John Thompson

John Thompson was a locksmith from Coseley in the parish of Sedgley, near Dudley. He was probably baptised on 24 Feb 1716/17 and was buried on 27 Apr 1807, both in All Saints Sedgley. This would have made him 90 years old. His father Richard Thompson, also a locksmith, had died in 1777 and was also well into his seventies when he wrote his will in 1764. Here he describes himself as “pretty far advanced in years” but still it was another 13 years before the will was executed.

Richard Thompson’s will shows he had two sons and that John had one younger brother called Edward Thompson. It would appear Edward Thompson of Sedgley became a master Box maker according to one apprenticeship record. All this suggests that the early metal trades of ‘nailer’ so commonly recorded in Sedgley in the 17th century, evolved into more sophisticated forms, culminating in John’s  grandson Isaac founding a Japanning factory in Bilston in the early 1800’s.

John Thompson married Ann Shaw in All Saints Sedgley in 1737. She was the youngest daughter of Richard Shaw and his wife, Elizabeth Baker. Ann Shaw was the aunt of Rev Thomas Shaw-Hellier.

At a best estimate, the couple had four sons and five daughters all probably baptised in non conformist chapels, where many records are missing. Birth dates can only be derived from marriages and fertility ranges.

An abstract of John Thompson’s 1807 Will, however, does make things a lot clearer. The executors of his will are his son John Thompson and his son-in-law James Robertson. The details fit a pattern of births of children between 1738 and 1758, confirming that his age of 90 is not implausible.

The oldest child would appear to be Elizabeth Thompson, no baptism recorded, who is most likely the one married to a John Evans, in All Saints, Sedgley on 20 Nov 1758. Elizabeth Evans is referred to directly in the will.

His son Richard, who married Elizabeth Whitehouse on 17 Oct 1763, would appear to be recorded as being baptised in Moor Street New Meeting House in Birmingham on 24 Oct 1742. He is described there as Richard son of John and Ann from Coseley. It is presumed Richard is not mentioned in his father’s will as he was already dead, probably in 1788.

Mary Thompson again has no recorded baptism but is married to James Male on 12 Jun 1769. She is directly mentioned with her married name in the will.

Ann Thompson married James Robertson on 19 Aug 1771.  It is estimated she was born in about 1748. He was a blacksmith.

John Thompson was the oldest surviving son at his father’s death and hence the executor. He was probably born about 1751. He is later described as a gentleman and he died intestate in 1834 with an estate of about £1500. His estate was not resolved until 1840. He is associated with the Dark House Baptist Chapel.  John Thompson married Hannah Fisher on 10 Jul 1777 and his son and heir was Richard Thompson, Gent., who in turn played a role in the Primitive Methodist Circuit with his brother in law Thomas Brueton. Hannah Fisher was probably the older sister of Rev Isaac Fisher, schoolmaster at Wolverhampton free school, as Isaac Fisher’s son Rev George Hutchinson Fisher was one of the executors of Richard Thompson’s will in 1864.

Paul Thompson was born in about 1753 and married on 15 Oct 1777 the sister of Elizabeth Whitehouse called Phoebe, both children of Isaac Whitehouse. His will of 1828 shows he was a farmer and names his extensive number of grandchildren.

The youngest surviving daughter named in the will was Martha. A baptism is recorded for her, again in Moor Street New Meeting house, on 2 Nov 1755. She married Richard Pierce on 27 Aug 1777, possibly the parents of another Richard Pierce who married Paul’s daughter Ann in 1802.

Two points are worthy of further discussion:

The proof that Richard is John’s oldest son is largely circumstantial, given that he is not mentioned in his father’s will. However, Richard is mentioned alongside his brother Paul, twice over, in wills in 1786 and again in 1818 by successive Isaac Whitehouses, father and son. Again the will of Richard Thompson son of John Thompson (1751-1834) is explicit in referring to his deceased uncles Richard, Paul and William and a comprehensive listing of many of their descendants. Moreover, the chapel connexions of all these families imply that they are closely knit in their community and beliefs.

Finally, the documents of 1840 held in Lichfield in respect of the death of John Thompson (jnr) 1751-1834 are particularly interesting as bundled in are papers signed by George Downing of Smethwick  and a Samuel Thompson, stating they are executors of the will of John Thompson of Smethwick. This John Thompson was buried in Smethwick Old Church on 27 Sep 1839 was a grocer married to George Downing’s sister, Nancy. It is possible the papers are in there by mistake but it is also a remote possibility that this John Thompson, brother-in-law to George Downing, was the son of John Thompson (1751-1834). Indeed it could be argued that his death in 1839, aged 62,  might have paved the way to resolving the intestacy of his father in favour of another son Richard Thompson (1778-1864). The Downings evidently shared similar non conformist views as the Thompsons. However there are many Thompson families about and the balance would say that the father of John Thompson of Smethwick  and his maltster brother Samuel is Timothy Thompson of Smethwick (1750-1822), who can be no immediate relation to Richard Thompson.


  • Abstract of the Will of John Thompson, Locksmith of Bilston, Probate 27 Aug 1807, National Archives
  • Will of Richard Tompson of Sedgley, Locksmith, Probate 18 Jan 1777, Lichfield Record Office (Father)
  • Admon of John Thompson, Gentleman of Bilston, Probate 14 Jan 1840, Lichfield Record Office (Second son)
  • Will of Paul Thompson, Farmer, Probate 1828, Lichfield Record Office (Third Son)
  • Will of Richard Thompson, Probate 8 Aug 1864 (Grandson)
  • Will of Isaac Whitehouse, Farmer, Probate 8 Nov 1786, Lichfield Record Office
  • Will of Isaac Whitehouse, Gentleman, Probate 15 Jun 1818, PCC