Thomas Stamford Raffles was the son of a well known local churchman and Liverpool’s stipendiary magistrate for thirty years in the second half of the 19th century.
Raffles was born in London, where his parents were visiting, on 18th September 1818. His father was the Reverend Thomas Raffles, who was originally from London but had been a Nonconformist minister with the Great George Street congregation since 1811. His mother Mary was the daughter of Liverpool merchant James Hargreaves and had married the reverend in 1815.
Raffles developed a love of literature and history from his father and in 1841 was called to the bar of the Inner Temple. He chose to cover the northern circuit and his successes in court weren’t unnoticed by the authorities. In 1860 Raffles was appointed Stipendiary Magistrate of Liverpool, which was welcomed by the Liverpool Mercury. They described him as ‘a perfect gentleman in feeling, manner and action, who was thoroughly acquainted with the business of the Liverpool courts’.
The Reverend Raffles remained the minister at the Great George Street chapel, which was rebuilt in the 1840s after a fire, until he died in 1863. He was buried in the Necropolis off West Derby Road. After his father’s death Raffles continued to attend services at his church, every Sunday, where sermons could attract up to 2,000 worshippers.
As a magistrate Raffles developed a reputation for being firm but fair, and caring when he needed to be. He showed no prejudices and was sympathetic to the defendants in the more distressing cases. When it came to flagrant crime though he was not afraid of being merciless with his punishments. Away from the courtroom, he was known for having a genial, kindly and sympathetic disposition.
Raffles was a keen member of the Lyceum and Athaneum clubs and would call in at one of them both on his way to and from the court on a daily basis. After serving for twenty years as the stipendiary, he was presented with a portrait in 1881 by the mayor in a ceremony attended by many local councillors at the Walker Art Gallery. He arranged for the portrait to be displayed in the magistrates’ room at the police court.
Raffles died on Friday 23rd January 1891 at the age of 72 after a brief illness. On the previous Saturday he had sat in the police court as usual despite suffering a bad cold. He was not normally one to let ailments get him down but on this occasion his family and friends insisted he rest at his home , 13 Abercromby Square, until he was better. The following Thursday he was improving but later in the evening congestion to the lungs set in, leading to a deterioration and he expired on the Friday morning at 11.45. Flags in public buildings around the city were immediately lowered to half mast and tributes were paid to him by magistrates in courtrooms that afternoon.
His funeral took place on 28th January and required 66 carriages to accommodate all the city councillors, corporation officials, merchants, senior police officers and magistrates who attended. The procession went from Abercromby Square along Chatham Street, Sandon Street, Upper Parliament Street and Smithdown Road to Toxteth Park cemetery, where a short service took place in the chapel prior to his polished oak coffin being lowered into the grave.