshal-sea prison. He was unopposed, and nothing particular transpired on his examination, except some interest he had in the affairs of his late brother. The appearance of this man was that of a good-natured hardy sailor, with the most open and candid manner. He was declared entitled to the benefit of the act, and ordered to be discharged forthwith.

The London Times of 18 March, 1828, tells us that:

Henry Thurtell (the brother of John Thurtell, the murderer of Weare), who went out last year as master-at-arms in the Atlas, East Indiaman, fell overboard, and was drowned, while the vessel was lying in the river at Canton, in the early part of October last.

This means that the date of his death was in early October 1827 in Canton, China.

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