The third in our occasional series on Cricket Club Athletic Festivals, this tells the story of the village turning out for one of its own.
Athletics at Lowerhouse : 1872 A warm up event
Although the first Athletic Festival was still a year away, the club accounts for 1872 show asum of £1/16/- “receipts from athletics”. This turns out to have been a gymnastics display”before assembled hundreds” by Sergeant Thomas Thornber of the Coldstream Guards, who came from a large Lowerhouse family. (Burnley Gazette 4th May 1872).
Thomas was the third of six sons of stonemason Richard Thornber and his wife Christianna. The 1851 census records the family living at “Lower House”, possibly Lowerhouse Fold, their address on the 1861 census. A crowded house contained Richard and Christianna, their sons Alfred, Richard, Thomas, William, baby Ephraim, and two older girls and a boy with the surname Kennedy, who were Christianna’s children. All the children were under 18, and all except William aged 9, and the baby were working. . Another son, John, aged 6, was at his grandparents’ in Higham. Eleven year-old Thomas was working as a doffer, a job usually done in the cotton industry by small children.(His brother William became a prominent local Councillor, photo from our 1914 Club Bazaar brochure.)
That same year, 1872, whilst still in the Army in Windsor, Thomas started giving part time drill instruction to the boys of Beaumont Jesuit Public School. In 1880 after retiring with an army pension and a good conduct medal, he became drill instructor at Beaumont, and he, his wife and their large family moved into Beaumont Lodge. He retired from full time duties at the College after 34 years in 1907, but was still retained as drill instructor for the junior school so that his “stentorian voice so well known throughout the grounds and vicinity would still be heard giving the word of command”. He lived in the Lodge until he died in 1924 aged 86. He was given a full military funeral, attended by over 100 ex-servicemen. The coffin was then taken to Brompton Oratory, Kensington for a requiem, and “a detachment from the Coldstreams fired the salute at the grave-side” (B. Gazette 2/2/1924). so it seems he was buried in Brompton Cemetery – a beautiful Royal Park. (Photo of Sgt. Thornber and information courtesy of the Beaumont college old boys association, )