Was Great Ellingham baker, Charles Thilthorpe, surprised to find his son John and his daughter in law on his door-step in Great Ellingham on a Saturday late in October, 1803?
Perhaps John Thilthorpe told his father that the visit was long over-due and he thought it time he and his wife paid him a visit. Did Charles know that John and his wife were ‘on the run’ after John had helped himself to a package containing bank notes from the place of his employ in London?
We can, of course, only guess what was said between father and son, and whether Charles Thilthorpe knew of his son’s recent alleged criminal activity. However, what we do know is given in the account of John Thilthorpe’s appearance at the Old Bailey (London’s Central Criminal Court) on the 11th January, 1804, and the reports of the case appearing in the newspapers.
Childhood in Great Ellingham
Some 25 years before his appearance at the Old Bailey in January, 1804, John Wace Thilthorpe was baptised in the Parish Church at Great Ellingham on February 15th, 1778. He was one of at least eight children born to Charles and Frances Thilthorpe.
John would have spent his childhood in Great Ellingham. However, by 25 he had moved away from the village, had a wife (and possibly children), and had been on the ‘wrong side of the law’.
Appearance at the Old Bailey
John Thilthorpe appeared at the Old Bailey charged with stealing bank notes to the value of £500, a significant amount of money. To try to put this figure into perspective, according to comparison calculations using MeasuringWorth.com, £500 in 1803 would likely have a purchasing power today of around £46,000.
With denominations of £10 and £1, the bank notes were a mixture drawn on the Bank of England, Portsmouth Bank and one Bridport bank note.
The Angel Inn. Image taken from Diprose, John, 1814-1879. Hopkins, John Baker 1830-1888, Year 1868, 1860s. ‘Some account of the parish of Saint Clements Danes (Westminster) past and present.’ London, Diprose and Bateman. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Some_account_of_the_parish_of_Saint_Clement_Danes_(Westminster)_past_and_present_(1868)_(14583657418).jpg Accessed 28.06.2020. Image used as no known copyright restrictions apply
The circumstances were given to the Court. Timber-merchant William Burrage was in partnership with his son, William Burrage. On the 27th October, 1803, William Burrage the younger sent a package containing the £500 in bank notes to his father at the Angel Inn, St Clements, London, by the Portsmouth mail-coach. The package was not received by the intended recipient, William Burrage the elder.
John Thilthorpe had been employed at the Angel Inn as a porter, coach-washer and lamp lighter for around three years. During the invesigations into the disappearance of the package, suspicion fell upon John Thilthorpe. Enquiries had been made at Masterman’s bank where it appeared that both John Thilthorpe and his wife had independently changed some of the bank notes.
It was also ascertained that Thilthorpe and his wife had left London on ‘the Saturday before’ to go to his father’s home in Norfolk. Reports mention the place in Norfolk as ‘Great Ellenborough’. This appears to be a mixture of Great Ellingham and the nearby town of Attleborough!
In the company of Mr Burridge (who had been summoned from his home by letter), John Smith, an Officer from Bow Street Police Office, travelled to Norfolk in pursuit of Thilthorpe and his wife.
Burridge and Smith found John Thilthorpe and his wife at the bake-house of Charles Thilthorpe in Great Ellingham. Although £378 of the £500 was missing, bank notes drawn on the Bank of England and the Portsmouth Bank together with the Bridport bank note, were recovered from a box in an upstairs room at the bake-house. The couple were apprehended.
At the Old Bailey, John Thilthorpe told the court that he had found the package amongst some straw in the coach-house (at the Angel Inn).
Thilthorpe was convicted and sentenced to transportation for seven years. I do not know what happened to John’s wife and/or his children. However, it does not appear that John’s wife was charged with any offence.
What happened to John Thilthorpe?
In the event, John Thilthorpe did not board one of the convict ships for transportation. His sentence was commuted to an equivalent term of service in the Royal Navy. His name appears in the list of seaman of HMS Epervier for 1804 with the Rank of a Landsman (a seamen with less than a year’s experience at sea). The same list also confirms that he died on 26th August 1805. It is believed that he died at sea – possibly in the Caribbean – some 5,000 miles away from his birthplace, Great Ellingham.
Great Ellingham Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office. PD/609. Also available FamilySearch.org https://www.familysearch.org/search/image/index?owc=4J8C-CB7%3A29627201%3Fcc%3D1416598
Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 20 June 2020), January 1804, trial of JOHN THILTHORPE (t18040111-35).
“Tuesday’s Post.” Bury and Norwich Post, 14 Dec. 1803. British Library Newspapers, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/R3209135051/BNCN?u=nl_earl&sid=BNCN&xid=24a18c67. Accessed 28 June 2020.
The National Archives Website. http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C16451010. Accessed 26.06.2020
Measuring Worth Website. https://www.measuringworth.com/calculators/ukcompare/relativevalue.php Accessed 26.06.2020
Wikipedia Website https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landsman_(rank)#:~:text=In%20the%20Royal%20Navy%20in,method%20of%20recruitment%20from%20c. Accessed 26.06.2020
Thanks to John Saunders, 4th Great Nephew of John Wace Thilthorpe