Richard Watt Walker

3rd Jul 1792 - 31st Aug 1852

Claimant or beneficiary

Biography

Son of Richard Walker (q.v.), and brother of John [Watt] Walker (q.v.), with whom he shared part of the compensation for the enslaved on the Potosi estate in St James Jamaica (the remainder of the compensation went to Francis Watt, q.v.).

  1. Richard Watt Walker, was born on 3 July 1792, the eldest son and heir of Richard Walker (1760-1801) and his wife, Alethea. He was educated at Eton and Christchurch Oxford where he matriculated in 1810. In December 1812 he ran away to Gretna Green to marry Carolina, daughter of the late travel writer Henry Swinburne. They were both 20 and below the age when they could marry without consent. They had two children, Carolina Alethea baptised in January 1816 and Richard Ernest born on 7 July 1817.

  2. Unfortunately, Richard Watt Walker seems to have inherited his father’s love of luxurious living but not his financial acumen. As soon as he came of age in 1813, the spending began. He celebrated the event with a dinner for 65 of his tenants and local gentlemen. ‘The table was most abundantly supplied with choicest fish, and the true old English fare of haunches of venison, sirloins and rounds of beef, and equally so with every delicacy of the season; every aid was given by the decorations of the culinary art; the display of the confectionary and pastry was alike elegant; most profuse desserts of ice, pines, grapes and melons &c. and the French and other wines were of the rarest qualities, but the highest zest was given to these viands, by the politeness and suavity of the manners of the Host, which he kept up with great hilarity and spirit.’

  3. The following year, he began further very extensive alterations to the interior of the house at Michelgrove, Sussex which he had inherited from his father. These included the decoration in the latest gothic style of the dining room and drawing room built by his father, and an elaborate marble staircase which featured 16-inch high greyhounds on each side of every step. In 1814 the house was described as ‘full of workmen of every description’ whose job it was to ‘restore the mansion to its pristine state with considerable additions.’ ‘An incredible sum of money’ was being spent refurbishing the house ‘in the most florid style of Gothic architecture’. The dining room featured an impressive groined ceiling in chestnut. Work was still going on in May 1815 when three workmen were killed by falling scaffolding.

  4. He clearly liked to cut a fine figure as the Morning Post reported in May 1814, ‘Amongst the most admired equipages that were in the Park on Sunday, was that of Richard Watt Walkers [sic] Esq.’. He kept a large stud of hunters and racehorses and built a new larger stable block to the north of the house. When he attended the opening of the Assizes in Lewes as High Sheriff of Sussex in 1815, ‘His carriage was drawn by six beautiful grey horses, and his servants were attired in splendid liverie, which, with their bags and canes, exhibited a sort of Court Etiquette. The javelin gentlemen were capitally mounted, and in their scarlet and buff uniforms made a very gay appearance; in short, the whole presented an air of grandeur, that we do not recollect to have witnessed on any similar occasion.’ Later in the year, ‘his fox hounds afforded an excellent day’s sport, in the neighbourhood of Michelgrove, to a very large field of sportsmen’. He maintained a house in Hertford Street in London, where his son and heir Richard Ernest was born.

  5. He also invested in a number of unsuccessful commercial ventures, including a coach service from Littlehampton to London. Clearly he was spending beyond his means and by 1828, within just over a decade of inheriting, he had sold the house and estate at Michelgrove to the Duke of Norfolk. The total price agreed was £185,000. The £855 he received in 1834 in compensation for emancipation of the enslaved on the plantation at Potosi, in the parish of St James in Jamaica, where he held a half share with his brother and cousin Francis Watt, the son of Richard Watt 2, must have seemed small beer.

  6. At some point after Richard Watt Walker sold Michelgrove, he went to live at Tilgate Forest Lodge near Crawley. However, his financial affairs did not improve and in 1842 a proclamation of outlawry was issued against him. At the time, outlawry was a sanction used against those in contempt of court, usually relating to debt. It would appear that he had fled abroad to avoid prosecution for in August that year he was recorded as being resident in Brussels, where his daughter, Carolina, married Lieutenant Richard Harvey of the Royal Artillery. Walker died in the Belgian capital in August 1852 but his financial affairs were the subject of legal action for decades to come and remained unresolved even in 1904.

Sources

We are grateful to Anthony Tibbles for compiling this entry.

T71/873 St James 152A-C.

  1. Richard Watt Walker born 3 July, baptised 4 August 1792, St George, Liverpool, LRO 283 GEO/1/2; H. E. C. Stapylton, Eton School Lists, 1791-1850 (1863), p. 57; Joseph Foster, Alumni Oxonienses: the members of the University of Oxford, 1715-1886 (1886), p. 1486; Oxford Journal, 26 December 1812; Gretna Green Marriage Register, 1794-1895; Clapham Parish Registers, Carolina was baptised on 26 January 1816, Richard was baptised on 8 August 1818.

  2. Sussex Advertiser, 19 July 1813.

  3. Valerie Martin 'The tussle between Richard Watt Walker and George Cross' (2000), http://www.findonvillage.com/0316_the_tussle_between_mr_walker_and_mr_cross.htm [accessed 07/04/2018]; J. P. Neale, Views of the seats of noblemen and gentlemen (1828), vol. 5; Sussex Advertiser 1 May 1815.

  4. Morning Post 17 May 1814; Henry Smail, Coaching Times and after (1948), p. 63; Victoria County History of Sussex (1980), vol. 6, pt 1, pp. 10-21; Sussex Advertiser, 24 July 1815; Sussex Advertiser, 30 October 1815.

  5. A. P. Baggs, C. R. J. Currie, C. R. Elrington, S. M. Keeling and A. M. Rowland, edited by T. P. Hudson, A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 1, Bramber Rape (Southern Part) (1980), pp. 10-21; Arundel Castle Archives, Catalogue, vol.4, FC448-449; St James claim no. 152A-C.

  6. He is referred to as ‘formerly of Tilgate Forest Lodge, Sussex’ in his will, dated 15 April 1851, TNA, PROB11/2168 and was living there in 1835 when he was a subscriber to T W Horsfield’s History, Antiquities and Topography of the County of Sussex (1835); Sheffield Iris, 15 February 1842; Gentleman’s Magazine, 1842, vol.172, 422; Estate of Richard Watt Walker, and Angerman v. Ford, Supplement to the London Gazette, 10 March, 1933, 1665.


Further Information

Absentee?
British/Irish
Name in compensation records
Richard W. Walker
Spouse
Carolina Marianna Swinburne
Children
Carolina Alethea, Richard Ernest Walker (1817-)
School
Eton
University
Oxford (Christ Church) [1810- ]

Associated Claims (1)

£3,421 12S 9D
Awardee

Legacies Summary

Physical (1)

Country house
Michelfield 

Relationships (3)

Half-brothers
Son → Father
Great-nephew → Great-uncle

Addresses (3)

Hertford Street, Mayfair, London, Middlesex, London, England
Michelgrove, Arun, Sussex, South-east England, England
Tilgate Forest Lodge, Crawley (near), Sussex, South-east England, England