Thomas Thompson (1754 - 1828)

Thomas Thompson was a local businessman and MP, who resided at 25 High Street, now Wilberforce House Museum, for nearly forty years. In 1770 at the age of 16 he went to work as a Clerk to William Wilberforce (senior) in what later became a branch of Wilberforce, Smith & Co Bank.

Thompson's ability and intelligence impressed his employers with Wilberforce (senior) describing him as 'a man of first character'. In 1787 he became a partner in the bank and as senior clerk was required to live 'above shop' for part of each week. In 1798 he moved in permanently and a year later he was also managing the merchant house.

Family life


In 1781 Thompson married Philothea Perronet Briggs with whom he had five children. The family lived on Lowgate before moving to 25 High Street. Each summer the family moved to rented accommodation in Cottingham to escape the heat and pollution of the city centre. In 1800 he purchased a 54 acre plot of land to build a country house, 'Cottingham Castle'. Completed in 1816 it provided a welcome retreat from the city as both his wife and a daughter suffered from consumption.

Lay preacher and MP


From an early age Thomas had served as a Methodist lay preacher in homes, meeting houses and in the open air. He gave money towards the building of many Methodist Chapels and is said to have paid for the building of Cottingham Methodist Chapel himself. He had a firm belief in providence, that God had rewarded his hard work with prosperity. Thompson was an active supporter of William Wilberforce and both were members of the Clapham sect, an influential religious and social group of the early 1800s.

In 1807 Thompson was elected as Member of Parliament for Midhurst, Sussex. During his 11 years in Parliament, he contributed to many debates relating to banking and financial issues including taxation, the Bank of England and the value of paper currency. Thompson stepped down as an MP in 1818, believing that his Parliamentary years had 'spoiled a very good banker and made a very bad MP'.

Thomas Perronet Thompson


Wilberforce's influence promoted the career of Thomas Thompson's son, Thomas Perronet Thompson, who was appointed Governor of Sierra Leone, the African colony for freed slaves, in 1808. He left after two years, however, mainly due to his unpopularity in England for exceeding his authority.

Leading public figure


In Hull Thomas Thompson remained the manager of both Smith's Bank and Wilberforce's merchant house. In the early 1800s he served as Chairman of the Hull Guardians of the Poor and introduced a system of economy that relieved the burden of poor rates on merchants. He was also a Magistrate and was Chairman of Hull Dock Company between 1810 and 1818.

After 1818 Thomas spent more time at Cottingham with his family, although he still worked at the bank. During the last 20 years of his life he became increasingly concerned with his health. In 1824 Thompson's wife and daughter both died from consumption. Thompson died in September 1828 whilst travelling in France, and was buried in Paris, with a memorial being placed in Cottingham Church.