Thomas Collingwood II
Date of birth
7th July 1751
Place of birth
Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, England
Date of marriage
8th August 1781
Place of marriage
Warkworth, Northumberland, England
Date of death
29th October 1822
Place of death
Bishopwearmouth, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, England
Place of burial
Bishopwearmouth, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, England
Thomas Collingwood was born on the 7th July 1751 at Bates’ Cross in Cocklaw, near Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland, England to Robert Collingwood and Janet Martin. Bates’ Cross was one of twelve “estates of farms of private property within the said liberties of Berwick” on the Duns Road, three and half miles from Berwick-upon-Tweed – around a mile from the Scottish border. Bates’ Cross cannot currently be located or no longer exists.
Dr Collingwood was baptised on the 11th July 1751 at the Parish Church in Mordington, Berwickshire in Scotland – five miles from Berwick-upon-Tweed. He had five sisters.
He showed an early interest in learning and although he was miles from any respectable educational establishment, he attended schools in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Alnwick and Duns and laid the foundation of his future knowledge. By age 8, he had made very considerable progress is mathematics – a subject which he would later become famous for and frequently be consulted by many men professionally qualified in the field.
From his mother Janet, Dr Collingwood gained a knowledge of botany which often lead him on distant excursions in search of rare plants, which he would then consult experts far away on their names and virtues. In 1766 when Dr Collingwood was 15, he lost his mother, an event that seemingly sparked his interest in medicine.
He became a student at the University of Edinburgh where he became a pupil of many respectable doctors, including Dr John Brown, the founder of the Brunonian System of Medicine, and Dr Alexander Monro (the son of Alexander Monro Sr., the founder of the Edinburgh Medical School), who later became his friend and approved many essays written by Dr Collingwood.
During the summers, Dr Collingwood pursued an interest in agriculture. His father Robert was the first person who introduced improved turnip husbandry to Berwickshire and the young Dr Collingwood followed his footsteps by introducing it and many other improvements to the West of Scotland.
At Edinburgh University, Dr Collingwood was admired for his love of learning and consequent knowledge. As well as his medical studies, Dr Collingwood spent a portion of his time studying philosophy and drama.
Sometime after he had completed his studies at Edinburgh, Dr Collingwood settled in the village of Norham, which was also on the Scottish border, further down the river Tweed about 15 miles from Berwick-upon-Tweed. It was here that he set up a respectable practice and took his degree in 1780.
On the 8th August 1781, Dr Collingwood married Elizabeth Forster, the daughter of George Forster of High Buston (a village five miles from Alnwick), in Warkworth, Northumberland, England – some distance away from Norham. Elizabeth was descended from the ancient and honourable family of the Forsters of Etherstone and Bamburgh Castle. The families of Collingwood and Forster had frequently intermarried in the past.
Dr Collingwood is now settled in Alnwick, where he continued increasing in celebrity and practice, as well as becoming an institutor of a public library. Whilst residing at Alnwick, Dr Collingwood became acquainted with the then Duke of Northumberland, Hugh Percy, and pointed out numerous improvements to the Duke’s estates in Northumberland, the effects of which were still visible 40 years later. The Duke was so much pleased with Dr Collingwood that he promised (and had actually taken steps) to serve him the utmost of his power, which he would have no doubt done had he not died in 1786.
During his time at Alnwick, had his first three children, all sons:
- George Forster Collingwood
- Robert Gustavus Adolphus Collingwood – born 5th March 1783 in Alnwick
- William Dixon Collingwood – born 5th May 1786 in Alnwick
After the birth of William, Dr Collingwood moved to Sunderland in Durham, England in around 1787, where he found a more extensive scope for his professional abilities, soon falling into a very considerable practice. Again, he did not limit himself to just medical practice and ventured into mercantile pursuits such as shipping, building and farming, as well as undertaking the correction, annotation and republication of the works of Reverend John Flavel, minister of Dartmouth, Devon. This momentous task suited Dr Collingwood brilliantly due to his perfect knowledge of the scriptures, and created a great and lasting benefit for the Christian community.
During his life, Dr Collingwood had formed many valuable friendships both at home in Sunderland and abroad, some of these included1: Dr John Coakley Lettsome, the founder of the Medical Society of London; David Stewart Erskine, the 11th Earl of Buchan; John Southey Somerville, 15th Lord of Somerville; Sir John Sinclair, the first person to use the words “statistics” in the English language; and Sir William Pulteney, once the wealthiest man in the Kingdom of Great Britain.
Many of Dr Collingwood’s literary publications lie scattered through periodical publications of the time such, which if collected would form several volumes. Highly recommended publications include those on influenza, and on the cure for syphilis. Dr Collingwood also wrote a comedy entitled “Spare-ribs” (written while in Alnwick) that was performed with applause, and it is believed a number of other dramas of his – including a tragedy of the Roman legendary figure, Lucretia – were never published. Dr Collingwood’s other works include poetry that appeared in print, sermons that were frequently delivered from the pulpit, as well as a number of manuscripts of his mathematical works.
The rest of Dr Collingwood’s children were born in Monkwearmouth in Sunderland:
- Athaliah Collingwood – born 8th November 1787 in Monkwearmouth
- Matilda Collingwood – born 29th May 1789 in Monkwearmouth
- Ralph Collingwood – born in 1792 in Monkwearmouth (likely died in infancy)
- Catherine Eliza Collingwood – born in 1794 in Monkwearmouth
- James Wilkie Collingwood – born 13th February 1799 in Monkwearmouth
Dr Collingwood’s extensive reading, both of ancient and modern authors of the time, rendered his conversation truly educational and his love of reading was so great that he was rarely without his favourite companion – a book.
Dr Collingwood was described as about 5 feet 9 inches tall, and “of the most perfect symmetry of body”. His clear judgement, retentive memory and aptitude of every rational subject placed him high in the scale of human intellect, and his free and undisguised manner of delivering his opinion may have made him some enemies. Hypocrisy was something he always detested. Had his opportunities been more favourable than they were, there is every chance he could have ranked high among the first philosophers of the age.
For over thirty five years, Dr Collingwood had the most temperate habits and never once drank a glass of spirits. He spent his active life in service of his fellow professionals and to the benefit of his family. As a physician, his writings confirm his great abilities and extended his fame to many distant parts. His profession and character would pass on to his children and future generations.
One morning, at his home in Villiers Street in Sunderland, Dr Collingwood felt considerable pain in the region of his heart, accompanied with difficulty breathing which baffled every power of medicine. By 1 o’clock the following morning – the 29th October 1822 – Dr Collingwood breathed his last.
He left to mourn him, his wife Elizabeth, and his six youngest children.
In his will, he left his sons R.G.A. Collingwood and James Wilkie Collingwood all his real and personal property, and left a total of £650 to his children (but nothing to his son William, or daughters Athaliah, Matilda or Catherine). This would be worth around £30,000 as of 2014.