James Mather

1799 - 14th Dec 1873

Claimant or beneficiary


James Mather (1799-1873), apparently a Liberal anti-slavery campaigner in South Shields, but also a correspondent with the Commissioners in pursuit of slave compensation for 'property' of his wife.

  1. One portrait of Mather noted that 'Mrs Mather the daughter of Colonel Ainslie, of Overwells, was a slaveowner.' But the same article also noted that Mather was an 'advocate of immediate emancipation without compensation to the slaveholders'. Grace Philippa Ainslie, daughter of Colonel Ainslie of Over Wells in Jedburgh married James Mather of South Shields in Jedburgh, Scotland in 1828. They had four children baptised in South Shields, County Durham: Emily Sarah Mary (1829), James Erskine Ainslie (1831), John Lockhart (1832) and Thomas Mckenzie (1835). In 1841 they were living at Saville Street, South Shields with son Thomas, age 6, another young woman and a female servant; James's occupation was given as wine merchant. Grace was living in South Shields in the censuses 1841-1881 but James has not been located in later censuses. The death of James Mather was registered Q4 1873 in South Shields age 73. The death of Grace Philippa Mather was registered Q2 1881 in South Shields age 79 years.

  2. "James Mather (1799-1873) was born in Newcastle in 1799 and his father was a wine and spirits’ merchant in Newcastle and South Shields. James was a free-thinker and campaigned for parliamentary representation for South Shields, and also for the abolition of slavery (despite being married to woman whose family had made its fortune from the slave trade). However, he was more widely known as a campaigner for mining safety. He was a spokesman for South Shields’ shipping interest and by 1845 it had become possible to supply London with Midlands’ coal by rail. In 1846, Mather published a pamphlet comparing rail and shipping costs, in the interests of a South Shields coal trade. This is an interesting standpoint given the fact that the north east supplied coal to the Caribbean (via London) for use on slave plantations. Mather’s friend, Robert Ingham was also against slavery – provided the slave owners were adequately recompensed."

  3. James Mather died 14/12/1873 in Westoe, effects under £12,000, resworn in 1875 with effects under £450.


Ancestry.com, Jamaica, Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1879 [database online]; Ancestry.com, Scotland, Select Marriages, 1561-1910 [database online]; T71/1608, 19/07/1835: interventions from James Mather, stating that Mrs Stiles, a legatee under the will of William Gibbs, jointly with Mrs Carpenter of Tonbridge Place London, assigned her interest to Wm. Scott, of Edinburgh (Scotland), on behalf of her daughter Mrs Mather and herself.

  1. The Northern tribune: a periodical for the people (1854), p. 260; GROS OPR 792 70 311; Findmypast.co.uk, England Births & Baptisms 1538-1975 [database online]; 1841-1881 censuses online; Ancestry.com, England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1837-1915 [database online].

  2. Tamsin Lilley, Remembering Slavery 2007: South Shields’ links to the trans-Atlantic slave trade (2008), available at South Shields and the Slave Trade.

  3. National Probate Calendar 1874.

We are grateful to David Barker for his assistance with compiling this entry.

Further Information

Grace Philippa Ainslie
Emily Sarah Mary, James Erskine Ainslie, John Lockhart, Thomas Mckenzie
Wealth at death
Wine merchant

Associated Claims (2)

£128 7s 1d
£2,341 0s 4d
Claimants in List E or Chancery cases

Relationships (2)

Husband → Wife
Son-in-law → Mother-in-law

Addresses (3)

South Shields, Durham, Northern England, England
2 Saville Street, South Shields, Durham, Northern England, England
4 Morden Place, Blackheath Hill, Greenwich, Kent, London, England