The two Captain Richard Boultons: an uncle and nephew in the service of the East India Company

In my continuing quest for information about the Boulton family, I’ve been trying to sort out what we know about two men, an uncle and a nephew, both of whom served as sea captains with the East India Company – and both named Richard Boulton. I believe that some of the extant records confuse the two men, and in this post I want to try to sort out the muddle.

Richard Boulton senior was, I believe, the son of William Boulton and Alice Forrest, the latter being the sister of my 9 x great grandfather Thomas Forrest (died 1678), a London citizen and haberdasher. Richard Boulton junior was the son of Richard senior’s brother Thomas and his wife Bridget. He was probably born in 1703 (see my last post).

The Navy Office in Crutched Friars, London

The Navy Office in Crutched Friars, London

Richard Boulton senior made his will in 1737 and died in the same year, at Crutched Friars in the parish of St Olave Hart Street in the City of London. Incidentally, Crutched Friars was the home of the Navy Office (see image above), where Samuel Pepys worked. In his will Richard describes himself as a member of the East India Company and his bequests include stock in Blackwall Yard and money for a hospital at Poplar. His executors include his (great) nephews Henry and Richard Crabb, whose inheritance depends on their taking the additional surname Boulton. There is no mention in the will of a wife or any children. As for Richard Boulton junior, he is given the title ‘captain’ in his uncle Richard’s will. He made his own will in 1740, describing himself as of Perdiswell, Worcestershire, and he died in 1745. As with his uncle, there is no evidence of a wife or children in Richard junior’s will.

Blackwall Yard from the Thames, by Francis Holman (1729 - 1784)

Blackwall Yard from the Thames, by Francis Holman (1729 – 1784)

We can be fairly certain that the following extract, from a history of Blackwall Yard, refers to Richard Boulton senior (my emphasis in bold): 

In June 1724 the Earl and Countess of Strafford sold the yard, with 20½ acres, for £2,800, to Captain John Kirby, a shipbuilder already resident there, whose agreement to purchase the property is dated August 1722. […] Kirby’s purchase of the yard was made on behalf of a four-man syndicate, of which he was one, all of whom were retired sea captains who had worked for the East India Company and were members of London’s shipping community. On the same day as the sale, therefore, Kirby assigned three quarter-shares in the yard to his three partners, Jonathan Collett, Richard Boulton and Edward Pierson. Collett, an active ship’s husband, was described as a gentleman of Trinity Minories, and Pierson as a gentleman of Stratford Langthorne in Essex. In 1720 Pierson had been the instigator of an abortive scheme to establish a company trading to India from the Continent. The fourth partner, Boulton, was a London merchant and an important figure in the East India Company, of which he was a director from 1718 to 1736 and on the Committee for Shipping from 1723 until 1726. He was also a member of the Honourable Company of Shipwrights. 

Both the connection to Blackwall Yard, and the dates, suggest that it’s Richard Boulton senior who is mentioned here. If Richard Boulton junior was born in 1703 or thereabouts, as I believe, then he was too young to be a director of the East India Company in 1718, and certainly much too young to be a retired sea captain.

This account throws some useful light on the life of Richard Boulton senior. From it we learn that he was firstly a sea captain with the East India Company, that later he was a London merchant and a director of the Company, and that in retirement he went into business as a shipwright or ship owner. If Richard was a retired sea captain in 1724, then he was probably a working mariner during the first two decades of the century. If so, then this suggests he was born by about 1680. Since his brother Peter was definitely born in 1665 and another brother, Thomas, may have born in 1668, it’s possible that Richard was born as early as the 1660s or 1670s.

East India House, headquarters of the East India Company

East India House, headquarters of the East India Company

So we have two Richard Boulton, both sea captains, and both working for the East India Company. It’s perhaps understandable that confusion between the two has sometimes arisen, as it does for example in an account of the life Henry Crabb Boulton on the History of Parliament Online site, which includes the following:

Richard Boulton, Henry’s patron, after some 20 years in the East India Company’s marine service and 18 in its direction, retired a wealthy man to Worcestershire whence the family apparently derived. 

The same mix-up is reproduced in the following extract from a genealogical site:

The [Boulton] family was well known in Leatherhead as they owned the Manor House at Thorncroft from 1763 and from 1781 the Lordship of the manor as well. The first owner was Henry Crabb Boulton who was followed briefly by his brother Richard and then by Richard’s son Henry Boulton jnr. In fact all three were born with the name Crabb and adopted the name Boulton only as a result of inheritance. Their patron was their cousin also a Richard Boulton who had served some 40 years in the HEIC being a Director in 1731 and 1737. He was also associated with the ownership of Blackwall Yard 1724-28. […] He was a wealthy man who retired to Worcestershire where he died in 1745. He bequeathed his manors, messuages and lands to Henry Crabb who thereupon added the name Boulton to his own.

In fact, it was Richard Boulton senior who was a director of the East India Company and was associated with Blackwall Yard, and who made the bequest to Henry Crabb. He died in 1737, and it was his nephew Richard Boulton junior who retired to Worcestershire and died in 1745.

A similar error occurs on the otherwise excellent website of the ‘East India Company at Home’ research project:

Both brothers took the name Boulton from their cousin Richard Boulton who was connected to EIC for 40 years, and left property to Henry which later passed to his brother Richard.

As we have already established, it was Richard senior who insisted on the additional surname, and he was the Crabb brothers’ (great) uncle, not their cousin: that was Richard junior.

There’s also some confusion about who is referred to in some of the tax records and merchants’ directories from this period. An announcement in a publication entitled The Political State of Great Britain printed in 1737 records the death on 26th October ‘at his house in Crutched Friers [sic]’ of ‘Captain Richard Boulton, late a Director of the East-India Company’. We know that Richard senior died in 1737, and we also know from his will that he died in the parish of St Olave Hart Street, which included Crutched Friars.

However, another publication, The Intelligencer or Merchant’s Assistant, published in the following year – 1738 – still lists Captain Richard Boulton of Crutched Friars, London, among the merchants of the city. There are two possible explanations: either Richard junior took over his uncle’s address, and his business, after his death – or the publication was late in catching up with the news of the latter’s demise.

Fort St George on the Coromandel Coast. Belonging to the East India Company of England

Fort St George on the Coromandel Coast. Belonging to the East India Company of England

The latter explanation seems more likely, since other records suggest that Richard Boulton junior was still serving the East India Company as a mariner at about this time. A volume of The Political State of Great Britain from 1736 notes the arrival at East India House of ‘the Purser of the Beauford Captain Richard Boulton, from Coast and Bay’ [I believe this is a reference to the Coromandel coast and Bay of Bengal]. An earlier record also places Richard on the Beaufort in 1734. Interestingly, the Beaufort was owned by Jonathan Collett, one of the business partners of Richard Boulton senior, and had been launched at Blackwall Yard in 1734. Richard Boulton junior was the Beaufort’s captain on its first voyage (presumably to India) in 1735 and 1736. It seems likely that Richard senior would have been of assistance in gaining his nephew the command of the ship.

A Captain Richard Boulton had been in charge of another ship, the King George, in 1729. On balance, this is most likely to be Richard junior, since by that date his uncle, Richard senior, was director of the Company. However, the Captain Richard Boulton who commanded the Loyal Cook, bound for Amoy in China, in 1701 and 1703, must have been Richard senior, since his nephew had yet to be born.

I hope this post has helped to clear up the confusion surrounding the two Captain Richard Boultons. However, further research is still needed in order to understand the origins of this illustrious family, and how some many members of it ended up as prominent figures in the East India Company.

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