Answers to Questions


TOMPSON, Hemel Hempstead, 1750-1850

January, 2010



Hemel Hempstead

Donald C Norris (donaldcnorris @t of Prince George, British Columbia, Canada updated the information linking George Norris and his wife Mary with the Tompson family of Hemel Hempstead. described in NORRIS, Watford, grocers circa 1790 and later. I summarise the initial information below and then look at earlier evidence for the Tompson family in Hemel Hempstead.

The key new evidence relates to the will of William Tompson (PRO The National Archves, Prob 11/1980, Image 98) who died in Chelsea in 1843 and buried in Hemel Hempstead (from South Chelsea) on  6th May, 1843, aged 73. William died on 1st May, 1843, at 8 Sydney Place, Kings Road, Chelsea, where he was living with George Norris and his daughter Mary. William's wife, Mary, died in Chelsea in 1839 and was buried at Hemel Hempstead. William Tompson claimed he has freehold property in Hemel Hempstead and the lease on 8 Sidney Place, Chelsea. The lease he turned over to George Norris, grocer. Using the Hemel Hempstead register and the will the children of William and Mary were:

  Born Christened Died/Buried Will and Notes
William 21 Sep 1794 23 Oct 1794 6 Jun 1809 (14) Not mentioned
Mary 18 Aug 1796 11 Sep 1796 living 1851 wife of George Norris
Sarah 13 Feb 1798 25 Mar 1798 living 1851 wife of William Wyatt
John 23 Apr 1800 18 May 1800 1883 [Spouse Elizabeth Catherine Hansom]
Elizabeth 23 Sep 1802 17 Oct 1802   Widow of Eardley
Thomas 4 Apr 1805 5 May 1805 1883 [Spouse Alice Buggs]
Emma 25 Feb 1807 23 Mar 1807   wife of Andrew Eardley
Charles 9 Nov 1811 28 Nov 1811 17 Dec 1812 (1) Not mentioned
Ann   5 Dec 1817 1884 Yes [Married Benjamin Lister Meres in 1839]

The Red Lion, Hemel Hempstead

Townsend House in 2009
In 1755 William Tompson, landlord of the Red Lion, was Bailiff of the town of Hemel Hempstead.
The 1756 billeting returns show William Tompson was the landlord of the Red Lion, which accommodated for 4 people and stabled 16 horses.

Extracts from Trade Directories and Censuses
1823 J. Olliff, Red Lion
1829 James Sells, Red Lion
1839 Thomas Jeffery, Red Lion
1841c James Wingrave, publican, Red Lion
1846 James Wingrave, Red Lion
1851-82 James Wingrave, Red Lion
1851c James Wingrove, cooper & victualler
1861c James Wingrave, publican & cooper
1871c James Wingrave, innkeeper & cooper, Red Lion
1881c James Wingrave, cooper & publican, Red Lion
1886-97 Walter Wingrave, Red Lion
1891c Walter Wingrave, cooper & licensed victualler, Red Lion
1899 James House, Red Lion
1901c [not in occupation] 60 High Street
1902 Herbert East, Toy Shop, 60 High Street
It became part of East, the drapers. It is now a private house called Townsend House

My reaction on getting this information was to remember that two earlier members of the Tompson family are already listed in the only pre-1820 trade directory covering Hemel Hempstead (see Hemel Hempstead Directory 1797). These were George Tompson, Gent., and John Tompson, Bailiff. The Hertfordshire burial Index (1800-1850) reports that a John Tompson was buried at Hemel Hempstead on 9th January, 1805, aged 59, while a George Tompson was buried there on 4th February 1810, aged 68.

I knew of another earlier  reference to the surname. Hemel Hempstead was a "Bailiwick" by a charter of 1539, This effectively created the post of "Bailiff" (a bit like a mayor) who was elected each year to run a court but the charter did not specify how this Bailiff was to be appointed. This arrangement continued until 1898, Hemel Hempstead being the last town in the country to continue this form of local government. The book History of Hemel Hempstead describes a major row about the election organised by then Bailiff, William Tompson, landlord of the Red Lion Inn in 1755.

So is there a link between William Tompson, landlord of the Red Lion in 1755,  George and John Tompson listed in the 1797 directory, William Tompson (1770-1843) and the John Tompson who is listed as staying with George and Mary Norris in the 1841 census (see NORRIS, Watford, grocers circa 1790 and later)?

As we have approximate birth dates for George Tompson (1741-1810) and John Tomson (1745-1805) I decided to check their details on familysearch and found that both would appear to be the sons of William and Mary Tompson. Further research suggests they had 5 children.

Children of William & Mary Tompson

Name   Baptised
William   9 Jan 1736
John   15 Oct 1738
George   19 Apr 1741
Mary   10 Jul 1743
John   24 Feb 1744

[Birth, Christening and marriage information in these boxes relate to Hemel Hempstead and come from the IGI]

This looks like a normal family of the period (see the Inheritance of single Christian names) with the eldest son named after the father and the eldest (only) daughter named after the mother. In addition it is reasonable to assume that the first John died as a child, and a look at the burial register could confirm this.

Further exploration show that a John Tompson married Elizabeth Goodwin at St Mary's, Watford, 29 August 1766.

Children of John & Elizabeth Tompson

Name   Born Baptised
John     2 Aug 1767
George   29 Apr 1769 23 May 1769
William   14 Jan 1771 27 Jan 1771
Mary   4 Oct 1772 20 Oct 1772
Elizabeth   8 Apr 1774 15 May 1774
Sally   8 Aug 1775 8 Aug 1775
Sally   29 Aug 1776 22 Sep 1776
James   5 Jul 1778 2 Aug 1778
Sophia   14 Feb 1782 2 Oct 1782
Sophy   25 Aug 1784 11 Sep 1784
Hannah   15 Apr 1786 15 Jun 1786

This was followed by a normal looking family baptised at Hemel Hempstead. Note that the first 4 children have been given the name of their father or a paternal uncle or aunt. The first Sally was baptised on the day she was born, which suggests a private baptism of a newborn who was not expected to live. There is almost certainly a note in the baptismal register, and probably an entry in the burial register a few days later. I have not investigated the other names but note that James was a common Christian name in the Goodwin family in the Hemel/Watford area.

The National Archives list three wills relating to the Tompson family of Hemel Hempstead which look as if they could be relevant and which can be purchased online:

There are likely to be further manuscript documents relating to the Tompson property and their involvement in the Bailiwick of Hemel Hempstead, which could provide background on the family's role in the town, but unfortunately these are not indexed at individual name level and are unlikely to be accessible online for some time to come (if ever). I can mention some examples.

HALS (in Hertford) documents are catalogued on Access to Archives which shows that they haves a copy of the terrier of the Hemel Hempstead Tithe Commutation Committee which shows the owners of all lands in the parish in 1840, so should include the location on the large scale tithe map of any freehold property owned by William Tompson of Chelsea. They also hold a bundle of documents "concerning appointment of bailiff and bye-laws, remarks on the Hemel Hempstead charter of 1534 and letters to Thomas Marriott of Chancery Lane, London, from William Ginger about the legality of bailiff's election and profits of bailiwick dated 1756".which undoubtedly relates to the events mentioned above of 1755. HALS also includes many other documents, such as rate and account books which might include mention of payments to, or by, members of the Tompson family. HALS will answer research questions for a fee if you (or your agent) are unable to visit the records office.

In addition I understand that the Dacorum Borough Council hold many old papers relating to the Bailiwick, and I am making enquiries about access.

Donald has now helpfully provided information on the wills mentioned above, a couple of typo corrections (made above) and reported that he had talked to a Doug Greenhill in Texas this afternoon who is a descendant of Sally Tompson. Doug notes that a William Tompson, probably her brother William signed her banns at St. Mary's. The following is based on the information he provided plus additional commentary.
Martha Tompson baptised 5 August 1763
William Tompson baptised 26 June 1765
Martha Thompson & John Ince married 12 November 1767

William Tompson, mealman, 1766, was the son of William Tompson who had been baptised in 1736. He was married to Martha, who appears to have married a John Ince a few years after his death. Two children William and Martha Tompson are mentioned in the will.

William Tompson, innkeeper of the Red Lyon made his will on the 14th May 1774, the witnesses being Wm. O. Brashier, James Foster and Wm. Ginger. It was proved on  6th May 1776, the executors being Mary Tompson, widow, and William Tiverton, of Piccotts End. He lived at the Red Lion Inn, as a copyhold tenant of the manor (customary messuage). This means that changes in the tenancy - and possibly other matters - would be recorded in the manor court rolls and court books. These are held at HALS (see Access to Archives for index), and appear to be complete from 1732 to 1939. If William inherited the Red Lion the earliest records could well include information on his father and grandfather. They would also record changes within the Tompson family and how it finally passed out of their hands.

George Thompson and Hannah Hill married 19th December 1763.

The wording of the will is written in the usual legalese of the period and it would appear that William and his wife Mary were joint tenants (perhaps they came to own the Red Lion from her family?).  The property was to go to his son George and his wife Hannah, and on their decease to their children. However if there was no issue the property was to go to the children of his deceased son William and his son John. All other money and personal possessions were to go to his wife Mary, and out of this she was to settle any outstanding money owing to Luke Maitland, ?leather maker?, of Chipping Barnet (did they have a mortgage on the property?).

It is perhaps useful to wonder why the will was made as most people didn't leave wills. One possibility is that the custom of the manor was that property normally passed from father to eldest son. But his eldest son, William, had died, any grandchildren would be too young to have the property, and it appears that his widow (not mentioned in the will) had remarried. By naming George as his heir he ensures that the property remains in the Tompson family.


William Collett was a farmer and/or grocer while Howard Furnival may have been a relative of Thomas Furnival, draper.  Hemel Hempstead Directory 1797)

For more on the Collett family see COLLETT, Hemel Hempstead, 1740-1870

The other will (which is very hard to read) was that of George Tompson who died in 1808. He was the grandson of William Tompson, Innholder, and a brother of William Tompson, gentleman, Chelsea. He appears to have married late to Sarah and had a son William. George mentions his two good friends in the will - Howard Furnival & William Collett - the later is a farmer and grocer in the directory.

Donald later added: There was an inn in Victoria, BC called the 'Red Lion' started by William George Norris, son of George Norris and his wife born Mary Tompson. This business venture lasted about one year.

July, 2010

Sally Tompson married William Greenhill at Hemel Hempstead in 1805 - See Elizabeth GREENHILL, Abbots Langley, 1615-1679


January 2010   Page created and updated
February 2010   Link to Collett page