Finding Family

One woman's obsession with family history.

My assumed (there’s still no confirmation) Great x 4 Grandfather, Christopher Edwin Theakston has definitely been my most interesting and (research wise) successful ancestor on my family tree.

He was born on 10 March 1812 in Pentonville, England and was the son of the well-known sculptor, Joseph Theakston and Elizabeth Pearson.  Christened on 27 March 1812 in St Mary’s Church in St Marylebone, his father’s success as a sculptor is most probably what helped shape his early career.

On 5 January 1832, at the age of 19, Christopher elected to work for the Bank of England.  The minutes from the Bank of England’s register lists his name and states that he was residing with his father in Pimlico.  The document further details his background and qualifications:

His father is a sculptor in Lower Belgrave Place, he has not been in any employment, is living with his Father & means to continue with him, is single, free from debt, has good health, belongs to no club, very good writing, quick at accounts – has no objection to go to a branch bank.

His background and qualifications proving to be satisfactory to those performing the check, he was granted a placement working in the Portsmouth Branch of the Bank of England.

It was most probably in the Portsmouth area that he met his wife, Matilda Elizabeth Crosbe who he eventually married on 29 August 1835 in Portsea.  Together they had six children: Arthur Theakston, Edwin Theakston, Matilda Elizabeth Theakston, Hugh James Theakston (my Great x 3 Grandfather), Julia Theakston and George Crosbe Theakston.

The first census for England in 1841 shows the family as living on Landpost Terrace in Portsea.  At this point in time only their first two children, Arthur and Edwin were born and they were wealthy enough to keep the services of a general servant. 

The ten years between 1841 and the next census in 1851 would’ve been bittersweet for Christopher.  There was the happy occasion of the birth of his next three children: Matilda in late 1841, Hugh in 1844 and Julia in 1845.  On the other hand, there was the sad occasion of the birth and subsequent death of his youngest son, George in 1850.  Perhaps the birth was a complicated one or perhaps Christopher’s wife, Matilda was heartbroken over the loss of her child, whatever the case she soon followed George and died in Portsea in December of the same year.

The 1851 census reflects these changes.  Christopher is still a Clerk in the Bank of England however he is now living in Norfork Street, Portsea with his surviving children and is now keeping two servants.

Christopher was known to have lived extravagantly but whether this was an intrinsic part of his character or was born out of grief after the death of his wife is impossible to tell.  Nevertheless, the pressure amounting from the knowledge of these increasing debts is probably what influenced his future actions.

In March of 1861, a clerk at the Portsmouth Branch of the Bank of England carried out an audit of the treasury and found that a bag of gold was missing.  Christopher was the head clerk at this time and after excusing his attendance at a meeting due to his frequent attacks of gout was later found to have left his residence and was on a train to London.  He had left behind a note confessing that he was guilty of the theft.

The Committee for the Branch Banks produced a report on the events and it was ordered on 4 April 1861 that Christopher Edwin Theakston be struck off the list of clerks for the Bank of England.

He remained at large for several months but his luck in absconding from justice did not hold out.  He was eventually found in Lambeth by two detectives.  Upon realising that he had been discovered, Christopher desperately tried to end his life by cutting his throat with a razor blade.  He was saved by the detectives and sent to hospital to recover.  The details were reported in an article in The Sydney Morning Herald:

Article in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Once he had made a full recovery Christopher faced his charges of embezzlement in the Portsmouth Quarter Sessions on 10 July 1861.  Some details of the case were reported in “The Banker’s Magazine – Vol. XXI – January to December 1862”:

The courthouse was crowded as the case itself had sparked a lot of public interest.  Christopher had pleaded guilty and his lawyer, Mr Pould, appealed to the court on his behalf by describing his long and faithful services to the Bank of England (he had been a clerk there for the last 30 years and a cashier in the Portsmouth branch for the last 20 years).  Mr Coleridge (The Recorder) addressed Christopher in feeling terms.  He referred to the enormity of the offence and made light of the position that he had reduced himself and his children.  Christopher Edwin Theakston was sentenced to four years imprisonment.

He had indeed placed both himself and his children in a very awkward position in society.  Though no census record is found for Christopher in 1861, the records of his children show two of them as being employed and living with relatives and the others as visitors in a person’s house.  By 1871 each of them had gone their separate ways.

Unfortunately for me, 1861 was where the trail of breadcrumbs in relation to Christopher Edwin Theakston’s life disappears.  I have not yet found any information pertaining to neither the court case nor his subsequent imprisonment.  I have also not yet confirmed the year of his death.  Despite searching extensively on many occasions, the record eludes me.  It is frustrating for someone who likes to have things a certain way to not have an ending.  For the longest time I even delayed writing his story for the simple fact that I couldn’t end it.  His profile is unfinished and raises more questions than answers.  Did he serve the full four years in prison?  Did he die in prison?  Did he serve his time and then immigrate to another country?  Did he again try to take his life?  Where did Christopher Edwin Theakston go?

It irks me greatly to have to end such a story at such a place but without the records, I have no choice.  As long as there are questions, I will always search for answers.  I am sure that Christopher Edwin Theakston will one day have an ending.

My sincerest thanks go out to Lorna Williams from The Bank of England Archive who after receiving my email very kindly located various entries in the archives concerning my ancestor and then emailed me the digital copies.  It was more than I ever imagined to receive and I would not have known as much as I do without the use of these images.

Sources:

  • Family Search website (http://www.familysearch.org/eng/default.asp) – Source call numbers: 0580907, 0580908 & 0935386.
  • Ancestry.com. 1841 England Census [database on-line].  Source citation: Class: HO107; Piece 414; Book: 2; Civil Parish: Portsea Town; County: Hampshire; Enumeration District: 5; Folio: 24; Page: 1; Line: 24; GSU roll: 288811.
  • Ancestry.com. 1851 England Census [database on-line].  Source citation: Class: HO107; Piece: 1659; Folio: 98; Page: 15; GSU roll: 193565-193566.
  • England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892
  • NLA Australian Newspapers website (http://newspapers.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/home) – The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW: 1842-1954); Tuesday, 16 July 1861; Page 8.
  • Bank of England – Committee for the Branch Banks report.
  • Bank of England – Secretary’s Department: Committee for Examination for Clerks for Election – Minutes concerning Christopher Edwin Theakston.
  • Salary Ledger – Bank of England – Details of the salary paid to Christopher Edwin Theakston.
  • Google Books – The Banker’s Magazine – Vol. XXI – January to December 1862 (http://books.google.com.au/books?id=1zk5AAAAMAAJ&pg= PA663&lpg=PA663&dq=christopher+edwin+theakston&source=bl&ots=3X8ctGkCaA&sig=QFmk GJFj7KpXbynmC_fswlyIdrM&hl=en&ei=ZpX2StyXFpK6swOTibwF&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=res ult&resnum=1&ved=0CAgQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=christopher%20edwin%20theakston&f=false)
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