Thomas Dumbrell Sixth Great Back to Page Map
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Thomas Dumbrell was baptised in Ringmer on January 3 1675. We may assume that his aunt, Frances, at Horsham, brought him up according to the provisions of his grandmother's will. As a teenager, he was apprenticed to John Clarke, a blacksmith there, and, during this time, a sad accident occurred that must have stayed with him for the rest of his life. To explain this, we can do no better than quote an account of the inquest held on January 7th.

"On January 4, when Thomas Dumbrell of Horsham, laborer aged 14 not more, apprentice of John Clarke of Horsham, blacksmith, was in Clarke's dwelling house at Horsham, trying to mend the iron 'cock' of a 'pistoll' which was 'out of order and rusty', having been left to do it by William Kewell, servant of Thomas White, gent. In Clarke's absence, not knowing that the pistol was 'charged with gunpowder and a leaden bullet', Dumbrell moved 'the cocke' with the fingers of his right hand 'up and downe', with the intention of inspecting the 'fault' and mending it; but the gunpowder being fired by Dumbrell's moving the cock, the pistol 'did discharge and shoot off', giving John Clarke, an infant aged 6, the blacksmith's son, who was standing in his father's house, a wound in the left part of his body a little below the left breast 1 inch long and 8 inches deep of which he languished at Horsham until next day and then died. So Dumbrell killed him, suddenly, by chance and misfortune and against his will. Dumbrell had no goods or chattels in Sussex or elsewhere at the time of the homicide or even after to the jurors' knowledge."

From: East Sussex Coroners' Records 1688-1838: R.F. Hunnisett. SRS vol. 89 (2005)

Thomas Dumbrell was subsequently indicted at Horsham for murder and acquitted, the jury satisfied that the whole terrible affair was an accident. It was noted that 'he did not flee' after the incident and that he paid the court's charges. There is little doubt that this Thomas Dumbrell is ours because his location and profession confirm what we already know of him. However, the inquest does note him as 'not more than fourteen', whereas he was just seventeen when the tragedy happened. The phrasing of the report suggests that Thomas did not know his age otherwise he would have given it to the court unequivocally. This is also suggests that his aunt and guardian Frances way not have attended the hearing to vouch for his age but may have by now moved to Cuckfield with her new husband, Joseph Webb. It may also be that his stature suggested a younger person, and that the court wanted to present him as a child incapable of such a wanton act as murder.

The first record of Thomas' marriage is to Mary Blan at Itchingfield early in 1711. By then Thomas was thirty-six, and quite old in those days to marry for the first time, so it is possible that he had a previous marriage, as yet not proven. There is recorded the marriage of a Thomas Dumbrell at West Tarring in 1691, when our man would have only been sixteen, but nothing is known of what happened to this Thomas or his wife, Margaret and their children. Although West Tarring village is a good fifteen miles south of Horsham, it owned lands detached from the parish close to the town at Southwater, and the court baron met alternately at Tarring and Horsham to reflect this. We know that Thomas was still active in the parish of Tarring in 1705, as he was eligible to vote in the shire elections of that year. We also know that in the previous year he had been one of the parish overseers at Tarring, but then the trail goes cold. There is also a note that Richard Fillery the bucketmaker, husband of Frances of Horsham and possibly his step-uncle, sat as a juror at the Tarring and Marlpost manor court in October 1689, but such evidence is very tenuous and hardly proof. Furthermore, no mention is made of Thomas being married at his court hearing in 1692. Finally, we know that the names which Thomas of Tarring chose for his children exactly match those of our Thomas; this again, is too circumstantial to be of real value as evidence.

The wife of our Thomas, Mary, was herself the widow of John Blan(d), resident in Nuthurst but originally from Barcombe, whom she had married in 1701. He possibly shared the profession of blacksmith with Thomas Dumbrell. John Blan died in August 1710, and Mary lost no time in re-marrying to Thomas eight months later, so it is quite possible that Thomas was acquainted with the Blans before John's death. With the marriage Thomas also accepted responsibility for Mary's surviving two year-old daughter, also Mary, whom he was to remember in his will, thirty-eight years later.

Thomas and Mary Dumbrell raised three children of their own:

Elizabeth christened 13 Jan 1712
Sarah 27 Apr 1714 (The link to the Walder Family is on the site Home Page)
Thomas 21 Apr 1717

All three were born in Nuthurst, three miles west of Itchingfield; here Thomas lived for more than thirty-five years, working as a blacksmith. Possibly he was employed on the nearby Sedgwick Park estate, because in his will he makes no direct reference to property in Nuthurst. However, he did still possess the house and land at Frick (Freekes) Common, Keymer, you may remember, which had been left almost fifty years before to Frances Dumbrell by her brother Abraham to pay off his debts. This was occupied by one Richard Sanders when it came into Thomas' possession after the death of Frances in 1732. At that time it was described as a 'cottage and small parcel of land of the waste lying at Frick Common', and, forty years later, the description had not changed 16. Thomas's wife Mary died in the autumn of 1735, four years after the marriage of her eldest daughter Elizabeth to John Shaw, a wheeler and later the parish treasurer of Nuthurst.

Thomas was alone for almost six years, then remarried at Horsham to Hannah Bansted, a spinster of forty-five who had been born in Itchingfield in 1696. By now, Thomas was sixty-six, and his second daughter, Sarah, had married a weaver, James Walder, who later became one of the overseers in the village. His son, also Thomas, was not to marry until after his father's death, and possibly helped his father with smithing.

When Thomas Dumbrell finally died in 1748, he made a careful will, ensuring that all of his loved ones were properly provided for. He expected his wife Hannah to outlive him by twenty years, leaving her seventy pounds to be paid in six monthly instalments; in fact she was to live at Nuthurst until her death in 1770. He gave for her use 'one bed and furniture and such household goods as she thinks convenient for to furnish one room and to make use of this room as long as she shall live', and built the safeguard into her inheritance that expenses or debts should not be charged to her portion. In deference to his first wife, he left his stepdaughter, Mary Blan, now Mary Baites, fourteen pounds and a pewter dish. The rest of his goods and chattels he bequeathed equally to his daughters, Sarah and Elizabeth. To his son Thomas, he left his house and lands at Frick Common.

Extracts courtesy of Graham Johnson, see link on summary page.

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