Thomas Forster

A certain amount of mystery and confusion surrounds the Rev. Thomas Forster (?—1785), Rector of Halesworth in Suffolk. Venn’s Alumni Cantabrigienses has him born around 1708, coming from Durham, attending Queens’ College, ordained priest in 1735, and “perhaps” Vicar of Tunstead and Rector of Halesworth. The CCED is more cautious, listing two Thomas Forster’s as Rector of Halesworth, but noting that they are possibly not the same. In fact, the Durham Thomas Forster was the son of Rev. Joseph Forster of Norton in County Durham and died in 1743 at the age of 35.

Our Thomas Forster must be the other one (CCED #125060), about whom less is known. Although the CCED doesn’t give a Venn reference for this chap, he is presumably the Thomas born around 1722 who was son of George Forster (or Foster) of Barbados and one of three sons sent to Cambridge. This 1722 Thomas was ordained priest in 1746 and promptly appointed Vicar of Tunstead and, later the same year, Rector of Halesworth.

Thomas held Tunstead for thirty years before turning it over to his son Samuel, and was Rector of Halesworth until he died. I think. One complication is an advertisement in the Ipswich Journal for 10 August 1765 for an auction of “All the entire Houshold Furniture, and other valuable Effects of the Rev. Mr. Forster, at the Rectory in Halesworth…” We shall cheerfully assume he sold off all his belongings, including “a vertical Harpsicord of curious Construction, a reflecting and refracting Telescope, a Wilson microscope” etc. on a whim and press on.

Thomas Forster married Elizabeth Thompson of Southwold and they had at least four children who survived to adulthood. The eldest, Thompson Forster was an “eminent surgeon”. Samuel was the second son and went on to be Headmaster of Norwich Grammar School as well as Rector of Shotley. The third son, John, was also a clergyman. A daughter, Elizabeth, married Edward Berry in 1766 in London. Berry was apparently a merchant who generated a large family and then promptly died leaving a poor widow and numerous progeny. Their son, Edward Berry, joined the Navy and rose to become an admiral, being captain of Nelson’s flagship, the Vanguard, at the Battle of the Nile. Beforehand, he had recently married his cousin Louisa, daughter of Samuel Forster.

Thomas Forster wrote a couple of tracts on religious doctrine and had a collection of sermons published. In 1766, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, the citation reading,

Thomas Forster Clerk, Rector of Halesworth in the County of Suffolk, being desirous of the Honor of Election into the Royal Society: We the underwritten recommend him on our personal knowledge, as a Gentleman well versed in several Branches of Literature, likely to be a useful member of the Society, & deserving that Honor,

although he does not appear to have done anything very noteworthy at the Society. In 1767, he was one of the proposers for Joshua Kirby’s election.

20 thoughts on “Thomas Forster

  1. Pingback: Gregory Sharpe | Kirby and his world

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  3. kelly klink

    This is my 6th great grandfather and am hoping someone might be ale to help with dates of marriages and births. I am in New Zealand so anything would help 🙂

    1. dmelville2012 Post author

      Great to hear from you. Good luck with your research.
      Thomas Forster is really is quite a shadowy figure. I do not have dates for his marriage. There is a footnote in the Journals of the Hon. William Hervey: in North America and Europe, from 1755 to 1814; with order books at Montreal, 1760-1763 that has a lot of personal information. Caroline Hervey and Gertrude Vanneck witnessed his daughter Elizabeth’s wedding to Edward Berry.
      I am assuming he is the Thomas listed in Venn as son of George Fo(r)ster of Barbados with older brothers George and Richard.

  4. J. David Hobson

    Thomas Forster is my 4th great grandfather. I came to a similar conclusion some time ago as to where Thomas came from. Follow the money. Thomas must have had resources behind him for him to have studied at Cambridge and become a member of the Royal Society. I have not been able to go beyond him and back to Barbados from a genealogical point of view. Your article has shone some light on that roadblock. Many thanks.

      1. J. David Hobson

        I also noticed you posted an article on the Gibraltar Graveyard. William Forster was my 3rd great grandfather’s son. There was another “Forster” present at Trafalgar too: Sir Edward Berry. Naturally they knew each other. The ties that bind.
        cheers david

      1. J. David Hobson

        I agree absolutely but at this point the Halesworth-Barbados is stuck in the plausible. Caribbean
        genealogy is hit and miss.
        Thanks for your comment

      2. dmelville2012 Post author

        Supposing Thomas to have been the younger brother of George and Richard, the three sons of George of Bermuda, the Admissions book of St. John’s College says, “on the father’s side coming of a Northumberland family”. I wonder if it would be possible to trace a line starting in Northumberland and going out to Barbados at some point. I confess to knowing little of early history of Barbados. The eldest son, George, was a fellow commoner at St. John’s, so the family must have had plenty of resources.

  5. J. David Hobson

    The name is intriguing that for sure. I have not been able to connect him to Rev. Thomas Forster of Halesworth though, I have been fascinated with the Bamborough Forsters but once again no obvious link found as yet. Rev. Thomas Forster must come from somewhere and I suspect the Barbados is the one but before that most likely Northumberland. All speculation on my part. Good hunting and thanks

  6. John David Hobson

    There is a reference to the baptism of Thomas Forster dated 3 February 1723 in the Barbados Church Records 1637-1849 from the St Joseph Parish. Other Forsters are mentioned as well: Elizabeth 1719, Hannah 1719, Mercy 1725 and Elizabeth 1727. One of the Elizabeths was baptised in June and the other in July strongly suggesting 2 Forster families.

  7. John David Hobson

    We’ve uncovered a will by Samuel Forster of St Josephs Parish Barbados and having attended St Johns College, Oxford who appointed his nephew the Reverend Thomas Forster of Halesworth as his executor. This proves without doubt that Rev Thomas Forster was from Barbados I think. we’re still digging.

  8. Robert Brown

    I have just acquired the book by Thomas Forster “Sermons upon Various Subjects delivered at Portland Chapel.” Forster describes himself as late Minister of that Chapel. The chapel was known as this, although it’s proper title was St Paul’s Church, Marylebone, London. Forster was also Chaplain to Lord Pelham.
    The book is Volume 1 only, and was printed in Tunbridge-Wells for some reason. Can supply details if anyone interested.
    Robert Brown
    Winchester Antiquarian Books


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