Charnock, Thomas

Thomas Charnock (1526–1581) was an English alchemist. Thomas Charnock was born in 1524 in Faversham, Kent. In his early twenties, he became fascinated by Alchemy and traveled all over England in search of knowledge of it. In Oxford he met an Adept named “James S.” who took him on as apprentice and then bequeathed to him the secret of the Philosopher's Stone when he died in 1554.

Charnock failed to write the secret down and lost it when the laboratory burned down soon thereafter. Fortunately for Charnock, he was able to learn the secret again from William Holloway, a prior of Bath. Holloway said he had hidden a flask of the Red Elixir in a wall at Bath Abbey, but when he had gone to look for it, he could not find it. He was so upset that he thought he would go mad. Holloway was old and blind when Charnock met him. Holloway swore him to secrecy and then gave him the secret.

Charnock worked for months and finally felt that he was nearing success. But his work was halted in 1557 when he was drafted into the militia to fight for the duke of Guise in his attack on Calais, France. The war was won by the English in 1558, and Charnock returned to England.

In 1562, he married Agnes Norden of Stockland, Bristol; they had two children, a son who died in infancy and a daughter. Charnock moved his family to Combwich, near Edgewater. He set up an alchemical laboratory where he worked until his death in 1581. In 1556, he wrote A Book of Philosophie, dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I. In it, Charnock boasted that he could make gold at risk of losing his head if he failed. The queen never put him to the test; the book eventually vanished from her possession.

About 100 years later, a roll of parchment was discovered in the wall of Charnock’s last home. It dealt with alchemy. According to Charnock, he finally succeeded in making the Stone in 1579, after labouring away at the task for 24 years.



  • Holmyard, E. J. Alchemy. New York: Penguin Books, 1957.


The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley Copyright © 2006 by Visionary Living, Inc.