|Birth: ||Nov., 1799|
St Columb Major
|Death: ||May 31, 1838|
Also known as 'John Nicholas Tom', 'Count Moses Rothschild', 'Mad Tom', 'The King of Jerusalem', 'The Canterbury Fanatic', 'The Knight of Malta' and 'The New Messiah'. He was a tall, strongly built man with a charismatic presence, and a gift for theatrical self-presentation. He attempted unsuccessfully to become an MP, first at Canterbury, then in Thanet. A four year spell in Barming Asylum followed, after which he was released to the care of George Francis, a religious fanatic. Becoming incensed by the deprivations suffered by farm workers in the area, changes to the Poor Law that forced the poor and unemployed into the workhouse, and what he saw as the failings of the established Church and the Parliamentary system, dominated by aristocrats, he resorted to violent action, adopting the title 'Sir William Percy Honywood Courtenay', appropriating the names of various local nobility. He convinced his followers that he, and they, were invulnerable, and that he would rise from the dead. Open disorder followed, and Constables John and Nicholas Mears were sent from Faversham to arrest him; Thom shot Nicholas Mears dead. It would appear that he had been a follower of Thom, and was suspected of betrayal.
On 31 May 1838 150 troops of the 45th Infantry Regiment from Canterbury (the same troops who the following year killed 22 Chartists at Newport in Wales) cornered 'Sir William' and about 35 of his followers in Bossenden Wood. The protestors were mainly middle-aged men armed only with cudgels; only Thom and one other had a gun. Lieutenant Henry Bennett was shot by Thom, the soldiers opened fire, and Thom and seven of his followers were killed, and several more fatally wounded. Some were both shot and bayonetted. Special Constable George Catt, from Faversham, was killed in the crossfire. The rebel casualties were buried in unmarked graves, close to their relatives. A guard was mounted on Thom's grave for several nights after the burial, but in spite of his promises, and the faith of a few surviving believers, he was not resurrected.
This was the last armed uprising on English soil, and so shocked the government of the day that the building of a school and church (Christ Church) at Dunkirk was quickly ordered, to avoid any further unrest among the inhabitants of the impoverished area. The conspirators who survived were mostly pardoned, or given small sentences, and the official story was that they had been foolish ignorant peasants following a dangerously delusional madman. The principal road of the small village that is modern Dunkirk, formerly Old Barn Road, is now called Courtenay Road. Both the church and the school have been sold for conversion to private residences.
St Michael Churchyard
Plot: north of church; grave unmarked
Maintained by: Sheilia W.
Originally Created by: cookie
Record added: Oct 08, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 16050578