Friday, 29 April 2016

The private life of Thomas Slingsby Duncombe

The Chartist MP Thomas Slingsby Duncombe was a notorious libertine, a “Radical dandy” whose “saturnine good looks, easy manner and silver tongue” made him a favourite in high society – a man “with a voracious appetite for women of dubious reputation”.

An account of Thomas Slingsby Duncombe’s life can be found on Chartist Ancestors.

Yet his marital status has long been a mystery.

Thomas Slingsby Duncombe. "Presented to the
subscribers to the News, Jan'y 28th 1838.
Duncombe’s official entry in The History of Parliament: The House of Commons, 1820–1832 notes that his son Thomas Henry Duncombe asserted that his father “left a widow and an only son”.

The Biographical Dictionary of Modern British Radicals meanwhile says that Duncombe married a woman who was shunned as “common” by society, notwithstanding her beauty.

Yet as the author of Duncombe’s entry in The History of Parliament notes, “despite an intensive search, no contemporary record has been found of his marriage or of his son’s birth or baptism”.

The mystery is, in part, now solved.

An entry in the register of marriages for Kensington made on 21 April 1861 records the wedding, at the register office, of Thomas Slinsgby Duncombe, bachelor and gentleman, of 3 Sussex Gardens, Paddington, and Louisa Ann Draper, spinster, of the same address.

Interestingly, the 1861 census, taken just two weeks earlier, recorded both Thomas Slingsby Duncombe and a “Louisa Ann Draper” as a “visitor” at the address – which was Duncombe’s town house.

Further evidence that the two had been involved in a long-standing relationship can be found in the 1871 census. By this time, Slingsby Duncombe was long dead. But Thomas Henry Duncombe, his son, can be found at an address in Blomfield Terrace, Paddington with his young family.

Also at the same address is Louisa Ann Duncombe. Her relationship to the head of the household is that of “mother”, and their relative ages (he was 30, she 60) shows that Thomas Slingsby Duncombe and Louisa Ann Draper had been involved with one another since 1840 at the latest.

Whether she was either beautiful or common remains to be discovered. As does so much more.

Unfortunately, none of the family can be found in searches on Ancestry of the 1841 or 1851 censuses (either as Duncombe or Draper), and there is no sign of Thomas Henry Duncombe or Draper’s birth certificate.

Neither has it been possible to track down “Anthony Draper” – the only information about Louisa Ann’s father beyond the fact that he was a “gentleman” to be recorded on the marriage certificate.

It would be fascinating to know more about Louisa Ann Duncombe (Draper) and her relationship with Thomas Slingsby Duncombe.

An account of Thomas Slingsby Duncombe’s life can be found on Chartist Ancestors.

Update: Professor Malcolm Chase has been in touch and kindly solved another part of the mystery of Thomas Slingsby and Louisa Duncombe. He says:

"I read the latest Chartist Ancestors post with particular interest. Back in 2000, I spent a very pleasant afternoon with the late Lord Feversham at Duncombe Park, North Yorkshire. Among other things, he showed me a baptism certificate for Thomas Henry Duncombe, issued by the incumbent of St George's Church, Hanover Square, London. It was dated 13 August 1840, and gave the date of Thomas Henry's birth as 20 May 1840. Louisa and Thomas Slingsby Duncombe were given as the parents and I drew the implication they were already married (mistakenly, it is now clear!)."

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