Annie Thornton – wife of William Palmer

Anne Thornton, known as Annie was an amiable young lady and an heiress to considerable property. She was the daughter of a retired Army Officer Lieutenant Colonel William Brookes and his housekeeper Ann Thornton (in some books/newspapers called Mary Thornton). The Colonel was one of five brothers all but one of whom committed suicide. Her mother was much younger than the Colonel and became a dreadful woman, regularly drunk and rowing with Colonel Brookes cursing him for never having married her.

After some time the Colonel committed suicide (he was found with a pistol by his side “having blown his brains out”). After his death it was found that he had bequeathed property to his daughter Annie which brought in an income of about £250 annually. The Chancery Council took Annie away from her mother and made a ward of chancery. Annie went to Abbots Bromley where she lived with one of her guardians, Mr. Charles Dawson and his family. There she nursed his first and his second wife.

Annie was sent to Miss Bond’s school in Haywood. At the time Palmer was an assistant to Dr. Tylecote and often went to the school to treat pupils. That is where Annie fell in love with William and after a long courtship, and in spite of Mr. Dawson’s dislike of Palmer, they got married at Abbots Bromley church when she was twenty.

During the Palmer’s trial Serjeant Shee who headed the defence team read to the jury a letter from Palmer to his wife to be Annie. It is thought that it was sent to Annie whilst Palmer was in London studying to become a doctor:

MY DEAREST ANNIE,
I snatch a moment from my studies to write to your dear, dear, little self. I need scarcely say that the principal inducement I have to work is my desire of getting my studies finished so as to be able to press your dear little form in my arms.
With best, best love, believe me, dearest Annie, your own,nbsp;”WILLIAM.”

(From the Illustrated Life and career of William Palmer of Rugeley published 1856)

Annie Marries William

William Palmer was married to Annie Thornton on 7th October 1847 at the Parish Church of St, Nicholas, Abbots Bromley in the County of Stafford. The marriage certificate gave their ages as William 23 and Annie 20.

The Rugeley number of the Illustrated Times February 2nd 1856 said of Annie Palmer:-

………. She was a clever, amiable, accomplished, and lovable girl, having, moreover a clear income of £200 a-year; her mother gave her besides a present of £700.
Many speak of her almost with affection, and the poor of Rugeley still deplore the loss of a most sympathising benefactress. With such a wife, one would have thought that William Palmer would have lived in contented obscurity in his snug two-storeyed cottage, standing a little off the street, with its three square windows above, and one on either side on either side of the door.

However earlier in the same article the paper was far less respectful of her parents

More than twenty years since a retired Indian officer pitched his tent at Stafford, with a low vulgar woman, who was at once his housekeeper and mistress. He was a Lieutenant-Colonel, and his name was Brooks. The name of the housekeeper was Mary Thornton, and she it seems was subject to wild fits of ungovernable passion. The old Colonel, evidently a man of feeble mind though strong appetites, would flee from her anger to a neighbouring tavern, and there seek refuge till the storm had blown over. Not infrequently, however, she would track him to his retreat, and drag him home in ignominious triumph, Indeed, as it was naively remarked in the neighbourhood, ” he might as well have been married.” One night the old colonel was found lying dead upon the floor – a recently discharged pistol by his side. This was in 1834. By a will dated July 27, 1833, he bequeathed to Anne Thornton, the illegitimate offspring of his liaison with with his housekeeper, nine houses at Stafford besides land, and the interest of 20,000 sicca rupees, for herself and her children; and appointed Dr. Edward Knight, a highly-respectable physician of Stafford, and Mr. Dawson, her guardians and trustees. To Mary Thornton, the mother of Anne, the Colonel bequeathed certain property, which was to pass to the daughter at the decease of the mother.
Anne Thornton is reported to have been painfully sensible of her own false position as an illegitimate child, and it is said that she was habituated to look upon herself as an outcast – being of an inferior order – one who should be deeply grateful to any man who would bestow his name upon a creature unrecognised by the laws, and tainted from her birth. Her first love was unpropitious. But fountains of that great deep, a woman’s heart, had been broken up. The ark of her existence now drifted to and fro, reckless at the helm, and hope in the hold, until the waters of disappointment decreased, and the keel grated on the strand. Her mountain of Ararat was William Palmer.

Although Palmer seemed genuinely fond of Annie she saw less and less of him as his love for horses took over not to mention his many lady friends. Poor Annie lost four out of five of her children.

To read about her death click HERE