John Julius Angerstein

1732 - 22nd Jan 1823


A key figure in the development of the insurance market in the late 18th century, and an art connoisseur whose collection formed the basis of the National Gallery in London. His connections with slavery and slave-ownership remained inadequately researched for many years. His original entry in the ODNB dated 2004 and revised version of 03/01/2008 made no reference whatsoever to any involvement in the slave-economy and did not identify the slavery connections of his second wife, the widow and legatee of the St Kitts slave-owner Thomas Lucas of Lee (q.v); the recently amended version of his ODNB entry dated 10 June 2021 now incorporates references to both. By contrast, on the BBC's website 'British History in Depth' James Walvin said: 'The National Gallery was set up with a collection of 38 pictures in the Pall Mall home of John Julius Angerstein. Born in St Petersburg, Angerstein made his wealth as an underwriter with Lloyds, and much of that business was concentrated in the insurance of slave ships in the Atlantic. Angerstein also owned plantations in the Caribbean. Like many others, he invested his money into property and luxuries - a grand home in Pall Mall and a collection of the finest private art.' According to Anthony Twist, however, Angerstein was trustee rather than owner of enslaved people and estates in Grenada, and had immediately sold the 'slave-property' on St Kitts that Eliza Lucas brought to their marriage. Angerstein appeared in the records of the Slave Compensation process as having been previously an interested party for an award in Antigua probably as a trustee of the London financier Godschall Johnson, as well as in the Slave Registers for two estates in Grenada.

As a result of these conflicting accounts of Angerstein's involvement in slave-ownership and the lack of information about his connections through marine insurance to the slave-trade and the wider slave-economy, LBS undertook to develop two research reports to be shared with the National Gallery. These reports are now complete: one on Angerstein and slave-ownership [pdf]; and a second on Angerstein and marine insurance [pdf].

The conclusions of the report on Angerstein and marine insurance read as follows:

'Angerstein’s fortune was drawn from a range of business activities, including ship-owning and loan-contracting, but these broader activities came later in his life, while the foundation of his wealth was in underwriting and brokerage in marine insurance, with the former (underwriting) probably more important than the latter (brokerage).

His underwriting and brokerage activities took place in a marine insurance industry within which a significant proportion of the business was represented by slave-trading and the ‘West India’ trade of shipping sugar from the Caribbean to Europe. Of these the latter, the bilateral West India trade, was more important than the ‘African’ trade - the trade in captive Africans - but was not separable from it.

There is no evidence that Angerstein was a slave-trader. There is evidence that he partnered with a slave-trader James Mather in other shipping partnerships, and given that these latter partnerships are not fully evidenced in the Register of Ships it cannot be excluded that Angerstein held interests in the slave-voyages shown from the same sources to have been undertaken by James Mather alone.

There is conclusive evidence of Angerstein’s participation in the insurance of the West India trade sectors but in the limited surviving sources no evidence has been found that he insured slave-ships. The fragments that survive suggest that his participation early in his career in the West India trade was in line with the proportion of this business within marine insurance overall, at around one-third, measured by premium income.

Angerstein was therefore a beneficiary of slavery in the marine insurance business on which he founded his career and fortune, and a member of commercial networks for whom slavery was part of the fabric of the financial and mercantile worlds in which jointly he and they operated.'

The conclusions of the report on Angerstein and slave-ownership are as follows:

'Angerstein’s connections to slave-ownership have been established through his second wife’s inheritance from her former husband 1785-1800 and his role as trustee of the de Ponthieu Trust 1768-1823. His connection as a trustee of the marriage settlement of Godschall Johnson and Mary Francis in 1792 appears to have been more limited. In each case, a lack of available documentation has hindered LBS’s ability to draw firm conclusions about the extent to which Angerstein profited financially from these connections and the degree to which he paid attention to the management of these affairs.

Angerstein benefitted from his wife’s English property and from her annuity secured on an estate in St Kitts, at least until the likely sale or restructuring of the annuity in 1789. He received dividends as a creditor in their bankruptcy on a debt from the de Ponthieus in the late 1760s but very likely did not receive repayment of the full amount owed. As sole surviving trustee of the de Ponthieu Trust, Angerstein was legally responsible over many decades for the management of property in Grenada which included several hundred enslaved people. There are signs that the Grenadian property was mismanaged. There is no available evidence in the archives consulted that Angerstein considered the lives of the enslaved people in the Trust to be different to any other property investment or their welfare to be worthy of any attention.'


For portraits of Angerstein by Sir Thomas Lawrence in the National Gallery collection see Angerstein aged about 55 and Angerstein aged over 80. Sarah Palmer, ‘Angerstein, John Julius (c.1732–1823)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004); Palmer, S. 'Angerstein, John Julius (1735-1823), insurance broker and connoisseur of art', which says: '[O]n 1 October 1785, Angerstein married Eliza Lucas (bap. 1749, d. 1800) widow of Thomas Lucas (d. 1784) of Lee, Kent, a London sugar factor, MP for Grampound, and owner of estates and enslaved people in St Kitts; the daughter of the Revd Joseph Payne, she inherited a life interest in her first husband's property in St Kitts, though this property was disposed of on her second marriage....His connections with the slave economy through his second marriage and his role as trustee to the creditors of estates and enslaved people in Grenada, have been pointed out, though he personally seems to have had no direct ownership of enslaved people; while it has been suggested that his role in marine insurance involve him in underwriting slave ships, so far no conclusive evidence of this has been established.', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 2 Nov. 2021, from BBC History [accessed 22/05/2018]; The National Gallery's own website previously said: 'He amassed a fortune partly from income generated by his large slave estates in Grenada and partly from a career in the City of London. He helped to develop Lloyd’s as a great insurance house, becoming its chairman between 1790 and 1796' National Gallery: John Julius Angerstein [accessed 28/08/2013 and 28/07/2014]; Anthony Twist, 'Widening circles in finance, philanthropy and the arts: a study of the life of John Julius Angerstein, 1735-1823' (Phd Thesis, University of Amsterdam, 2002), pp. 28-29 and p. 46; T71/1622 Antigua claim no. 387 (Holly & Savannah). Anthony Twist's analysis of Angerstein's connections with the Grenada estates and enslaved people is as follows:

'The story goes back to 1768 when his friend and client George Peters asked for his help. Some time before, Israel Wilkes, Angerstein's proposer for the Society of Arts, had been a partner in a trade venture which had failed: George Peters was the leading creditor and Edward Payne and John Wilkinson, both London merchants, together with Angerstein, were invited to act as trustees for the creditors. The assets consisted of two sugar estates, one coffee estate, one former coffee estate and two parcels of woodland in Grenada; and the trustees' task was to save what was possible for the creditors, and, after they had been paid, to recover something for Wilkes and his partners. Angerstein was in high powered financial company: Peters had been a Director of the Bank of England since 1766 and Edward Payne since 1756. In 1771, probably inadvisedly, the trustees mortgaged the estate for £12,000 to Daniel Giles and David Richards, which had the effect of bringing in another set of interested parties whose rights had to be catered for; and they too were no amateurs since Daniel Giles was also a Bank Director and, like Peters and Payne, would in due course have a two year term as Governor. In 1775 sale particulars were prepared for the six plantations: Beaulieu sugar estate, with 381 acres and 250 slaves; Thuilleries sugar estate with 402 acres and 120 slaves; Mondesir coffee estate with 50 acres and 35 slaves; Capitole, a former coffee estate of 139 acres; and two parcels of woodland of 288 and 240 acres. It appears that the latter four lots were sold, but the trustees continued to be responsible for the two sugar estates, and thus for the slaves employed there. In the course of time Payne and Wilkinson both died, leaving Angerstein as sole trustee; and George Peters also died. Daniel Giles took over Richards's share of the mortgage on the latter's death and himself died in 1800. Angerstein spent the last 23 years of his life as the only survivor of the parties originally involved and therefore was, by default, responsible for a plantation all of the time from 1768, when, save perhaps to a handful of Quakers, slavery was a fact of life; through the years of anti-Slave Trade campaigning led by Wilberforce and others, culminating in its abolition in 1807; and until his own death in 1823 a little before the abolition of slavery itself. To complicate matters still further, around 1800 the two plantations were put under the management of a man named Hay, who ten years later returned to England claiming that a large amount was due to him from the trustees; and after arbitration it was agreed that nearly £13,000 was owing, which, of course, the trustees did not have. To satisfy Hay's claim, the Thuilleries plantation, valued at £14,500, was handed over to him for £1,814, and Angerstein, precise to the last, paid £1,214 to Giles's estate and was holding £600 as a trustee at his death, 55 years after he had taken on the responsibility. Nothing is known about Angerstein's relations with the earlier managers of the plantations, and the account of the trusteeship depends on a report written by the solicitors acting on behalf of Angerstein's executors, who were led, appropriately enough, by Andrew Thomson's grandson. There is no surviving comment by Angerstein himself on the question of slavery, but he did not own, nor is there any indication that he benefited from, the Grenada property. He served on several charity committees with Wilberforce, who would hardly have welcomed a slave-trader as a fellow-member.'

Records at the London Metropolitan Archives, however, make clear that Angerstein's role as trustee of the De Ponthieu estates derived not only from friendship with George Peters but also from Angerstein's own status as creditor of the De Ponthieus, who were West India merchants as well as slave-owners and who owed Angerstein money for 'premiums of insurance.' LMA F/ANG/102 contains an undated summary by Kaye, Freshfield & Kaye of the title of J. J. Angerstein surviving trustee of Messieurs de Ponthieu of Beaulieu estate Grenada and the slaves and stock thereon. LMA F/ANG/103 contains: (a) a letter of 1768 from the senior de Ponthieu in Paris to Angerstein thanking him and his co-trustees for undertaking the trusteeship, 'and all the rest of our generous creditors'; and (b) a legal opinion from Mr Dunning concerning the debt of the De Ponthieu co-partners to 'A' for premiums of insurance, which shows peak debt owed to 'A' by the De Ponthieus as £6621 16s 5d.

Further Information

(1) Anna Crokatt nee Muilman (2) Eliza Lucas nee Payne
With (1) John, Juliana
Insurance broker and art collector
Oxford DNB Entry

Associated Estates (4)

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
1768 [EA] - 1817 [LA] → Trustee

Named, apparently as having been a trustee, in details of the counterclaims for Folly & Savanna, T71/1622 Antigua no. 387.


John Julius Angerstein's second wife Eliza Lucas was an annuitant on the Lucas estate. In a transaction not identified by LBS, Angerstein and his wife reportedly sold his wife's 'life-interest' shortly after their marriage.

1768 [EA] - → Trustee

Anthony Twist, 'Widening circles in finance, philanthropy and the arts: a study of the life of John Julius Angerstein, 1735-1823' (Phd Thesis, University of Amsterdam, 2002), pp. 28-29 and p. 46.

Legacies Summary

Commercial (2)

Lloyd's of London
Senior partner
Angerstein, Warren and Lock
Insurance Broker  

Cultural (4)

Prints, Drawings and Paintings
Gillray, James; One of six sketches made for the caricature Connoisseurs examining a collection of George Morland's; First idea for the principal figure, said to be John Julius Angerstein;... 
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V & A: Prints, Drawings & Paintings
Drawing, Portrait head of a young man, possibly William Lock III of Norbury (1804-1832), by Sir Thomas... 
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V & A: Prints, Drawings & Paintings
Watercolour by Frederick Mackenzie depicting the principal room of the original National Gallery. Great Britain, ca.... 
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V & A: Prints, Drawings & Paintings
Drawing by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), Portrait, probably of Lady Susan North, c.1815. Graphite and red and black... 
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Relationships (7)

Trustee → Beneficiary of Trust
Notes →
Angerstein's trusteeship was of Godschall Johnson's marriage settlement of...
Second Husband → Wife
Other relatives
Notes →
Angerstein married Anna, James Crokatt's daughter-in-law, the widow of Charles Crokatt....
Other relatives
Notes →
John Julius Angerstein married as his first wife Anna Crokatt nee Muilman, the first cousin of Richard Muilman: Richard Muilman, his father Peter Muilman and his uncle Henry Muilman were business...
Other relatives
Notes →
John Julius Angerstein married Ann or Anna Crokatt nee Muilman, the widow of Daniel Crokatt's nephew Charles Crokatt....
Trustee → Testator
Notes →
Angerstein was among the trustees of estates owned by John de Ponthieu, apparently arising from the latter's financial problems or those of de Ponthieus's brother-in-law Israel Wilkes, and presumably...
Other relatives
Notes →
John Julius Angerstein married Eliza, the widow of Thomas Lucas of Lee. ...

Addresses (2)

103 Pall Mall, London, Middlesex, London, England
Woodlands, Blackheath, Kent, London, England