Sir William Pulteney 5th Bart., born Johnstone

19th Oct 1729 - 11th Jun 1805


English politician, property-developer and slave-owner, the latter as a result of both his own investment and inheritance from his brothers. He died intestate, succeeded by his daughter the Countess of Bath, who had married Sir James Murray Pulteney.

  1. 3rd son of Sir James Johnstone, 3rd Bt., MP, and Barbara, daughter of Alexander Murray, 4th Lord Elibank. Married (1) 10 November 1760, Frances (died 1 June 1782), daughter and heir of Daniel Pulteney (1st cousin of William Pulteney, Earl of Bath). 1 daughter; (2) 3 January 1804, Margaret, daughter and co-heir of Sir William Stirling, 4th Bt., of Ardoch and widow of Andrew Stuart of Craigthorn. (There were no children.) Took name of Pulteney 1767 on his wife’s succeeding to the estates of Lord Bath;  succeeded his brother as 5th Bt. 3 September 1794. Originally an advocate at the Scottish bar and friend of Adam Smith and David Hume in Edinburgh literary scene. His wealth came from his first marriage: his wife inherited the Pulteney estates.
    As an MP acted as an independent. Took an interest in East India affairs. Sympathetic to American objections to taxation without representation. Published The Present State of Affairs with America (1778) and Considerations on the Present State of Affairs (1779). Became an opponent of American independence and by the 1790s generally a supporter of Pitt. Sir Christopher [Bethell] Codrington, as surviving adminstrator of Sir Wm Pulteney, was engaged in a Chancery suit over the Westerhall estate in Grenada with Sir Wm Pulteney's great-nephew, Sir Frederick George Johnstone bart. Sir William Pulteney had also been an owner of estates and enslaved people on Tobago (including Pulteney Hill in St Mary parish and Bon Accord), and on Dominica.

  2. Sir William Pulteney ne Johnstone inherited both an English fortune from his wife's family and (in 1794) from his older brother [Sir] James Johnstone (q.v.) the Westerhall estate in Scotland and 'plantations and slaves in the West Indies.'

  3. William Pulteney was shown as the 'Present Proprietor' in Tobago c. 1773 of Great River Division (St Mary parish) Lots No. 17 and 18 (originally purchased by William Alexander on 19/03/1767) and no. 19 (originally purchased by Andrew Allon), which together became Pulteney Hill; and of Great River Division (St Mary parish) Lot no. 24, originally purchased by William Macintosh. Pulteney Hill does not appear in the 1832 or 1862 lists of Tobago estates (although the list of original grants shows a 'Present Possessor' c. 1866 as John M'Call and others) or in the compensation records.

  4. William Pulteney had also bought land in Dominica shortly after its seizure by Britain in 1763, some again in partnership with William Macintosh. The two men were shown as co-purchasers of Lot No. 53, while Pulteney (given as Poultney) purchased Lot No. 52 in his own name. By c. 1773 the two lots together with a third adjacent one, all near Raymond Bay north of the French River, were shown against William M'Intosh only.


T71/880 Grenada nos. 865 and 866; Jean-Joseph Dauxion Lavaysse, Voyage aux Iles de Trinidad, de Tabago, de la Marguerite, et en Venezuela (Paris, 1813) Vol. II pp. 77-8, 'Liste des proprietaires de l'ile de Tabago, divisee par paroisses de l'eglise anglicane, lors de la paix d'Amiens', Paroisse de Sainte-Marie (these lists include men who died as far back as the late 1780s). Sir William Pulteney's daughter Henrietta Laura Pulteney [Countess of Bath] 'owned slave plantations in Tobago and Dominica, however the profits from these were overshadowed by her father's investments in the North American mainland', Laurence Brown, The slavery connections of Marble Hill House (English Heritage, June 2010) p. 11; her ownership of these estates is attributed to purchase by Sir William Pulteney (p. 47) in Grenada, Tobago and Dominica (partly sourced to the Pulteney Papers in the Henry E. Huntington Library).

  1. History of Parliament online.

  2. ODNB online M.J. Rowe and W.H. McBryde, 'Pulteney [formerly Johnstone], Sir William, fifth baronet (1729-1805), politician and property developer.'

  3. 'Tables showing the Lots in each Parish, numbered as originally granted - the original Grantee - the name of the Lot, or lots, if one has been acquired, and the present Possessor where there is one' and 'A Table, showing the Estates in cultivation in 1832, and their Owners, in 1832, copied from the list appended to Byres' map of that date, with those in cultivation in 1862', Henry Iles Woodcock, A History of Tobago (Ayr: Smith and Grant, 1867; new impression London: Frank Cass and Company Limited, 1971); John Fowler, A summary account of the present flourishing state of the respectable colony of Tobago in the British West Indies illustrated with a map of the island and a plan of its settlement, agreeably to the sales by his Majesty’s Commissioners (London: A Grant, 1774), pp. 42-43. The ownership of Bon Accord is shown in Douglas Hamilton, Scotland, the Caribbean and the Atlantic world 1750-1820 (Manchester University Press, 2005) p. 183.

  4. John Byres, References to a plan of the island of Dominica as surveyed from the year 1765 and 1773 (London, 1777), p. 6.

Further Information

(1) Frances Pulteney (2) Margaret Stirling
With (1) Henrietta Pulteney, Countess of Bath
Wealth at death
Oxford DNB Entry

Associated Claims (1)

£4,867 18s 1d
Other association

Associated Estates (4)

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
1799 [SY] - → Owner

According to Douglas Hamilton, William Johnstone Pulteney owned the Bon Accord estate in Tobago from 1799. Sir Christopher Bethell-Codrington, shown as the owner of Bon Accord in the compensation records, was shown for the Westerhall estate in Grenada as the surviving administrator of William Johnstone Pulteney, and this might in fact have been his role for Bon Accord also.

1798 [EA] - 1798 [LA] → Owner

In 1798, Pulteney rented 'his' enslaved people on Port Royal to the Westerhall estate of his brother's family. These enslaved people were later sold to Westerhall. Pulteney had earlier been one of the men standing security for the £20,000 mortgage lent in 1770 by Henry Hope to William Macintosh secured on Port Royal and other estates in Grenada.

1773 [SY] - 1773 [EY] → Owner
1794 [EA] - → Owner

Legacies Summary

Cultural (2)

Portrait of William Johnstone-Pulteney, later fifth Lord Pulteney, by Thomas Gainsborough, c. 1772, now in the Yale Center for British... 
notes →
Prints, Drawings and Paintings
Portrait miniature of an unknown woman, perhaps Henrietta Lady Pulteney, the daughter of Sir William Pulteney, British, c.1790-c.1810. Artist: Richard Cosway,... 
notes →

Political (1)

West India interest 
election →
Cromarty and Nairnshire Cromarty and Nairnshire
1768 - 1774
election →
Shrewsbury Shropshire
1775 - 1805

Relationships (5)

Business partners
Great-uncle → Great-nephew