John Newton of Kings Bromley, d. 1783

1717 - 1783


Absentee slave-owner on Barbados, in Barbados until at least 1754, and then living at Kings Bromley, near Lichfield, Staffordshire. He was the defendant in a suit brought in 1768, 'Hylas vs. Newton', in which Hylas claimed that his wife Mary had been kidnapped in England by her former master, John Newton of Kings Bromley, and resold into slavery in Barbados. The court found for John Hylas and "... the defendant was bound, under a penalty, to bring back the woman, either by the first ship, or at farthest within six months" and was charged with one shilling damages. This case engaged Granville Sharp's attention and formed part of the background to the Somerset case of 1772.

  1. John Newton, son of Samuell Newton and his wife Elizabeth, baptised at Kings Bromley, Staffordshire, 23/08/1717. Samuel Newton was the grandfather of the first documented Newton in Barbados, also named Samuel, who acquired land in Christ Church which eventually became known as Newton's.

  2. Married Elizabeth Alleyne in October 1740. Elizabeth was the daughter of Reynold Alleyne of St James, Barbados (died c. 1749) and had brought a dowry of £2,000 to her marriage. Elizabeth and her sister Judith Alleyne were the co-heirs of their father. Judith died in 1763, leaving Mount Alleyne in Barbados as the property of John.

  3. Will of John Newton of Kings Bromley proved 09/12/1783. In it he left an estate called Mount Alleyne in Barbados in trust to Sir John Gay Alleyne, and the rest of his property to his two sisters Dame Sarah Holte and Elizabeth Newton, whom he also made his executrixes. In his will he denounced the child of his wife Catharine as a bastard.

  4. Anna Seward, 'the Swan of Lichfield', wrote to Josiah Wedgwood in 1788 describing her conversations about slavery with John Newton:

"I am honoured and obliged by your endeavours to enlighten me on a subject so important to human virtue and human happiness. They have not been in vain; and I blush for the coldness my letter expressed, whose subject demanded the ardour of benevolent wishes, and of just indignation. Let me, however, do myself justice to observe, that my heart has always recoiled with horror from the miseries which I heard were inflicted on the negro slaves; but I have had long acquaintance with a Mr. Newton of this place, who made a large fortune in the East [sic], where slavery pervades every opulent establishment. He constantly assured me that the purchase, employment, and strict discipline of the negroes were absolutely necessary to maintain our empire, and our commerce in the indies. As constantly did he affirm, that they were of a nature so sordid and insensible, as to render necessary a considerable degree of severity, and to make much lenity alike injurious to the indulger and the indulged; that the accounts of the cruelties practised upon the slaves by their masters was false, or at least infinitely exaggerated. He observed, that the worst people will abstain from vice, when it is against their interest to practise it; that the high price and value of the subjugated, inevitably preserves them from the dire consequences of this imputed barbarity. When I sighed over the severe discipline for the necessity of which he pleaded, I was desired to recollect the fate of the Ashwells - uncle and brother to young gentlewomen of this town. The former, A West India Planter, whose compassionate temper, which his nieces assert had been ever soft and indulgent, even to weakness, led him to take scrupulous care that they were constantly and plentifully supplied with wholesome food; yet he was murdered by them in a most cruel manner; and his nephew, then a youth of fourteen, intentionally murdered; they have stringed and cut off his left arm, and two of the fingers of his right hand, leaving him, as they thought, lifeless. The last mentioned Mr. Ashwell, who lives the hapless wreck of negro cruelty, uniformly confirmed to me, for I have often conversed with him, all Mr. Newton had told me of the generally treacherous, ungrateful, and bloody temper of the negroes"


Dr Karl Watson, A Kind of Right to be Idle: Old Doll, Matriarch of Newton Plantation (Department of History UWI Cave Hill and Barbados Museum and Historical Society, 2000) relates the history of Doll, the daughter of Mary and John Hylas, and her family and their relationships with the absentee owners and local attorneys and managers of the Newton estate; Katherine Paugh, 'The strange case of Mary Hylas', Slavery and Abolition (2014) 35.4, pp. 629-651; Kings Bromley Historians (, [accessed 04/11/2016]. Audrey Dewjee has shared with LBS her discovery of a marriage record for John Hylas and Mary Revill on 30 December 1758 at St. Chad, Lichfield, Staffordshire.

    1. Findmypast, Staffordshire Baptisms [database online]; 'Papers of the Newton Family', Senate House Library, MS 523, [accessed 18/05/2020].
  1. James C. Brandow, Genealogies of Barbados Families, from Caribbean and the Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society (1983) p.19.

  2. PROB 1111/130.

  3. Feb. 18th, 1788. A. Constable, Letters of Anna Seward, 1784-1807 (Edinburgh, 1811) 6 vols., reproduced at [accessed 04/11/2016].

Further Information

[1] Elizabeth Alleyne [2] Catherine

Associated Estates (2)

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
1758 [EA] - → Owner
1771 [SY] - 1783 [LA] → Owner

Relationships (4)

Brother → Sister
Brother → Sister
Grandson → Grandfather
Son → Father

Addresses (1)

Kings Bromley Manor, Kings Bromley, Staffordshire, West Midlands, England