Nathaniel Phillips of Slebech

1733 - 1813


Biography

Nathaniel Phillips (1733-1813), illegitimate son of Nathaniel Phillips senior, a sugar merchant based in Mile End. Phillips moved to Jamaica in 1759 and bought half of Pleasant Hill plantation in 1761. Phillips married his first wife Ann Swarton, the daughter of Colonel Richard Swarton. Colonel Swarton owned the other half of Pleasant Hill. The Colonel bequeathed his share of the property to his daughter and her heirs. The couple had two daughters however Ann died in childbirth and their infant son died shortly afterwards.

Over the years Phillips purchased three further properties in St. Thomas in the East: two sugar plantations, known as Phillipsfield and Suffolk Park; and Boxford Lodge, a livestock pen.

In 1772 Phillips sent his daughters from Jamaica to London where they resided at Great Tichfield Street under the care his sister. The children were educated at a seminary in Greenwich. The elder daughter died of consumption and the younger daughter Nancy (1765-1795) eloped at age 13 with Sir Alan Cameron of Erracht. Cameron is described in the ODNB as an 'army officer' however he was also an overseer on Phillips's plantations. To begin with Phillips refused to countenance the match and disinherited his daughter.

While in Jamaica he was in an ongoing relationship with Charlotte Wynter, 'a free Mulatto woman of Pleasant Hill', with whom he had six children: Elizabeth (b.1779), William, Richard, Thomas (q.v.), Catherine (q.v.) and Charlotte (q.v.). Elizabeth and Richard were sent to England to be educated, in the care of Phillips' close friend Benjamin Raffles (father of Thomas Stamford Raffles). Richard Wynter subsequently moved to Sumatra, where he started a sugar plantation with Thomas Stamford Raffles' financial support (for more information on the Phillips/Wynter family see the entry for Catherine Phillis Wynter). Elizabeth remained in England, where she married John Thomas Simes, a wool broker of Coleman Street, London, in 1802.

Nathaniel Phillips' private life included a well known predilection for prostitutes both in Jamaica and in Britain. He also kept a long term mistress in London.

By 1789 he owned four plantations and moved back to England to live as an absentee rentier. His move to London was facilitated by a £20,000 loan from his agents - the Hibbert family and their mutual friends the Bolderos. It was through the Hibberts counting house on Mincing Lane in London that Phillips conducted his business after his move to the capital. The Hibberts arranged a property on Portman Square for him to reside in. They had been faithful agents over the years and had even assisted in personal matters including when Phillip's daughter eloped.

Phillips's lawyers were James Cooper Lee and James Pinnock, both of whom had strong family connections to the planter class in Jamaica. Phillips became part of the absentee West Indian circle in London. He was an early member of the Society of West India Planters and Merchants which formed at the outset of the American Revolution. He was particularly active in the early 1790s during the campaign to abolish the slave trade.

He bought Slebech estate in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, in 1793. He was married in 1796 for the second time to a Mary Dorothea some 40 years his junior. The couple had four children; Mary Dorothea (1797-1860); Nathaniel (1798-1824), Louisa Catherine (1800-1879), Edward Augustus (1802-1830). Both of his sons were sent to Eton for their education. Of his two sons by this marriage one was declared a 'lunatic' and both men died without issue. Louisa Catherine married in 1819 Thomas William Anson, later 1st Earl of Lichfield (q.v.) and Mary Dorothea married in 1822 Baron Charles Frederick de Rutzen.

Phillips took a keen interest in the war with Napoleon. He lost two of his grandson and their mother in the conflict when they were swept overboard on their way to the West Indies with their father's regiment.

In 1810, at great personal expense, Phillips unsuccessfully contested a parliamentary seat for Haverfordwest.

He died in 1813. In his will Phillips left the sum of £10,000 to his wife together with £500 annually payable at the Royal Exchange, London secured on his Jamaican estates. He left money to his children and grandchildren. The remainder of his estate was entrusted to four of his London associates to hold in trust until his elder son, Nathaniel, came of age at twenty-one and could claim his inheritance.

Sources

See http://www.britishonlinearchives.co.uk/9781851171811.php for a biography and details of sources for Nathaniel Phillips, including a series of articles by Clare Taylor.

Loraine Maclean of Dochgarroch, ‘Cameron, Sir Alan, of Erracht (1750–1828)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/4432, accessed 23 Jan 2014]

Clare Taylor, 'The Journal of an Absentee Proprietor, Nathaniel Phillips of Slebech', Journal of Caribbean History, Vol.18 (1984), pp.67-82.

John Sturgus Bastin & Julie Weizenegger, The Family of Sir Stamford Raffles (Singapore, 2016), pp. 162-63.

We are extremely grateful to Julie Weizenegger for sharing her detailed archival research with us, upon which this entry is based.


Further Information

Absentee?
British/Irish
Spouse
(1) Ann Swarton (2) Mary Dorothea Phillipps
Children
With (1) 2 daughters. With (2) Mary Dorothea (1797-1860), Nathaniel (1798-1824), Louisa Catherine (1800-1879), Edward Augustus (1802-1830)
Occupation
Plantation owner

Associated Claims (3)

£3,599 4S 5D
Other association
£527 12S 2D
Previous owner
£2,634 19S 3D
Previous owner

Associated Estates (3)

- 1813 → Owner
1761 - 1762 → Joint owner

Joint owner with Colonel Richard Swarton.

1762 - 1813 → Owner

His wife Ann Swarton inherited the other half share from her father Colonel Richard Swarton on his death.


Relationships (4)

Father → Natural Daughter
Father → Natural Daughter
Father → Natural Son
Father-in-law → Son-in-law
Notes →
Thomas William Anson married Louisa Catherine, the daughter of Nathaniel Phillips in 1819, several years after Nathaniel Phillips'...

Addresses (1)

Slebech Park, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, South Wales, Wales