Martin, Thomas (1697-1771) (DNB00)

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MARTIN, THOMAS (1697–1771), antiquary, known as ‘Honest Tom Martin of Palgrave,’ was born on 8 March 1696–7 at Thetford, in the school-house of St. Mary's parish, which is the only parish of that town situate in the county of Suffolk. He was son of William Martin, rector of Great Livermere, Suffolk, and of St. Mary's, Thetford, by his wife Elizabeth, only daughter of Thomas Burrough of Bury St. Edmunds, and aunt to Sir James Burrough, master of Caius College, Cambridge. After attending school at Thetford, he became clerk in the office of his brother Robert, who practised as an attorney in that town. According to some notes by Martin, dated in 1715, he disliked this employment, and regretted that want of means had prevented him from going to Cambridge (Nichols, Literary Anecdotes, v. 384).

In 1722 he was still at Thetford, but in 1723 he was settled at Palgrave, Suffolk, where he passed the remainder of his life. He was a zealous student of topography and antiquities, became a member of the Gentlemen's Society at Spalding, and was admitted a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, at the same time as Martin Folkes [q. v.], on 17 Feb. 1719–20 (ib. vi. 13, 97; Gough, Chronological List, p. 3). Cole, who often met him at Sir James Burrough's lodge at Caius College, and who had also been at his house at Palgrave, says ‘he was a blunt, rough, honest, downright man; of no behaviour or guile; often drunk in a morning with strong beer, and for breakfast, when others had tea or coffee, he had beefsteak or other strong meat. … His thirst after antiquities was as great as his thirst after liquors’ (Addit. MS. 5876, f. 88 b). His great desire was not only to be esteemed, but to be known and distinguished by the name of ‘Honest Tom Martin of Palgrave.’ For many years his ‘hoary hairs were the crown of glory for the anniversary of the Society of Antiquaries,’ of which he was so long the senior fellow (Gent. Mag. 1779, p. 411). The house in which he indulged his antiquarian and jovial propensities at Palgrave was pulled down in 1860. It was a large house, with central entrance, and thirteen windows in front looking towards the village church (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. x. 86).

Martin was a good lawyer, but his dislike of the practical part of his profession increased as he advanced in years, and he gradually lost his practice (Granger Correspondence, p. 103). His contempt for and improper use of money ultimately brought him into such pecuniary distress that he was obliged to sell many of his books and portions of his manuscript collections (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. v. 700). He died at Palgrave on 7 March 1771, and was buried, with others of his family, in the porch of the parish church, where a small mural monument of white marble, with an English inscription, was erected by his friend Sir John Fenn [q. v.] (Addit. MS. 19090, f. 24).

By his first wife, Sarah, widow of Thomas Cropley, and daughter of John Tyrrel of Thetford, he had eight children, of whom two died early; she died in 1731, a few days after having given birth to twins. Soon afterwards he married Frances, widow of Peter Le Neve [q. v.], Norroy king-of-arms, then living at Great Witchingham, Norfolk. He had been acting as Le Neve's executor, and by his marriage with the widow he came into the possession of a valuable collection of English antiquities and pictures. By his second wife he had four children, Samuel, Peter, Matthew, and Elizabeth.

John Worth, chemist, of Diss, advertised in 1774 proposals for publishing a history of Thetford, compiled from Martin's papers by Mr. Davis, a dissenting minister, of Diss, and five sheets of the work were actually printed by Crouse of Norwich (Nichols, Illustr. of Lit. v. 167). The design was stopped by Worth's sudden death, and the manuscript was purchased by Thomas Hunt, bookseller, of Harleston, Norfolk, who subsequently sold it, together with the undigested materials, copyright, and plates, to Richard Gough [q. v.] Gough published the work under the title of ‘The History of the Town of Thetford,’ London, 1779, 4to. Prefixed is a portrait of Martin engraved by P. S. Lamborn, at the expense of John Ives, from a painting by T. Bardwell. A copy of this, engraved by P. Audinet, is in Nichols's ‘Illustrations of Literature.’ A memoir of Martin was communicated by the Rev. Sir John Cullum, bart.; the public were indebted to Francis Grose for a new set of the plates; and the coins were arranged by Benjamin Bartlett.

Martin's pecuniary embarrassments obliged him to dispose of many of his books, enriched with manuscript notes, to Thomas Payne, in 1769. A catalogue of his remaining library was printed after his death, at Lynn, 1771, 8vo. Worth purchased it, with all his other collections, for 600l. The printed books he immediately sold to Booth & Berry of Norwich, who disposed of them in a catalogue, 1773. The pictures and lesser curiosities Worth sold by auction at Diss; part of the manuscripts in London, in April 1773, by Samuel Baker; and by a second sale there, in May 1774, manuscripts, scarce books, deeds, grants, pedigrees, drawings, prints, coins, and curiosities. What remained on the death of Worth, consisting chiefly of the papers relating to Thetford, Bury, and the county of Suffolk, were purchased by Thomas Hunt, who sold many of them to private purchasers. Richard Gough became possessed of the Bury papers. The dispersion was completed by the sale of Ives's collection in London, in March 1777, he having been a principal purchaser at every former one. Two stout quarto volumes, almost entirely in Martin's handwriting, with some notes of Blomefield, Ives, and others, are now (1893) in the possession of G. G. Milner-Gibson Cullum, esq., of Hardwick House, Bury St. Edmunds. These volumes, containing notes on about 235 Suffolk churches, were purchased by Sir John Cullum, author of the ‘History of Hawstead and Hardwick,’ from John Topham the antiquary in 1777. In addition to these Mr. Cullum has a thin notebook on some Norfolk churches; and some of Martin's notes are now in the possession of the family of Mills of Saxham. Another volume of Martin's notes was sold with the books of John Gough Nichols, F.S.A., and is in the library of the Suffolk Institute of Archæology. There is in the British Museum a copy of Gough's ‘Anecdotes of British Topography,’ 1768, with copious manuscript notes by Martin. Many of his letters are printed in Nichols's ‘Lit. Anecdotes’ (ix. 413 et seq.)

At the sale of Upcott's manuscripts, Sir John Fenn's ‘Memoirs of the Life of Thomas Martin’ was purchased by Sir Thomas Phillipps.

[Cullum's Memoir in the History of Thetford, Pref. pp. v–ix and 284, 285; Addit. MSS. 5833 f. 166, 19090 ff. 19, 24, 19166 f. 168; Dibdin's Bibliomania, pp. 510–13; Gent. Mag. 1853, i. 531; Gough's British Topography, ii. 16, 39*; Horne's Introd. to Bibliography, ii. 661, 662; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), p. 1491; Monthly Review, 1780, lxii. 299; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. iii. 608, v. 167; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. v. 384, vi. 97, ix. 413–39; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. xii. 321, 2nd ser. x. 86, xi. 142, 3rd ser. xii. 163, 420.]

T. C.