From the Thorley Archives

  Thorley and Captain Cook

One of the many challenges that a student of history faces is that of relating associations of present day experiences with past events. Recent findings have established a link between the history of our village of Thorley to Captain James Cook. This summer's BBC series 'The Ship' faithfully re-enacts the 1770 voyage of Captain Cook's ship Endeavour. James Cook's exploits and discoveries were recognised by two gentlemen associated with Thorley to the extent that, in 1775, they proposed him for membership of The Royal Society in London. The Rev. Samuel Horsley and Matthew Raper were members of The Royal Society both being learned astronomy and mathematics scholars.

Samuel Horsley, 1733 - 1806, was the son of John Horsley, Rector of St. James the Great from 1745 to 1778. Samuel himself became Rector of Thorley in 1779 before rising to higher positions, successively being appointed to be Bishop of St Davids, 1788, Rochester, 1793 and St Asaph's in 1802. He was elected a fellow of The Royal Society in 1767, its secretary in 1773 but resigned in 1784 after disputes with Priestley and the president Sir Joseph Banks. Samuel Horsley published many scientific and theological papers and gained a reputation for improving the conditions of the clergy in his three dioceses.

Matthew Raper, 1705 - 1778, lived at Thorley Hall. He had an observatory, designed by John Smeaton, built in the roof of his manor house. He also converted a room at his brother John's Twyford House as a second smaller observatory, so that he could maintain his records when he went to stay there. His published research papers included astronomical, mathematical and meteorological subjects. Letters in The Royal Society library detail how he sent his papers to Samuel Horsley for his comments prior to their publication. More information about Matthew Raper's involvement in Thorley life can be found in Matthew Raper F.R.S.

Our two personalities obviously played a prominent role at The Royal Society as they are amongst the first four of Captain James Cook's sponsors together with Joseph Banks, Captain Cook's botanist.

Acknowledgements to The Royal Society, London, SW1Y 5AG


Bill Hardy
October 2002

From the Archives