Thomas Binford

Thomas Binford

Served at the Battle of Trafalgar, Landed Gentleman and Portreeve of Yeovil


Thomas Binford was born in London around 1791 but virtually nothing is known of his early life however he served in the Royal Navy (Service Number SB 830) and in 1805 was a 14-year old Midshipman (an officer cadet or a commissioned officer candidate of the junior-most rank) aboard HMS Prince - a 98-gun second rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 4 July 1788 at Woolwich.

HMS Prince was a slow and ungainly ship with a justified reputation for ‘sailing like a haystack’. During 1805 HMS Prince was in service with the Channel Fleet under Captain Richard Grindall. She was in Collingwood’s division at Trafalgar, in October that year, but the ‘Prince’ was overtaken by the rest of the line as it joined battle with the French and Spanish fleet, and took over two hours to cover the two or three miles to reach the battle. By the time 'Prince' reached the action, the fighting was all but over and most of the enemy fleet was in British hands or had fled, leaving little for the ‘Prince’ to contribute to the British victory. She did fire on the Spanish flagship Principe de Asturias and Achille, but was not attacked and suffered no damage or casualties. Nevertheless, the ship proved invaluable after the battle, rescuing sailors, towing damaged vessels and providing stores.

Thomas was still in the Royal Navy in 1812 when, at the age of 21, his marriage was announced in the 16 January 1812 edition of the Exeter Flying Post - "On Thursday last was married, at Clist Honiton, Devon, by the Rev. John Hodge, Mr Thomas Binford, of the royal navy, to Miss Donn, of Yeovil, Somerset."

Living in Clyst Honiton, Devon, he was listed - as Thomas Binford Esq. - in 1824 for obtaining a Game Certificate. In the 1832 and 1834 Yeovil Poll Books Thomas was listed by virtue of owning a freehold house in the Borough - at this time he still lived in his large house called The Parsonage at Clyst Honiton. Thomas' house in the Borough was, in fact, the large residence known as Borough House (see Gallery below).

It would appear that Thomas actually already owned other land in Yeovil since "the new road belonging to Peter Daniell" (that is, today's Brunswick Street) was referred to in Thomas Binford's marriage settlement. This was a new road which, combined with Park Street running from the east, replaced the circuitous and somewhat steep route of Addlewell Lane and Chant's Path. It is shown, albeit un-named, on Edward Bullock Watts' map of 1831. The exact lands owned by Thomas at this time are, as yet, unknown.

In the 1841 census Thomas was listed living with his wife Elizabeth (1792-1847) at the Parsonage, Higher Holbrook, Clyst Honiton, together with one male and two female domestic servants. His occupation was simply listed as being of Independent means. He was to leave Clyst Honiton for Yeovil later in 1841 and the notice of sale of his large house in October 1841 is shown below.

Having owned the freehold property known as Borough House since the early 1830s (at least), by the time of the 1846 Tithe Apportionment Thomas was listed as owner and occupier of Borough House. He was also the owner of several other parcels of land in Yeovil, tabulated below. The 1851 census listed Thomas and Elizabeth at Borough House, together with his nephew, 30-year old apothecary (later surgeon) Thomas B Eyre (1819-1852), and two house servants. Thomas, by now aged 60, gave his occupation as 'Landed Proprietor'.

Involved in the affairs of the town, Thomas served as a Guardian of the Yeovil Union from at least 1845 and became the penultimate Portreeve of Yeovil, being elected to the office in 1853. Probably the most influential event during his term of office was the arrival of the railway in Yeovil at the new Hendford Terminus.

Daniel Vickery described this tumultuous event thus “On Saturday, October 1, 1853, the Yeovil Branch of the Bristol and Exeter Railway was opened with great ceremony. A procession was formed, consisting of the Yeovil Brass Band; the members of the Yeovil Guardian Friendly Society, with banners; Sergeant-at-mace, in full uniform; the Portreeve and Burgesses; and a numerous attendance of the authorities and the tradesmen of the town. The Chairman and Directors having arrived by train were received by Thomas Binford Esq., the Portreeve, who addressed them in the following words: "Gentlemen, I am happy to see you. I have no robe of office, neither have I a written address; but I have brought you that which is far better, thousands of warm hearts and happy faces."  Mr Buller, the Chairman, responded to these few hearty words of welcome in corresponding terms and the Directors having joined the procession, all returned, in the order in which they came, to the Mermaid Inn. A dinner was provided by Mr Watts, at the Town Hall, which was presided over by the Portreeve. Several loyal and local toasts were given and responded to and the company did not retire (with the exception of the Directors, who were compelled to leave earlier) till a late hour. And so was inaugurated the Bristol and Exeter Railway to Yeovil."

Elizabeth Binford died in Yeovil on 12 April 1857 after a short illness, aged 67. Thomas died at Yeovil on 24 May 1858, aged 69. His will was proved the following month and his estate valued at "under £7,000" (around £7.6 million at today's value).


Yeovil Lands owned by thomas binford

In the 1832 and 1834 Poll Books Thomas Binford was listed by virtue of owning a freehold house - Borough House - in the Borough. At this time he lived at Clyst Honiton in Devon. The following list of his land holdings comes from the 1846 Tithe Apportionment of Yeovil.

Owner Occupier No Name
Binford, Thomas Binford, Thomas 235 House, Garden, etc. (Borough House)
Binford, Thomas Longman, Henry 571 In Gold Croft
Binford, Thomas Newman, Berkley 592 Hewish
Binford, Thomas Holt, Thomas 958 Sydling's Mead
Binford, Thomas Pitcher, John 989 Thomas' Cross
Binford, Thomas Vicary, James 991 Marsh Furlong
Binford, Thomas Tucker, James 1000 Garden, A
Binford, Thomas Tucker, James 1001 Ridgeway
Binford, Thomas Longman, Henry 1018 Sharp Acre
Binford, Thomas Tucker, James 1028 Higher Goldspit
Binford, Thomas Tucker, James 1029 Lower Goldspit




Courtesy of Mike Monk. This photograph features in my book 'Secret Yeovil'

Thomas Binford was present at the Battle of Trafalgar, as a 14-year old Midshipman, aboard HMS Prince.


The notice of sale of Thomas Binford's substantial residence, The Parsonage, Clyst Honiton, Devon, in the 18 October 1841 edition of the Western Flying Post.


From the 13 September 1853 edition of the Western Flying Post, these letters were the beginning of the end of the position of Portreeve - Thomas Binford was the penultimate Portreeve and John Ryall Mayo was the first Mayor of Yeovil that replaced the Portreeve.


This photograph of about 1915 shows Borough House, at left, set well back from High Street. By the time of this photograph the building was used as municipal offices. The tree and shop at centre are in the position of where King George Street now joins High Street and the tall building at right is the old Town Hall (built in 1849) with its tower and gas-illuminated clock, installed in 1912.


This photograph features in my book 'Secret Yeovil'

A photograph of Borough House taken about 1880 showing the fine Corinthian columns supporting the porch and the bow-headed window above - a nice architectural touch.


The notice of Thomas' death in the 1 June 1858 edition of the Western Flying Post.