John Elmslie senior

1739 - 1822


West India merchant and slave-owner, whose many descendants were embedded in bourgeois Victorian Britain. His daughter Harriet married R.R. Madden, and his great-granddaughter Sarah Louise ('Syrie') Elmslie married Thomas John Barnardo ('Dr Barnardo'); his grandson William Elmslie founded a firm of insurance loss-adjusters still active in the late 1980s; another grandson Edmund Wallace Elmslie was a British architect who in 1839 had drawn up a very detailed plan of the family's Gray's Inn estate in Jamaica.

  1. 'John Elmslie who is said to have come from Aberdeen, and who lived for years at 21 Berners Street, London and who owned land at Oldmeldrum, was at one time a merchant in the West Indies. He was left a valuable estate in Jamaica by his uncle John Gray, F.R.S., Lord Rector of Marischal College, Aberdeen 1764-69. John Elmslie, who married his cousin, Jane Wallace, at Dumfries, September 16, 1776, had twenty-one children, and he died at 21 Berners Street in 1824 [sic]. One of his daughters, Jane, married in March 8 1806, George Gordon of the Croughly family. His grandson, William Elmslie of Lloyd's, had a daughter who married in 1873 the late Dr Barnardo, the well-known philanthropist...I am indebted for this information to Mr Augustus Elmslie, London J.M.B.'.

  2. Will of John Elmslie of Berners Street proved 02/11/1822. He began the will by reciting his surviving children (his five sons James, John, Adam Wallace, William and Henry Simpson, and his nine daughters, Jane the wife of George Gordon, Elizabeth Bridget the wife of John Wybergh Shaw, Agnes, Helen, Frances, Caroline, Louisa, Sophia and Harriet), and the marriage settlements he had made: of £3000 on his death to Jane Gordon (1806); of £400 p.a. secured on the Grays Inn estate if James' wife Caroline Ann Foster survived James and a further lump sum of £8000 to be paid to trustees after the death of the survivor of the three of them [presumably to maintain the couple's children] (1810); of £2500 after his death to trustees under the marriage settlement of Elizabeth Bridget and John Wybergh Shaw, again secured on Grays Inn (1811). He confirmed those settlements but secured the £2500 for Elizabeth Bridget Shaw on Serge Island as well as Grays Inn. He left annuities of £200 p.a. in trust, similarly charged on the two estates, to his daughter Agnes; £100 p.a. to Frances; £140 p.a. to his reputed daughter Ann wife of James Fuller (each for life); £80 p.a. for seven years to John Gray Gerard; and £16 p.a.. to his children's nurse Elizabeth Keoul [sp?]. He left his estates in Jamaica (defined as Grays Inn with its penn [sic] Fairy Land, together 2100 acres; Serge Island with 660 acres and an adjoining tract called Alexandria of 461 acres; a parcel of land in St Thomas-in-the-East called Mt Tarbut and another tract of 406 acres there called White River, together with the 'negro and other slaves, live and dead stock') in trust for his five sons in equal shares as tenants in common. He added £2000 to his daughter Jane's marriage settlement, void if she had no children, and £2500 to the settlement of Elizabeth Bridget, apparently unconditionally. He left £30,000 in trust for his six daughters Helen, Frances, Caroline, Louisa, Sophia and Harriet. In a codicil he left £1000 to his friend John Elmslie and £500 to his reputed daughter Ann Fuller, and made a series of minor monetary legacies to relatives and servants. He identified Dr John Gordon of Jamaica and Elmslie's uncle John Gray (whose tomb in Petersham Church he instructed his sons to maintain) as his 'benefactors', and asked to be buried in the family vault at Lewisham.


Rigg, J. M., and Lynn Milne, "Madden, Richard Robert (1798–1886), author and colonial administrator", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004),; Wagner, Gillian, "Barnardo, Thomas John (1845–1905), philanthropist and founder of Dr Barnardo's Homes", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004),; B.W. Higman, Jamaica Surveyed p. 136; [accessed 18/12/2019]; [accessed 18/12/2019]; James Cubitt had been assistant to Edmund Wallace Elmslie at Malvern 1856-7, Binfield, Clyde. "Cubitt, James (1836–1912), architect." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004; Accessed 18 Dec. 2019. Elmslie William Dallas (1809-1879), with an ODNB entry as painter and mathematician, was conceivably a namesake of John Elmslie - Elmslie William Dallas's father William was 'of Lloyd's'. The Rebekah Emslie (1825-1895), given also as Elmslie, daughter of 'John Emslie [or Elmslie] of Dalston', who married Frederick John Horniman, founder of the Horniman Museum, appears not to have been connected: she was born after the death of John Elmslie senior, and John Elmslie junior (q.v.) had only one daughter, Helen.

  1. Scottish Notes & Queries 2nd series Vol. VII July 1905 to June 1906 ed. John Bulloch (Aberdeen: the Rosemount Press, 1906): p. 100., London, England, Deaths and Burials, 1813-1980 [database online] shows John Elmslie of Berners Street aged 83 buried at Lewisham St Mary August 31 1822.

  2. PROB 11/1663/75.

Further Information

Jane Wallace
21 including James, William, Henry Simpson, John jun.

Associated Estates (9)

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
1780 [EA] - 1783 [LA] → Joint owner
1785 [EA] - 1822 [LA] → Owner
1822 [EA] - 1836 [LA] → Previous owner
1785 [EA] - 1822 [EY] → Owner
1778 [EA] - 1783 [LA] → Joint owner
1780 [EA] - 1782 [LA] → Owner
- 1801 [LA] → Mortgage Holder
1801 [SY] - → Trustee and Executor
1784 [EA] - 1822 [EY] → Owner

Legacies Summary

Commercial (1)

Senior partner
John Elmslie
West India merchant  

Relationships (11)

Father → Son
Father → Son
Father → Son
Father-in-law → Daughter-in-law
Father → Son
Father-in-law → Son-in-law
Father → Son
Grandfather → Grandson
Grandfather → Grandson
Grandfather → Grandson
Nephew → Uncle
Notes →
Elmslie was the chief beneficiary under his uncle's...

Addresses (1)

21 Berners Street, London, Middlesex, London, England