WRIGHT, Thomas (1722-98). Stationer and printer. Wright, for whom Bell House in College Road was built in 1767, was a wealthy member of the Stationers Company, of which he became Master in 1777. In partnership with William Gill, whose sister he married in 1746, he started a highly profitable business as a wholesale stationer on the old London Bridge in 1748 and, after the shops on the bridge were pulled down, in Abchurch Lane in the City from 1761. Wright became an Alderman for Candlewick ward in 1777, Sheriff of London and Middlesex in 1779, and (in 1785, and again in 1786) Lord Mayor. His Show was particularly splendid: the twelve guildsmen of his Company accompanied him in the procession in their own coaches, instead of on foot, as was the previous practice. On leaving office he presented the Stationers’ Company with a magnificent tea-urn and bequeathed £2,000 for the benefit of poor apprentices.
Thomas Wright lived at Bell House for thirty years and played an active part in the relatively small Dulwich community of those days. In 1771 he helped to secure a fire-engine for the village, and a house for it ‘south of the Pound’. He was a founder of the Dulwich Quarterly Meeting, which became a regular dining club (at the old Greyhound Tavern) in 1772, and which still meets, under the name of the Dulwich Club. Wright presented a bible to the College Chapel and contributed to many local charities. In 1798 the Gentleman's Magazine recorded his death, on 9 April of that year: ‘suddenly, after taking a walk in his grounds at Dulwich, Surrey, and without any previous complaint...’ His fortune was reckoned at not less than £300,000, and tribute was paid to his ‘great application and frugality’. His two sons had died before him, and Ann, his daughter, inherited his fortune.