William McDowall Colhoun

1740 - 1821


  1. MP for Bedford 1784-1802, slave-owner on St Kitts, Nevis and St Croix, in financial difficulty from 1802 onwards. His major creditors were Pinney & Tobin. Son of Robert Colhoun of St Kitts and Frances Mills. Married Grace Parson of Parndon, Essex, in Westminster 24/09/1766. Children baptised in St James, Westminster: Grace (1773), William (1774), Frances (1775) and Robert (1777). Purchased West Wretham Manor in 1788, and (from John Pinney of Bristol) Great Hockham in 1805.

  2. Born c. 1740. Inherited his father's plantations on St Kitts and St Croix in 1763. Main agent of the Pinneys of Nevis and Bristol. Owned three estates in Norfolk: Thorpe, Wretham and Great Hockham. By 1800 he still owned Mount Pleasant Plantation, St. Croix (318 acres, 189 enslaved Africans), plus 'Colhouns' (100 acres, 110 enslaved, formerly 'Windmill & Paradise') plantation on Nevis.


  1. http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1790-1820/member/colhoun-william-macdowall-1758-1821 [accessed 10/02/2016]; some details of his slave-owning on Nevis are given in David Small and Christine Eickelmann's 'Clifton Estate, Nevis: an Account of Absence and Ambition' http://seis.bris.ac.uk/~emceee/cliftonhistory.pdf [accessed 29/11/2017], where he appears as William Colhoun as well as William Macdowall Colhoun; Findmypast.co.uk, Westminster Marriages [database online]; Findmypast.co.uk, Westminster Baptisms [database online]. For West Wretham see 'The Wretham Estate (East and West Wretham)', http://www.breckslandscape.co.uk/caseWretham.php [accessed 19/10/2018]. For Great Hockham see Somerset Heritage Centre DD/S/BT/28/8/10, Copy assignment of contract to purchase the manor of Great Hockham, Norfolk.

  2. Richard Pares, A West India Fortune (London 1950), Chapter XI, documents Colhoun's later career; Stuart M. Nisbet, 'Sugar and the Early Mercantile Identity of Glasgow', Scottish Archives Vol. 19 (2013).

We are grateful to Stuart M. Nisbet for his assistance with compiling this entry.

Further Information

Grace Parson
Grace (1773-), William (1774-), Frances (1775-), Robert (1777-)
Politician, landowner and plantation owner

Associated Estates (1)

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
1800 [EA] - 1800 [LA] → Owner

Legacies Summary

Physical (1)

Country house
Wretham Hall 
description →
Apparently built by William McDowall Colhoun: 'William Colhoun purchased part of the manor of West Wretham in 1788 and the Eton College lands at East Wretham were subsequently leased to him. It was...

Political (1)

election →
Bedford Bedfordshire
1784 - 1802

Relationships (5)

Son → Father
Executor → Testator
Notes →
In 1791 administration of the will of Thomas Mills was granted to William MacDowall Colhoun. PROB 11/942/209, The National Archives. It is indexed as 'Thomas Mills, St...
Trustee → Testator
Son-in-law → Father-in-law

Addresses (1)

West Wretham Manor, Wretham, Norfolk, East Anglia, England