Thomas Sturge the elder

Last updated
Thomas Sturge senior
Died11 August 1825
Bath, England
Occupationtallow chandler and oil merchant
Notable work
philanthropist, education reformer

Thomas Sturge the Elder (1749–1825) was a London tallow chandler, oil merchant, spermaceti processor and philanthropist. He was a Quaker.

Tallow rendered form of beef or mutton fat

Tallow is a rendered form of beef or mutton fat, and is primarily made up of triglycerides. It is solid at room temperature. Unlike suet, tallow can be stored for extended periods without the need for refrigeration to prevent decomposition, provided it is kept in an airtight container to prevent oxidation.


Spermaceti is a waxy substance found in the head cavities of the sperm whale. Spermaceti is created in the spermaceti organ inside the whale's head. This organ may contain as much as 1,900 litres (500 US gal) of spermaceti.

Philanthropy means the love of humanity. A conventional modern definition is "private initiatives, for the public good, focusing on quality of life", which combines an original humanistic tradition with a social scientific aspect developed in the 20th century. The definition also serves to contrast philanthropy with business endeavors, which are private initiatives for private good, e.g., focusing on material gain, and with government endeavors, which are public initiatives for public good, e.g., focusing on provision of public services. A person who practices philanthropy is called a philanthropist.


Business career

Sturge was born into a farming family at Olveston, Gloucestershire, in 1749. [1] He was an apprentice at Poole, Dorset, by 1766, and afterwards began work as an oil-leather dresser. He seems to have been in London by 1782, where he worked as a tallow chandler and oil merchant. [2] By 1785 he was at Walworth and then at Newington. He is also named as a spermaceti refiner there by 1791. [3]

Olveston village in United Kingdom

Olveston is a small village and larger parish in South Gloucestershire, England. The parish comprises the villages of Olveston and Tockington, and the hamlets of Old Down, Ingst and Awkley. The civil parish population at the 2011 census was 2,033. Alveston became a separate parish in 1846. The district has been inhabited since the Stone Age, and the salt marshes that made up almost half of the parish, were progressively drained in Roman and Saxon times. A sea wall was constructed at the same time to prevent flooding from the nearby estuary of the River Severn.

Gloucestershire County of England

Gloucestershire is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean.

Poole Place in England

Poole is a large coastal town and seaport in the county of Dorset, on the south coast of England. The town is 33 kilometres (21 mi) east of Dorchester, and adjoins Bournemouth to the east. The local council is the Borough of Poole and was made a unitary authority in 1997, gaining administrative independence from Dorset County Council. The borough had an estimated population of 151,500 making it the second largest in Dorset. Together with Bournemouth and Christchurch, the town forms the South East Dorset conurbation with a total population of over 465,000.

Reformer and philanthropist

Sturge was a devout Quaker and an elder of the society in London. Like other Quakers, he took an interest in social reform and gave financial support to worthy causes. He took a particular interest in education and was an early supporter of Joseph Lancaster (1788–1838), a fellow Quaker, neighbour and friend at Newington Butts. [4] Lancaster developed a system of cheap mass education for the poor known as the Lancastrian Method, in which more advanced students were employed to instruct the younger children under the direction of an adult teacher. This system of peer tutoring came to be used widely in Europe and America in the first half of the 19th century to provide basic education for many poor children who might otherwise have received no instruction at all. [5] Sturge was a member of the Committee of the Royal British or Lancastrian System of Education by 1808, which was renamed the British and Foreign School Society in 1819. [6]

Quakers family of religious movements

Quakers are members of a historically Christian group of religious movements formally known as the Religious Society of Friends, Society of Friends or Friends Church. Members of the various Quaker movements are all generally united in a belief in the ability of each human being to experientially access "the light within", or "that of God in every one".

Joseph Lancaster British educator

Joseph Lancaster (1778–1838) was an English Quaker and public education innovator.

Newington Butts

Newington Butts is a former hamlet, now an area of the London Borough of Southwark, that gives its name to a segment of the A3 road running south-west from the Elephant and Castle junction. The road continues as Kennington Park Road leading to Kennington; a fork right is Kennington Lane, leading to Vauxhall Bridge.

Sturge gave his support to other forms of education. In 1804 he made a donation to the School for the Indigent Poor, St George's Fields, London. [7] He, or his son Thomas Junior, was also supporting the education of the deaf by May 1821. [8]

St Georges Fields former area of Southwark in South London, England

St George's Fields was an area of Southwark in South London, England.

Thomas Sturge was a founding member of the Peace Society in 1816. [9]

The Peace Society, International Peace Society or London Peace Society originally known as the Society for the Promotion of Permanent and Universal Peace, was a British pacifist organization that was active from 1816 until the 1930s.

Family life

Sturge married Lydia Moxhan in 1790. The couple had at least ten children. [10] Early in the 19th century, he took into the business at least four of his sons, including his namesake Thomas Sturge the younger. The firm then became Thomas Sturge & Sons. [11]

Thomas Sturge (1787-1866) was a British oil merchant, shipowner, cement manufacturer, railway company director, social reformer and philanthropist.

Thomas Sturge the elder died at Bath on 11 August 1825. [12]


  1. England and Wales, Quaker Birth, Marriage and Death Registers, 1378–1837 (
  2. Westminster Rate Books, 1634-1900 (
  3. Conveyancing document, dated 25 March 1791, for a property at Olveston, Gloucestershire, mentions Thomas Sturge, spermaceti refiner, Newington, Surrey (
  4. He was in 1799 one of the first two financial supporters of an Ackworth School providing free education to poor children in London. (Ackworth School Catalogue, (1831) p. 1,800; Joseph Lancaster & William Corston, Improvements in Education, as it respects the Industrious Classes in the Community, London, 1804, p .2, (reprinted, Cambridge, 2014); "Lancaster's Plan for Educating Poor Children," The Belfast Monthly Magazine, Vol. 3, October 1809, p. 282.
  5. Joseph Lancaster (1778–1838), Encyclopaedia Britannica, []
  6. Cardiff Times, 15 September 1888, p. 1.
  7. The Morning Chronicle, 22 July 1804.
  8. List of Governors and officers of the asylum for the support and education of the deaf and dumb children of the poor, London, 1821, p. 175.
  9. Ceadel, Martin (1996). The origins of war prevention: the British peace movement and international relations, 1730-1854 (Reprint ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 521. ISBN   9780198226741..
  10. They married at Melksham, Wiltshire, on 2 January 1790. (International Genealogical Index) []
  11. Howard 2015, p. 413.
  12. The Times, 18 August 1825.


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