Papers relating to the trustees of the estate of Alexander Bartlet & Co, West India merchants

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

  • title deeds, property in Tobago 1771-1815
  • estate inventories: Tobago 1773, Grenada 1785
  • balance and profit and loss accounts 1777-9
  • ship insurance policy 1778
  • customer correspondence 1778-84
  • correspondence and accounts of trustees 1784-1815
  • bills of charges of trustees’ solicitors 1784-1815
  • notices of creditors’ meetings 1786-1815

Administrative / Biographical History

By 1771 Alexander Bartlet was trading, with his older brother William Bartlet and George Campbell, between London and the West Indian islands of Grenada, Carriacou and Tobago. The partners traded mostly in cotton, sugar, cocoa and rum. Alexander Bartlet and George Campbell owned plantations on Tobago and Alexander’s two brothers, William and James, owned cotton plantations on Carriacou.

The co-partnership of Alexander Bartlet and George Campbell originally traded as Alexander Bartlet & Co merchants of London and as Bartlet, Campbell & Bartlet. The business was later known as William Bartlet, Campbell & Co, and from 1778 (following William Bartlet’s death) as George Campbell & Co merchants of Grenada. The co-partnership was dissolved in March 1779 due to financial difficulties and the estate placed in the hands of trustees. These difficulties probably arose from William Bartlet’s death, problems on Tobago and general distress in the West Indian trades. Tobago had experienced several insurrections prior to 1774, the forced replacement of sugar by cotton as the main crop due to ant infestation in 1775 and hostile attack from American ships in 1777-8. The War of American Independence and rising cost of shipping insurance were sources of additional pressure on colonial entrepreneurs. Indeed, many planters and merchants went bankrupt during the closing decades of the eighteenth century.

Upon the dissolution of the co-partnership of Alexander Bartlet and George Campbell the trustees were to administer the estate to the benefit and eventual repayment of Alexander Bartlet & Co’s creditors. The last transaction in the administration of the Bartlet estate, the sale of a Grenada plantation, took place in 1815. The three main trustees were William Annand, linen draper of London, William Matthews, merchant, and Robert Williams (1734-1814), banker of City of London. In 1779 Robert Williams was senior partner in Lowe, Vere & Williams, bankers of Birchin Lane, City of London, and was also the managing owner or ‘ship’s husband’ of fourteen trading vessels, largely East Indiamen, between 1778 and 1810. He was the last surviving trustee.

Conditions Governing Access

Historical researchers are welcome to use the archives at our Edinburgh store. Access is by appointment and researchers are required to complete an access form before they visit. Some records are subject to closure periods. For further information please email archives@rbs.co.uk or telephone 0131 334 1428.