Hagg*r One Name Study

“Who was Thomas De Quincey?”

(by Mike Hagger)

If you ask at random “Who was Thomas De Quincey?” the majority response may be a blank look.  A minority will recall Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859), a man of letters best known for his book “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater”.

Look more closely at the 1850s and at the town of Todmorden, high up in the moors on the borders of Lancashire and Yorkshire, and there you find a blacksmith/cordwainer living as Thomas De Quincy, living with Elizabeth (née Wright).  They registered five births in seven years with the names:

Lavender De Quincey (1854-1918), James Plyer Wright De Quincey (1856-1896),    

Alexia Hagger Wright De Quincey (1857-58),  William Hagger Wright De Quincey (1858-1859) and Bertha Honor Wright De Quincey (1860-1864).

Who were these people with their curious names.............and “Hagger” in two of them?

The simple answer is that it was all a sham, and a not very well disguised one either.

Thomas was born in 1827 as Thomas Hagger, and baptised on the 9th December that year in Therfield, the son of Thomas Hagger and Mary (née Sanderson).  By 1841, he was lodging away from his family and by 1845, still only 18, he married (at Barkway Independent Chapel) a widow by the name of Mary Humphreys.  

For whatever reason, the marriage did not survive.  By 1851 Thomas was lodging in Therfield and his census entry says “Married” but has a strange annotation above saying “Widower” which is crossed through.  Whatever the truth of that may be, he was in Todmorden three years later living another life.  No records have been found of that period up on the moors, save for births (and deaths) of the children.  No evidence at all of a formal marriage has ever come to light.  By contrast the children’s names tell all:

- Lavender was the Christian name of Thomas’s grandfather, and of an Uncle and of a brother;

- James Plyer Wright was the name of Elizabeth’s father – a farmer in Cottered;

- The use of Hagger and Wright for the three other children (none of whom survived to adulthood) is obvious.

Sometime between early 1860 and the 1861 census the family moved, being found in Camberwell where, with some eccentricity, Thomas (still cordwaining) and Elizabeth are recorded as Hagger, but the three surviving children of Todmorden are there as De Quinceys.

Before he died in Barnet in 1867, aged 39, Thomas had sired three more children (as Haggers), two born in Stevenage and the final one in Barnet, where money from Elizabeth’s father had provided a house.  Within three years of his death, Elizabeth, declaring herself to be a spinster, had re-married and had a daughter.  By 1871 all surviving children of Thomas are recorded as Hagger, and De Quincey had been consigned to folk memory.


Mike Hagger is a great-great-grandson of Thomas Hagger and Elizabeth Wright.  His great-grandfather in the photo below was one of the children not born in Todmorden, but in Stevenage, where he was registered as Vivian Hagger Hagger, but always known and recorded subsequently as Vivian Wright Hagger.  

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