Thomas Thornhill

1780 - 1844

Claimant or beneficiary


Awarded the compensation for the Mount Gay estate in Barbados as devizee in trust of Cumberbatch Sober (q.v.). The will identifies him as of Riddlesworth Hall Norfolk and as the son-in-law and co-residuary legatee of Cumberbatch Sober.

  1. The Mount Gay estate is the cornerstone of the modern Mount Gay rum business. The summary company history online shows the Thornhill family buying the estate in 1858, but the connection if any between the purchase and Thomas Thornhill's role under Cumberbatch Sober's will is as yet unknown.

  2. 'On the 29th inst. at his house in Berkeley Square, in the 64th year of his age, [death of] Thomas Thornhill Esq. of Fixby-hall, Yorkshire and Riddlesworth Hall, Norfolk.'

  3. Adm. Fell.-Com. (age 18) at ST JOHN'S, June 12, 1798. [S. of Thomas (above), of Fixby, Yorks. (and Eleanor, dau. of Nicholas Garrard Lynne, of Little Horkesley, Essex). B. Dec. 15, 1780. School, Eton.] Of Fixby Hall, Yorks., and Riddlesworth Hall, Norfolk. High Sheriff of Norfolk, 1815-16. Secretary to the Jockey Club. Married (1) Feb. 28, 1815, Sarah Wood Wood, widow of S. T. Wood, Esq.; (2) July 8, 1835, Clara, dau. of Harry Peirse, Esq., of Bedale, Yorks.; (3) 1839, Honoria, dau. of Major and Lady Louisa Forester. Died May 29, 1844, in London. (Eton Sch. Lists; St John's Coll. Adm., IV. 515; Burke, L.G.; G. Mag., 1844, II. 104.)

  4. An online family tree states that his first wife Sarah Wood Wood, nee Sober, ran away with Thomas Thornhill while she was still married to her first husband Samson Tickle Wood and that her two youngest children, Thomas Thornhill Wood (born 1804) and Sarah Thornhill Wood (born 1805) were probably Thomas Thornhill's. These two children used the surname Thornhill in adulthood. She married Thomas Thornhill after the death of Samson Tickle Wood in 1815. This is borne out in the will of Thomas Thornhill who named his two reputed children Sarah and Thomas in his will, detailing their dates of birth and baptism and the parentage given at their baptisms. The will also related a marriage settlement of £10,000 granted to his reputed daughter Sarah on her marriage to Wyndham Berkeley Portman and named Clara Thornhill as his daughter with his second wife Clara.

  5. In 1841, Thomas Thornhill, age 60, of independent means, born out of county, was living at no. 49 Berkeley Square with his third wife Honoria, age 20 and children Clara, age 5 and Honoria age 2 months.

  6. In his will, as well as acknowledging his reputed children with Sarah Wood Sober, Thomas Thornhill bequeathed his plantations and other effects in Barbados, which he is or may in future become possessed of by virtue of the will of Cumberbatch Sober deceased, in trust according to the same provisions as his estates in Norfolk and Suffolk.

  7. There is a portrait of Thomas Thornhill in the National Portrait Gallery, 'Two Personages of Great Weight on the Turf (Thomas Thornhill; Samuel Chiffney)', published in 1829.


Thomas Thornhill was absentee landlord of Fixby Estate near Huddersfield, where he employed factory reformer Richard Oastler as steward, and fired him in 1836 and pursued him for unpaid debt until Oastler was jailed in 1840. Oastler wrote and published 'Letters to Thomas Thornhill from Fleet debtors prison'. S. D. Smith in Gentry Capitalism says no link has been demonstrated between the Thornhills in Fixby and the Thornhills in Barbados, but this connection between Thomas Thornhill of Fixby and Cumberbatch Sober suggests some convergence of the two branches of the Thornhill family in a nexus around Barbadian absentees in Britain.

  1. accessed 12/09/2013.

  2. Times 31/5/1844 Deaths p 8.

  3., Cambridge University Alumni, 1261-1900 [database online].

  4. Email from Ruth Hecht, 26/04/2019; see the will of their grandfather Cumberbatch Sober, PROB 11/1722/5, and later census records for the children; will of Thomas Thornhill of Fixby, Yorkshire, and Riddlesworth Hall, PROB 11/2002/311.

  5. 1841 census online.

  6. PROB 11/2002/311.

  7. [accessed 03/05/2019].

We are grateful to Ruth Hecht and Peter Selley for their assistance with compiling this entry.

Further Information

[1] Sarah Wood Sober [2] Clara Peirse [3] Honoria Louise Forester
With [1], before marriage, Sarah (1805-), Thomas (1806-). With [2] Clara. With [3] Sarah Caroli
Cambridge (St John's)

Associated Claims (1)

£2,860 9s 7d
Awardee (Trustee)

Associated Estates (1)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1834 [EA] - → Trustee

Relationships (1)

Son-in-law → Father-in-law
Notes →
Thornhill was also trustee and co-residuary heir of Cumberbatch...

Addresses (2)

49 Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London, Middlesex, London, England
Riddlesworth Hall, Diss, Norfolk, East Anglia, England