by janisleofwight

A visit to the church of St Boniface at Bonchurch on the Isle of Wight reveals a curious incumbent.

When it came to writing an epitaph, the mourners of Thomas Prickett, surgeon of Witham in Essex definitely had a way with words. Thomas passed away in 1811 aged only thirty and leaving a grieving wife. What he was doing in this remote and inaccessible smugglers' village one can only guess. Before long he was joined in the afterlife by his 'relict' Rebecca.

Thomas's Memorial

Thomas died on March 6 1811 and according to the plaque on the  wall, his remains were deposited in a vault at the west end of St Boniface church.  What really drew my attention to him were the following words inscribed in his memory: who with piety and resignation closed a life of extensive usefulness. Worthy as he must have been, he doesn't exactly sound like a bundle of laughs. 

Thomas had formerly lived in the village of Whitham in Essex, the county home of his wife Rebecca, nee Poole.  The Prickett family seem to have had a tradition of military service and training as surgeons.  In  the 17th century one of his namesakes accompanied Henry Hudson on his exploration of North America.  It was an eventful voyage, this Thomas and others being accused of mutiny. They made their way back to England and narrowly escaped the gallows. Another Thomas Prickett set sail for Virginia in 1622 where a branch of the family prospered.

 This does not explain why "our" Thomas Prickett was on the Isle of Wight.  .Perhaps it had something to do with the presence of the military.for as war with the French raged, the Island was choc-a-bloc with soldiers waiting to be transported to the Continent.  


(Parkhurst Barracks Newport, built in response to the Napoleonic War)

There may be a clue in what was happening on the Isle of Wight at this time.  The entire country was wrapped up in the continuing wars with Napoleon and the French and on the Island every area was affected by the arrival of battalions of soldiers, English, Scottish, men from Hesse and Brunswick, all waiting to be shipped to the Continent to engage in the war.  Surgeons were not only needed during wartime.  Men with time on their hands had a habit of getting into trouble.  A spate of duels discomfited the authorities with inconvenient deaths apart from woundings.  A surgeon may have been fully occupied while waiting for more demanding cases of shattered limbs and bullet wounds in France and Spain.


Rebecca Prickett

In 1813, the Monthly Register (Vol 36) imparted some sad news to its readers.

"At Witham, Mrs Prickett, widow of the late Mr Prickett, surgeon, went to the stable to see a favourite horse which had been recently ill, when on passing behind him he kicked her so violently on the head as to shatter it in a manner too dreadful to describe, and so as to cause her death.  The horse had always been caressed by Mrs Pickett and by her brother, as a most gentle animal.

This unhappy event seems to have closed the history of Mr and Mrs Prickett.


Updated: 04/03/2015, janisleofwight
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