yeovil people

Thomas Holt

Superintendent of Police and Town Crier


Thomas Holt was born in Yeovil in 1803. He was the son of cordwainer Peter Holt and his wife Sarah. Thomas had an older brother, Peter (b1800) who died in infancy, followed by another brother called Peter (b1807). Nothing is known of Thomas' early life, but around 1820 he married a girl named Ann. They were to have a daughter, named Sarah (b1821), and another named Mary Ann (b1824). In the 1841 census, Thomas, Ann and Sarah were living in Back Kingston (today's Higher Kingston). Thomas gave his occupation as a police constable and his young daughter Sarah gave hers as a dressmaker. Thomas, at this time working from the Tolle Hall in the Borough, was mentioned frequently in the local press as he made many court appearances, giving evidence in a variety of cases throughout his police career.

One interesting and intriguing snippet from the 20 July 1840 edition of the Salisbury and Winchester Journal read; "We understand that Mr James Caird Robinson, late manager of the Wilts and Dorset Bank at Yeovil, who had absconded, and for whose apprehension a reward of £50 had been offered, was re-captured on Monday last, at Guernsey, by Mr Thomas Holt, the person from whose custody he had escaped at Yeovil." During Robinson's trial in August 1840, it transpired that Robinson had stolen just £10 from the bank at which he was manager but he was acquitted on this charge. Another charge was then considered in which Robinson was found guilty of stealing £5 from his bank. He was transported for fourteen years.

By 1842, Thomas Holt was frequently reported in the press as the 'Superintendent of Police at Yeovil' and in 1845 he referred to himself as 'Inspector of Police at Yeovil'. He was also the Inspector of Markets.

Ann Holt died in 1848 and on 26 February 1849, at St John's church, Thomas married Charlotte Rendell (b1817), the daughter of inn keeper Samuel Rendell and thirteen years his junior.

Yeovil's Watch House, the early equivalent of a Police Station, was originally in the Tolle Hall but by the 1830s had literally been falling down for years. In 1849 the Town Commissioners built the building, in Union Street, known as the Town House to provide a Police Station and a residence for a Superintendent, who was also the Town Surveyor and Rate Collector. Thomas however, despite being provided with accommodation in the Town House, remained living in Back Kingston.

In the 1851 census Thomas was listed with his family at Back Kingston. Together with Thomas and Charlotte were Sarah Rendell (listed as Thomas' niece), Mary Ann Rendell (listed as Thomas' daughter, but the 'Rendell' part of her name is probably an error on the part of the enumerator), seven-month-old son Thomas, and two visitors. Thomas gave his occupation as a police constable. In 1853, Thomas and Charlotte had a daughter, Charlotte Amelia.

Daniel Vickery wrote in 1856 "The Yeovil Police, and the Improvement of the Town, are, under the instruction of the Corporation, in the hands of the Town Surveyor, who resides in a building called the Town House, in Wine Street, part of which is occupied as a Police Station. The force consists of one Superintendent, at 20s per week, and 4 men at 11s 6d per week in the summer, and 14s 6d in the winter."

Unfortunately, in August 1859 Thomas "late Superintendent of the Yeovil Borough Police, but now executing the offices of Town Crier and Mace Bearer to the Corporation of Yeovil" was declared to be an insolvent debtor and a bankrupt.

In the 1861 census, Thomas, Charlotte and their eight-year-old daughter Charlotte were listed living in Back Kingston. Thomas gave his occupation as town crier. The family were still in Back Kingston in the 1871 census. 68-year-old Thomas was still the town crier and daughter Charlotte was a dressmaker. Also living with them was Thomas' eight-year-old grandson John Wellsely Byrns.

Thomas Holt died in Yeovil in the February 1880, aged 77. Charlotte died in Yeovil in the winter of 1886, aged 68.




An enlargement of a painting showing the Borough in 1810. The Tolle Hall is seen at right, surmounted by its clock or 'horolitch (this was roughly in a position just north of today's War Memorial). Thomas Holt was based here until the Town House in Union Street became the headquarters of the Yeovil constabulary.


From the Cave Collection (colourised), Courtesy of South Somerset Heritage Collection

This photograph of the mid-1960s shows the Town House in Union Street before being extended. Note the lack of the extension at right and the absence of the nice porch on the South Street elevation. The Town House was home to the Yeovil constabulary from 1849 until 1936.


The notice of Thomas Holt's bankruptcy proceedings from the 9 August 1859 edition of the Western Flying Press.


Thomas Holt's obituary in the 13 February 1880 edition of the Western Gazette.