Thomas HODSON – Leigh Resident in Prison

On 12 July 1814 the London Gazette told of the imprisonment of Thomas Hodson, a Leigh resident, in the King’s Bench prison for debt. Hodson was the son of a clergyman and is listed as “gentleman”. It seems he was a farmer and landowner in Leigh, although we have not yet found out where he lived. It is a bit of a puzzle because in 1812 the Sidneys at Penshurst owned about a third of the village and George Children and a Mr Harbro most of the rest. However, with the Children going spectacularly bankrupt themselves in 1812, could Hodson have bought some of the Children’s estate or did he own another part of the parish? Lawrence Biddle’s book does not mention him nor do our births/marriages/deaths lists. Nor are the maps of the village very clear for this period.

What is clear from the London Gazette is that Thomas Hodson owed money to a very large number of people. There is a list of about fifty. The majority are tradesmen in London and indicate he led a thoroughly gentlemanly life. Not only did he owe money to tailors, various providers of food including a cheesemonger, plumbers, ironmongers, a coal merchant; but he was clearly keen on horses because he owed money to a horse dealer and a horse trainer, two blacksmiths, a wheelwright, a coach-maker and various stables and inns. But his debts are not confined to the ‘working classes’. He had not paid his lawyer, his stockbroker, his banker, the Leigh Vicar, the Rev. May, various gentlemen and landowners in Leigh including Mr Harbro and two members of the Children family. He is even named as formally owing money to his father, The Rev. John Hodson of Thornham, Kent.

The newspaper article does not give the total debt, nor does it say what had happened to cause his problems or what happened to him after his detention awaiting his trial. However, we do know that he married Frances Charlesworth; that he may have moved to Holland; and that the family emigrated to Canada – presumably to escape his troubles. Should we feel sorry for him or was he a nasty piece of work? If someone had some time to investigate, one of his descendants, Susan Bland, who sent us the newspaper article, would be interested to hear.

Parish Magazine Article: Nov 2008: by Chris Rowley