John Tompkins was born on November 1, 1834 at Looke in the parish of Abbotsbury, Dorset, England the fifth of eight children of Richard Tompkins and Ann Churchill. Despite being born in Abbotsbury, John was baptised in the parish church at Puncknowle, which was physically much closer to the family home.
His father died on October 18, 1848 at Cheselborne, Dorset and the body was returned home for burial at Puncknowle on October 20, 1848. His mother moved the family to Ashley, Litton Cheney, but by the time of the 1861 census John was living at nearby Gorewell where he was employed as a stable boy.
John entered the Royal Navy as a Boy 1st Class on February 12, 1854 on HMS Victory, then a depot ship in Portsmouth Harbour, for a peiod of continuous service of ten years. It is interesting to note that despite being a minor it is noted that the consent of his parents or friends had not been obtained. At this time he is described at 5 feet 6x inches tall, of fresh complexion with brown hair and grey eyes.
On November 20, 1860 at Devonport HMS Jason was commissioned for Service on the North America and West Indies Station where she served from January 1 until December 3, 1864 when she was paid off. The 1861 census recorded on the night of April 7, 1861 records Jno. Tompkins age 27 born at ‘Punnol’, Dorset as Captain of the main top aboard the 21 gun Jason, at the rather vague position of ‘South by West’. The Jason had been lauched in 1859 and was finally disposed of in 1877.
It is not known at the present time if John served on the North America and West Indies Station and was paid of with the ship or stayed in England until the end of his ten years which expired in February 1864. What we do know is that he was back in West Dorset earlier in 1865 where he met Eliza Matthews whom he married on July 4, 1865 at Shipton Gorge where eldest son John was born less than 6 months later.
For the next 10 or so years the family settled at Shipton Gorge and John obtained employment as an Agricultural Labourer. The family expanded with the birth of five more sons, William George (1868), Richard Churchill (1869), Thomas (1871), Henry Alfred (1874) and my great grandfather Frederick William (1877). John now obtained work as a Miller’s drayman and the family moved to Rookery Street, Burton Bradstock where the couples only daughter, Jessie Eliza was born in 1880.
On January 9, 1884, son William followed his father into the Royal Navy as a boy seaman wher he was to serve on H.M.S. Helicon and H.M.S. Temeraire in the Mediterranean. However at the age of 17 he died of Remmitent Fever and Syncope on January 5, 1886.
May 31, 1888 saw eldest son John marry Alice Symes at Burton Bradstock where the coupled settled, whilst the rest of the family moved to Compton Valence where they can be found at Tout Hill in the 1891 census. John is once again employted as an agricultural labourer. It was at Compton Valence on August 15, 1895 that son Frederick married my great grandmother Annie Linda Eyers.
Both families moved from Compton Valence to Wynford Eagle, Dorset where son Henry married Elizabeth Mary Collins on April 7, 1898. John and Eliza together with son Richard and daughter Jessie remained at Wynford Eagle where they can be found in the 1901 census.
Eliza died in 1906 and in 1908 John is living at Chideock, Dorset where on December 12th he dies of internal injuries after falling on his spade whilst ditching alone. The coroners jury returned verdict of accidental death.
For more on the ancestry and descendents of John Tompkins vist werelate.org