THOMPSON, Sir Henry

1820 - 1904

Sir Henry Thompson

Born at Framlingham, Suffolk on 6 August 1820, where his father Henry Thompson kept a grocers, tallow chandlers, tea and tobacco shop in the Market Place and his mother Susanna, was a daughter of artist Samuel Medley (1769-1857). Educated by nonconformist Mr Fison at Wrentham, Suffolk and started in his father’s business and about 1837 was a founder of a Mutual Society in Framlingham and a teacher in the local Congregational chapel. When his Baptist parents disapproved of his pursuits, Thompson went to London and early in 1844 apprenticed to medical practitioner George Bottomley at Croydon. In October 1844 Thompson entered, as a medical student, University College, London obtaining gold medals in anatomy and surgery. From June 1850 he acted as house surgeon to Sir John Erichsen (1818-1896) at his college and in January 1851 went into partnership with Bottomley at Croydon but after a few months returned to 35 Wimpole Street, London where he lived for the rest of his life. He held various senior appointments becoming a specialist in surgery and urinary organs treating many notable people including King Leopold I of Belgium, for which he received a legacy of £3,000, and Emperor Napoleon III of France and another grateful patient left him a legacy of £70,000. A leading advocate of the Cremation Society, he built a crematorium at Woking in 1879 which was not allowed, by law, to open until March 1885. A landscape and still life painter exhibiting at the Grosvenor Gallery, and four pictures at the Royal Academy and a fine illustrator, illustrating his own medical textbooks, and painted, exhibiting at the Royal Academy and counting many well-known artists and writers amongst his friends. Also a keen astronomer and great collector of china, his collection of Nankin was sold at Christie’s on 1 June 1880. Under the pseudonym of ‘Pen Oliver’ wrote of his career as a medical student in Charlie Kingston’s Aunt (1885). Thompson was knighted 1867 and created baronet on 20 February 1899. He married on 16 December 1851, Kate Fanny, a celebrated pianist and daughter of George Loder of Bath, who died on 30 August 1904 leaving a son Henry Francis Herbert, 2nd Bart. and two daughters. He died a very wealthy man at his home of many years at 35 Wimpole Street on 18 April 1904 and cremated at Golder’s Green, a crematorium in which he had taken a leading part in opening in 1902. He is remembered in the town of his birth by the presentation of the clock in the tower of the parish church and was one of the founders of Framlingham College in 1865. (Copsey - Suffolk Writers 1800-1900. Ipswich 2000)