The Thompson family

William Frederic Thompson, during the period when he was mayor of Aldeburgh. Picture from Aldeburgh Museum

The Thompson family have a stained glass window in the church and also three graves in the old churchyard. They were probably friendly with the Jephsons, as there does not seem to be any other connection with our parish.

Although they appear to have been an ordinary respectable Victorian family, Mrs Thompson (Marie Charlotte) came from a rather colourful background.

Marie Charlotte Warde was born in Paris on 22 October 1849. Her father was Charles Thomas Warde of Clopton House, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire and her mother was Anna Maria Cobden Hooper.

Charles Thomas Warde became a notorious figure and his family life kept the newspapers of the time very busy. He was born in 1813, the son of Rev. Thomas Warde, the vicar of Cubbington, Warwickshire, and his wife Charlotte (née Lloyd). He married Marianne, daughter of John Bennet Lawes and Marianne (née Sherman) of Rothamsted at Harpenden, Hertfordshire, in October 1834. At first the couple lived on the Isle of Wight, but Charles inherited property in Warwickshire from one of his Lloyd uncles, and around 1840 the family moved to Clopton House. Charles was High Sheriff of Warwickshire in 1846.

At some point the relationship between Charles and Marianne broke down and in 1848 they were divorced, with Marianne eventually gaining custody of their children in 1849. Before Marianne gained custody, Charles met Anna Maria Cobden Hooper in Brighton. She was about 17, and he convinced her and her widowed mother that she should become governess to his children.

Anna Maria became Charles’ mistress and bore him seven children, of whom four were still living in 1860. Marie Charlotte was the eldest of Anna Maria’s children, born in Paris when Charles was trying to avoid legal difficulties in England. Anna Maria left the family in 1859, citing Charles’ violent behaviour. She later set up home with another man who used the name John Cobden Hooper, and in 1861 they were running the Land of Liberty pub in Rickmansworth. She had several more children, but appears to have never married. In both the 1871 and 1881 censuses, now calling herself a widow, she was living in Islington with some of her younger children. By 1901 she was living in Camberwell, Surrey, where she died in 1903, aged 68.

Charles Thomas Warde must have replaced Anna Maria fairly quickly, as by the time of the 1861 census he had 19 year old Caroline Sutton living at Clopton House, blatantly described in the census return as his “mistress”. She had already produced one child for him. Charles died on 6 May 1865 at Clopton House and is buried at St James the Great church, Snitterfield, Warwickshire.

It must have been a strange and probably frightening upbringing for the children. This is a typical example of the many news items about the family:-

Coventry Herald 28 December 1861

William Frederic Thompson was the second son of James Thompson, the rector of Cublington, Buckinghamshire, and his wife Louisa Sarah (née Cox) who had married at St Martin’s in the Fields, London in 1845. William was baptised at Cublington in October 1847. His father died in 1860 and his mother in 1868, both in Oxford where his father had been rector of Lincoln College.

William Frederic Thompson and Marie Charlotte Warde were married at St Thomas, Portman Square, London on 9 November 1871. The officiating minister was Henry Jephson, at that time the curate of Evesham. William was described as a “gentleman” of 23 Somerset Street [City of London] and Marie’s address was the parish of Hampton, Worcestershire, which is part of Evesham. Presumably the couple had become friendly with Henry Jephson in Evesham.

After their marriage the Thompsons settled in Kensington. In the 1881 census William described himself as a “barrister at law – not in practice” and added that he had an MA from Oxford. It seems they had five children, with all the births registered in Kensington:-

1. William Graham Thompson born on 4 August 1872 married Oliveria Cromwell Prescott at Paddington (London) in 1901. He died on 15 March 1949 and Oliveria died on 2 February 1958 – their residence was Broom Hill, Fairmile Avenue, Cobham, Surrey. In the 1911 census they reported that they had five children (all still living) and William was a company director. In the 1921 census he specified that he was a diretcor of Aspinall’s Enamel of New Cross. The chilren of this couple were:- Alan Prescott born 1902, who became editor of “The Feathered World” and was an expert of poultry-keeping; Charles Graham also born 1902, a Royal Navy commander who was awarded an OBE in 1941 for “enterprise and devotion to duty in the Battle of Cape Matapan” but died on war service in 1942; Oliver Frederic born 1905, who was an executive with the Shell oil company and was awarded an OBE in 1945 whilst a “temporary principal” at the Foreign Office: Margery Marie born 1907, who married Charles Stirling Lee and moved with him to Trinidad and later settled in Alberta, Canada; and Lettice Charlotte born 1909. who married Cedric Ivor Tuckett, a surgeon, in 1932. Cedric was awarded an MBE in 1946 for his war work.

The Thompson memorial window in Ayot St Peter church

2. Beatrice Marie Thompson born on 10 February 1874 and died on 18 February 1875, buried in Ayot St Peter (as “Beatrix Marie”) with Henry Jephson as the officiating minister

3. Mary Thompson, who was born and also died on 1 December 1875. She is remembered with her sister on the gravestone in Ayot St Peter but does not appear to have been buried there

4. Edith Marie Thompson born on 28 July 1877 and baptised at Ayot St Peter by Henry Jephson on 21 October. She lived at the Gables after her father’s death and died on 25 August 1961. She was unmarried. Scroll down for more information about Edith.

5. Harry Clive Thompson born 24 June 1880 and baptised on 29 August at Ayot St Peter by Henry Jephson. Harry attended Haileybury College (a public school near Hertford). Their register published in 1900 reports that he was involved in fruit and sheep farming in Sittingbourne, Kent. Harry died on 30 July 1910, presumably unmarried. He lived at the Store, Namu, British Columbia

By 1891 William and Marie had moved to The Gables, Aldeburgh, where they were living with their two youngest children, Edith and Harry Clive. William Frederic served eight terms as mayor of Aldeburgh between 1911 and 1918.

The grave of William Frederic and Marie Charlotte Thompson in Ayot St Peter old churchyard 2018

Marie Charlotte died on 21 May 1900 aged 50 at Preston House, Satterleigh, Devon, and was buried in Ayot St Peter on 26 May, with Henry Jephson conducting the service. Her address in the burial register was given as 16 Ladbroke Terrace, London, so perhaps the family still maintained a London home. By the time William Frederic died on 24 January 1921 at the age of 73 the Ayot St Peter rector was Rev. Ryland. William’s ashes were interred in the family grave in the old churchyard on 29 January.

The three stones in the old churchyard commemorate Marie Charlotte, William Frederic, their two infant daughters, and also William’s younger brother, Henry James.

The inscriptions are as follows:-

A large granite cross in the Ionian style on a rough base has the inscription: – Marie, beloved wife of W. F. Thompson died 21st May 1900 aged 50; William Frederic Thompson died 24th January 1921 aged 72

A small white cross, now broken off, is inscribed: Beatrix Marie Thompson born February 10th 1874 – died February 18th 1875; Mary Thompson born December 1st 1875 – died December 1st 1875

A pink granite cross, now broken off the base, reads: Henry James Thompson, youngest son of the late James Thompson D.D. Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford died 16 October 1882 aged 34 (in the National Probate Calendar he is described as “late of Belfast in Ireland”)

In the church is a window at the back of the south side of the nave, which is inscribed:- In memory of the infant children of W.F. and M.C. Thompson.

The Australian Women’s Weekly 28 April 1934

Edith Marie Thompson, C.B.E, (1877 to 1961) the only surviving daughter of William Frederic and Marie Charlotte, was a champion of education, sport and advancement for women. She attended Cheltenham Ladies’ College and Kings College University, London and served as a V.A.D. in the First World War, when she was mentioned in dispatches.

Edith was awarded an O.B.E in 1919 and a C.B.E. in 1920. She had a lifelong interest in hockey and founded the weekly journal “The Hockey Field”. During the Second World War she was an organiser for the Women’s Land Army. The following obituary from The Times summarises some of her many achievements:-

The Times obituary for Edith Thompson. 26 August 1961
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