Perronet Thompson – a distinguished, globe trotting family


December was a relatively quiet month for new accruals.  A highlight was a small collection of documents added to our Thomas Perronet Thompson Collection.  The archives include ‘A Pedigree of Perronet and Thompson’ by Henry Wagner, FSA, (1840-1926) showing the families’ ancestry from the early 1600s.  Wagner is mainly remembered today for his extensive research into the family history of British Huguenots in the 19th century.

In the pedigree Wagner traces the family back to the French Benjamin Mestral, Seigneur des Vaux and Catherine Baptiste, of Lausanne, who married in 1621.  Jean, the husband of their daughter Susanne, is the first Perronet listed.  His family came from Berne in Switzerland.

Many of Jean and Susanne’s descendants had impressive careers.  They include Jean-Rodolphe Perronet (1708-1794) a celebrated French civil engineer.  Perronet discovered how to design stone arch bridges with narrower piers.  These created larger areas for boats to pass through.  Best known for the Pont de la Concorde in Paris, Perronet continued to work on the construction of the bridge despite the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789.  He was an inspirational teacher and founded the world’s first engineering school in 1747.

William Perronet (1729-1781) was a surgeon and apothecary who, for several years, served as an army surgeon.  Although he was not closely involved with the Methodist movement some letters between him and Charles Wesley exist in the Wesley family archives.  William’s brother’s Charles (1723-1776) and Edward (1726-1792) were Methodists for a time and worked as itinerant preachers accompanying Charles Wesley on his tours.

Vincent Perronet
Vincent Perronet, Mayor of Exeter 1944-1945, brother of Sir John Perronet. Image credit Leeds University Library.

Many of the family served with the army or became colonial administrators.  One such was Sir John Perronet Thompson (1873-1935) a colonial administrator in Simla and Delhi, India.  He was Chief Commissioner for Delhi from 1928-1932.  Our new accrual includes some of John’s letters to his sister Isabel written from 1898-1932, a copy of his speech to the House of Commons and an address to the Lincoln Diocesan Conference ‘The Problem in India’ both dated 1932.

In his correspondence and speeches Thompson comments on political and social issues in India.  He was evidently an advocate of independence for the country long before it happened.  His letters also include news about the Thompson family.  When Isabel asks about career prospects for her son, Basil, Thompson advises that colonial administration in India is no longer a good option.

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