Thomas Porter I

1748 - 3rd Oct 1815


  1. Thomas Porter I, father of Thomas II, Henry and William (q.v.), was a major slave-owner in Demerara. He spent some time in Tobago before moving to Demerara in 1782. He was one of the first planters to buy up cotton plantations on the coast, and made a large fortune. Later he switched to producing sugar, as did many other plantation owners in Demerara. He returned to England in May 1796. He was High Sheriff of Devonshire in 1804.

  2. Within a few years of his return he purchased Rockbeare House, a few miles east of Exeter. The house received manorial rights in 1815, and was subsequently known as Rockbeare Manor. It was originally built about 1760 for Sir John Duntze, a rich Exeter wool merchant and MP for Tiverton from 1768 until his death in 1795. It is not clear whether the present building contains part of the original building, or whether the Porters pulled down the old house and built a new one. Rockbeare Manor is now a Grade 1 listed building, and is used as a wedding and events venue.

  3. There is a faded memorial for him (in Latin) in Rockbeare Church, which also mentions the death of his wife Sarah on 1 Apr 1823. Historic England describe it as follows: ‘The only notable mural monuments are those in the north aisle and are described working from east to west. The Porter memorial of circa 1815 is white marble on a shaped grey marble ground. The inscription, which records the death of Thomas Porter in 1815 and his wife Sarah in 1823, is flanked by pilasters with inlaid black fretwork and with clawed bases over a lower section enriched with carved fronds. At the top a tented canopy is surmounted by a vase with garlands of flowers and an apron contains a heraldic device.'


W.D. Rubinstein Who were the rich? Vol. 1 1809-1839, 1815/6. The entry also indicates slave-property in Barbados; it omits his daughter Sarah from the list of Thomas Porter I's children.

  1. David Alston, 'Slaves and Highlanders', [accessed 04/11/2019]; George Pinckard (1806), Notes on the West Indies, written during the expedition under the command of the late General Sir Ralph Abercromby (1806) Vol. II pp. 216-8.

  2. One source states the house 'contains part of the original building' (a href=""> and another that the Porters 'pulled down' the original house (, both accessed 04/11/2019.

  3. [accessed 04/11/2019].

We are grateful to Peter Wingfield-Digby for compiling this entry.

Further Information

Thomas, Henry, William, Christian, Eliza, Sarah

PROB 11/1575/127. Will of Thomas Porter of Rockbear [sic] Devon probated 06/12/1815. In the will he specifically identified among his property the Paradise estate in Demerary (on which was secured 5000 guilders p.a. to his wife under their marriage settlement, superseded by the provisions of his will); estates in Demerarary which he left to his three sons Thomas, William and Henry: Paradise, Good Faith, Adventure, Hope Estate and Enmore Estate, situate on the east coast of the colony; and an estate in or near Bloody Bay Tobago 'formerly called or known by the name Perry Wood and lately the estate and property of Henry Fowke [?] of Barbados.' His executors were Spencer Mackay of Bedford Place (q.v.); Alexander Hamilton Hamilton of the Retreat Topsham (q.v.); and Joseph Jeffery of Barford Somerset.

Wealth at death

Associated Estates (2)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
- 1815 [EY] → Owner
- 1815 [EY] → Owner

Legacies Summary

Political (1)

Local Government
office →
High Sheriff
1804 - 1804

Relationships (5)

Father → Son
Father → Son
Father-in-law → Son-in-law
Father → Son
Grandfather → Grandson

Addresses (1)

Rockbeare House, Rockbeare, East Burleigh, Devon, Devon & Cornwall, England