Benjamin Waterhouse

???? - 1804


Merchant in Kingston Jamaica, partner with John Willis (q.v.) as a major Prize Agent, dying in Jamaica in c. 1804. His will, which suggests substantial wealth, was made in 1802 shortly before the firm hit financial difficulty.

  1. Waterhouse and Willis were the dominant Prize agent in the Caribbean at the turn of the 19th century, reported in 1803 to have accounted for 9/10ths of the prizes carried to Jamaica in the 'late war' against France, worth £2,143,000. By law, prize money unclaimed after three years was to be paid by the Prize Agent to the Commissioners of Greenwich Hospital. It appears that some 10 per cent of prize money flowed to Greenwich Hospital in this manner. Prize Agents were generally mercantile firms charging 5% commission, but it is clear that some, perhaps most, also deployed prize money in their own businesses prior to payment. The firm of Waterhouse and Willis was subject of a suit by the Commissioners of the Greenwich Hospital, to whom they were 'greatly in arrear' to recover unpaid prize money. The business of Waterhouse and Willis was investigated by the Commissioners of Naval Inquiry as part of a wider Report in 1803, when the firm was said to be under 'pecuniary embarrassment'; at the time it reportedly held £197,000 'depending on appeals, besides the proceeds of prizes undistributed, amounting to £95,000.' Their clerk Henry Devis (who had worked for the firm in Jamaica May/June 1800- November 1801) gave detailed evidence, in which he put the undistributed prizes as £129,285 gross, with £34,285 already advanced to officers, and acknowledged that Waterhouse and Willis had stopped payment on the 3rd March [1803] 'but I expect they will resume payments in a few days.'

  2. Will of Benjamin Waterhouse of Russell Square [made in 1802] proved 25/08/1804 Under the will he left an annuity of £1000 his wife Susanna, and his leasehold house in Russell Square for life. He left £5000 each to his 'legitimate children' John[,] Bartholomew George[,] Eliza Jane and Lavinia, the child with whom his wife was 'now ensient' and any further children at their respective majorities, at 21 for the sons and at 21 or at marriage if with the consent of their guardians for the daughters. He left an annuity of £250 p.a. to his mother Mary Waterhouse and the interest on £500 to his niece Louisa Hawkins, wife of '___Hawkins.' He left £1000 to each of his natural children George and Benjamin Richard and Eliza Jane Campbell all of Kingston 'whom I had by Eliza Jane Campbell'; he left her an annuity of £150 p.a. His residuary legatees were his children and his appointed executors and guardians included his wife Susanna and John Willis of Bishopsgate Street, William Pratt of America Square and Thomas Platt of Brunswick Square. An affidavit by John Willis the son showed that Waterhouse had left for Jamaica in 1802 after making his will, and had died there in July 1804. Administration was granted to John Waterhouse the son in 1827.


London Gazette 15257 13/05/1800 p. 477 shows 'John Willis, Benjamin Waterhouse and J.N. Salt, Agents of Jamaica' in connection with an award of prize money.

  1. 'The Fourth Report of the Commissioners [of Naval Inquiry]', The Naval Chronicle Volume the Eleventh Part I (Jan-July 1804), pp. 31-41, 124-137, 217-226, 295-304, 457-464; Volume the Twelfth (July-December 1805) pp. 21-30, 212-221. John Jackson, a prize agent unconnected with Waterhouse and Willis, said in evidence in March 1803 that he was about to pay over to Greenwich Hospital £5500 of the £50,000 he had distributed to Lord Keith's squadron for the capture of the Dutch squadron in Saldanha Bay, p.131. Henry Devis' evidence is at pp. 298-304 and pp. 457 et seq. The scope of Waterhouse and Willis's business was given by the Report at p. 298, drawing on Devis' evidence, and the amounts held by the firm are given at pp. 299-300.

  2. PROB 11/1413/228.

Further Information

John, Batholomew George, Eliza Jane, Lavinia; with Eliza Jane Campbell, George, Benjamin Richard and Eliza Jane

Associated Estates (1)

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
1803 [EA] - 1803 [LA] → Trustee

Relationships (1)

Business partners
Notes →
Partners in Waterhouse and Willis, prize agents....

Addresses (1)

Russell Square, London, Middlesex, London, England