Christopher Thomson Social Reformer and Artist.
Christopher Thomson 1799 -1871
Christopher Thomson was born at Hull, on Christmas day, 1799. His father was a sailor. Christopher was educated at the Free School of Sculcoates, Hull. His father then opened a public House and Christopher was apprentice to a ship builder and he gladly attended evening school. His father subscribed to a circulating library for his son. At seventeen after watching ‘King John’ by Shakespeare, his sole desire was to act.
In 1821, he married Hannah Leaf and he worked for her father as a veneer sawyer but shortly afterwards they started a new life as strolling players. For extra money he started making trinkets and painting glass boxes. Life was hard and ten years later when his family arrived in Edwinstowe cold, hungry and penniless the villagers took them in and supported Christopher to become a house painter. In return, he endeavoured to improve life in the village.
He and a group of likeminded people set up the library for the benefit of working men. On discovering that few could read he started night classes in 1838 in the Jug & Glass.
The Edwinstowe Artisans Library and Mutual Instruction Society then started. Entrance was a penny and ran three nights a week. It was open to both men and women. An annual ball was held to raise funds and after 9 years they had 500 volumes of books.
Education classes for reading, writing, arithmetic, music, drawing and conversation were free but members provided their own coal, candles and books.
A branch of the Odd-Fellows had been established in Edwinstowe and in 1833 Christopher joined it and became the secretary. He also started a self-help group where money was put aside for those who found times hard. (Sick-club)
He was also employed at Rufford Abbey as interior painter-designer but later when work became sparse, he decided to move to Sheffield and to start a newsagent business. This failed but it gave him the opportunity to start working as a landscape artist at which he was extremely successful.
His art work can be seen in Sheffield Art Gallery.
In later years, the Night Classes and Library moved to the ‘Old Library’ and followed in a similar tradition.