Clopee, home of Archibald Thompson.

After making his fortune through a wine and spirit business in Sydney’s Pitt Street, Archibald Thompson J.P. bought a harbourside mansion at Potts Point called Clopee. The home had been built by John Solomon in 1858. At the time of the events in this story, Archibald and his wife Ann had eleven children.

Clopee in Potts Point, home of Archibald Thompson.

At 2 am on Sunday, March 8 1878, a noise woke one of Thompson’s daughters. She peeped through her door and saw a masked man on the stairs holding a revolver. To her horror he entered her room, but she managed to clamber through a balcony window and into her father’s bedroom. Mr Thompson grabbed his own gun and went in search of the man. He acted with great courage, because he was seriously ill with consumption. The intruder was discovered in the landing bathroom, hiding behind a curtain.

The men exchanged shots and the prowler then rushed down the stairs, firing as he went. He was wearing slippers to soften the noise of his entry and one came off, allowing Thompson time to ‘return the compliment’. Mr Thompson is believed to have hit and wounded the man as he saw him spin around and almost fall. However the rush of adrenalin allowed the intruder to climb through the kitchen window and escape over the back fence. All the bullets were later recovered… bar one, which was presumably lodged in the fleeing man’s body.

Rear lane behind Clopee in Potts Point

The description of the suspect in the NSW Police Gazette was pure gold…. a bow-legged sailor with a false beard and a hat too small for his head;

Article in NSW Police Gazette re the home invasion of Archibald Thompson.

Despite the offer of that substantial reward there was never any mention of the culprit being apprehended. It was all unwanted stress for a sick man. The biggest worry was that the intruder had not bothered to take gold jewellery on open display at Clopee, leading police to believe that his intention was to murder the home owner. Would he try again?

The following year Mr Thompson decided to make a prolonged visit to Tasmania with his family. It was a chance to put the attempt on his life behind him, and to escape the heat and humidity of a Sydney summer. He hoped the clean, fresh air would benefit his diseased lungs. There was also a wonderful family event planned for that Tasmanian summer, the marriage of the Thompson’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth.

Sadly, Archibald’s health continued to deteriorate. He died on February 22 at Portsea Place, an elegant city townhouse.

Death notice of Archibald Thompson.

It was a difficult time for the Thompson family, especially as Ann was six months pregnant with her twelfth child.

Just three days later, on February 25, Elizabeth was married at St David’s Cathedral, Hobart. Her mother and two siblings were witnesses, but the absence of a beloved husband and father must have been heartbreaking.


There was no time to grieve, as the body had to be taken home to Sydney.

It arrived aboard the S.S. Tasman on March 1. After a service in St James’ church the following day, Archibald Thompson was buried in Camperdown Cemetery

On June 30, the widowed Ann gave birth to a son, Isidore Lema Thomson.

Grave of Archibald Thompson in Camperdown Cemetery.


Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.