George Watson Taylor (née Watson)

1770 - 6th Jun 1841


Husband of Anna Susannah Taylor, niece of Simon Taylor of Jamaica (q.v.), from whom she indirectly inherited a fortune which her husband squandered. On the death of her brother Simon Richard Brissett Taylor (q.v.), the Watson Taylors were reported to have inherited '£500,000 in the funds of this country for the purchase of an estate', and were rumoured to be looking at Houghton, Sir Robert Walpole's Norfolk estate.

  1. An MP; father of Simon Watson Taylor, in turn a Liberal MP in the 1850s and member of the Eyre Defence Fund committee in 1866-67.

  2. Watson Taylor was among other things a picture collector; there are 3 different portraits of him in the National Portrait Gallery. These include Pieter Christoffel Wonder, Study for 'Patrons and Lovers of Art' in which Watson Taylor is the kneeling figure on the left. [The image is shown here.]

  3. The Taylor family left an important collection of papers detailing, among other things, plantation life in Jamaica: see Taylor family of Jamaica (1770-1835), collection of papers in the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London. George Watson Taylor's wife was Anna Susannah Watson Taylor (1781-1853) who inherited the estates in Jamaica: Simon Taylor (1740-1813) left his estates to his nephew, Sir Simon Richard Brissett Taylor (1785-1815); after the latter's death his eldest niece, Anna Susannah Watson Taylor (1781-1853), inherited the estates. She had married George Watson in 1810 and the additional name Taylor was assumed at the time of the inheritance.

  4. The Taylor Family Papers have been combined with the Vanneck-Arcedekne Papers from Cambridge University Library into a microfilmed collection on Plantation life in the Caribbean by Adam Matthews Publications.

  5. In 1819, Joshua Smith MP for Devizes died and his house and estate at Erlestoke, Wiltshire, were sold to 'a flamboyant and fabulously wealthy Jamaican plantation owner, George Watson Taylor. His fortune, derived from sugar but dependent on slave labour, enabled him to number among his close friends the king, William IV, and to throw extravagant entertainments. But when he failed in his campaign, waged as a Devizes MP, against the abolition of slavery this life-style became unsustainable, and after 1832 Taylor descended into virtual bankruptcy, dying in 1841. The house was let to another colourful figure, Byron’s friend Cam Hobhouse, until around 1860, when the Watson Taylor family returned. Erlestoke became once more the centre of a large estate extending over many parishes until its sale and dispersal in 1919.' (Joshua Smith was himself married to the daughter of Nathaniel Gilbert of Antigua).


T71/872 Hanover claim no. 21 (Haughton Grove Pen); T71/879 St Kitts claim no. 26; T71/867 St Thomas-in-the-East claim no. 100; Lady Charlotte Bury, Diary Illustrative of the Times of George IV (London 1839) Vol. III pp. 295-6.

  1. Nicholas Draper, The Price of Emancipation. Slave-Ownership, Compensation and British Society at the End of Slavery (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2009), Appendix 13.

  2. Pieter Christoffel Wonder, ‘Study for “Patrons and Lovers of Art”’, oil on canvas, 1826-1830, 24½ in. x 18½ in. (622 mm x 470 mm), National Portrait Gallery, NPG792. [Accessed, 6 August 2012.]

  3. ICS description: [accessed 06/08/2012].

  4. [accessed 06/08/2012].

  5. For George Watson Taylor in Wiltshire see the parish history by John Chandler (which has some more details of the Watson Taylors in the 1860s).  [accessed 06/08/2012]. For Joshua Smith see [accessed 01/08/2013].

We are grateful to Gareth Evans for his assistance in compiling this entry.

Further Information

Maiden Name
Anna Susannah Taylor
Politician and plantation owner

Associated Claims (5)

£2,512 0s 3d
£5,343 19s 1d
Other association
£5,649 0s 7d
Other association
£5,343 5s 6d
Other association
£1,711 10s 6d
Other association

Associated Estates (8)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1817 [EA] - 1832 [LA] → Joint owner
1815 [SY] - 1839 [LA] → Trust beneficiary
1815 [SY] - 1839 [LA] → Trust beneficiary
1815 [SY] - 1839 [LA] → Trust beneficiary
1817 [EA] - 1834 [LA] → Trust beneficiary
1815 [SY] - 1834 [LA] → Trust beneficiary
1815 [SY] - 1834 [LA] → Trust beneficiary

This estate or place has not yet been traced in archival sources other than the 1804 Gazetteer. David Hancock (Citizens of the World p. 410 shows the Dalvey estate in St Thomas-in-the-East in 1765-1768 as combining Saul's River, Plantain Garden, Bowden and Wheelerfield: the latter three are all separately recorded the Accounts Produce or Slave Registers.

Legacies Summary

Cultural (6)

Extensive collection of Renaissance paintings sold by Christie's in June... 
notes →
'One of the earliest sales of the year 1823 consisted of the choice collection of painted Greek vases, formed by the late Sir Henry Englefield, which came under the hammer March 6th, 7th and 8th, and...
The Rainbow Landscape, by Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1636. Bought after 1815 by George Watson Taylor, sold at his 'town collection' sale by Christie's in June 1823. Now in the Wallace... 
notes →
Madonna and Child with Saints, by Parmiaginino. Traditionally titled 'The Vison of St Jerome' under which title it was sold at George Watson Taylor's sale of 1823. Now in the National... 
notes →
Mrs Siddons as the Tragic Muse, by Joshua Reynolds, sold to Earl Grosvenor in the 1823 sale of G. Watson Taylor's 'town collection' for 1750 guineas. Now in the Huntington Art... 
notes →
The version at Dulwich Picture Gallery is a replica of the original which G. Watson Taylor bought from W. Smith MP for Norwich. ...
George Watson Taylor amassed a group of Hogarth's portaits, including The Shrimp Girl (now in the National Gallery); Lavinia Fenton (now in the Tate); and the Graham Children (now in the National... 
notes →
Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds. The painting was recorded as that undertaken for Mrs Thrale, in the 1823 Christie sale of George Watson Taylor's work, 'subsequently in the Peel collection, and now... 

Political (1)

Tory / West India interest 
election →
Newport, Isle of Wight Hampshire
1816 - 1818
election →
Seaford Sussex
1818 - 1820
election →
East Looe Cornwall
1820 - 1826
election →
Devizes Wiltshire
1826 - 1832

Relationships (6)

Beneficiary of Trust → Trustee
Son-in-law → Father-in-law
Other relatives
Notes →
NB George Watson Taylor was married to Anna Susanna Taylor, niece of Simon...
Husband → Wife
Nephew → Uncle
Notes →
Inferred by...

Addresses (1)

Erlestoke, Devizes, Wiltshire, South-west England, England
Notes →

Reported to have paid £200,000 for the Erlestoke estate in 1819