Sir Francis Ronalds and his Family

Thomas Field Gibson

Gibson Gardens in Stoke Newington, named after Thomas Field Gibson

The monument to the Great Exhibition of 1851 - with mention of Thomas F Gibson - in front of the Albert Hall in South Kensington

Sir Francis Ronalds' cousin Thomas Field Gibson (1803-1889) was a silk manufacturer in Spitalfields, London's East End, and in Halstead, Essex. He also jointly built and owned the Depot silk mill in Derby (which was later run briefly by Sir Francis' brother Edmund Ronalds).

Thomas devoted considerable effort to community activities, including being a founding Director of the Metropolitan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrious Classes, which was the first corporation established to build social housing at scale. Gibson Gardens, a housing complex opened in Stoke Newington in 1880, was named in honour of Thomas' many contributions. He was also one of Prince Albert's Royal Commissioners who ran the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Crystal Palace and his role is commemorated on a memorial outside the Albert Hall.

Thomas and his second wife Eliza Cogan (1806-1890) - daughter of Sir Francis' schoolmaster Eliezer Cogan - retired to Royal Tunbridge Wells. Their home at 10 Broadwater Down was later Field Marshal Montgomery's headquarters during World War II. They had earlier lived at Elm House in Walthamstow, the birthplace of William Morris.

Thomas recorded his childhood impressions of seeing Sir Francis' electric telegraph in action in 1816 and was one of the very first to formally congratulate him when he was knighted 54 years later. Thomas' own scientific achievements including finding a type specimen "of enormous historical significance". It was the fossil of an extinct plant species of worldwide distribution and was given his name - Bennettites gibsonianus.

Further Information

Thomas Gibson & Thomas Field Gibson (2017) - published in the Dictionary of Unitarian & Universalist Biography

Sir Francis Ronalds: Father of the Electric Telegraph (2016) - published by Imperial College Press

Alfred Ronalds: Angler, Artisan and Australian Pioneer (2022) - published by Medlar Press

Depot Silk Mill in Derby and the Gibson and Ronalds Families (2020) - published in the Derby Miscellany, Volume 22:3

Thomas Gibson and Son: Spitalfields Silk Manufacturers (2017)
- published in the East London History Society Newsletter, Volume 4:7

One of Thomas Field Gibson's obituaries (1890)

Thomas Field Gibson's entry in Wikipedia

Thomas Field Gibson's paper describing his discovery of an Iguanodon femur (1858)
- published by the Geological Society of London