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. Richard Swarten [sic] and Philip Pinnock were listed in the Jamaican Quit Rent books for 1754 as the owner of 985 acres of land in St Thomas-in-the-East.

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 his first marriage 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': he was reportedly also an overseer on Phillips's plantations, although Clare Taylor's detailed work in 'The perils of a West Indian heiress : case studies of the heiresses of Nathaniel Phillips of Slebech,' Welsh History Review, 12 (1985) pp. 495-513 does not appear to support this. To begin with Phillips refused to countenance the match and disinherited his daughter, but later settled money on the couple.

While in Jamaica Phillips 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 Phillips 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 [attorneys?] 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 [and apparently intestate: no will has been found by LBS to date for either man]. 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 grandsons 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 under entail. The compensation for the enslaved people on Nathaniel Philips of Slebech's Jamaica estates was paid to the trustees of his will in the 1830s, by which time both sons were dead and under the entail the estates appear to have passed to their elder sister Mary Dorothea Baroness de Rutzen.


Sources

See https://microform.digital/boa/collections/1/the-west-indies-slavery-plantations-and-trade-1759-1832/detailed-description [accessed 22/02/2018] 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.

A List of landholders in the Island of Jamaica together with the number of acres each person possessed taken from the quit rent books in the year 1754', TNA CO 142/31 transcribed at http://www.jamaicanfamilysearch.com/Samples2/1754lead.htm.

The build-up of his property in Jamaica is examined in Karl B. Koth, John E. Serieux 'Sugar, Slavery and Wealth: Jamaica Planter Nathaniel Phillips and the Williams Hypothesis (1761–1813)', Capitalism: A Journal of History and Economics, Volume 1, Number 1, Fall 2019, pp. 59-91.

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)
Will

Will of Nathaniel Phillips of Gloucester Place Portman Square and of Slebech Hall in the county of Pembroke [made 09/11/1813] proved 18/04/1814, PROB 11/1555/214.

Confirmation of his marriage settlement with his wife Mary Dorothea, to whom he willed a further annuity of £500 p.a. secured on his Jamaica estates over and above her entitlement to £1000 p.a. under that settlement. £250 p.a. for his daughter Mary Dorothea until 21 or marriage, and £200 p.a. each for his son Edward Augustus and daughter Louisa Catherine until 15 and then £250 p.a. until 2 (or marriage for Louisa Catherine), all secured on Jamaica property.

£10,000 to each of Edward Augustus, Mary Dorothea and Louisa Catherine at 21 or in the latter two cases at earlier marriage with the consent of the trustees (if they married without the consent of the trustees, the amount would be held by the trustees for the benefit of the daughters and their children).

£1000 at 21 to his great grandson, Nathaniel Cameron, only child of his late grandson Phillips Cameron. £2000 each to his grandchildren Nathaniel Cameron, Ann Cameron and Marcella Cameron.

All his British property and sugar estates, slaves etc in Jamaica in trust to George Hibbert of Billiter Square, Richard Grant of Russell Square, Roger Harries of Islington and Kean Osborne of Harley Street to support £350 p.a. to his son Nathaniel until 18 and then £500 p.a. until 21, with any excess to be used in the purchase of land in Pembrokeshire as close to Slebech as possible, with the estates then entailed to his son Nathaniel Phillips and the latter's heirs, failing whom Edward Augustus and his heirs, failing whom then to Mary Dorothea and her heirs failing whom then to Louisa Catherine and her heirs, failing whom then to his great grandson Nathaniel Cameron, failing whom to his grandson, also named Nathaniel Cameron, then similarly in sequence to his granddaughters Ann and Marcella Cameron and their heirs.

Trustees to keep up the number of slaves on the Jamaican estates at the level at his death until the first possessor under the entail took possession.

The possessor of the estates under the entail was entitled to charge a gross sum of £20,000 against them for the support of children, with the maximum of £10,000 to any single child.

George Hibbert not to be hindered from acting as consignee by virtue of his appointment as trustee and executor.

Signed 09/11/1813.

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 (7)

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
- 1813 [EY] → Owner
1817 [EA] - 1834 [LA] → Previous owner
1761 [EA] - 1762 [LA] → Joint owner

Joint owner with Colonel Richard Swarton.

1762 [EA] - 1813 [LA] → Owner

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

1817 [EA] - 1832 [LA] → Previous owner
1810 [EA] - 1813 [EY] → Owner
1817 [EA] - 1832 [LA] → Previous owner

Legacies Summary

Commercial (1)

Guarantor
Milford Bank
Banker  
 

Political (1)

Local Government
 
office →
High Sheriff
1796 - 1796

Relationships (9)

Business associates
Notes →
The London merchants Hilton and Biscoe were 'invaluable' to Nathaniel Phillips in his early years in Jamaica, Karl B. Koth, John E. Serieux, 'Sugar, Slavery and Wealth: Jamaica Planter Nathaniel...
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'...
Father → Son
Father-in-law → Son-in-law
Father-in-law → Son-in-law
Grandfather → Grandson

Addresses (2)

Gloucester Place, Portman Square, London, Middlesex, London, England
Slebech Park, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, South Wales, Wales