Biography of English Impostor Arthur Orton Part 1

About the English imposter Arthur Orton, biography and history of the famous conman.


ARTHUR ORTON (1834-1898), English impostor

The story of Arthur Orton is intertwined with that of another man, Sir Roger Charles Doughty Tichborne, member of a wealthy, landed British family. These men had very dissimilar lives; their glaring differences help to make up a remarkable story about one of history's greatest impostures.

Orton, the youngest of 12 children of a Wapping (a district in London) butcher, was born on Mar. 20, 1834. At the age of nine he was terribly frightened by a fire near his home--so much so that he developed nervous twitches later diagnosed as St. Vitus' dance. In 1849 Orton was apprenticed as a seaman because his mother thought the sea air would help his condition. His ship arrived in Valparaiso, Chile, in June of that year. Arthur jumped ship upon arrival and traveled overland to a small town called Melipilla. There he ingratiated himself with two prominent families by telling tales of cruelty and ill treatment aboard his ship. To further get into the good graces of the town's Catholic citizenry, he had himself rebaptized and became a member of the Catholic Church.

Two years later Orton, a little homesick, returned to England. In June, 1851, he reached his hometown and began to work in his father's butcher shop. But Arthur soon decided on other plans for himself, and 18 months later he set out for Australia. He worked for three years as a butcher's assistant in the town of Hobart and, while there, borrowed $35 from a distant relative. By August, 1855, Arthur had disappeared, a fact discovered too late by the relative seeking repayment of the personal loan.

Orton drifted around Australia, employed in various positions including stock driver and butcher in New South Wales. In addition, he became involved in horse stealing. Caught and indicted in 1859, he changed his name to Thomas Castro. Orton later resurfaced in Wagga Wagga, where in 1865, still using the name Castro, he married Mary Ann Bryant, an illiterate servant girl. It was in Wagga Wagga that Roger Tichborne entered the picture.

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