1820 - 1904

Sir Henry Thompson

Henry Thompson, was born at Framlingham, Suffolk on 6 August 1820, only son of Henry Thompson, who kept a grocers, tallow chandlers, tea and tobacco shop in the Market Place, his mother Susanna Medley, was the eldest daughter of artist Samuel Medley (1769-1857) of Hackney Road, they married at St Leonard's, Shoreditch, London in December 1819. Young Henry was 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 was apprenticed to medical practitioner George Bottomley at Croydon. In October 1844 Thompson entered, as a medical student, University College Hospital in London from where he received gold medals in anatomy and surgery. From June 1850, Henry was 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, and despite not being allowed by law, he built a crematorium at Woking in 1879 which did not open until March 1885. Henry had a taste for art and studied under Alfred Elmore (1815-1881) and Sir Lawrence Alm-Tadema (1836-1912) and was a landscape and still life painter, exhibiting at the Grosvenor Gallery, and four pictures at the Royal Academy and was a fine illustrator, illustrating his own medical textbooks, counting many well-known artists and writers amongst his friends, including Thackeray and Millais, who painted his portrait. Also a keen astronomer and great collector of china, his collection of Nanking was sold at Christie’s on 1 June 1880. Under the pseudonym of ‘Pen Oliver’ he 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, Kate died on 30 August 1904 leaving a son Henry Francis Herbert, 2nd Bart. and two daughters. Henry died a very wealthy man at his home 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)

Works by This Artist