Thomas Whiting 1852-1930

Parents: Harriet Thake Whiting, father unknown - Harry Farrant?(1)
Born: 14th October 1852 in Union House, Haverhill.(1,2)
Baptised: 15th February 1853 at St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill (1)
(1) Emma Barber, 20, spinster of Haverhill, daughter of George Barber, labourer, on 22nd February 1870 at St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill. Witnessed by Henry Ship and Esther Barber.(3,4)
Children: Jane Barber Whiting b.1871 died in infancy, Harry Whiting b.1876, Arthur Whiting b.1877 died in infancy, Frederick Whiting b.1878 and Arthur Whiting b.1880.
Married: (2) Jeanetta Daniels, 73, widow of Balsham, daughter of Charles Biggs, labourer, on 16th October 1928 at Holy Trinity Parish Church, Balsham. Witnessed by Mary Farrant and Jack Baker.(11)
Children: None.
Died: 23rd September 1930 in High Noon Lane, Withersfield. Buried on 27th September 1930 at Haverhill Cemetery. (13,14)

Bio: The story of Thomas 'Chummy' Whiting is littered with events of increasing violence and turpitude up until the point he is sent to Melton Asylum and beyond.

It has to be said he was not blessed with the most fortunate of upbringings. It would have been interesting to see how his brother Henry fared considering he had a similar start in life, but alas he vanishes after the 1861 census.

Born in Union House, base-born along with his brother, Thomas had the misfortune of losing his mother at the age of 3. After this, the brothers became boarders with Harriet's Aunt Susannah who is living with her husband Edward Ship in Haverhill Hamlet on the 1861 census. Thomas is working as a silk winder.

Thomas was to marry Emma Barber, in 1870. His occupation is listed as Hawker, and rather interestingly his father is listed as being Harry Farrant, labourer, even though this was not acknowledged at his baptism. Thomas first run-in with the law comes when he appears before the Linton Petty Sessions on 24th May 1871 : "Thomas Whiting, of Haverhill, was charged by the police with acting as pedlar at Castle Camps, on 15th inst., without an authorized certificate... fined 6d and 14s costs".(23)

It is clear that his marriage to Emma was not built on solid foundations, at least financially, for The Bury and Norwich Post of 3rd October 1871 states that at the Clare Petty Session of Monday 25th September 'Thomas Whiting, of Haverhill, dealer, was charged with suffering his wife to become chargeable to the common fund of the Risbridge Union. - discharged on paying £1 6s 6d'(5). Just prior to this, on the 1871 census he is actually living apart from his new wife and is a boarder with Thomas and Sarah Buttle in Burton End, working as a marine store dealer. Sarah was one of his mother's aunts. Emma is living with her parents. So, coupled with the humiliation of having his wife put in the workhouse, their first child Jane died in infancy the same year and was buried at Haverhill Cemetery on 23rd August 1871. Thomas and Emma did however, have three boys over the course of the next ten years - Frederick, Harry and Arthur.

Thomas was in trouble again on June 11th 1880, but this time for violent behaviour. At the Petty Sessions on Monday June 14th 'Thomas Whiting, of Haverhill, dealer, charged with assaulting and beating Martha Barber, of Haverhill, and likewise George Kiddy, of Haverhill..was fined £5, and 19s.6d. costs, in default two months.'(16) Martha Barber was his mother-in-law, 69 years old and widowed. Perhaps George Kiddy was passing and came to her assistance.

The next month Thomas' violent streak resurfaced, but this time things got worse. On 24th July 1880 he assaulted Emma, wife of Boaz Whiting in Haverhill, and rather foolishly carried on to assault Inspector Page during the execution of his duty on the same day. He was committed to prison for three months hard labour in each case at the Petty Session on Monday, 26th July.(6)

By the 1881 census, he would have served his time and is listed as living as a lodger of Eliza Page, widow, in Crowland Road, Haverhill. He is working as an agricultural labourer, and is now living with Emma and their three sons.

On 30th May 1885 Thomas was charged with being drunk and disorderly and probably due to a growing reputation as a trouble maker, his punishment was none too light: 'Drunkenness - on saturday morning, Thomas Whiting, Dealer, Haverhill, was brought up in custody, charged before W.W.Boreham and D.Gurteen, Esquire, with being drunk and disorderly in Queen Street, on the previous afternoon and was sent to prison for two months.'(7)

Things took a more disturbing turn after this point, as the following account alludes to. I cannot think that the person referred to is anyone other than our Thomas due to the fact he was the only Thomas living in the town around this time. Thomas, after his release from two months in jail must have been committed to the Suffolk County Lunatic Asylum at Melton shortly afterwards.

In The Bury and Norwich Post of 25th August 1885: 'Haverhill.- An Escaped Lunatic.- Some time since a man named Thomas Whiting, of this town, was sent to Melton Asylum, after being certified by two medical gentlemen as insane, and on Friday night last between 8 and 9 o'clock he made his re-appearance in the town. He was first seen on the Bumpstead road, and afterwards seen trying to get into the house where he once lived in Bull lane. The authorities were appraised of the fact, and Inspector Page and P.C Johnson were soon on his track. They proceeded to a house up Burton End in which they found Whiting, who tried to make his escape - he was however, soon overpowered, handcuffed, and taken into town. A horse and cart was then procured and he was taken to Kedington Union, and placed in a strong room until Saturday morning when he was conveyed to Sturmer railway station, and, in the charge of Mr.Debenham, the relieving officer, and a warder, was taken to Melton'.(8)

The next year, Thomas' wife Emma died. It is unclear whether he was in the Asylum at this time, it seems quite likely though. She was buried at Haverhill Cemetery on 22nd May 1886.

Thomas must have had periods of lucidity, enough at least for him to be released from Melton, for we find him back in Haverhill on the 1891 census living with his now widowed great aunt Sarah Buttle at 29 Burton End. He is working as a general dealer. It was almost inevitable that problems would resurface, and they did in the form of financial irregularities. There was a county court hearing in October 1895 in which the feofees of the Kedington and Sturmer charities appeared against Thomas Whiting, dealer, Haverhill, over the claim of £22 for two years rent of land situated at Sturmer, belonging to the charities, owed from October 1893 to October 1895. Thomas did not show at court, and judgement was given for the amount claimed; payable within 14 days.(9) Whether he paid up or not, we do not know.

There is a mention in the Essex Newsman, 30th November 1895, that relates to another non-payment by Thomas. This time, the location is Wimbish, and it concerns poor-rates. These were a tax paid on property owned, so the implication is that Thomas was living in or had a connection with Wimbish around this time.

'WIMIBISH - Thomas Whiting, Haverhill, was summoned for refusing to pay 16s 6d. poor-rates, due to the parish of Wimbish. - Mr Baines, collector of rates, said he thought defendant could not pay. Distress warrant ordered.'(21)

Then, at the county petty session at Saffron Walden on 24th December 1895, 'WIMBISH - Thomas Whiting, 55, dealer, of Haverhill, for assaulting Manassah Taylor, was fined £1 and 21s. costs'.(22) The Cambridge Independent Press says that Taylor was a bailiff's man, and he was attacked by Thomas whilst in charge of premises under bailiff's orders(24). We see Thomas' age given as 55 here, which is some way out - he was 43 at the time. However, because of the mention of Haverhill and his occupation we have no reason to believe this is anyone else.

We can have another reference to Thomas the following year when his son Arthur attests for the Suffolk Militia in December 1896. He is shown to be living with his father at 1 Parson's Yard, Haverhill.(15)

Things came to a head again in June 1900 when violent episodes resurfaced. This time 'Thomas Whiting, dealer, was charged with being drunk whilst in charge of a horse and waggon at Haverhill, with furious driving, and with assaulting Henry Judd, engineer, and Thomas Tilbrook, farmer. The proceedings against the prisoner had been adjourned in order that he might be medically examined, and as he had been certified insane, the Chairman stated that the charges would be withdrawn.- In the assault cases, the complainants would have their costs remitted.'(10)

The Suffolk and Essex Free Press of 13th June 1900 enlarged upon the details slightly: "Haverhill Petty Sessions, June 11. Charge Withdrawn. Upon the Chairman [C.Goodchild, Esq] taking his seat he stated that the case of Thomas Whiting (commonly known as Chummy) for being drunk while in charge of a horse and waggon at Haverhill on 24th May, also of assaulting Henry Judd, engineer, and Mr Thomas Tilbrook, of Haverhill Hall, on the 4th of June would be withdrawn, as Whiting would be proceeded against in another manner. The Bench directed that the costs should be remitted to Judd and Tilbrook. It transpired further on that Whiting had been medically examined, and was declared insane. Some twelve years ago he nearly killed Inspector Page, and was then sent to Melton Asylum from which he escaped."

So, back in Melton Asylum for Thomas. Would it be a surprise to find that he attempted escape once more? I thought not! He made the news again later that same year in an article entitled 'Escaped Lunatics at Cockfield. Clever Capture by Police. The Success of Tact.'

I think news must have been thin on the ground (it was christmas day, after all), because the events are relayed in quite a fanciful fashion and perhaps do not merit the big build-up at the start -

'As smart a capture as it would be possible to conceive was effected by the Police at Cockfield, near Bury St Edmund's, on Monday week - a capture, which was not of the more common character, in which offenders against the law were concerned, but one, at the same time, which was attended with equal, if not greater, risk, and needed even greater tact in order to accomplish it with success. It was the arrest of two lunatics - both regarded as dangerous characters - who had escaped from the Suffolk County Asylum at Melton. About half-past ten on Monday morning, P.C Jude, of Cockfield, was on his way to Long Melford Police Station, and noticed two strange men on the roadside. On arriving at Melford Police Station, he saw inspector Smith, of Haverhill, from whom he learned that a man named Whiting, familiarly known as "Chummy" Whiting, had escaped from Melton Asylum. Grasping the possibility of the fugitive being identical with one of the men he had seen that morning in the vicinity of Cockfield, P.C Jude hastened back, and upon making inquiries ascertained that the two men were at the Plough and Fleece Inn, Cockfield; and that a message had been sent to his house from the landlord of the Inn, Mr John Nunn, informing him that Whiting was there - Mr Nunn having formerly resided at Haverhill, consequently being well acquainted with Whiting, and aware of his being an inmate of the Melton Asylum, and therefore had his suspicions in regard to his being at large.

P.C Jude at once proceeded to the Plough and Fleece, where he found the two men, who he recognised as those he had seen in the morning. Having telegraphed to Inspector Smith, he received a reply confirming his supposition that the man identified by Mr Nunn was the escaped lunatic Whiting. Subsequent inquiries led to the discovery that the other man had also escaped from Melton Asylum, his name being Wolno, and that he belonged to Stonham Aspal. In the meantime, P.C Jude sent to P.C Chatten, of Felsham, to come and assist him in effecting the arrest, and the latter promptly went over. To effect the capture of two such men, under such circumstances, was a matter not unaccompanied with danger, and requiring considerably more than an ordinary amount of tact. However, a horse and cart was procured, and the constables, by adopting a friendly attitude towards the two fugitives, humouring them, and being careful not to let their ultimate object be perceived, eventually induced them to enter the cart, without having to resort to compulsion, and this accomplished, they were driven to Melford, and lodged in the Police Station. The asylum authorities were communicated with, and on the following (Tuesday) morning, three keepers arrived from the asylum, and identified the prisoners as the missing men, who, it appears, had escaped the previous Saturday evening. On Tuesday afternoon they were conveyed back to the asylum.

Both men are regarded as very dangerous patients, Whiting having sometime ago made a violent attack upon the late Inspector Page, whilst Wolno, it is stated, had one or two previous escapes this year. In having effected the capture quietly in the way it was, P.C Jude, as well as P.C Chatten, who assisted, are to be congratulated upon exhibiting great cleverness and tact.'(11)

Thwarted again, we see here a reference to Thomas' ironic nickname 'Chummy', by which he was obviously well known around town.

He is an inmate of Melton Asylum on the 1901 census, there as 'T.W', listed as a widower and general dealer, born in Haverhill and 50 years old.

There is reference to Thomas later that decade in the Collector's report books of the Risbridge Poor Law Union. The Collector, Arthur Debenham, states on 21st February 1908 that Thomas' son Henry claims there is £23 in the hands of Inspector Smith that belongs to his father and that if it is given to him he will put some towards his father's maintenance.(12) Also, in October 1909, Debenham asks Thomas' other son Arthur for money towards his father's maintenance but is told he cannot pay as he 'has nothing to do and no earnings.'(12)

A look at the 1911 census finds a 'T.W' (although the 'T' looks more like an 'I') in the Suffolk District Asylum at Melton who is listed as a dealer, widower and of the age of 60.

I am fairly sure that this is Thomas.

One would imagine it highly likely that Thomas would spend his last days in the Asylum considering his temperament and catalogue of misdemeanours, however, it looks almost certain that he entered into a period of remission that enabled him to be released at some point over the next 17 years.

On the 16th October 1928(11), Thomas Whiting, dealer, widower, married Jeanetta Daniels, also a widow, at Balsham Parish Church, in Cambridgeshire, in the registration district of Linton. The section to show Thomas' father's name and profession is crossed out and this matches with our knowledge of his illegitimacy.

At this time, Thomas would have been 76 and 2 days old and Jeanetta was 73. Maybe after his rough life he just wanted some companionship in his final days.

Jeanetta had previously married Thomas Daniels, also of Balsham, in 1879 and had brought up a family with him. He died in 1922(12), so she had been widowed for 6 years at the time of her marriage to her second Thomas.

Thomas died with his new wife at his side on 23rd September 1930 in High Noon Lane, Withersfield.(14) The cause of death was given as Uraemia, Cystitis and an enlarged prostate. His age was given correctly as 77. He was buried four days later at Haverhill Cemetery.(13)

Probate was granted with effects of £195 to Jeanette Whiting on 10th October 1930.(19) She was to die at the White Lodge Institution on 19th December 1936.(20,19)

The reasons we can tie the marriage and death certificates to 'Chummy' are down to the profession shown on both, the fact that Jeanetta is shown on both which links them together, his age on the death certificate - which is spot-on, reference to his illegitimacy on the marriage certificate, his status as widower and his connection with Haverhill in burial - someone else would have most likely been buried in Withersfield or possibly Balsham.

Peace at last for Thomas 'Chummy' Whiting. We will never know how much of Thomas' lunacy was down to drink, or whether his tendencies towards erratic and often dangerous behaviour could have been curbed given a more favourable set of circumstances. He was a fiery character, nonetheless, and one that generated a fair few column inches of newsprint.

Marriage(17) and Death Certificate(14) at top of page courtesy of the GRO. © Crown Copyright.


(1) Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, Parish Registers of St Mary's Church, Haverhill. Fiche 578/4/p12 of 37
(2) Birth Register. 4th Quarter 1852, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 334
(3) Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, Parish Registers of St Mary's Church, Haverhill. Fiche 578/4/p27 of 37
(4) Marriage Register. 1st Quarter 1870, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 497
(5) The Bury and Norwich Post, Tuesday, 3rd October 1871, p.8, issue 4658, C19th British Library Newspapers: part II
(6) The Bury and Norwich Post, Tuesday, 27th July 1880, p.5, issue 5118, C19th British Library Newspapers: part II
(7) The Bury and Norwich Post, Tuesday, 2nd June 1885, p.7, issue 5361, C19th British Library Newspapers: part II
(8) The Bury and Norwich Post, Tuesday, 25th August 1885, p.7, issue 5373, C19th British Library Newspapers: part II
(9) The Bury and Norwich Post, Tuesday, 3rd December 1895, p.8, issue 6082, C19th British Library Newspapers: part II
(10) The Bury and Norwich Post, Tuesday, 19th June 1900, p.3, issue 6311, C19th British Library Newspapers: part II
(11) The Bury and Norwich Post, Tuesday, 25th December 1900, p.7, issue 6335, C19th British Library Newspapers: part II
(12) Suffolk Record Office, Bury St Edmunds branch, 2746/4/3, Risbridge Poor Law Union, Collector's report books.
(13) Haverhill Cemetery, Ref.4717.
(14) Death Register. 3rd Quarter 1930, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 765
(15) National Archives. Militia Attestation Papers. WO96/1439/318
(16) The Bury and Norwich Post, Tuesday, 15th June 1880. C19th British Library Newspapers: part II
(17) Marriage Register. 4th Quarter 1928, Linton District, Volume 3b Page 1181
(18) Death Register. 4th Quarter 1922, Linton District, Volume 3b Page 490
(19) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1861-1941
(20) Death Register. 4th Quarter 1936, Newmarket District, Volume 3b Page 575
(21) The Essex Newsman, Saturday 30th November 1895, p.2
(22) The Essex County Chronicle, Friday 27th December 1895, p.5
(23) Cambridge Independent Press, 27 May 1871, p.8,
(24) Cambridge Independent Press, 27 December 1895, p.8,