Hugh McCalmont of Abbeylands

31st Dec 1765 - 20th Oct 1838


The biography of Hugh McCalmont, awarded compensation as owner of Hope & Experiment in Berbice, British Guiana, has been pieced together from fragments and remains tentative, but provides an important link between the slave-economy and the City of London in the mid and late 19th century. The Hugh McCalmont awarded compensation for the enslaved people on Hope & Experiment in British Guiana was connected with the London firm of McCalmont Brothers (as father of the two eponymous brothers and the provider of £50,000 in initial capital) which grew to be a major merchant bank: two of its partners, the brothers Robert and Hugh McCalmont, were among the richest men dying in Britain in the 19th century, leaving £1.4MM and £3.1MM respectively in personalty in 1883 and 1887. Hugh McCalmont and his immediate family are subject to a recent entry in the ODNB as 'slave-owner' that pulls together the outline of what is currently known.

  1. 'M'Calmont, Brothers & Co. (late W. Inglis & Co), Merchts'. first appear in the trade directories at 3 Crown Court, Philpot Lane in 1836. Robert M'Calmont signed at the National Debt Office for Hugh McCalmont's compensation under one of his awards, British Guiana no. 218.

  2. According to notes made by Elizabeth Barklie, wife of Hugh McCalmont, and dated April 1838, Abbeylands, Hugh McCalmont's grandfather Thomas, was a farmer in Cairn Castle, and his father Robert was a sea captain. He was born in Larne 31/12/1765 and lived with his widowed mother until he reached the age of 21 years, leaving home on 28/03/1787. He sailed to Barbados where he was employed by Dr John Crawford; with Dr Crawford he moved to Demerara and after a short time in business he entered into partnership with Matthew Higgins, running the partnership of Hugh McCalmont and Co. in Georgetown and investing in sugar, cotton and coffee estates. When the partnership ended, McCalmont retained Hope and Experiment estates. He left Demerara in 1799 but returned soon after, leaving for good in 1803. He bought Abbeylands in 1806 and married Elizabeth Barklie 13/01/1807.

  3. A partially sourced family tree on identifies Hugh McCalmont 1765-1838 as having been born in Abbylands [sic], the son of Robert McCalmont (1725-1775) and Margaret 'Mary' Mumford, living in Berbice in 1818 and 1819, dying at Abbeylands, Belfast, and as the father, among others, of Robert McCalmont (1808-1883) and Hugh McCalmont (1810-1887) and the Rev. Thomas McCalmont (d. 1872). It is not clear that Hugh McCalmont was born in Abbeylands, which he bought in 1803, nor that he was in Berbice in 1818 and 1819: the slave registration at that time was made by his attorney. However, Robert (1808-1883) and Hugh (1810-1887) were certainly the sons of Hugh McCalmont of Abbeylands, brothers of the Rev. Thomas McCalmont and equally certainly the partners in McCalmont Brothers, being identified as the brothers and as of 3 Crown Court Philpot Lane when acting as executors to the Rev. Thomas in 1872: in turn, the Rev. Thomas McAlmont was certainly the son of Hugh McCalmont of Carnmoney Co. Antrim.

  4. The will of Hugh McCalmont of Carnmoney Co. Antrim was proved 05/12/1838. He left £1000 p.a. to his widow Elizabeth, lands in Ireland and £5000 to purchase a living to his son Thomas, £75,000 (£25,000 each) to his three other surviving sons Robert, Hugh and James and £45,000 (£15,000 each) to his three surviving daughters Margaret, Elizabeth and Rose Anne. The will (dated 01/10/1835) also refers both to the 'sum of fifty thousand pounds be it more or less which I have lent my sons Robert and Hugh McCalmont to form a capital at their credit in the firm of McCalmont Brothers in the City of London in which firm my said sons are partners' (which was to remain available to them until it was required to meet the terms of his will at 4% p.a.) and to his property in the colony of Berbice South America, which (without any specific reference to the Hope & Experiment estate) he authorised to be sold. In two codicils he raised the age of James' majority to 25 from 21, increased his daughters' legacies to £20,000 each and left a further £8000 to his son Thomas. The draft will Jan. 1833 in the National Library of Ireland Dublin specifies him as Hugh McCalmont of Abbeylands, Carnmoney, Co. Antrim.

  5. Hugh McCalmont (1810-1887) left his fortune to his great-nephew Harry Leslie Blundell McCalmont (1861-1902), MP (but in the ODNB as 'racehorse owner'), the son of Hugh Barklie Blundell McCalmont (1836-1888) and grandson of the Rev. Thomas McCalmont. Another son of the Rev. Thomas McCalmont was Frederick Haynes McCalmont, in the ODNB as 'statistican and barrister', and a third, Alfred Leighton McCalmont (b. 1851), was mayor of Southampton (the latter two were half-brothers of Hugh Barklie Blundell McCalmont). Frederick Haynes McCalmont is described in the ODNB as 'a relative of Hugh McCalmont Cairns, first Earl Cairns and Lord Chancellor', without specifying the relationship, on which the entry on Cairns himself is silent. The entry on Cairns does allude to 'the financial support of his wealthy brother-in-law with whom he lived in Eaton Place, Westminster': in 1841 Hugh Cairns aged 21 'B.A.' was living with Robert McCalmont aged 31 merchant and his wife Margaret aged 30 at 30 Eaton Square. Robert McAlmont had married Margaret Cairns.

  6. Hugh McCalmont, with Nathan Cairns and Robert McCalmont, of 3 Crown Court, Philpot Lane, invested in the British American Land Company in 1835. Together they had four votes so had bought over 50 shares at £50 each. Another group, William Callwell, Robert McCalmont and Hugh McCalmont junior, of the same address, had three votes so had bought between 30 and 50 shares. A third group, Thomas William Harrison, Robert McCalmont and Hugh McCalmont junior, 3 Crown Court, Philpot Lane, had four votes between them so had bought over 50 shares. Hugh McCalmont senior of Abbeylands, near Belfast, and Robert McCalmont of 3 Crown Court had an additional 4 votes. William Johnstone Newall, Robert McCalmont, and Hugh McCalmont junior of 3 Crown Court had another 4 votes.

  7. Rev. Thomas McCalmont owned property in the Co. Down/Antrim area of Ireland in partnership with Robert Langtry, distant cousin and son of George, who started the shipping business in Belfast. He was obviously an absentee landlord, but these areas did not suffer as badly in the Great Famine as those to the south. Robert Langtry was father of Edward, husband of Lillie Langtry, mistress of Edward VII. Lillie Langtry's estates were compulsarily purchased following the Northern Ireland Land Act (1925), although it is not clear that these were the properties previously jointly owned by Thomas McCalmont.


Draper, Nicholas. "McCalmont, Hugh senior (1765–1838), slave owner." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 6 Oct. 2016; Accessed 24 Jan. 2020. Items from the 'McCalmont' Correspondence (1791-1840) included in Sale No. 23 appear on the website of Grosvenor Auctions, and include letters (1) from his mother Margaret in Larne to him at Demerara 01/09/1791 (2) letters to and from Matthew Higgins at Grenada (1793) and Barbados (1795), including dealing in cargoes of enslaved people (3) to Hugh McCalmont in London 1799-1805 (4) to Hugh McCalmont in Belfast 1807-1834, [accessed 24/01/2020].

  1. PO London Directory 1836; PO London Directory 1834 showed (p. 233) W. Inglis & Co. 3 Crown court, Philpot Lane.

  2. Francis Joseph Bigger, The Magees of Belfast and Dublin Printers with some notes on the Willson Callwell and other Belgast families. The McCalmonts and their relations (Belfast, 1916) available for download at [accessed 14/03/2018].

  3. Richardson Family Tree, This tree is referred to by David Alston, Slaves & Highlanders, who acknowledges the difficulty of distinguishing between two Hugh McCalmonts active c. 1823, when one Hugh McCalmont in Demerara wrote to another in Belfast about the suppression of the 1823 insurrection of the enslaved. It is hard although not impossible to reconcile these correspondents to Hugh McCalmont senior 1765-1838 and his son Hugh 1810-1887, and it is more likely that the writer was another relative of Hugh McCalmont of Abbeylands: Hugh McCalmont (q.v.). National Probate Calendar 1872;, Oxford University Alumni, 1500-1886, 1715-1886 Vol. III entry for McCalmont, Rev. Thomas. The same source shows James McCalmont '4th son of Hugh of Belfast' matriculating Magdalen College in 1839: this is consistent with the Richardson family tree, which shows James as the sixth but by 1839 4th surviving son of Hugh McCalmont of Abbeylands.

  4. PROB 11/1904/160.

  5. ODNB online, M.J. Huggins, 'McCalmont, Harry Leslie Blundelll (1861-1902), racehorse owner'; ODNB online, H. C. G. Matthew, 'McCalmont, Frederick Haynes (1846-1880), statistician and barrister'; ODNB online, David Steele, 'Cairns, Hugh McCalmont, first Earl Cairns (1819-1885), lord chancellor.'

  6. List of the proprietors of the British American Land Company: incorporated and established by Charter and Act of Parliament, 1834 (London, n.d.) pp. 5, 6, 9, 10 and 11 (via

  7. Email from Ted Robbens 18/04/2019 sourced to Belfast Gazette issue 369 p. 735, 20/07/1928 and Griffith's Valuation database available at For more on the Irish land purchase scheme see Nathan Foley-Fisher and Eoin McLaughlin, 'Capitalising on the Irish land question: land reform and state banking in Ireland, 1891-1938', University of St Andrews Discussion Papers in Environmental Economics, January 2015, [pdf].

We are grateful to Ted Robbens for his assistance with compiling this entry.

Further Information

Name in compensation records
Hugh M'Calmont
Elizabeth Allen Barklie
10 children including Robert (1808-1883) and Hugh (1810-1887)

Associated Claims (2)

£7,244 5s 2d
Awardee (Owner-in-fee)
£14,639 15s 10d

Associated Estates (1)

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
1818 [EA] - 1834 [LA] → Owner

Legacies Summary

Commercial (2)

Firm Investment
McCalmont Brothers
Merchant Banker  
notes →
£50,000 lent to Robert and Hugh McCalmont by their father as their...
Firm Investment
notes →
See biog...

Relationships (2)

Business partners
Notes →
Probably but not certainly the partners in McCalmont Crafts & Co., shown in 1799 as owning two Lots on the West Sea Coast of Berbice....
Business partners
Notes →
Matthew Higgins was reportedly a partner of Hugh McCalmont when in British...

Addresses (2)

3 Crown Court, Philpot Lane, London, Middlesex, London, England
Abbeylands, Carnmoney, Belfast, Co. Antrim, Ireland