Admiral Arthur Forrest

1716 - 1770


Biography

Arthur Forrest was an officer in the Royal Navy and slave-owner in Jamaica. He has an entry in the ODNB as 'naval officer and planter.' Recent work by Ayling & Smith highlight both his industrial investment in the American Iron Company (q.v., under Firms), and his issue of annuities to investors in England to fund his rebuilding up of his Jamaica estates after Tacky's Rebellion.

Details of his early life are hazy. He was the son of Thomas Forrest of Edinburgh and Jamaica, and Margaret (nee Miller), daughter of Arthur Millar (1649-1727) Bishop of Edinburgh, Primus and Metropolitan of the Episcopal Church of Scotland. He was born in Edinburgh, but his mother moved to London with his younger sister in 1727. Margaret's sister, Elizabeth Miller, married James Seton whose family also had interests in Jamaica.

He joined the Merchant Navy in 1728, serving on board a ship trading to Cartagena (modern day Colombia), and rose to the rank of captain in 1739. In 1740 he passed his Royal Navy lieutenant's exam and was posted on board the sloop Pilot to Port Royal, Jamaica. In March 1741 he distinguished himself in the attack on the Baradera battery (Cartagena) under the command of Edward Boscawen and was subsequently promoted to the command of the bomb Alderney. During the rest of the 1740s Forrest served in the Royal Navy across the Atlantic, first in command of Atlantic convoys to Newfoundland and Boston and then in the Caribbean. He quickly gained greater responsibility and during the Seven Years War commanded the 60 gun Augusta, and in late 1757 gained commendation for the assaults on French convoys off Cap François. Forrest made a significant profit from selling captured cargoes of sugar, indigo, coffee and cotton in Jamaica. He returned to England in 1759 but was again in Jamaica in 1761. During his time in England, Forrest and his cousin Andrew Seton (merchant of London) invested in equipping a ship of the marque to attack French shipping in the Caribbean. Success brought Forrest further plaudits and plunder. Following the death of Rear-Admiral Charles Holmes in November 1761, Forrest was left as senior officer in the Jamaica Station. He quickly assumed the duties and privileges of commander-in-chief, but was dispossessed in disgrace by Sir James Douglas in April 1762. Forrest returned to England, where he was censured by the Admiralty. By 1769 his reputation had been restored and he was sent out to Jamaica as commander-in-chief.

The ODNB suggests that Forrest purchased property in Jamaica following his appointment as Commander-in-Chief; however, other sources plausibly show that he probably inherited land in Jamaica and wealth from his father who died sometime before 1750. This helped to fund his advancement in the Royal Navy and the purchase of Binfield lodge, at Windsor, Berkshire in 1760. Forrest paid £3,961 for the property, purchasing it from Elizabeth Williamson, the widow of Lieutenant General Adam Williamson, who had been the Deputy Lieutenant of the Tower of London. In Jamaica, Forrest owned at the time of his death six sugar estates: Masemure, Robins River, Ragged Castle (Westmoreland), Vineyard and Pontrepant (St James), Vineyard and Breadnut (St Elizabeth's). He also owned a large home in Kingston, which was used during his period as Senior Officer and Commodore of the Jamaica Squadron, as well as tracts of land in St Elizabeth. Forrest family historians Ayling & Smith suggest Arthur Forrest assumed ownership of Masemure in the 1750s, but that the estate, along with Vineyard and Breadnut had been in the family's possession since the late 1600s. By 1768 Masemure consisted of 394 acres, the same year in which Forrest purchased the 460 acre Ragged Castle estate.

Forrest's service in the Jamaica Squadron meant he spent a significant part of his life in the Caribbean but he made frequent trips back to England to visit his family, who resided first in Caversham and then at Binfield Lodge. Forrest married Frederica Marina Cecilia (1724-1802), daughter of Colonel John Lynch of Jamaica, in 1747. John Lynch was a merchant of Kingston and owner of Bellfield estate, St Mary, Jamaica. Arthur and Frederica initially resided with his mother in Knightsbridge and then purchased The Grove at Caversham, Oxfordshire. In total they eight children. Their eldest daughter, Bridget (1748-1823), married the diarist John Byng, fifth Viscount Torrington, with whom she had 14 children (13 of whom survived infancy). Arthur's eldest son, also named Arthur (1753-1802) (q.v.), had one son Thomas Forrest (q.v.) and an illegitimate daughter of whom no information is known. A younger son, Thomas, entered the Royal Navy and died of wounds sustained on HMS Ajax during the relief of Gibraltar.

Forrest died at Jamaica on 26 May 1770. At the time of his death a ship was en route from England carrying news of his promotion to Admiral and that he had been raised to the peerage as Lord Viscount Forrest. He was buried in Kingston Parish Church. In his will he left his estates in Great Britain, North America and Jamaica in trust to his eldest son Arthur. He left capital legacies to his other son and daughters. His wife was given an annuity of £800 drawn from all estates and given possession of Binfield during her lifetime. Forrest's trustees and executors were his brother-in-law John Loveday the Elder, his nephew John Loveday the Younger, Daniel Fox of Binfield, Richard Willis, West India merchant of London and to whom Forrest entrusted his consignments of sugar and rum, William Baker of the County of Southampton and John Elwes MP of Wallingford, Berkshire.

Arthur Forrest was listed in the Jamaican Quit Rent books for 1754 as the owner of 650 acres of land in Westmoreland and 941 acres of land in St Elizabeth, total 1591 acres. Forrest and Crawford were listed in the Jamaican Quit Rent books for 1754 as the owners of 1300 acres of land in Westmoreland.

Sources

J. K. Laughton, 'Forrest, Arthur (d. 1770), naval officer and planter', rev. Ruddock Mackay, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004) online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/9885, accessed 30/6/2015].

Geoffrey M. Ayling & Ian (Malik) Smith, Haughton FORREST (1826-1925): Biography, Catalogue and Gallery of Paintings (Privately printed Australia, 2013), pp.8-11.

'A List of landholders in the Island of Jamaica together with the number of acres each person possessed taken from the quit rent books in the year 1754', TNA CO 142/31 transcribed at http://www.jamaicanfamilysearch.com/Samples2/1754lead.htm.


Further Information

Absentee?
Transatlantic
Spouse
Frederica Marina Cecilia Forrest
Will
A will but no further details
Occupation
Sailor (Royal Navy) then planter
Oxford DNB Entry

Associated Estates (6)

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
1764 [EA] - 1770 [EY] → Owner
1758 [EA] - 1769 [LA] → Mortgagee-in-Possession
1764 [EA] - 1770 [EY] → Owner
1763 [EA] - 1765 [LA] → Owner
1764 [EA] - 1770 [EY] → Owner
1781 [EA] - 1803 [LA] → Previous owner

Legacies Summary

Commercial (1)

Firm Investment
 
notes →
Arthur Forrest was a co-founder in 1767 and one of 18 owners in...

Physical (1)

Estate
Forrest or Forest Lodge [Purchased] 
description →
House and estate purchased by Arthur Forrest for £3961 09/04/1760 and significantly extended and modernised by...

Relationships (3)

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

Addresses (1)

Binfield Lodge, Windsor, Berkshire, Central England, England