Thomas Creevey and The Athenaeum


Did you know our building features a heritage plaque? It commemorates Thomas Creevey who was born near to our address in the mid-18th century.

The Athenaeum Plaque

Thomas Creevey, the son of William Creevey, a merchant sea captain, was born in Liverpool on 5th March, 1768. William Creevey transported slaves from Africa and he made enough money to send Thomas to a boarding school in London. He was a good student and at seventeen went to Queens’ College, Cambridge.

One of Thomas Creevey’s uncles, James Currie, was active in Whig politics and introduced him to Samuel Romilly and James Scarlett. Romilly liked Creevey and helped him become a lawyer. Romilly was impressed by Creevey’s progress and arranged for him to meet Lord Petre, the patron of the Thetford constituency. In 1802, Petre asked Creevey to become his candidate at Thetford and at the age of thirty-four entered the House of Commons.

Creevey became a strong supporter of Charles Fox and the radical Whigs in Parliament. In 1806 the prime minister, Lord Grenville, gave Creevey the position of Secretary to the Board of Control in his government. Creevey lost the job when Grenville resigned in 1807.

In the House of Commons Creevey led the fight against the railways. He accepted defeat in was one of those politicians who was invited Thomas Creeveyto the opening ceremony of the Liverpool to Manchester Railway. He wrote in his journal: “Lady Wilton sent over yesterday from Knowsley to say that the locomotive machine was to be upon the railway at 12 o’clock. I had the satisfaction, for I can’t call it pleasure, of taking a trip of five miles on it, which we did in just a quarter of an hour – that is twenty miles an hour. The machine was really flying, and it is impossible to divest yourself of the notion of instant death to all upon the least accident happening. It gave me a headache which has not left me yet.”

Creevey lost his seat at Thetford but in 1820 he became the MP for Appleby. Later he moved to the rotten borough of Downton. When Lord Grey became prime minister in 1830, he gave Creevey the post of Treasurer of the Ordnance. Creevey loyally supported Grey’s proposals for parliamentary reform and argued for the 1832 Reform Act.

On the 26th May 1832 he wrote to a friend about the Duke of Wellington opposition to change: “One more day will finish the concern in the Lords, and that this should have been accomplished as it has against a great majority of peers, and without making a single new one, must always remain one of the greatest miracles in English history. He (the Duke of Wellington) has destroyed himself and his Tory high-flying association for ever. This (the Reform Act) has saved the country from confusion, and perhaps the monarch and monarchy from destruction.”

As a result of the 1832 Reform Act, Downton lost its right to send a MP to the House of Commons.

Thomas Creevey died in Greenwich on 2nd February, 1838.