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Augustus Thomas Wilkinson Tomkins (1783-1859)

Page history last edited by Jon 6 months, 1 week ago

Son of George Tomkins and and Elizabeth Tomkins (née Wilkinson).


Augustus was born in 1783[1].

Augustus was baptised on 23rd November 1783 at St Mary’s, Lambeth, Surrey[2].


Augustus married Susannah Edmonds on 26th September 1807 at St Pauls Covent Garden, Middlesex. The witnesses to the marriage were Geo Tomkins and Thomas Hewlett.


1809-1810: Fleet Prison

Augustus Tomkins was taken into custody on 25th August 1809 following a writ, called a Capias ad satisfaciendum, brought by Richard Edwards on a charge of trespass. This would have required the sheriff to detain Augustus and keep him safe (usually at a 'sponging house' intended to squeeze money out of debtors[3]) until he was set to appear in court. 


Augustus appeared before the King's Justices at Westminster to answer the charges and was committed to the Fleet Prison on 31st August 1809, presumably after refusing to pay up. The sum of money at stake in this claim is recorded in the committal summary as damages of £100 and an oath of £46[4]. This would have been a considerable sum given that average annual income for the common worker in the mid-1800s ranged from £50 to £100[5].


The disgrace of imprisonment in a debtors prison like the Fleet was intended to put pressure on friends and relatives to pay up. It is hard to know what conditions were like for Augustus as the experience would have depended on what money could be raised for food and lodging to cover his stay. However, we can say with certainty that his six month stay coincided with the beginning of a decade of harsh winters, reckoned to be the coldest in over 100 years. 


A warrant for the discharge of Augustus Tomkins, addressed to the wardens of the Fleet Prison, was issued on 12th February 1810[6].  Augustus was eventually discharged from the Fleet Prison on 21st February 1810.


1814-1815: Hart Street

There are references to the family living in Hart Street in the Parish Registers from 1814-1815, although the family may have lived in this street before and after these dates.


Hart Street was often mentioned in the vestry minutes for its nuisances, as in 1819 with complaints about the number of disorderly houses. In 1829 a committee considered 2 of the 4 dungpits in the street to be offensive because neighbours frequently threw filth and dead animals into them (resulting in a recommendation that one be removed).


1817-1821: Rose Street

There are references to the family living in Rose Street in the Parish Registers from 1817-1821, although the family may have lived in this street before and after these dates.


Rose Street was referred to in the vestry minutes of the early 19th century regarding its brothels and degraded state, which was still apparent in 1853 as cholera spread rapidly through its densely populated buildings (including many cellar dwellers) all of which was made much worse by the fact that the street was without a water supply for 48 hours from Saturday to Monday.


1820-1841: Hemlock Court

There are references to the family living at 18 Hemlock Court in the Parish rate books for 1820-1836[7]; in the Parish Registers for 1823 and 1824;  and in the 1841 census.  


Susannah Tomkins (nee Edmonds) of 18 Hemlock Court was buried on April 7th 1823 . The burial register of St Clement Danes, Westminster recorded that her age at death was 34.


1830, 1831 and 1836: 18 Hemlock Court

The administrative records of St Clement Danes show the sums being collected under the Poor Law. Thomas Tomkins is recorded on his own at 18 Hemlock Court in the book for 1830, with Thomas Banister in 1831 and with William Hill in 1836. A note in the 1831 volume states that Thomas Tomkins is poor and not able to pay. 


1839: 18 Hemlock Court, Carey Street - Tailor

The Pigot's Directory of 1839 lists an A Tomkins at this address in a list of tailors.


1841: Hemlock Court, St Clement Danes, Westminster – Tailor[8]

In the 1841 census Augustus Thomas Wilkinson Tomkins appears as ‘Thos. Tomkins’ aged 50, a tailor, born outside the county of Middlesex.


There were 16 people living in the household at the time of the census. The inhabitants were: J.J. West and his family (5)[9], Chs. Biss (1), Wm. White and his family (4), Geo. Paddington (1), Elizth. Edgler (1), Thos. Tomkins (1), Joseph Baxter and his family (3).


1851: 17 Ship Yard, St Clement Danes, Westminster - Tailor[10].

In the 1851 census Augustus Thomas Wilkinson Tomkins appears as ‘Thomas Tomkins’ aged 68, a tailor born in Lambeth, Surrey.

The household appears to comprise a number of individuals/families. Thomas appears to be living with William Warwick, aged 40, a tailor born in Whitechapel, Middlesex. Ships Yard and Hemlock Court are located in close proximity to each other, among a network of streets off the Strand.


The record appears to show that Thomas was unmarried, although we know that he had in fact been a widower for many years. The confirmation that this was our ancestor was provided by his death certificate, which gives Ship yard as his former address.


Augustus Tomkins died[11] at the age of 76 on 28th April 1859 at 24 St Clement Danes Almshouses, Garratt Lane, Streatham in Surrey from a disease of the heart. At the time of his death his occupation was recorded as ‘Almsman, formerly a journeyman tailor of Ship Yard, Temple Bar, Saint Clement Danes’.


On the 20th October 1859 the will of Augustus Thomas Wilkinson Tomkins otherwise Thomas Tomkins late of 24 St Clement Danes Almshouses Garratt-Lane in the Parish of Streatham in the County of Surrey Gentleman deceased who died 28th April 1859 at the said Almshouses was proved at the Principal Registry by the oath of Susannah Barnard (wife of Frederick Barnard of No 13 Serles-Place Carey-Street in the County of Middlesex) the Daughter and the sole Executrix.


In his will Augustus states that: ‘I give and bequeath unto my son Augustus Tomkins all my wearing apparel and also four of my old fashioned silver tea spoons marked JxJ[12] for his own absolute use and benefit’ and also ‘I give devise and bequeath unto my daughter Susannah the wife of Mr Frederick Barnard of No 13 Serles Place Carey Street in the city and liberty of Westminster Law Stationer all and every the rest residue and remainder of my estate[13] and effects…’. The will states that Susannah Barnard should be the sole superintendent to organise his funeral and be the sole executrix.


The will (dated 21st March 1859) suggests that Augustus and Susannah could be the only children left alive, unless he has lost contact with or is estranged from the others. It also provides an example of the signature used by Augustus Thomas Wilkinson Tomkins, but it is most useful in telling us that he was known as Thomas Tomkins.


At present we do not know where Augustus was buried.





  1. This is based on the age given on his death and would be consistent with the fact that he was baptised in 1783.
  2. Source: Parish Registers
  3. The concept of the sponging house is explained in an article on the National Archives website at https://media.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php/the-real-little-dorrit-charles-dickens-and-the-debtors-prison/
  4. PRIS 1/24 Fleet Prison: Commitment Books and PRIS 2/101 Fleet Prison: Commitment Files
  5. Source: In debt and incarcerated: the tyranny of debtors' prisons at https://www.thegazette.co.uk/all-notices/content/100938
  6. PRIS 3/12 Fleet Prison: Discharge books
  7. Church, Poor law and Watch rate books
  8. Source: 1841 Census. Class HO107;Piece: 731;Book/Folio: 8/36;Page: 28; Registration District: Strand; Sub District: St Clement Danes. Augustus Thomas Wilkinson Tomkins was recorded in this census entry as 'Thos. Tomkins' aged 50, a tailor, who was not born in Middlesex. As we already know that Augustus was known as Thomas, worked as a tailor and was living in a neighbouring street in 1851 there can be no doubt that this is Augustus who was born in 1783. The house Augustus was living in was home to 16 people at the time of the census, including a family of five Wests.
  9. At the moment we are not aware of any connection with the West family in Norfolk but for completeness the West family at this address were: J.J. West (Male 35), Jane West (Female 40), Jas. west (Male 8), Jane West (Female 4) and Geo. West (Male 2). All five were born in Middlesex.
  10. Source: 1851 Census. Class HO107; Piece 1512; Folio; Page 41.
  11. Source: Death Certificate, 1859. The cause of death was given as Disease of the Heart. Anasarca. Certified. The death was registered on 4th May 1859. The informant was recorded as Susannah Tomkins, present at the death, of 13 Searle's Place, Temple Bar, London.
  12. The actual mark drawn shows JxJ with an e or c above the x.
  13. The register records that the effects left by Augustus were under £20.

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