John Gladstone

11th Dec 1764 - 7th Dec 1851

Claimant or beneficiary


Merchant and politican. He was born John Gladstones, though in 1787 he dropped the final 's' to become Gladstone. His father was Thomas Gladstones (1732–1809), a Leith merchant, his mother was Nelly (1739–1806), daughter of Walter Neilson, a merchant of Springfield, near Edinburgh. After an apprenticeship (1771-1781) in a rope and sailcloth business in Edinburgh, he joined his father's corn-chandling business. In 1786 Gladstone moved to Liverpool where he worked with Edgar Corrie until 1801, when the partnership ended acrimoniously. Gladstone had already become a wealthy man by then. Initially his wealth was based on trade with Calcutta, India; later he moved into Virginian tobacco and American grain: these became the foundation of his fortune. His personal wealth stood at £40,000 in 1799; by 1828 it was £502,550. Building his fortune in Liverpool, Gladstone invested in not only merchanting activities but also in shipping insurance, shipowning and urban property (both warehouses and housing).

His sugar and cotton trading with the West Indies began in 1803, in ventures undertaken with his brother Robert (from 1801). Gladstone extended this to include purchasing estates and the enslaved in British Guiana (Demerara as was) in 1803 (the Belmont Estate) and several others. The largest was the Vreedenhoop estate in Demerara which he bought in 1826 for £80,000. It had 430 enslaved people working on it. Further, in the 1820s, Gladstone expanded his sugar estate holdings in the Caribbean, despite the rise of abolitionism.

He was a strong defender of planter interests: from 1809 he was chairman of the Liverpool West Indian Association. As such he was involved in a well-known controversy with James Cropper, a leading abolitionist, in 1823.

With the ending of slavery, he sold most of his West Indian properties and moved into Bengal sugar. But he was also one of the initiators of schemes for the exporting of indentured labour to the Caribbean. While his own schemes ran into difficulties with the government and the hostility of post-1833 anti-slavery advocates, they formed an important bridge to the extremely important flow of indentured labour into British Guiana and Trinidad from the 1840s onwards.

Although having something of career in politics, initially as a Whig but becoming a Canningite Tory by the 1810s, and acting as an MP in the 1820s, his major political legacy was in his children: he was the father of William Ewart Gladstone, one of the most significant politicians of the whole century, and of two other sons who were also MPs: Thomas and John Neilson Gladstone.


The portrait of Gladstone by Thomas Gladstones (oil on canvas, circa 1830; 36 in. x 28 in. [914 mm x 711 mm]) is reproduced by permission of the National Portrait Gallery. (NPG 5042)

The most comprehensive study of John Gladstone and his family is S. G. Checkland, The Gladstones: a family biography, 1764-1851 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1971). See also H. C. G. Matthew, ‘Gladstone , Sir John, first baronet (1764–1851)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn..

For Gladstone and indenture see among others, Madhavi Kale, Fragments of Empire. Capital, Slavery, and Indentured Labor Migration in the British Caribbean (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998), ch. 1 and especially pp. 13-26; Purba Hossain, '"A Matter of Doubt and Uncertainty": John Gladstone and the Post-Slavery Framework of Labour in the British Empire', The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 50 (1) (2022), pp. 52-80.

We are grateful to Paul Young for his assistance with compiling this entry.

Further Information

(1) 1792: to Jane Hall (1765?- 16 April 1798); (2) Anne Mackenzie Robertson (1771/2–1835)
With (2): Anne MacKenzie (1802–1829), Thomas (1804–1889), Robertson (1805–1875), John Neilson (1807–1863), William Ewart (1809–1898), Helen Jane (1814–1880)

Associated Claims (14)

£22,274 18s 9d
Awardee (Owner-in-fee)
£14,721 8s 11d
Awardee (Mortgagee-in-possession)
£10,278 5s 8d
£22,443 19s 11d
Awardee (Owner-in-fee)
£21,011 2s 7d
Awardee (Mortgagee)
£4,211 8s 0d
Claimants in List E or Chancery cases
£4,136 7s 9d
Claimants in List E or Chancery cases
£5,624 3s 1d
£2,074 14s 10d
£588 19s 1d
Claimants in List E or Chancery cases
£3,059 18s 8d
Awardee (Owner-in-fee)
£2,932 5s 3d
Claimants in List E or Chancery cases
£4,295 3s 3d
£2,726 13s 0d
Claimants in List E or Chancery cases (Mortgagee)

Associated Estates (13)

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
1837 [EA] - → Owner
1839 [EA] - → Not known
1820 [EA] - → Mortgage Holder

The relationship with John Gladstone is not quite clear. The local press in 1820 showed a mortgage to John Gladstone by the heirs of Hamer. Checkland says that Gladstone had 'the entire management of the estates (Mon Repos and Endright [sic]) paying £8,000 annually to the various legatees).'

1831 [EA] - 1839 [LA] → Mortgage Holder
1834 [EA] - → Mortgage Holder
1834 [EA] - → Owner
1817 [EA] - 1834 [LA] → Owner
1812 [EA] - 1816 [LA] → Joint owner

John Gladstone bought half of Success in 1811 for £11,000 and the other half in 1816

1828 [EA] - 1834 [LA] → Owner

John Gladstone had negotiated to buy Vreedenhoop [and possibly Waller's delight and Coverden] after Jonas Fileen's death in March 1822. In December 1825 he reached an agreement with Paul Edward Fileen, alleged brother and heir of Jonas Fileen for £80,000. A rival claim by Judith Susannah Fileen delayed the purchase until 1828.

1821 [SY] - → Mortgage Holder

'In April 1821 Gladstone and Co. had taken over the agency for [Jonas] Fileen's estates together with a large part of the mortgage debt.'

1824 [EA] - 1834 [LA] → Mortgage Holder

By 1824 Gladstone and Co. held a mortgage on the [Wales and Vreedenstein] estates of £40,000.'

1834 [EA] - 1834 [LA] → Mortgagee-in-Possession
1824 [EA] - → Mortgage Holder

By 1824 Gladstone and Co. held a mortgage on the [Wales and Vreedenstein] estates of £40,000.'

Legacies Summary

Commercial (7)

Railway Investment
Edinburgh and Northern (No. 2) [184559]  
Railway Investment
Glasgow, Airdrie and Monkland Junction [1846174]  
Railway Investment
Birmingham and Oxford Junction [184629]  
Railway Investment
Caledonian Northern Direct [184659]  
Railway Investment
Direct London and Manchester [1846102]  
Senior Partner
Gladstone, Grant & Wilson
West India and General Merchant  

Cultural (1)


Historical (2)

The Correspondence between John Gladstone, Esq., M.P. and James Cropper, Esq., on the Present State of Slavery in the British West Indies and in the United States of America; and on the importation... 1824 
notes →
Exchanges between Gladstone and the abolitionist, James...
A statement of facts connected with the present state of slavery in the British sugar and coffee Colonies, and in the United States of America, together with a view of the ... situation of the lower... 1830 

Physical (6)

Urban Development
description →
Development on Slater Street, Liverpool, on the north-east side between Fleet Street and Slater Street. "First, on the corner of Fleet St., he erected a Free School. It was named St. Andrews after...
Liverpool Collegiate Institution [Built] 
description →
Foundation stone laid by Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby K.G. (Rt. Hon. Lord Stanley MP), on 22/10/1840, the first patron of the college. The first building of the college, on Shaw St,...
notes →
Public school established in 1840 by eminent Liverpool citizens to provide education and Christian instruction. Opening was contemporary with opening of other public (i.e. Not for profit)...
St Andrew's Episcopal Church [Built] 
description →
Gas-lit new church in Renshaw Street, Liverpool built by John Gladstone for £10,600 in...
notes →
S.G. Checkland, The Gladstones: a family biography pp....
St Thomas's [Built] 
description →
Church built at Litherland, Seaforth by John Gladstone for £4000 in 1815: he also built an associated school....
notes →
S.G. Checkland, The Gladstones: a family biography pp....
Country house
Seaforth House [Built] 
description →
Country house built on the Litherland estate on Merseyside by John Gladstone 1811-1813. The house was demolished in the late...
notes →
Checkland, The Gladstones pp. 80,...
Conwy Suspension Bridge [Built] 
description →
Suspension bridge built by Thomas Telford 1822-1826. According to Checkland, John Gladstone 'helped to raise the money for a bridge at Conway (again replacing a ferry now grossly inadequate.)' The...
notes →
Checkland, The Gladstones p....

Political (1)

election →
Lancaster Lancashire
1818 - 1820
election →
New Woodstock Oxfordshire
1820 - 1826
election →
Berwick Northumberland
1826 - 1827

Relationships (9)

Business associates
Father → Son
Father → Son
Father → Son
Uncle → Nephew
Father → Son
Business partners

Addresses (5)

5 Grafton Street, London, Middlesex, London, England
Fasque Estate, Fettercairn, Aberdeenshire, North-east Scotland, Scotland
Notes →

In 1833, four years after the death of his wife, Anne, Gladstone returned to Scotland and bought the estate of Fasque and Balfour for almost £80,000. He died there in 1851.

Rodney Street, Liverpool, Lancashire, North-west England, England
Notes →

No. 1 (later, 62) Rodney Street built for Gladstone and his first wife, Jane, on their marriage in 1792.

Seaforth House, Seaforth, Lancashire, North-west England, England
Notes →

Built for Gladstone in 1813.

Stockwell Lodge, Surrey, South-east England, England