Taylor family of Jamaica (1770-1835)

Scope and Content

Mainly letters written and received between 1770 and 1835 by Simon Taylor, his family and heirs, and his friends, agents and business partners, relating to their Jamaican estates and business interests. Over a quarter are contained in Simon Taylor's letterbooks. Though the majority of the correspondence consists of letters either to or from Simon Taylor up to his death in 1813, there is also correspondence of other family members, like his brother Sir John Taylor (1741-1786) and his widow Lady Elizabeth Haughton Taylor (1758-182[?2]), their son and his heir Sir Simon Richard Brissett Taylor, and his cousin and business partner Robert Taylor. Subject matter ranges from the domestic (illness, family quarrels, disinheritance, bigamy) to business (slaves, sugar, trade and shipping, the effects of hurricanes, the introduction of a steam engine on an estate), to the Maroon and French wars and the politics of Abolition. The collection also includes correspondence of George Watson Taylor, 1815-1819, and detailed reports on the estates made for Anna Susannah Watson Taylor in 1835. Genealogical tables for the Taylor, Haughton, Brissett and Hibbert families have been added to the collection at a later date.

Administrative / Biographical History

Simon Taylor was born in Jamaica in 1740, eldest son of Patrick Tailzour, who had assumed the name Taylor on his marriage to Martha Taylor. Patrick had come out to Jamaica from Borrowfield, Scotland and established himself as a merchant in Kingston. Simon Taylor began his career as an attorney for absentee planters, became a sugar planter in his own right and at his death in 1813 he was reputedly the richest man in Jamaica. He was active in Jamaican politics and society, being member for Kingston in the Jamaican Assembly, 1763-81, and for St. Thomas in the East, 1784-1810; Custos; Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas; and Lieutenant Governor of Militia. He never married, although he had a large illegitimate family. For an account of his life and business, see R.B. Sheridan, "Simon Taylor, Sugar Tycoon of Jamaica, 1740-1813" in Agricultural History Vol.45, No.4 (Oct. 1971) pp. 285-296 (a copy is available at ICS) General Nugent, Governor of Jamaica, 1801-1806, described Taylor in 1806 as "...by much the richest proprietor in the island, and in the habit of accumulating money, so as to make his nephew and heir one of the most wealthy subjects of His Majesty. In strong opposition to Government at present and violent in his language against the King's Ministers, for their conduct towards Jamaica. He has great influence in the Assembly, but is nearly superannuated. He has most extraordinary manners and lives principally with overseers of estates and masters of merchant vessels; but he has had an excellent education [he went to Eton], is well informed and is a warm friend to those he takes by the hand. He is also very hospitable and civilised occasionally, but is said to be most inveterate in his dislikes." [P. Wright, ed. Lady Nugent's Journal (4ed., Institute of Jamaica 1966) p318] Simon's heir was his nephew, Sir Simon Richard Brissett Taylor (1785-1815), and after the latter's death his eldest niece, Anna Susannah Watson Taylor (1781-1853), inherited the estates. She had married George Watson in 1810 and the additional name Taylor was assumed at the time of the inheritance.


By correspondent and by date

Access Information

Open although advance notice should be given. Access to individual items may be restricted under the Data Protection Act or the Freedom of Information Act.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued to item level (see link to repository catalogue).

Archivist's Note

Compiled 2000, revised by Alan Kucia as part of the RSLP AIM 25 Project, Aug 2001.

Conditions Governing Use

A photocopying service is available, at the discretion of the Library staff. Copies are supplied solely for research or private study. Requests to publish, or to quote from original material should be submitted to the Information Resources Manager.

Custodial History

The correspondence of Simon Taylor, his brothers, their children and other family members was brought together and descended in the Watson Taylor family. They were purchased from Mr C.E. Watson Taylor by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, with assistance form the Victoria and Albert Purchase Grant Fund, in 1982. Some letters were sold separately for their postal marks; xeroxed copies were placed in the Papers.

Related Material

The ICS also holds papers relating to the Castle Wemyss Estate, Jamaica, 1802-1990 [predominantly 1802-1845] (Ref. ICS 101) There are also relevant publications available in the ICS Library.


See KE Ingram, Sources of Jamaican History 1655-1838 (Switzerland, 1976).

Geographical Names