Henry Lascelles (1690–1753)

Henry Lascelles
Born 1690
Died 16 October 1753
Cause of death suicide
Residence Harewood House
Occupation Plantation owner, politician
Spouse(s) Mary Carter
Children 3 sons, including Edwin Lascelles and Daniel Lascelles

Henry Lascelles (1690 –- 16 October 1753) was an English-born Barbados plantation owner. He was the son of Daniel Lascelles (1655–1734) and Margaret Metcalfe. He served as Collector of Customs for the British government in Barbados. He was a director of the British East India Company 1737-45, a financier, and Member of Parliament for Northallerton. He lived in his constituency, in Harewood, in Richmond-upon-Thames, and for periods in his twenties, at his family's plantation in Barbados.

Family, early life

The Lascelles family were increasingly prominent and politically involved Yorkshire gentry at the time of Henry's birth, having owned land near Northallerton, in the Vale of Mowbray, lush farming country, since at least the late thirteenth century. They were based at Stank Hall, now a sheep farm, which they had acquired in 1608 from land management profits. Henry's grandfather Francis Lascelles (c.1612-1667) had been a Roundhead colonel in the English Civil War of the mid-1600s, and as MP for the district sat in judgment on King Charles I of England, who was executed in 1649. Francis Lascelles was Cromwellian Commissioner for Yorkshire, during Oliver Cromwell's period as Lord Protector, ruling the country,[1] and also served in both the First Protectorate Parliament and the Second Protectorate Parliament in the 1650s. Henry's father Daniel Lascelles (1655-1734) assisted in driving out the Catholic King James II of England in 1688. He became High Sheriff of Yorkshire, in 1718-19, during the reign of King George I of England, briefly an MP for Northallerton, representing the Whigs (British political party), and a businessman.[2]


Henry was in Barbados by age 22 in 1712, following his elder brother George, who first crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1706. The Lascelles family had Barbados interests as early as 1648, establishing a plantation, a warehouse, and shipping interests for the rapidly developing colony, first settled by the British in 1625. Henry settled in Barbados with his brothers Daniel Lascelles (1714-1784) and Edward, where he was a merchant and planter; George returned to England to run the business there.

It was a family-managed enterprise, concentrating on sugar production and exports, transportation of goods to supply the colony, and slavery. Slaves were imported from west Africa, put to work on the plantations, and were objects of lucrative financial trading by the business leaders. The triangular shipping trade routes of the era ran as follows: British goods were shipped to West Africa, slaves were captured and shipped to Barbados and other West Indian islands for sale, and sugar and other export crops were shipped to Britain, with great profits on all three journey legs. Barbados was by about 1680 the most prosperous British colony in the Americas.;[3][4]

Customs Collector

In 1714, Henry acquired, in addition, the powerful position of Collector of Customs for Barbados, coinciding with the ascension of the new Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, a Whig. This influential and lucrative post, a reward for earlier political loyalties, was to remain in family hands for the next three decades. Henry was in charge of collecting duties on Barbados colonial exports (including his own), usually at the rate of 4.5 per cent; this money would then be remitted to the British Treasury in London.[5]

Business expansion

Upon George's death in 1729, Henry returned to London and became one of its leading businessmen, with offices near the port district. He bought an estate in the desirable and wealthy suburb of Richmond-upon-Thames, some 14 miles west of his business. He had developed a financial business, lending money on both sides of the Atlantic, and this was successful.[6]

Henry Lascelles later co-founded the firm of Lascelles and Maxwell, sugar factors, of Mark Lane, London; which on partner George Maxwell's death in 1763 became Lascelles Clarke and Daling.[7] This very successful partnership with the Scotsman Maxwell began in September 1743.[8]

Marriages and progeny

He and his first wife Mary (daughter of Edward Carter (fellow plantation owner), whom he married in Barbados on 8 April 1712) left three surviving children, all of whom were born in Barbados:

Mary died in 1721.[9] His second marriage to Jennet Whetstone in 1731 was childless.

Later years and death

Henry retired from the business in 1750, at age 60, but retained his seat in Parliament, along with much of his influence. In his will, he divided most assets among his two eldest sons, with Edwin receiving land and its associated buildings, and Daniel the business interests.[10]

Extensive business correspondence from the Lascelles and Maxwell firm has survived, and is the basis of modern research work by writer Adam Nicolson.

Henry Lascelles committed suicide in 1753 by slashing his arm's veins. He was suffering from cataracts in his eyes. At this juncture, he was reckoned to be the wealthiest person in England, by writer Adam Nicolson, with a personal fortune estimated at some half-million pounds.[11]


Henry Lascelles, son of a minor but increasingly prominent Yorkshire gentry family, amassed such extraordinary wealth and influence that his eldest son Edwin was raised to the English nobility as 1st Baron Harewood; he established Harewood House, still the family seat. The next generation of Lascelles was promoted to an hereditary earldom, still in existence today.


  1. Nicolson, pp. 213-215
  2. The Gentry: Stories of the English, by Adam Nicolson, Harper Press, London, 2011, ISBN 9780007335497, pp. 214-216
  3. Sheridan, Richard B. (1974). Sugar and Slavery: An Economic History of the British West Indies, 1623-1775. Canoe Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-976-8125-13-2.
  4. Nicolson, pp. 216-220
  5. Nicolson, p. 220.
  6. Nicolson, pp. 223-227
  7. The House of Commons 1754-1790; Sir Lewis Namier & John Brooke; The History of Parliament series. Secker & Warburg 1964.
  8. Nicolson, p. 233
  9. Nicolson, p. 238
  10. Nicolson, p. 239.
  11. Nicolson, p. 239 and 213

Additional reading

External links

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
William Smelt
Henry Peirse
Member of Parliament for Northallerton
1745 1752
With: Henry Peirse
Succeeded by
Henry Peirse
Daniel Lascelles
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