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Thomas Faulkner (1777–1855) was an English bookseller and topographer of West London. He is known for three principal works that were to become standard 19th-century references for the localities of Chelsea, Fulham and Kensington. Faulkner was a member of the Société des Antiquaires de Normandie - Society of Antiquaries of Normandy.[1]

Thomas Faulkner
Portrait of Thomas Faulkner, the Chelsea bookseller and writer
Thomas Faulkner by J. Holmes (Courtesy Nypl)
Thomas Faulkner

OccupationTopographer, writer, stationer and bookseller
Known for‘An Historical and Topographical Account of Chelsea and its Environs'. etc.


Faulkner was born into a family involved in the building trade in the west of London. He branched out of the family business and, for many years, kept a small bookseller's and stationer's shop at the corner of Paradise Row, at the western end of the footpath running past Chelsea Hospital. Without much formal education, he was an autodidact and acquired sufficient knowledge of French and Spanish to obtain employment as a translator. He died at Smith Street, Chelsea, on 26 May 1855, at the age of seventy-eight.[2]

Literary careerEdit

His literary career began in October and November 1797 with pieces for the Gentleman's Magazine, to which he was to be an occasional contributor for over half a century. He was also a contributor to the series of the New Monthly Magazine.

In 1805 he published a ‘Short Account of Chelsea Hospital,’ and in 1810 produced his first work, ‘An Historical and Topographical Account of Chelsea and its Environs. With biographical anecdotes of illustrious and eminent persons who have resided in Chelsea during the three preceding centuries’, published in London. It was dedicated to Brownlow North, bishop of Winchester, who then had an official residence in Chelsea. Faulkner is said to have been assisted in the compilation by the Rev. Weeden Butler the younger, a local schoolmaster. A second edition of the work, in two volumes and dedicated to the Hon. George Cadogan, appeared in 1829.

In 1813 Faulkner published his major work, ‘An Historical and Topographical Account of the parish of Fulham, including the hamlet of Hammersmith,’ dedicated to John Randolph, then bishop of London; and in 1820 his ‘History and Antiquities of Kensington, with Biographical Anecdotes of Royal and Distinguished Personages, and a Descriptive Catalogue of the Pictures in the Palace from a survey taken by the late Benjamin West, P.R.A., by command of his Majesty’. This work was dedicated to George IV.[3]

In 1839 Faulkner published his ‘History and Antiquities of Hammersmith’, dedicated to Queen Victoria. In 1845, he followed this with his ‘History and Antiquities of Brentford, Chiswick, and Ealing’. Both these works contain biographical accounts of local notabilities of the three preceding centuries. His obituary notice in the Gentleman's Magazine for June 1855 contains a complete list of Faulkner's works, including several minor publications not in the ‘British Museum Catalogue of Printed Books’.[4]

References and notesEdit

  1. ^ The Normandy Society of Antiquaries website:
  2. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography H. M. Chichester, ‘Faulkner, Thomas (1777–1855)’, rev. Joanne Potier, first published 2004; online edn, Oct 2007, 472 words - [Oxford DNB subscription required]
  3. ^ The plates in the 1820 edition were, in general, poor but some etchings, illustrative of the work, were published by Robert Banks, from original drawings in the possession of William Higgs, F.S.A., then a resident in Kensington, and in 1831 eight views of Kew Gardens were published from drawings by James Sargeant, engraved by H. Waller and John Rogers.
  4. ^ Two portraits of Thomas Faulkner exist—an expressive one in octavo size, with his coat of arms, and a quarto lithograph inscribed ‘J. Holmes, ad vivum del.’