Papers of Lt. Gen. Napier Christie Burton

Scope and Content

Papers relating to his insolvency and the sale of his properties to settle his debts (including an estate at Chambly in Quebec). There are several letters from the Hull businessman, Thomas Thompson (father of Thomas Perronet Thompson).

Administrative / Biographical History

The Burton family held land in Cottingham in the seventeenth century and in 1720 William Burton built Hotham Hall in Hotham. In the 1740s Richard Burton owned Hull Bank House (later Haworth Hall). In 1767 Ralph Burton bought the manors of Powis, Richmond and Westmorland, all in Cottingham. Ralph Burton made the biggest name for himself. He was a veteran of Wolfe's campaign against the French in Canada, having gone to America in 1755. In 1759 he was made lieutenant governor of Quebec and then governor of Three Rivers Province 1760 to 1765. He was a close friend of the mercurial politician, John Calcraft, and when he returned to England Calcraft arranged for his election as MP of Wareham in Dorset, in 1768, but he died later in the year. He was succeeded to his Cottingham estates by his son Richard. When Richard Burton died in 1784 his sister, Mary, inherited, by which time the family owned a fair proportion of the centre of Cottingham (The Journal of Cottingham Local History Society, 3, pp.3, 5, 9; Allison, Victoria county history, iii, p.387, iv, p.69; Namier & Brooke, The house of commons, ii, p.165).

Mary Burton married Lieutenant General Napier Christie and upon marriage he assumed the name Burton. An American by birth, he joined the army as an ensign in the 22nd Foot in 1775 and went to America in 1779 where he joined the Guards. He was taken prisoner at Yorktown in 1781. In 1789 he served with the Guards in Flanders, served during the Napoleonic wars and was eventually made Brigadier General on the Guernsey staff in 1796. In the same year he was elected as MP for Beverley (Bean, The parliamentary representation of the six northern counties, p.757).

Napier Christie Burton was a man unable to stay within his means despite inheriting a small fortune from his father in 1799 on top of his wife's money and assets. In 1793 he had to sell nearly £12,000 of his wife's inheritance to service his debts. He sold to the Broadleys. He was an absentee landlord, choosing to live in London when not overseas. In 1799 he was made lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, but returned in 1802 after the death of his wife the year before. Between 1803 and 1805 he was back in Canada and in 1806 he was placed on the staff in Ireland. He frittered away money, trying to redeem himself in1809 by selling more estates in Cottingham. But when this proved not enough he was imprisoned for having debts of over £2000 in 1812. He then appointed an agent in Canada, E Henry, to dispose of his estates there as well. John Lockwood, the Beverley solicitor, handled affairs in the East Riding, with the help of local businessman and MP Thomas Thompson. Thompson advised lenient treatment; Christie Burton had been an MP until 1806, when defeated, and had been promoted to General despite all his debts, as late as 1814. All the correspondence in the collection relates to these affairs. Napier Christie Burton and his wife had at least one son - Robert Christie Burton who stood as Tory candidate for Beverley in 1818 and 1820 amidst controversy about his eligibility (DDCV[2]/57; Jackson, Hull in the eighteenth century, p.114; Bean, The parliamentary representation of the six northern counties, pp.757-8).

Access Information

Access will be granted to any accredited reader

Related Material

Hull University Archives:

U U DDCV(2)/59; DTH; DSJ; DRA/88, 95, 779; U U DDCV/15/115, 484

Other repositories:

Letters to Ralph Burton from John Calcraft, Add. MSS 17,493, 17,495-6; reports of Ralph Burton as governor of Three Rivers Province, Canada 1760-5, Add. MSS 21,667, 21,669, British Library


  • Allison, K J (ed), Victoria county history of Yorkshire: East Riding (4 vols, 1969-1976)
  • Bean, W W, The parliamentary representation of the six northern counties of England (1890)
  • Jackson, Gordon, Hull in the eighteenth century (1972)
  • The Journal of Cottingham Local History Society, 3 (1974)
  • Namier, Lewis & Brooke, John, The house of commons 1754-1790 (1964)