Thomas Wainwright

Devon & Cornwall Notes & Queries vol. 9, no. 3, (1916) pp.68-69.


H. Tapley-Soper

Prepared by Michael Steer

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THOMAS WAINWRIGHT.- Mr Thomas Wainwright the well-known Librarian and Curator of the North Devon Athenaeum, celebrated his 90th birthday on April 7th of this year, and it is with much regret that we record his death, which took place at Barnstaple on April 28th. Although not a West-country man, Mr Wainwright has been connected with Barnstaple for over 50 years. He was born at Leeds in 1826, and was educated at the Grammar School of his native city. Prior to locating to Barnstaple, Mr Wainwright conducted a private school at Bridport, where he was churchwarden of St Mary's at the time of the great restoration of the church in 1860. He was also a member of the Bridport Town Council, and did much valuable work in tabulating and annotating the records of this ancient town, and as a result of the knowledge thus gained was able to contribute to the Bridport News a series of learned articles on the borough archives and the town's history.

On his removal to Barnstaple, Mr Wainwright was associated with Mr J P Harris in conducting a private boarding school, and in 1872 he was appointed head master of Barnstaple's ancient Grammar School; this office he held until 1890, when he resigned to become Librarian of the Barnstaple Athenaeum. The last mentioned post Mr Wainwright filled until the day of his death. It was in this capacity that he was best known, and the work he did during his tenure will always be gratefully remembered by local antiquaries. In addition to his great knowledge of local history and topography, he was much interested in botany and meteorology and took a prominent part in church affairs. For several years he was Vice-Chairman of the Barnstaple School Board. In 1870, he assisted in establishing the North Devon Herald, and for some time assisted in the editorial work. In addition to numerous articles to periodical literature, Mr Wainwright published, in conjunction with Mr J R Chanter, Barnstaple Records, and in 1903 he issued a large volume consisting of a transcript of the Barnstaple Parish Register from 1538-1812, the usefulness of which would have been much improved had it been indexed or published in alphabetical form.

In 1852, Mr Wainwright married Miss Julia Durien, by whom he had nine children, five of whom survive. Mr Wainwright was interred at Barnstaple in a grave next to that of his wife, who predeceased him some years ago.

We much regret that we are unable to follow our usual practice of publishing a photograph with this notice, but understand that Mr Wainwright had a strong aversion to being photographed, and we have been unable to secure one suitable for publication. H. T-S.