William Miles

1728 - 1803


A major slave-factor in Jamaica and then guarantor in Bristol of the slave-trade in the 1790s, as well as slave-owner in his own right. He left monetary legacies of more than £200,000 to his wife and daughters. His son and residuary heir Philip John Miles was founder of a dynasty in Bristol. Details of some of his dealings in Jamaica are included in A.E. Furness' discussion of the Tharp estates.

  1. Eldest son of Robert Miles (d. 1737) of Ledbury, Herefordshire. As a young man went to Jamaica, 'where he prospered.' On returning to England he settled in Bristol, established West India merchant business and acquired a house at Clifton. Active in municipal affairs: member of Bristol corporation from 1766, Mayor 1780-1, Alderman 1782. First chairman of the Bristol West India Association (established 1782), admitted to the Society of Merchant Venturers 1783. "His eldest son William died, aged 23, in 1790, leaving his second, Philip John Miles, to benefit handsomely as his residuary legatee on his death in 1803. (He also provided his widow with £40,000 and his four daughters with £50,000 each.)"

  2. Details from the correspondence of William Miles for the period 1770-1789 were published by the Bristol Record Society in 1985.

  3. Will of William Miles of Clifton proved 20/04/1803. In it he left £40,000 in trust to his wife for life, with £20,000 of it to willed by her and £20,000 to revert to his residuary estate after her death; he left £40,000 in consols in trust to each of his daughters Ann, Elizabeth, and Milly, and he left his daughter Charlotte £20,000 in addition to the £20,000 he had settled on her on her marriage to Thomas Kington. In a codicil he increased the legacies to his daughters by £10,000 each. His residuary heir was his son Philip John Miles.


Kenneth Morgan (2016) Merchant networks, the guarantee system and the British slave trade to Jamaica in the 1790s Slavery & Abolition, 37:2, 334-352; A. E. Furness, 'The Tharp estates in Jamaica' https://fgsj.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/The-Tharp-Estates-in-Jamaica-by-A-E-Furness.pdf pp. 8-11 [accessed 09/04/2020].

  1. Stephen Farrell / David R. Fisher in History of Parliament online

  2. Kenneth Morgan (ed.) 'V. Calendar of Correspondence of William Miles a West India Merchant in Bristol and John Tharp, a Planter in Jamaica, 1770-1789', in Patrick McGrath (ed.) A Bristol Miscellany, (Bristol Record Society Vol. XXXVII, 1985), pp. 79-121.

  3. PROB 11/1391/167.

There is an account of some of William Miles's Jamaican activities in the context the development of the Tharp estates contained in a study of those estates written by Alan Furness and now published by the Friends of the Georgian Society of Jamaica, at http://fgsj.org.uk/resources/114-the-tharp-estates-in-jamaica [accessed 30/04/2018]. We would like to thank Rosemary Dodd and Robert Barker of the FGSJ for drawing our attention to this material.

Further Information

Married but no further details

Associated Estates (8)

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
1799 [EA] - → Owner
1779 [EA] - 1798 [LA] → Owner
1777 [SY] - 1777 [LA] → Mortgage Holder

Material indexed among the Tharp Papers in the Cambridgeshire Archives suggests William Miles was mortgagee in 1777.

1793 [EA] - → Owner
1794 [EA] - → Owner
1799 [EA] - → Owner
1786 [EA] - 1792 [LA] → Trustee

'Trustee' of George Robinson Hamilton, almost certainly as mortgagee

1785 [EA] - 1797 [LA] → Mortgage Holder

Shown as 'under trust' to William Miles of Bristol between 1787 and 1797 (as was Rio Bueno, where George Robinson Hamilton was mortgagee-in-possession, in a similar period). Hamilton had mortgaged the Success estate to William Miles in 1785.

Legacies Summary

Commercial (1)

Miles Bank
notes →
Eric Williams noted that William Miles 'bought a leading partnership in the old banking house of Vaughan and Barker', later the Miles Bank....

Relationships (1)

Father → Son

Addresses (1)

Clifton, Bristol, Gloucestershire, South-west England, England