Thomas Archer (1788 - 1865)
|Birth||Shipston-on-Stour, Ilmington, 1788[i]||
Line of Descent to Peter Byrnes:
(Great great great Grandfather)
|Occupation||Soldier, farm worker|
|Death||December 1, 1865, Ilmington, Warwickshire|
|Marriage||Grace ??? (no documentation)|
|Children||Samuel Archer (1817 – 1899), married Mary Greenaway)|
Thomas Archer was born in Warwickshire near the town of Shipston-on-Stour, in the Parish of Ilmington in 1778.
Ilmington is a quiet north Cotswold village of outstanding natural beauty, just 10 kilometres from the Shakespearean town of Stratford-on-Avon. The International Genealogical Index records that Archers were living in Illmington and areas around it, as far back as the 1500s.
(left) The old schoolhouse at Ilmington. If Thomas went to school, as seems likely since he worked later as a clerk in an Army office, it may well have been in this charming stone building.
As a youth, Tom worked as a farm labourer, but by the time he was 23, decided life in the Army had better prospects, and he enlisted in the 52nd Regiment at Coventry in 1801.
During Thomas’ period of service, the 52nd Regiment was based mainly on the Continent, with years spent fighting the Napoleonic and Peninsula wars, and manning garrisons in France, Belgium, Holland and Portugal and Spain.
However, in 1814, in one of the Regiment’s fairly rare periods in England, the 52nd was stationed at Plymouth, in Devon. It’s pure speculation, but it seems likely that this is when Tom met and married Grace, a woman from the Devon village of Ottery St. Mary. As was the custom of the time, wives and families accompanied soldiers behind the lines, and covered the costs of their care by carrying out domestic duties for the regiment.
In 1817-18, his battalion’s Pay and Muster lists show Thomas was with the 6th Company of his regiment when it was based in France at Therounne, Valenciennes and near St. Omar. (100 years later, all these places were in World War 1 battle areas). During the period his unit was camped near St. Omar, Grace gave birth to their son, Samuel.
Perhaps family and fatherhood didn’t combine well with Army life, for Thomas seems to have left the Army when the regiment returned to England in 1819. Where the Archers spent the next 12 years is uncertain, but it was probably in Warwickshire, near Coventry, as young Samuel regarded himself as a native, not of France where he was born, but of Warwickshire, where he grew up. By the end of 1830, Thomas had decided to return to the Army, serving as a Staff Sergeant in the Coventry Recruiting District from 10th January 1831 to the 31st January 1849. On his final discharge papers, Thomas was recorded as being 5' 8" tall, with grey hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion.
In recognition of his service at Waterloo, he qualified for a 'bonus' of two extra years pensionable service. Then, as now, retrenchments and cutbacks saw many retire – although, in Thomas’ case, it was not an early retirement (he was 72!). However, the Army cited as the reason for his discharge, “Reduction of the staff of the Coventry District”.
The Army Discharge Board, after testimony by his commanding officer, Col. James Campbell, gave him a very good reference:
"Thomas Archer is a most meritorious, correct and
trustworthy non-commissioned officer and deserves of any indulgence that
can be extended to him.
previous character appears to have been equally good".
In retirement, Thomas and Grace settled for a time in the village of Solihull, now a suburb of Birmingham. The 1851 UK Census says that Thomas, then aged 73, was a "Chelsea Pensioner" a term applied to former soldiers who received an Army pension from the Chelsea hospital registers.
Despite his age, Thomas returned to work after leaving the Army, and laboured as a farm hand even into his eighties. (On the death certificate of his son Samuel, Thomas' occupation was listed as "farmer", while the death certificate of his wife Grace in 1863 gives Thomas’ occupation as “husbandman”, an archaic term meaning one who looks after animals.
Thomas survived Grace by only 18 months. Like her, he died in Ilmington, just six kilometres from his birthplace of Shipston-on-Stour, probably in the home of his brother James in Back Street.
A modern day (2002) view of Back Street, Ilmington, in the Cotswolds - the street where Thomas’ brother James lived, and where his wife Grace died
 1851 U K Census for Warwickshire
 Samuel’s baptism certificate, noted in army records
 IGI, batch no.: C700101
 The witness who certified Thomas’ death was a Mary Newman, who, at the time of the 1851 census, lived in Back Street, Ilmington, as did James Archer