Home » Soldier’s sojourn home… in 1758

Soldier’s sojourn home… in 1758

HIS glimpse into the life and times of Corporal William Todd from 1758 has been sent in by Jim Suggit. Thank you Jim, we are sure readers will find this fascinating! We publish Jim’s article in full: On 7 December 1758, Corporal William Todd left…

THIS glimpse into the life and times of Corporal William Todd from 1758 has been sent in by Jim Suggit. Thank you Jim, we are sure readers will find this fascinating!

We publish Jim’s article in full:

Soldier 30th Regt from 1742
Soldier 30th Regimentt from 1742

On 7 December 1758, Corporal William Todd left his family home in ‘Preston-by-Hedon’ to rejoin his Regiment, the 30th of Foot, in Canterbury. After taking a morning ferryboat from Hull, he landed at Barton at about 10 o’clock, setting off on foot for Lincoln. He and his companions took a break at the Ostrich Inn (?) in Spittle (near Caenby Corner), before reaching Lincoln in darkness at 7 o’clock that night. His march to Canterbury eventually took ten days.

The son of a farm labourer, William Todd was baptized in 1724. He had originally begun his military service with the Yorkshire Blues during Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite Rebellion of 1745-46. Subsequent regular military service took him to garrison duties in Ireland, expeditions against France and campaigning in Germany. He retired as a Chelsea Hospital Out-Pensioner in 1762 and returned to Holderness.

Todd’s home leave or furlough in 1758 was part business and part personal. As well as seeing his family for the first time in a number of years, he had undertaken to enrol a number of recruits – including a drummer – who would help replace battle casualties from a recent engagement with the French at St Cass, when he had, for a short period, been taken prisoner of war. Recruiting involved attending market days in Hedon and Hull and visiting quite a lot of local hostelries hereabouts.

Todd was not the only one recruiting at that time. A sergeant of the Marines was trying to fill the ranks needed aboard HMS Temple, a 3rd Rate ship of 70 guns, recently built by Blaydes at Hessle Cliff. The Marine was not averse to slipping a King’s shilling into a beer bought for the unwary local, a recruiting subterfuge (known as trapaning) resisted by Todd, who prevented a young Hedon lad employed by a Mr Bell being whisked away after being caught by the ruse in William Thorpe’s drinking house in Hedon.

Todd did this by arranging for a ‘smart money’ purchase of release of a guinea and a crown (£1.30p in modern coinage) to be paid. This was generously met by Mr Bell, Mayor Fairbridge, Mr Richard Jackson and other prominent Hedon citizens.

Todd celebrated the event with a ‘Crown bowl of punch’ in a local hostelry. I wonder if this had the same recipe as that of the Haven Commissioners?

Amongst other names, events and places mentioned during his 4th November to 6 December 1758 home sojourn are: the Hedon Sittings of 8 November, George Chumley’s public house in Preston, William Kerby, Henry Cook, Robert Wright (Proctor of Preston), Mr Francis Hardy, Henry Nelson and William Etherington (blacksmith).

We know these details because William Todd could read and write, having benefited from schooling in Preston under Schoolmaster and Parish Clerk John Smith and endowed by the benevolence of Thomas Helme, onetime Proctor of Preston. Todd kept a short journal throughout his military service, which he subsequently narrated to his daughter Peggie, adding anecdotes and other detail. This was set out in four manuscript volumes, two of which remarkably still exist in the Record Office at Leigh.

William Todd married Elizabeth Wetherill in 1764. He was buried on 8 December 1791 in Sculcoates parish.

6 thoughts on “Soldier’s sojourn home… in 1758

  1. Hello Alan,

    I found a list from the Hull History Centre of the Papers of Colonel Rupert Alec-Smith and Family on line at:


    The Maister family was of particular interest to him and given their particular connections with the local Militia – especially during the latter part of William Todd’s life – their pieces might be worth a scan, if you’re still looking. If you’ve been there before, I apologize.

    I’m still researching my Todd ancestors. My earliest firm name is Robert Todd who would be of a similar vintage to Peggie Todd. Teasingly, his eldest son and daughter were another William and Elizabeth Todd. It took another hundred years before family surnames were used as forenames – so no Wetherill Todd so far.

    If I come across anything that might be useful, I’ll pass it on.


    1. JIm – many thanks, the extant Todd Journals were at Maister House once! I always live in hope the missing ones will re-appear. I am on another project just now and will return to Todd hopefully in a year [or so]. Good luck with your own ‘Todd’ research and perhaps Jim Suggit could kindly let you have my personal email for us to keep in touch by?

  2. Gosh. I do indeed have a hard copy of Andrew McCormack and Alan Jones’s edited Journal and ran a quick sanity check before I sent my piece in. However, the first time I came across the story of Corporal William Todd was in the mid-1970s and aptly in the Alison (Todd) Hall. I was attending a civic event and found myself seated between ‘the 3 Colonel’s,’ Dick Williams, Rupert Alec-Smith and Arthur Robinson. It was an interesting evening.

    In part of a varied conversation, Rupert Alec-Smith asked me if I had any ‘old’ Todd ephemera. I replied very little, except for a copy of the ‘Ingoldsby Legends’, presented by the then Vicar (HL Clarke) to great great grandfather William Todd in 1880 and some pieces about John Todd, his brother, who had been Surveyor to the City of London.

    Rupert Alec-Smith then told me of Corporal William Todd, including a gist of his service and his home furlough. I jotted some notes on a serviette; it was a pity I hadn’t used a menu, but these must have been cleared away by this time. Whiskey was being enjoyed.

    For those who never knew Rupert Alec-Smith, to say that he had a passion for the preservation of local Heritage in the round would be an understatement. He evidently knew of Corporal William Todd’s journals and I now suspect – with the benefit of hindsight – was pleased that parts had survived, probably regretted that they weren’t held locally and was discreetly putting soundings out to see if the missing parts might still be found. I wonder if he made any progress.

    I said that I didn’t know whether Corporal William Todd was an ancestor of mine. I had firm local traces in Paull, Hedon, Lelley, Fitling and Aldbrough. This was the oldest – going back to the late 18th Century. Grandpa Jack Todd took me on a couple of occasions to see giant Morrell’s helmet in St Bartholemew’s and had pointed out a family gravestone. This has also now gone, but I recall it did have a ‘born Preston’ annotation.

    As a member of Preston All Saints Scouts, I had helped tidy-up the churchyard on a few occasions, had noted a couple of weathered Todd headstones – now gone – and had asked former Vicar HZ Weinstock – another memorable man – if he would keep an eye open for any old Todd references.

    In one of my old notebooks I have a line saying that a William Todd married Mary Dalton in Preston by Hedon on 24 April 1744. This has no reference, so may be anecdotal from HZW. I wonder if this is Corporal William Todd (having an earlier marriage) or his uncle of the same name?

    Fast-forward the clock 20 years and by then I was the Chief Instructor at Ashford. Part of the remit was to tutor young officers. One of the peripheral pieces of work I took them through was to plan an adventurous training exercise for their personnel. Rather than confine this to climbing this or that peak or similar, I used to stretch them to produce a plan to replicate a historic military event from a personal dimension, such as the march across Crete by the ‘Ill Met by Moonlight’ abductors of General Kreipe, the reconnaissance of the SMS Koenigsberg by Peter Pretorius or Harold’s march from London on Stamford Bridge inter alia. Needless to say, one of my titles was ‘Corporal William Todd’s Recruiting Furlough’. It proved a useful way of stimulating student research skills too.

    I am still amazed that one chap found a very old image of the Commercial Inn aka Ostrich at Spital, which I have a copy of. Two of three buildings still exist; the nearby Monckton/Monck’s Arms was not an inn till later. I was never offered an image of William Thorpe’s drinking establishment.

    In the margins, I subsequently came across a local history pamphlet detailing a Thomas Todd, “soldier and schoolmaster …. no doubt a discarded ex-serviceman turned teacher” living in Burstwick in the 1760s. I have often wondered whether this was a misnamed William, a brother or cousin or purely coincidental and someone entirely unconnected.

    In addition to the edited Journal mentioned by one of its co-authors, Corporal William Todd features in a range of military literature, from some regimental handbooks crediting him with founding the first recorded Corporals’ Mess in the Army, to (more recently) Saul David’s ‘All the King’s Men.”

    An ex-Naval chum of mine informs me that HMS Temple was a 68 gunner.

    Happy Christmas!

    1. Thank you Jim for your detailed ‘comments’ – I will add further thoughts when I have a post-Christmas moment! I spent some time looking for the ‘missing’ Journal(s) and hope (when I have finished another long-standing writing project) to produce a more ‘narrative’ version of his Journals.
      Happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year!

  3. Well, I am not sure if Jim has drawn this all from the original Journals, or used the work Andrew Cormack and I edited and had published. Either way, readers would no doubt like to know that ‘The Journals of Corporal William Todd’ (Army Records Society) have been published by Sutton and are available on the internet (from £4.85 Oxfam to £999.00 Amazon!) or do get in contact as I have some remaining copies available for £20 + p&p. I am really pleased that those local to this amazing man are interested in him. The real mystery is what might have happened to Vol 2 of the Journals (the 4th is speculative, but I personally feel probable). Alan

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