Sir Alexander Grant, 5th Bart.

1st Jul 1705 - 1st Aug 1772


Sir Alexander Grant, 5th Bt. was born in 1705, the first son of Sir Patrick Grant, 4th Bt., by Lydia, da. of William Mackintosh of Borlum. The Grant family originated from the Central Highlands of Scotland where Grant was born on a farm called Dalvey, Moray.

Grant studied a 'rudimentary correspondence course in pharmacy' at the University of Aberdeen. However the Grants had suffered financially as a result of their support of the Jacobite cause. Grant therefore went out to Jamaica in order to restore the family fortune. He first appeared in the Jamaica records in 1721 as a 'Practitioner in Physick and Chiurgery.' By 1730 Grant had acquired 300 acres in the parish of St. Elizabeth, he also became a trader by leasing a storehouse with his partner Peter Beckford, Jr. From the storehouse the men sold supplies to neighbouring planters. In the years that followed the business was transferred to Kingston. in Kingston Grant was introduced by Beckford to Elizabeth Cootes, the only daughter of a St. Catherine planter Robert Cootes. The couple married in 1737 and departed the island in 1739 to pursue a career in the metropole. Isabella Grant, daughter of Sir Alexander Grant, was buried in the Church of St John-at-Hampstead in 1742 aged 4 years, in the same grave as Elizabeth Dicker (q.v.).

When Grant first arrived in London he set up shop with Alexander Johnston. The business was built on commission merchandising, drug distribution, and the marketing and of sugar and plantation supplies. The business lasted until 1753 when the two divided their cash and stocks. Grant then went into business alone as a sugar merchant, slave-trader and navy supplier.

Grant took on the role of family banker providing 'a full range of cash-management services: accepting, holding, and forwarding cash; paying bills; making loans; and buying lottery tickets.' The counting house he set up was staffed by numerous relatives and he sought employment opportunities for his kin whenever he could. As a notable shareholder in the East India Company, as well as the partner of John Boyd, he was able to obtain position for his family in India posts. Nonetheless Grant remained an outsider to his Highland kin.

In 1748 Grant joined Richard Oswald, the Boyds and two others in acquiring Bance Island in West Africa and the associates entered into the slave-trade. Grant and Oswald had known each other in Jamaica, where Grant had introduced Oswald to Mary Ramsay who then became his wife. Grant once described the Bance Island slave factory as 'a Territory where my Dominion is most absolute.' Hancock has described the success of Grant and his fellow investors in the Bance Island slave trading outpost as a result of their market position in other commercial sectors such as the West India sugar trade. Between 1752 and 1768 Grant acquired a number of plantations and pens in Jamaica; Charlemont, Crawle, Berwick and Rio Magno Pen in St. Thomas in the Vale; Albion and Eden in St. Mary; and Epsom Pen in St. Catherine.

Grant had friendships with the Duke of Argyll and Lords Erskine, Findlater and Hopeton, thus forming a circle of influential Scots in London. Grant did not visit his homeland of Scotland regularly, instead he had a villa called Bookham Grove in Surrey. Despite this he also purchased extensive estates in the shires of Elgin and Nairn including the Dalvey estate in Moray, as well as property in the Inverness district of burghs.

Grant's baronetcy came about following a series of manoeuvrings which enabled him to lay claim to a title that had been granted to an ancestor four generations previously but had since fallen out of use. Unhappy with being granted the barony of Grangehill he was able to obtain a Crown charter for the full baronetcy for his father in 1752. When his father died three years afterwards Grant claimed the title.

In 1761 Grant was elected as a Member of Parliament for the Inverness Burghs. His priorities whilst In Parliament were commercial and he was regarded as 'an especially well-informed spokesman for West Indian and North American affairs.' Grant lost his seat to a returning Indian 'nabob' Hector Munro in 1768 after his rival purchased the votes of the Inverness Burgh councilors.

Grant did not retire from his business until 1770 at which point he turned it over to three relatives. Grant died 1 August 1772, his brother Ludovick inherited the title and became the 6th Baronet of Dalvey.

Alexander Grant of Britain, baronet. Estate probated in Jamaica in 1773. Slave-ownership at probate: 672 of whom 343 were listed as male and 329 as female. 0 were listed as boys, girls or children. Total value of estate at probate: £102,052.74 Jamaican currency of which £61,345 currency was the value of enslaved people. Estate valuation included £0 currency cash, £38,071.94 currency debts and £0 currency plate.

Sources [accessed 17/04/2015]; [accessed 17/04/2015].

Note that both Burke's Peerage and the History of Parliament website give a second marriage for Alexander Grant, to Margaret Grant, daughter of Alexander Grant of Auchterblair, 01/10/1764, but Alexander's will written in 1772 gives his wife as Dame Elizabeth Grant and names her as a beneficiary, executrix and trustee - see PROB 11/982/355. The will of Dame Elizabeth Grant, written in 1787 with codicil in 1790, clearly identifies her as the widow of Sir Alexander Grant and sister-in-law of Sir Ludovick Grant - see PROB 11/1222/151.

For a biographical account of Alexander Grant see David Hancock, Citizens of the world: London merchants and the integration of the British Atlantic community, 1735-1785 , (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp.48-59. See also David Hancock, ‘Grant, Sir Alexander, fifth baronet (1705–1772)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [, accessed 21 Oct 2014]. [accessed 29/06/2020].

Sir Alexander Grant to Sir Ludovick Grant, April 27 1765, quoted in Hancock, p.198.

Hancock, Citizens, p.313.

Trevor Burnard, Database of Jamaican inventories, 1674-1784.

We are grateful to Vivien Martin and David Alston for their assistance with compiling this entry.

Further Information

1. Elizabeth, da. of Robert Coote of Jamaica 2. Margaret, da. of Alexander Grant of Auchterblair
Isabella (1738-1742)
Will PROB 11/982/355

University of Aberdeen
Merchant, landowner and slave dealer
Oxford DNB Entry

Associated Estates (16)

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
1772 [EA] - 1792 [LA] → Previous owner
1752 [SY] - 1768 [EY] → Joint owner
1768 [SY] - 1772 [EY] → Owner

David Hancock noted that the Albion and Eden plantations were jointly owned of Sir Alexander Grant and Alexander Grant of Achoynanie until 1768. The lands were then divided by casting lots. Sir Alexander acquired Albion and along with it 215 enslaved people. The value of the property was assessed at £12,803.

1768 [SY] - 1772 [LA] → Owner

Sir Alexander Grant, 5th Bt. acquired the Berwick estate in 1768. It was valued at £14,286 with the price commuted from Jamaica local currency to English sterling. The acreage of the estate was 2,161 however there is no record of the number of enslaved people working on the estate. These figures were culled by David Hancock from the Deed Book, Old Series, Vols. 146-256 passim in the Island Record Office, Spanishtown, Jamaica. When Grant died in 1772 his probate inventory recorded that the number of enslaved working on the property was 141 and the value of the property was £9,244. Hancock has noted that this figure probably did not include land values.

1752 [SY] - → Owner
1765 [SY] - 1772 [LA] → Owner

Sir Alexander Grant, 5th Bt. purchased Crawle in 1765. The property consisted of 662 acres and 191 enslaved people were recorded as working there. The price was valued at £7,714, the price was commuted to English pounds sterling from Jamaica island currency. David Hancock culled this information from the Deed Books, Old Series, Vols. 146-256 passim at the Island Record Office in Spanishtown, Jamaica.

At present, LBS shows Sir Alexander Grant as owner of Crawle in St Thomas-in-the-Vale; a St Catherine estate of that name has not been identified in the Accounts Produce, although a Crawle Pen has been.

1766 [EA] - 1771 [LA] → Owner
1772 [EA] - 1779 [LA] → Previous owner
1765 [SY] - → Owner

Dalvey estate was acquired by Sir Alexander Grant, 5th Bt. between 1765 and 1768. It was an estate of 2,023 acres. To begin with the estate had 284 enslaved people labouring on it. Grant paid £21,055 for it. In the 1772 probate inventory the estate was recorded as having 161 enslaved labourers working on it. The property was valued at £9,876 but David Hancock has suggested that this valuation probably did not include the value of the land.

1752 [SY] - 1768 [EY] → Joint owner

David Hancock noted that Sir Alexander Grant and his cousin Alexander Grant of Achoynanie were joint owners of Eden plantation until 1768 when the land was divided up by casting lots.

1773 [EA] - 1779 [LA] → Previous owner
1765 [SY] - 1772 [LA] → Owner

When Sir Alexander Grant, 5th Bt. purchased Epsom Pen for £216 in 1765 it was an estate of 77 acres. Unfortunately the records do not give an indication as to how many enslaved people worked on the estate when Grant first purchased it. When Grant died his 1772 probate inventory gave details that the number of enslaved on the estate was 22 and the value of the estate was £2,027. David Hancock has noted that this valuation probably did not include the value of the land.

1779 [EA] - 1789 [LA] → Previous owner
1773 [EA] - 1793 [LA] → Previous owner
1768 [SY] - 1772 [LA] → Owner
1783 [EA] - 1784 [LA] → Not known

Wakefield was shown as 'in possession of the heirs of Sir Alexander Grant bart. of the Kingdom of Great Britain 1783-1784: Grant might previously have been lessee of the estate and enslaved people with W. Harvie.

Legacies Summary

Imperial (1)

East India Company
notes →
See biog notes: 'As a notable shareholder in the East India Company ... he was able to obtain position for his family in India...

Relationships (5)

Other relatives
Notes →
Elizabeth referred to the wife of Sir Alexander Grant as her "beloved cousin" in her...
First Cousins
Uncle → Nephew
Business partners
Business partners

Addresses (4)

Eltham, Kent, London, England
Bookham Grove, Great Bookham, Surrey, South-East England, England
Dalvey House, Mains of Dalvey, Forres, Moray, North-east Scotland, Scotland
Great George Street, London, Middlesex, London, England

Inventories (1)