Thomas Henry STEEL (1806–1881)
His wife Mrs Sophia Sarah STEEL, née Harris (1818–1885)
St Giles (Ss Philip & James) section: Row 40, Grave K44

Thomas Steel


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BORN JULY 3, 1806.
DIED DEC 6, 1881



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DIED SEPT. 29, 1885



Thomas Henry Steel was born at Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland on 3 July 1806 and baptised there the same day. He was the son of Thomas Johnson Steel, the Treasurer of the Berwick-upon-Tweed Corporation, and his wife Matilda Clarke.

He attended St Paul’s School in London and was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge on 18 April 1826 and was awarded his B.A. in 1830. He was ordained deacon in 1831 and priest in 1833, and was an assistant tutor at Trinity in 1833/4. From 1837 to 1857 he was Vicar of St Ippolyts with Great Wymondley in Hertfordshire, and (for part of the same time) served as Assistant Master at Harrow School from 1836 to 1843 and again from 1849 until 1881.

Sophia Sarah Harris was born at Roscommon Street, Everton in Liverpool on 25 April 1818 and baptised at St Anne’s Church on 16 May. She was the daughter of the printer Joseph Harris and his wife Sophia Sarah Susannah.

On 6 December 1838 in the West Derby district, Thomas Henry Steel married Sophia Sarah Harris. They had the following children:

  • Henry William Steel (born at Harrow in 1839/40, reg first quarter 1840)
  • Edward Harris Steel (born at Harrow in 1841, reg. second quarter)
  • Matilda Steel (born at Harrow in 1842, reg, fourth quarter)
  • Herbert Greenwood Steel (born at St Ippolyts, Hertfordshire on 14 April 1845)
  • Sophia Margaret Steel (born at St Ippolyts, Hertfordshire on 20 January 1848)
  • Marion Frances Steel (born at Harrow on 1 August 1850)
  • Charles Godfroy Steel (born at Harrow in 1853/4, reg. first quarter of 1854)
  • Helen Bessie Steel (born at Harrow on 7 March 1857)

At the time of the 1841 census Thomas and Sophia were living at Harrow School with their first two children Henry (1) and Edward (one month).

In 1851 they were back at Harrow with their first six children.

On 26 January 1859 their eldest son Henry was admitted as a pensioner at Trinity College, Cambridge but did not reside; and he was then admitted to Caius College on 12 August that year.

At the time of the 1861 census Thomas Henry Steel described himself as a clergyman without cure of souls and the Classical Assistant Master at Harrow School. He appeared to have been on holiday at 139 Main Road, Brighton with his daughter Sophia (13) and his son Charles (7). They had one servant with them. His wife Sophia was back in Harrow with Matilda (18), Marion (10), and Helen (4).

Their son Henry joined the Indian Civil Service in 1862.

Two of their children were married in 1869 and 1870:

  • On 8 November 1869 at Kidderpore, Bengal, Henry William Steel married Emmeline Mary Eden Drummond.
  • On 22 December 1870 at Harrow, Matilda Steel married Henry Nettleship, who was an assistant master at Harrow School.

In 1871 Thomas (64) and Sophia (52) were living at the Grove, Harrow School with three of their children: Herbert (25), who was described as a scholar; Sophia Margaret (23); and Marion (20).

On 11 October 1873 their son Charles was matriculated at the University of Oxford at the age of 19. He obtained his B.A. in 1878, and in that year was appointed Assistant Master at Rugby School. He was married in 1880:

  • On 4 August 1880 at St Giles’s Church, Oxford, Charles Godfroy Steel married Amy Maud Price, the daughter of Bartholomew Price, the Professor of Natural Philosophy.

Thomas was still an Assistant Master at Harrow School in 1881 when he was aged 74. Three of their unmarried daughters were still at home with him and his wife: Sophia Margaret (33), Marion (30), and Helen (24).

Thomas Henry Steel retired in the summer of 1881 and moved to Oxford to be near his daughter Mrs Matilda Nettleship; but within a few months he was dead:

† Thomas Henry Steel died at 28 Norham Gardens at the age of 75 on 6 December 1881 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 10 December (burial recorded in the parish registers of Ss Philip & James and St Giles’s Churches).

His obituary in The Times on 7 December 1881 read:

Old Harrovians will hear with much regret of the death of the Rev. Thomas Henry Steel who was so long connected with “The Grove” at Harrow. A foremost scholar at St. Paul’s School, he afterwards became an eminent member of Trinity College, Cambridge, at a time of more than ordinary brilliancy, being the contemporary of the Duke of Devonshire, the Bishops of Worcester, Lincoln, and Bath and Wells, the Deans of Ely and Lincoln, the Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford, the late Mr. Charles Rann Kennedy, and the late Bishop Selwyn. In this own year, 1830, besides being 20th Wrangler, he was in classics second only to Bishop Christopher Wordsworth. Coming first to Harrow on the invitation of Dr. Wordsworth, he was a distinguished master at the school for the greater part of 40 years. He was a man of very wide reading in many languages and singular freshness of intellect, which he never lost. He retired from his long labours at Harrow at the close of the last Summer Term, and was greeted with hearty farewell cheers by the Harrow boys as they broke up for the holidays. He established himself at Oxford, near his son-in-law, Mr. Nettleship, the Corpus Professor of Latin, and it was hoped that several years were yet in store for him of vigorous health, mental and bodily, but he passed away yesterday, after a short illness, in the midst of his family, conscious almost to the last. His name and many kindnesses will long be remembered by many generations of Harrovians.

His personal effects came to £31,062 18s. 6d. The details of his will were published in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 11 February 1882: he left to his wife £1,000 and his plate and pictures, and such furniture as she might require; to his cousin Miss Catherine Steel an annuity of £120; and the residue of his property upon trust for his wife for life. At her death £1,000 each was to be given to his son Henry William Steel and his unmarried daughters, and the ultimate residue was to be divided amongst all his children, except for his son Herbert Greenwood Steel, who had already received his share.

His wife Sophia died suddenly in 1885:

† Mrs Sophia Sarah Steel née Harris died at 28 Norham Gardens at the age of 67 on 29 September 1885 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 3 October (burial recorded in the parish registers of Ss Philip & James and St Giles’s Churches).

Her effects came to £3,853 15s., and one of her executors was her daughter Sophia Margaret Steel, who was then also living at 28 Norham Gardens.

There is a monument to Thomas Henry Steel and his wife Sophia Sarah Steel in St Margaret's burial ground, Harrow-on-the-Hill.

Children of Thomas Henry and Sophia Sarah Steel
  • Henry William Steel (born at Harrow in 1839/40) was Deputy Commissioner of the Punjab in India and a district judge. He and his wife Annie had one son, Arthur Herbert Drummond Steel, born in India in c.1876. Henry retired in 1889, and settled at Talgarth Hall, Machynlleth, north Wales. The 1901 census shows Henry (61) and his wife Flora Annie (53), who was an authoress, living there with their son Arthur (24), a student at the Inns of Court. Henry and Flora Steel were still there in 1911. Henry William Steel died at Beaufort, Mark Hill, Cheltenham on 23 May 1923. His effects came to £8,321 13s. 1d., and his executor was his wife Flora.
  • Edward Harris Steel (born 1841) and his wife Emmeline had three children: Adelaide Matilda Steel (born in Assam in 1870; Richard Alexander Steel (born in Bengal in 1873); and Arthur Herbert Drummond Steel-Maitland (born in Calcutta in 1876). He reached the rank of Colonel, and died at Bellary, Karnataka, India on 11 November 1890 aged 49.
  • Matilda Steel, Mrs Henry Nettleship (born 1842) was living at Harrow at the time of the 1871 census, with her husband Henry, who was still an assistant master at Harrow School, and her widowed mother-in-law Isabella Nettleship. They moved to Oxford in 1873 when her husband was elected a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, and in 1878 he was appointed the Corpus Professor of Latin. At the time of the 1881 census Matilda (38) and Henry (41) were living at Holywell Vicarage in Oxford with their children Edith (9) and Henry (5), and her niece Adelaide Steel (10) was also staying with them. By 1891 the family had moved to 17 Bradmore Road; but Henry Nettleship died just two years later in 1893. Matilda herself died at Petersfield, Hampshire at the age of 77 in 1920.
  • Charles Godfroy Steel (born 1853/4) was living with his new wife Amy at 7 Hillmorton Road, Rugby at the time of the 1881 census. In 1891 they were on holiday in Exmouth with their sons Claud (9) and Gerald (7). In 1901 they were living in a Rugby School boarding house with their daughter Margaret (5); the situation was the same in 1911. Charles Godfroy Steel died in Rugby at the age of 66 on 14 January 1921.
  • Herbert Greenwood Steel (born 1845)
    Sophia Margaret Steel
    (born 1848)
    Marion Frances Steel (born 1850)
    Helen Bessie Steel (born 1857)
    These are all buried together in the adjoining grave in the next row: see that page for their biographies.



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