Richard Thornhill

Perp: Richard Thornhill, ESQ

The Crime: Manslaughter - as a result of a duel

The Victim: Sir Cholmondeley Deering

Weapon of Choice: Pistol

Motive : A quarrel that resulted in Thornhill losing some teeth

Date: 1711

Punishment: Burnt on the hand

Location : Old Bailey

The Story

THIS was a case which arose out of the practice of duelling, which has always existed almost peculiarly among the higher classes of society, Mr. Thornhill and Sir Cholmondeley Deering having dined together on the 7th of April, 1711, in company with several other gentlemen, at the Toy at Hampton Court, a quarrel arose, during which Sir Cholmondeley struck Mr. Thornhill. A scuffle ensuing, the wainscot of the room broke down, and Thornhill falling, the other stamped on him, and beat out some of his teeth.

The company now interposed, and Sir Cholmondeley, convinced that he had acted improperly, declared that he was willing to ask pardon ; but Mr. Thornhill said, that asking pardon was not a proper retaliation for the injury that he had received ; adding, " Sir Cholmondeley, you know where to find me." Soon after this the company broke up, and the parties went home in different coaches, without any farther steps being taken towards their reconciliation.

On the next day, the following letter was written by Mr. Thornhill :—

April 8th, 1711.
" Sir,—I shall be able to go abroad to-morrow morning, and desire you will give me a meeting with your sword and pistols, which I insist on The worthy gentleman who brings you this will concert with you the time and place. I think Tothill Fields will do well ; Hyde Park will not at this time of year, being full of company.
" I am your humble servant,

On the 9th of April, Sir Cholmondeley went to the lodgings of Mr Thornhill, and the servant showed him to the dining-room. He ascendel with a brace of pistols in his hands ; and soon afterwards, Mr. Thornhill coming to him, asked him if he would drink tea, but he declined. A hackney-coach was then sent for, and the gentlemen rode to Tothill Fields, where; unattended by seconds, they proceeded to fight their duel. They fired their pistols almost at the same moment, and Sir Cholmondeley, being mortally wounded, fell to the ground. Mr. Thornhill, after lamenting the unhappy catastrophe, was going away, when a person stopped him, told him he had been guilty of murder, and took him before a justice of the peace, who committed him to prison.

On the 18th of May, Mr. Thornhill was indicted at the Old Bailey sessions for the murder ; and the facts already detailed having been proved, the accused called several witnesses to show how ill he had been used by Sir Cholmondeley ; that he had languished some time of the wounds he had received ; during which he could take no other sustenance than liquids, and that his life was in imminent danger.

Several persons of distinction swore that Mr. Thornhill was of a peaceable disposition, and that, on the contrary, the deceased was of a remarkably quarrelsome temper ; and it was also deposed, that Sir Cholmondeley, being asked if he came by his hurt through unfair usage, replied, " No : poor Thornhill ! I am sorry for him ; this misfortune was my own fault, and of my own seeking. I heartily forgive him, and desire you all to take notice of it, that it may be of some service to him, and that one misfortune may not occasion another."

The jury acquitted Mr. Thornhill of the murder, but found him guilty of manslaughter; in consequence of which he was burnt in the hand.