Robert James Thompson was born in Papworth St Agnes, a village due west of Cambridge, in 1872. His father, Henry, was a farm worker, born in Papworth St Agnes about 1833, and his mother Jane was born not far away in Grafham, Huntingdonshire in about 1838. By the age of 19, Robert was working on the land like his father.
However, four years later, in 1895, Robert had left village life and was living at 24 Hooper Street (Sturton Town), Cambridge as a constable in the Borough Police Force; and by 1901 he was living in the neighbourhood of Vicarage Terrace, in the St Matthew’s area of Cambridge.
Robert’s wife Alice Elizabeth Thompson (née Smith) was born in Elsworth, Cambridgeshire. Alice was the second of eight children born to Benjamin Smith and Amelia Frances Smith (née Lawson). Her father was a farmer. Robert and Alice had three children: Benjamin Robert (1896–1916); Gertrude Alice (1898–1931); and Walter Edward (1901–73). (Note that the first two children were given their parents’ first names as their middle names). Robert died at the early age of 30 in 1902, having served the Police Force for ten years.
After Robert’s death his widow, Alice, remarried to another Cambridge police constable, Francis Holmes, in 1906 in Cambridge. They lived at 21 Stockwell Street and then 23 Madras Road (both in Romsey Town), Cambridge. Alice died on 18 June 1945 in Cambridge.
Robert and Alice Thompson’s daughter, Gertrude, married Cyril Ernest John Brown (1894–1967) in 1921 in Cambridge. Cyril was a timber merchant’s clerk from Bath, Somerset. Gertrude died on 23 July 1931 in Cambridge.
‘Conducted on military lines’ was the phrase used by the local newspaper to describe the funeral of Robert James Thompson. The procession left the police station at 1:30 and proceeded to Robert’s home on Vicarage Terrace. The coffin was brought out of the house to the strains of the ‘Dead March’ from Saul, and was escorted to Mill Road Cemetery by the members of the Borough Police Force, the streets lined by mourners. ‘The service in the chapel and at the graveside was conducted by Rev. J. Reed, curate of St. Matthew’s. Following the committal, the band played “Abide with me.” On the coffin were placed the deceased’s helmet and staff. [For full account, see download].
Robert Thompson funeral
Lat Lon : 52,203935, 0.13768131 – click here for location
Parish : St Andrew the Less
Census returns for England: 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911
England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837–1915
England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index, 1837–1915
England & Wales, FreeBMD Death Index, 1837–1915
England & Wales, Death Index, 1916–2007
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858–1966
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914–1919
London Gazette, issue 29719, p. 8364, 22 August 1916
Spalding’s street directories
Cambridge Daily News, 10 May 1902
Assistance from Mike Petty
By Emma Easterbrook and Ian Bent