Laslett family history

Thomas and Harriet Laslett of Chatham

Thomas Laslett was born at Poplar, Middlesex on 18 June 1811 and was baptised at the East India Dock Chapel there. He was the eldest child of Thomas Laslett, a shipwright, and and his first wife Elizabeth Laslett née Rowe (page 52).

On 20 August 1835 he married Harriet Milicent Newnham of Chatham at Hoo Church, Rochester. Harriet had been born on 5 June 1803 and was the daughter of a builder.

He was brought up as a shipwright in Chatham Dockyard, and served for a short time as carpenter's mate on HMS Buffalo. This service must have seen him in good stead as on 3 March 1837 Thomas was appointed Second Purveyor of Timber at New Zealand at 13/- a day. From the Admiralty Lord Glenelg sent a dispatch to Sir Richard Bourke, Governor of the Colony of New South Wales, informing him of Thomas's appointment and advising him that Thomas carried 'various presents for the Natives' and that he would join HMS Buffalo on her arrival in Sydney and proceed with her to New Zealand to treat with the Maori's for timber rights. The aim of the mission was to secure masts and spars for the Royal Navy. Thomas arrived in Sydney on 20 August 1837 on the Ellen and sailed on HMS Buffalo on Saturday 10 September 1837.

This first voyage was successful and Thomas joined HMS Buffalo for her second timber getting voyage to New Zealand in 1840. This ended with the wreck of HMS Buffalo in Mercury Bay in April 1840 as shown in athe following sketch of the wreck scene drawn by Thomas and now kept at the Royal Naval Library in London.

In both cases Thomas appears to have joined and left HMS Buffalo in Sydney and to have travelled to and from England in other vessels. In his book Timber and Timber Trees - Native and Foreign published 1875 Thomas also mentions visiting Tasmania. In writing this book Thomas set a record of sorts for Lasletts in that his authority is quoted 32 times in the Oxford English Dictionary albeit on the use of words to do with timber. Thomas also wrote a journal of his travels, which was unpublished at his death but may still survive as it was reported to be in existence in 1980.

Thomas was made Purveyor of Timber in Burma in 1847 and Prussia in 1866. He was employed to survey and report upon some forests near Russia in Asia Minor and also other forests in Bosnia, European Turkey in 1859 and 1860. He was Timber Inspector of Woolwich Dockyard from 1858 to 1869 and for many years later Timber Inspector for the Admiralty.

In Timber and Timber Trees Thomas mentions his career: “It need scarcely be stated here, since it will be well understood, that to classify and collect the notes in order to record these tests of strength, &c., in timber, it has taken a very long time, and, but for the exceptional opportunities I had during a long course of service in the royal dockyards and elsewhere, it would have been impossible for me to have obtained these results.

“While employed surveying timber for the Navy in New Zealand, and subsequently in India, Belgium, France, Prussia, Asia Minor, and European Turkey, and also in the royal forests in England, and later on as Timber Inspector of a dockyard, and Timber Inspector to the Admiralty,.every effort has been made to acquire a knowledge of the capabilities and characteristic properties of the several varieties of timber which came under notice.

“Many of the experiments to which I shall have to refer were made at Woolwich Dockyard, where it was necessary, as a part of the duty of my office, to ascertain the specific gravities, strength, and measurement, and attend to the receipt of the timber coming in under contract with the Admiralty.”

He retired from active service in April 1880. He was subsequently employed by the Admiralty to make special surveys of timber on various occasions at home and abroad, also by the Society of Arts to report on timber exhibited in the Colonial and Indian Exhibition at London in 1886.

Harriet died at Devon House, Marton Road, Chatham at 3 p.m. on 4 December 1867. Thomas died suddenly of a heart attack at Woolwich Dockyard Railway Station on 6 April 1887.

Family of Thomas and Harriet Laslett


THOMAS NEWNHAM - born 22 December 1841 at Chatham. Architect. Married four times but all the marriages except the first to a widow named Louisa Ann Covil were childless. Louisa died at Charlton on 8 January 1891 and Thomas died at Ramsgate on 29 August 1923.

See chapter Thomas Laslett of Chatham and his wives Louisa, Harriet, Mary and Clara on page 117.

HENRY JAMES - born 17 August 1844 at Pembroke Dock, South Wales. Naval Store keeper at Bermuda and Naval Stores Office H.M. Dockyard Chatham. He was married to an M. Johns and had four sons and three daughters but no details are known. Henry died at Rainham on 30 March 1911. Who was who 1897-1916 - reads: Henry James Laslett - I.S.O. 1904: Naval Store Officer, HM Dockyard, Chatham; b 17 Aug 1844, son of Thomas Laslett of HM Dockyard, Woolwich. Educ: privately. Address: Raesham, Kent. Died: 30 March 1914.
FREDERICK WILLIAM - born 24 May 1847 at Pembroke Dock, South Wales. Surgeon R.N. of Jamaica Hospital. He married Elen Grief. Both Frederick and Elen died of yellow fever within a few days of each other, he on 4 September 1878 and she on 9 September 1878.


HARRIET ELIZABETH - born 19 August 1837 at Chatham. She died of an internal abscess at Devon House, Maryon Road, Chatham on 17 July 1870. Married.
Victor - lived in France.
ELIZA SARAH - born 26 September 1839 at Chatham. Married George Christie a clerk at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich and had two sons and one daughter. In the 1881 census George was shown as a Master Mariner and they lived at 57 Glenister Road, Greenwich. Eliza died on 11 March 1908.
Phillip F.G. Christie – born Woolwich 1866. Baker’s boy in 1881.
Thomas J. Christie – born Pembroke Dock, wales 1870.
Milicent – born Southsea, Hampshire in 1874.