William Wylly

1757 - 1828


Slave-owner and Attorney-General in the Bahamas, dying at Budleigh Salterton, Devon in 1828.

  1. An American Loyalist who arrived in the Bahamas in 1787, where he served as Attorney-General from 1797 and was at the centre of the Wylly Affair - a conflict with the local House of Assembly - in 1817. Owner of Clifton, Tusculum and Waterloo (the latter two of which were pens for stock) with a combined total of 67 enslaved people in 1818. Gail Saunders concluded: 'All in all, Wylly seemed to have been a benevolent master to his slaves', although she went on to acknowledge that 'evidence is scant about exactly how slaves thought....' Wylly resigned as Attorney-General of the Bahamas in 1821 and was Chief Justice of St Vincent from 1822 to 1827. He died at Budleigh Salterton, Devon, 31/01/1828.

  2. Wylly purchased Clifton Great House in 1802, from John Wood, another Georgia loyalist who arrived in the Bahamas after the War of Independence. Wood built the house in 1785 in the style of English colonial, similar to those found around Savannah, Georgia. The building was made of cut stone, cemented by lime mortar and covered with lime plaster; it had a basement, a main floor about six feet above the ground, and an attic. There were two large rooms on the main floor with a central hall opening on front and rear porches. The kitchen behind the house was detached to keep the fire and heat away from the main house. John Wood left the Bahamas after selling his land. Wood’s land, along with three adjacent plantations totalling more than 1000 acres, was acquired by Wylly, whose family had previously owned a plantation in Savannah named Clifton. Wylly and his family lived there until the 1820s.

  3. Owner of one enslaved blacksmith and one enslaved shipwright in New Providence, Bahamas, in 1826, with his son Thomas Brown Wylly (current Solicitor General) as attorney.


Gentleman's Magazine Vol. 143 (Feb. 1828) p. 188 shows the death of William Wylly late Chief Justice of St Vincent at Burleigh Salterton.

  1. Gail Saunders, Bahamian Loyalists and their Slaves (Macmillan, 1983 and Media Enterprises Ltd, 2011) pp. 30-31 and p. 34; Maya Jasanoff, Liberty's Exiles: the loss of America and the remaking of the British empire (London, 2011), pp.232-36 & 346-47; Sandra Riley, Homeward bound: a history of the Bahama Islands to 1850 (Miami, FL, 2000) pp. 170-173, 203-206.

  2. http://www.cliftonheritagepark.org/About_history.html

  3. Papers Relating to Slaves in the Colonies, Vol.XXII, 'Return of Functionaries who are Proprietors of Slaves or Plantations worked by Slaves', p. 6 (Munnings to Bathurst, July 1826).

We are grateful to Carol Forsberg and Paul Hitchings for their help compiling this entry.

Further Information

Married but no further details

Relationships (3)

Father → Daughter
Father-in-law → Son-in-law
Father → Son

Addresses (1)

Budleigh Salterton, Devon, Devon & Cornwall, England