ORTON, Arthur (1834-1898)


ORTON, Arthur (1834-1898)
Tichborne claimant
was born at Wapping, London, on 20 March 1834, the son of a butcher named George Orton. He left school early, was employed in his father's shop, and in 1848 was apprenticed to a Captain Brooks of the ship Ocean. The ship sailed to South America and in June 1849 Orton deserted and went to the small Chilean town of Melipilla. He stayed in Chile for a year and seven months, and then went back to London as an ordinary seaman. In November 1852 he sailed for Tasmania and arrived at Hobart in May 1853. He crossed to the mainland about two years later and worked for some time in Victoria. In 1862 he was at Wagga, New South Wales, under the name of Thomas Castro, working as an assistant to a butcher.
In August 1865 an advertisement appeared in Australian papers asking for information about the fate of Roger Charles Tichborne who had been on a vessel La Bella which had disappeared at sea in 1854. This had been inserted by the mother of the missing man, Lady Tichborne, who believed that he was still alive. He had, however, been presumed dead and his brother had succeeded to the estates and the baronetcy. Orton convinced a Mr William Gibbes, a solicitor at Wagga, that he was the missing heir. He made some bad blunders in giving details of his early life, but was asked to come to England, and left Sydney on 22 September 1866. He met Lady Tichborne in Paris who recognized him as her son. There appears to have been little resemblance between the two men. Others became convinced too, and Orton later obtained much financial support in prosecuting his claim. The legal proceedings were long drawn out and in March 1872 Orton was non-suited in his action for the recovery of the estates, and the presiding judge stated that in his opinion the plaintiff had been guilty of perjury. He was arrested and after a trial of 188 days found guilty on 28 February 1874. The jury also found that the defendant was not Roger Tichborne and that he was Arthur Orton. He was sentenced to 14 years penal servitude, but having been a model prisoner, was released some 10 years later. He endeavoured to press his claims again but gradually lost his following, and in 1895 purported to make a confession of his frauds which appeared in the People. He afterwards repudiated this and continued to use the name of Sir Roger Tichborne. He died on 1 April 1898.
Orton was quite an uneducated, shrewd scoundrel, who seized on any information he could gather about his supposed early life, and showed some ability in the use of it. It is possible to understand Lady Tichborne recognizing him as her son for it had become a fixed idea with her that he was still alive, and though Orton had become enormously fat he had the remains of what had once been good looks. More remarkable was the devotion of his last council, Dr Kenealy, and a large number of people who backed him with their money and influence.
Lord Maugham, The Tichborne Case, Charge of the Lord Chief Justice of England. W. A. F., An Exposure of the Orton Confession of the Tichborne Claimant; J. B. Atlay, Famous Trials of the Century.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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