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Thompson Family
of
Malta, Corfu and Tuscany
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There is little known of Frederick Thompson before he shows up in Malta around 1830. He was born about 1805 in Maldon, Essex, England, and for some unknown reason went to Malta. His father may have been involved with the British forces on the Island at that time, or more likely with the British administration, for later Frederick became the British Vice-Consul in Leghorn (Livorno) Italy.

He appears to have been well educated and sought and received on 21 October 1834 a licence to open a school in Malta, but this was after he had met and married Mary Ann Bingham who was born at Floriana, Malta on 15 December 1810. Her father, William Bingham, was a stores clerk for the Director of Works on the island, which adds to the probability that Frederick Thompson's father was also working for the island administration. The Bingham family are believed to have originated in Nottinghamshire, England, but nothing more is known of them.

Frederick Thompson and Mary Ann Bingham were
Valletta circa 1800, from the Ghargur Battery
of the British Garrison on Malta
married at Saint Paul's Anglican Church, Valletta on 4 March 1832, and their first child Frederick William Thompson was born on 19 March 1833 and baptised by the Rev. John Clough on 14 April 1833. The next child to be born was Mary Thompson on 01 August 1835 and baptised by the Rev. John Brownell. It is from the information that Mary left us in the form of reminiscences written in her later life in Charlcombe, Somerset, England that it is possible to piece together some of the events surrounding the life of this family. The reminiscences of Mary Thompson can be found under Reminiscences in the Index.

During the period from 1836 to 1839, the Thompson family were on the Greek island of Corfu in the Ionian Sea. Exactly why they went there is not known, though it is possible that Mary Ann's grandparents lived there. Helen was born at Corfu on 24 March 1837 and baptised by the Rev. J Lowndes on 19 April 1837. Emily1 was also born in Corfu on 18 November 1838 and baptised by the Rev. J Lowndes on 25 December 1838, though Emily1 died 0n 04 August 1840 shortly after the family had moved on to Leghorn (Livorno) in Italy.

Livorno (Leghorn), Tuscany circa 1800
The Thompson family spent some 13 or more years in Livorno, a major shipping port on the Tuscany coast of Italy, where they lived from 1839 to 1852 and experienced the invasion of Leghorn (Livorno) by the Austrian army. As mentioned earlier, Frederick Thompson became the British Vice Consul, a position he held for over ten years. Early in 1847 Frederick Thompson also became heavily involved with the distribution of Bibles for the British and Foreign Bible Society, something that needed to be done with a great deal of secrecy in those times due to the political upheaval taking place in Tuscany in the late 1840's. During this time William was born on 24 November 1842, Alfred on 31 July 1844, and Henry on 03 April 1846. The Thompson's youngest surviving child, Emily2 Rose, was born outside of Livorno at a 'safe house' in the Baths of Lucca on 19 October 1848. Francis James was born 15 November 1849 at Leghorn and baptised privately by the Rev. R W Stewart, and died on 26 February 1850. Francis was interred in the same grave as his sister Emily.

By 1851 it had become too dangerous to continue this work for the Bible Society, and with the British Foreign Office not offering Frederick further work in the consular service he started to look around for somewhere he could make a new start for his family. Following the receipt of a letter from William Bayley Bray, a civil engineer whom Frederick had met when Bray commissioned the Pisa railway in Tuscany in 1845 and who had emigrated to Christchurch under the auspices of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, a decision was made to emigrate to the new settlement of Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand. Late in June 1852 the Thompsons' journeyed back to England in preparation for the long voyage to New Zealand. The family (less William who had been sent to Malta to complete his education) departed Gravesend on 30th September 1852 aboard the "Minerva" bound for Lyttelton (or Port Cooper as it was then known) the port of Christchurch. After passing Dover the "Minerva" ran into gale force westerly head winds which made progress down the English Channel extremely slow, and in the process suffered damage to her rigging and the loss of an anchor. This damage resulted in the vessel making for Plymouth, where she spent two days making repairs before clearing the port on 12th October 1852 to continue her voyage to New Zealand, arriving off Godley Head on 1st February 1853 and berthing in Lyttelton the following day.

A short narrative on these places and events at the time the family were in each of them will be found under those headings in the Index. Photographs are virtually non existent, and except for a photograph of the sons of Frederick William Thompson and his widow Brunhilde (née Ingvoldsen) Thompson, the only others are of locations during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Should anyone have further information or photographs pertaining to this family would they kindly the author.


G B Carlson, November 2004

page revised 11:12:06 29 Jan 2007