James Wedderburn of Westmorland County of Cornwall Island of Jamaica

22nd Sep 1751 - 17th Jul 1797


Third son of Thomas Wedderburn of Cantray, and brother of John Wedderburn of Spring Garden (q.v.) and Alexander Wedderburn (q.v.). He went to Jamaica late-1768/early-1769, and soon purchased significant amounts of land. He became a member of the Assembly and briefly returned to Scotland in 1789, when he received the freedom of the burgh of Inverness. He spent his final years in Jamaica, dying at Bluecastle in 1797. He was a co-investor in five slave-trading voyages from Liverpool between 1791 and 1793 with among others James Gibson and Sir Joseph Birch (each of whom q.v.)..

He never married and left the bulk of his estate in trust for the benefit of his nephew James Wedderburn (q.v.), son of John Wedderburn of Spring Garden. He instructed that £30,000 (£15,000 from the future profits of Mint estate) be invested in property in Scotland, and entailed upon nephew. He acknowledged that heavy investment in the estate had left it heavily indebted but was confident that by 1800 it would yield 7% annual profits. However, if by 1810 it was not realising this amount, Wedderburn instructed his trustees to sell the estate and invest the proceeds in land in Scotland. If the estate was not sold it would pass to James Wedderburn.

In addition, he bequeathed his mother an annuity of £1250, his sisters Katherine,Thomasina and Robina legacies of £200 and an annuity of £150 each. His married sister Elizabeth Blyth a legacy of £200. To his niece Elizabeth Susanna (daughter of John Wedderburn of Spring Garden) £5000 upon coming of age or marriage and £3000 to her sister Mary.

Several small legacies and tokens of remembrance were left to numerous relatives and friends, many of whom lived in Jamaica: cousin Hugh Fraser of Hanover, cousin Henry Scrymgeour of Hanover, cousin James Wedderburn Dunbar an annuity of £25 until the age of 15 and then £500 to be laid out for his use, and to also to his friends Francis Grant of Trelawny, John and James Graham of Westmoreland, Doctor Andrew Gardiner, William Arthur, John Drummond, John Hatton, James Fannin and David Lyon (whose daughter his nephew and heir would later marry). He also instructed his executors to purchase 'two new negroes' for his cousin Peter Dunbar and the same for his nephews John, Alexander and Stewart Blyth.

His will made provision for several illegitimate children of mixed-race and their mothers. In his will, first written in 1790, Wedderburn wrote 'I give, devise, and bequeath unto a quadroon child named Lydia supposed to be mine by a mulatto woman named Hannah £100 sterling p/a to be paid quarterly and that part or parts of lands situated in the parish of Westmoreland adjoining Blue Castle estate known by the name of the chateau together with the buildings thereon.' He added that she should also receive 'those two negroe girls named Nancy and Christmas and also eight new negroes to be purchased by my executors' including any children subsequently born for use during her natural life. Hannah, Lydia's mother, was manumitted and left an annuity of £25 Jamaica currency until Lydia reached the age of 14, which would rise to £35 if her daughter was sent to England. Lydia would receive £500 upon marriage to 'a credible white person'; however, in a codicil written in 1797, by which point Lydia was in Great Britain, this increased to £5000 providing Lydia did not return to Jamaica and placed under the trust of Hugh Fraser. Although he revoked the original land grant, he gave Hannah use of the house and land she currently occupied on Bluecastle for life and annuity of £25 to two younger children (an unnamed boy and girl) who he had fathered.

Wedderburn also acknowledged other mixed race children, writing 'I give devise and bequeath unto a mulatto child daughter of my negro wench named Fanny four new negroes to be purchased in trust for her by my executors and in such manner that she cannot alienate the same and upon the death of he said mulatto child the said four negroes with their increase if any to revert to my estate and my will is that the said negro wench named Fanny be made free and that she be allowed £10 currency p/a during her natural life.'

£200 was left to Inverness Academy. He appointed his brother John Wedderburn of Spring Garden as sole executor and trustee but instructed that if his cousin Henry Scrymgeour was in Jamaica at the time of death then he should also act as executor, and recommended that his brother act in cooperation with Hugh Fraser and John Graham.

Despite the value of James Wedderburn's estate he died heavily indebted to the family firm Wedderburn & Co. As executor and trustee his brother maintained the estates but did not pay off the debt. This was passed onto his sons James and John Wedderburn who subsequently borrowed money from David Lyon (q.v.) to pay off the debt. It was the repayment of this loan that was at the root of the Chancery case Lyon v Colvile.


Alexander Wedderburn, The Wedderburn Book: a history of the Wedderburns in the counties of Berwick and Forfar, designed of Wedderburn, Kingennie, Easter Powrie, Blackness, Balindean and Gosford, 1296-1896 (Published privately, 1898), p. 342.

Will of James Wedderburn of Westmorland County of Cornwall Island of Jamaica, 20/2/1799, TNA/PROB 11/1320/36.

Lyon v Colvile, Reports of cases decided in High Court of Chancery, Vol.28, 1851.

We are grateful to Jim Brennan for his assistance with compiling this entry.

Further Information

Plantation owner

Associated Estates (6)

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
1788 [EA] - 1790 [LA] → Attorney
- 1797 [EY] → Attorney
1798 [EA] - 1801 [LA] → Previous owner
1794 [EA] - 1797 [LA] → Trustee

Trustee of John Lewis

1794 [EA] - 1794 [LA] → Attorney
1790 [EA] - 1799 [EY] → Owner

Probably purchased in the 1770s.

Relationships (19)

Business associates
Other relatives
First Cousins
Uncle → Nephew
Testator → Legatee
Uncle → Nephew
Testator → Executor
Testator → Trustee
Uncle → Niece
Uncle → Niece
Uncle → Niece
Brother-in-law → Sister-in-law
Brother → Sister
Brother → Sister
Brother → Sister
Brother → Sister
Business associates