Thomas King, merchant of Wapping, played a hugely influential role in the life of the Jacksons of Lackenby during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
He was the brother-in-law of George Jackson (1746-1810) of Lackenby. George and his sister Dinah (1753-1819) had both married members of the King family: George married Elizabeth King (1752-82) in 1774 at Skelton, and Dinah married Robert King in 1783 at Wilton. (Elizabeth and Robert King were probably cousins.)
Elizabeth King and her elder brother Thomas were the children of Newark King and Elizabeth Boyes, who married in 1746. Thomas was baptised on 19 Feb 1748; he left home to go to sea and by 1766 he was second mate of the Royal Charlotte. He became an increasingly successful London merchant, and left the sea in 1780. He had a family of his own, but remained a powerful figure in the lives of his relatives in Cleveland.
He invested in property in the area – in 1783 he paid £1,200 for Lackenby Low Farm, which had belonged to another branch of the Jackson family. This was the year that Robert King married Dinah Jackson, and the farm was to be the home of Dinah King until her death in 1819; Thomas was perhaps coincidentally providing a home for the newly married couple. At that point his address was George Yard, near Tower Hill, Middlesex. Five years later, he sold the property to William Jackson of Guisborough for £1,300 [Kirkleatham Hall] and by then his address was Great Aliffe (Ayliffe) Street, Goodman’s Fields.
He would eventually have a counting house in London and a country seat in Wandsworth.
When his sister Elizabeth died at the age of 29 leaving her husband George to bring up their three small boys, John, Thomas and George, Captain King clearly took a close interest in their welfare.
Perhaps young John Jackson was a bright boy with particular aptitude at his letters, or possibly he seemed unsuited to farming – at any rate, he was sent to London in his teens to work for his uncle.
On 20 April 1794 he wrote an anxious letter to his brother George, then aged 18 and farming at home in Lackenby with their father:
[some spelling and punctuation modernised]
London 20th April 1794.
My Dear Brother,
I received your letter of the 7 March and was rejoiced to find my Father continued getting better; You would observe by mine dated the day before yours that I began to be uneasy at not hearing from you, so much so that I was induced to write again begging you would let me know as soon as possible how my Father was.
You will not be surprised at my anxiety when you are informed how much I was alarmed on receiving my cousin William's letter , who seemed to express a doubt of my Father's recovery, and I should have set off immediately had not my Uncle persuaded me to wait till I heard from again, which I did & was happy in a few days after to hear that the fever had taken a favourable turn, Believe me George you that have never been from home nor known what it was to be among strangers, can form no idea of the uneasiness I felt on first receiving the account of my Father's illness. Indeed I was quite miserable at the thought of losing so Good a Father, at time too, when I was so distant from him; and although my presence would not have saved him, if it had pleased the supreme Disposer of events to take him from us, yet it would have been an infinite satisfaction to me, to have been by him to the last. But I thank God all danger is now over and I hope in a short time he will be as well as he ever was.
My Uncle told me yesterday I should go to Africa, the latter part of this year, and pointed out the advantages which it was his opinion I should derive from such a Situation (Viz a Writer in the African Companys Service) and he was sure I could do nothing that would answer my purpose so well; I must however observe that I do not like the idea, and yet I am afraid to tell him so, for fear I should offend, as he seems bent upon it.
It is very true that those (tho God knows they are very few) who have the Good luck to survive may at the expiration of about 15 Years obtain a tolerable Good Fortune but not one out of four ever live to do it, and even those that really do so are so emaciated, and their Constitutions are so broken, from the extreme heat of the Climate, and the disorders incident to it, that they never enjoy their property when they have got home. There cannot be a more Striking confirmation of this Circumstance than that of my Uncle who I can safely say has no enjoyment of his property, being continually tormented with a most dreadful Head Ache, which he himself acknowledges to arise, solely, from his being so much in Hot Climates, now if my Uncle is so bad who altogether was never more than 5 Years there, what must those be who are 15 Years .
This is not the first time my Uncle has mentioned his Intention of sending me to Africa, as he told me something about 3 or 4 Years ago, but in so slight a manner that I never thought anything of it, he now however seems to press it strongly, and sets it forth as a most Advantageous thing, where I may in a short time (say 15 Years) acquire a fortune, but when I consider the great hazard I run of losing my life perhaps before I have been there many Months, I confess I had rather turn Farmer than go, as I should not like to stay in London after refusing my Uncle. Indeed I feel the more anxious to be near you since my Father's Illness, and perhaps I might obtain a Situation not far from home that might not be so laborious a life as a Farmer however I have no doubt but that I could take very well to Work again. I beg you will mention this to my Father and that he will give me his opinion what He thinks will be best as whatever it may be I shall abide by it. I would not have my Uncle know that I have wrote to you on this Subject as he desired me not to mention it to my Father –
I must also beg you will let me have an answer as soon as possible, and be sure to Seal your Letter with Wax, as the last letter I received from you came open, from the Wafers not having been sufficiently wet.
We have had remarkable fine Weather lately, and every thing is very near a Month earlier than it is in general as a proof of which I Yesterday had Gooseberry Pie for Dinner, and they really were as Good as I ever remember to have tasted them in May –
The Farmers will begin their Hay Harvest in about 3 Weeks I expect as the Grass is now Ancle deep.
When you go to Guisborough be so good as give my best respects to Mr and Mrs Jackson  who I hope continue to enjoy Good Health, and don't forget my Compliments to Mrs Sanders.
The War  still Continues and when there will be an end of it, God only knows, the Allies have lately obtained a Consid[erable] Victory over the French in the North of Flanders, and we […] be successful in Capturing their Wt India Island […] this will tend to put an end to the War, which […] productive of such dreadful Consequences, to our […] Manufacturies, it is impossible for me to say, suffice[nt] that if the Allies do not finally succeed this Camp[aign …] that Faction which has lately usurped the Gover[nment] they will never be able to withstand another –
I must conclude, with kind duty to my Father and love to Thomas
Your very Affectionate Bro.
(You must excuse the writing  being pinched for time I was compelled to write fast in order to be time for Post – )
remember me kindly to Mary 
[Addressed to] Mr George Jackson Jnr, Lackenby by Guisborough, Yorkshire
|John Jackson 1772/5-1806 |
John Jackson did not go back to the farm. We do not know if his brother George told their father of the letter, or if Captain King ever found out that he had written. He went, as his uncle required, to work as a clerk for the African Company of Merchants at Cape Coast Castle on the Gold Coast, west of Accra, in what is now Ghana.
His uncle’s business was closely tied up with the activities of the Company, and Thomas King’s partner Anthony Calvert was a member of the Company’s committee. Perhaps King thought it would be advantageous to have his nephew working for the Company, where he might gain a usefully influential position – especially as Thomas King had sons of his own to place and provide for.
The business of the African Company of Merchants was the transatlantic slave trade.
Captain Thomas King was an important merchant in the trade, who himself owned plantations in the West Indies worked by slave labour.
Cape Coast Castle, where John was based, was one of the long-established European trading fortresses, managed by the merchants themselves, who paid a small subsidy to the government for the upkeep of the forts.
The merchants lived on the upper floors; the slaves were kept in appalling conditions in dungeons below awaiting transportation.
Thomas King had left Cleveland and made his way in the harsh and brutal world of 18th century seagoing life.
In 1766, at the age of 18, he was Second Mate of the Royal Charlotte (300 tons), carrying the African Company’s stores to Cape Coast Castle and taking on slaves there. On his third voyage he was Captain of the Molly (110 tons), sailing from Grenada via America to the Gold Coast, where he took on some 105 slaves – the Molly spent twelve months about and near the Gold Coast on a voyage that was “unfortunate to sailors and slaves”. Six or seven of the crew died, and about half the slaves.
In 1771 when he was Master of the Surry, a ship owned by his future partner William Camden, he was involved in an affray which led to him being charged with the murder of one of his crew, for which he stood trial in 1776. Captain Calvert and Robert Manley, a city wine merchant, stood £500 bail for him (a considerable sum), and he was eventually acquitted .
He made his last voyage in 1780 at the age of 32, sailing
“for the ninth and last time in November 1780, from London in the Camden, of 335 tons, whole crew 65. Bought on the Gold Coast 580 slaves. Stay six months. Sailed for Jamaica. Lost four sailors, two of them by accident. Lost 50 or 51 slaves in all.”After this voyage, he remained in London .
By the time he left the sea he was already a substantial merchant. He was a partner with William Camden and Anthony Calvert in Camden, Calvert & King of Wapping (CC&K), and was to be the most financially successful of the three partners .
The basis of their business was victualling – in particular, obtaining lucrative government contracts to provision the Royal Navy and the British colonies. As with all transport businesses, it was imperative that there should never be an empty journey. This was achieved by backloading cargoes: they would, for example, ship provisions to British Forts on the West African coast, load with slaves for the Middle Passage, offload in the West Indies, strip down and disinfect, then reload with sugar and rum for the return voyage to the UK.
The scale and scope of this international business led them to diversify into a range of other activities. CC&K were primarily engaged in the West India trade, but they also had contracts with the East India Company and traded to India and China. Their activities included sugar refining, brewing, convict transportation (CC&K had the contracts for the Second and Third Fleets), China tea, Indian cotton, Nootka furs and the development of the Southern Whale Fishery.
Finally, they extended operations into the financial and insurance markets.
Their business expansion was, as was usual, facilitated by the mutual assistance of friends and by nurturing useful contacts. They developed a wide network of social and political friends and allies that enabled them to gain increasing influence, importance and success.
A major part of CC&K’s activity was the transatlantic slave trade. At one time, they owned a fifth of all slaving ships that set sail from London. They were responsible for 77 slave ship voyages, mostly between 1781 and 1808, carrying in total more than 22,000 slaves from West Africa to the Caribbean and Guiana.
Thomas King was one of the founding members of Lloyds of London. He was elected Master of the Mercers’ Company in 1772. He became one of the Elder Brethren of Trinity House on 24 January 1788. He invested in property, including the London Docks. He belonged to the Royal Blackheath Golf Club, whose
“membership was exclusively Masonic and disproportionately connected to local slave trading interests, from the plantation owner turned banker Francis Baring, to the slave trader turned Lloyds bank founder, John Julius Angerstein.On his death in 1824 he left money to charities; he was a Governor of Captain Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital.
The Greenwich iron merchant Ambrose Crowley, who manufactured shackles and collars and the West India merchant William Innes were also members. The golf course became an ideal place to share ideas and make trading alliances.”
So John Jackson went to Africa to please his powerful uncle and to make his fortune. In 1798, he was still there, but plans were in hand for his transfer to the West Indies.
In a letter of 1798, a business associate and family connection, Mr William Croydon, wrote to Thomas King (then at America Square, London) from the Colony of Essequibo (now Guyana) in South America:
"And having paid direct attention to your mention also of your Nephew Mr Jackson upon the coast of Africa and your request to me should he come to these Colonies from there, you may depend on my showing every attention and rendering him every service that shall be in my power" John died in the slave colony of Essequibo in 1806 at the age of 32.
He left a Will, the terms of which are known through various sources, but Grace Dixon and I were unable to find any record of probate. We concluded that if Thomas King had been acting as his nephew’s banker, he probably would not have needed to prove the Will.
It seems that John Jackson was not married and left no dependents. An annuity of £50 a year to Susannah Manley remains unexplained; we know of this because it was paid by Thomas King who provided for its continuance in his own Will. Susannah was the daughter of Robert Manley, the wine merchant who had stood bail for Thomas King in the 1770s. She was also left an annuity by Anthony Calvert on his death in 1809 .
John’s gold watch, watch chain, seal and watch key was returned to his father and passed down subsequent generations. His father was a beneficiary of his estate: by his own Will, he passed "all estate which has come to me by death of my son John Jackson at Demerary in West Indies" to his surviving sons, Thomas and George.
Thomas and George were also to benefit under Thomas King’s Will – he left the families of George and Thomas £1,000 each, to be in full satisfaction of any claims that they might have had under the Will of his father (Newark King), or under a bond that he and their father had entered into upon the sale of an estate in Moorsholm in 1785.
The poor of Wilton and Eston benefited from John Jackson’s fortune.
The charity established under the terms of the Will is described by John Walker Ord in 1846 in The History and Antiquities of Cleveland:
John Jackson, Esq, a native of Lackenby, who died in the colony of Essequibo, West Indies, in the year 1806, by his will gave £10 to the poor of Lackenby, £10 to the poor of Wilton, £10 to the poor of Lazenby, and £10 to the poor of Eston; and he also gave unto such of the poor people of Lackenby, Lazenby, and Wilton, as should not receive relief from the poor’s rate, the interest of £500 sterling for ever, to be equally divided amongst the said three villages by his heir-at-law on the first Sunday before Christmas-day; but in case of minority of the heir, the interest to be paid, as aforesaid, by a guardian of the heir, under the direction of the churchwardens; and in case there shall be no heir, the will directs that the same shall be fore ever paid by the churchwardens and overseers of the poor of the parish of Wilton. The principal is invested in government security; and the dividends are annually distributed by John Jackson, Esq., solicitor, Stokesley, the deceased’s nephew and heir-at-law.The family continued to administer the charity through the 19th century – the last to do so was William Richardson (1859-1927), who practised as a solicitor in Guisborough, and was the testator’s great great nephew. The charity is thought to have been wound up or incorporated into other local charities in the later 20th century.
John Jackson had gone to Africa to make his fortune, but he and his family can have been under no illusions as to what many of their countrymen and women felt about it.
There had always been voices raised against slavery – the question is, as Hugh Thomas says in the introduction to The Slave Trade: the history of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1440-1870, “how was the business tolerated for so long?”
By the time John Jackson left for Cape Coast Castle, the anti-slavery movement had been active for decades and was becoming increasingly effective. John Wesley had published his pamphlet Thoughts upon Slavery in 1774. The Society for Effecting the Abolition of Slavery had been established in 1787. William Wilberforce had begun his parliamentary campaign to abolish the trade in 1789.
The outcry grew and the opposition to reform began to organise itself to block change; it was a matter of enormous public interest, covered extensively in the press.
The year after John Jackson’s death, Parliament finally abolished the trade in slaves. A generation later, slavery was abolished in the British West Indies, Canada and the Cape of Good Hope.
During those years, public opinion had grown ever more vocal.
We do not know how the debate was managed within John Jackson’s family. Did the next generation disassociate itself from any former loyalty to their Uncle King? Did they sign the petition from “the inhabitants of Guisbro’ and its Vicinity” calling for the abolition of slavery, which was laid before the House of Lords in November 1830? Did they find that a revulsion against the trade made it increasingly uncomfortable to remember John Jackson? They kept his portrait, his watch and his letter and they administered his charity, but as with so very many British families, they did not care to remember how he had made his money and within three generations it was forgotten.
I am sure I remember that Grace Dixon wrote an account of John Jackson and his charity for the Cleveland and Teesside Local History Society journal – but so far I have not been able to find a copy of it among my papers.
 the identity of John Jackson’s cousin William (who informed him of his father’s illness) is unknown.
 Europeans did indeed suffer from the climate on the west coast of Africa. It was notoriously unhealthy, and as late as 1873, of 130 British soldiers there (the slave trade by then long abolished) only 22 were reported fit for duty.
 Mr and Mrs Jackson, to whom John Jackson sends his best respects, were probably Mr and Mrs William Jackson of Market Place, Guisborough, a family connection [Miss G Dixon]. The Jacksons' landlord through the late 18th and early 19th centuries was a William Jackson.
 the War mentioned by John Jackson in the last paragraph of his letter was to become the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars against the French, which finally ended in 1815 at Waterloo.
 Although John Jackson apologises for his handwriting, which becomes less controlled in the second half of the letter, it is in fact a beautifully clear and elegant script.
 John Jackson asked his brother George to “remember me kindly to Mary” – possibly Mary Rowlands, whom George married in 1807
 the portrait of John Jackson is from a Bonhams' catalogue of 2005.
William Richardson, mentioned on the reverse of the portrait, was John Jackson’s great-great nephew, acting in the Jackson Charity trusts as solicitor and heir-at-law. There are references in family documents to Jackson being Governor of Cape Coast Castle. Grace Dixon and I were not able to find anything to support this.
Archibald Dalzel (born 1740) was Governor from 31 Mar 1792 to 16 Dec 1798 (ie when John Jackson arrived) and then again from 28 Apr 1800 to 30 Sep 1802
 Thomas King was accused of killing the sailor John Warren. It was alleged that he called Warren “an Irish son of a bitch” as he kicked him to death, cf
Many Middle Passages: Forced Migration and the Making of the Modern World, by Emma Christopher, Cassandra Pybus, Marcus Rediker (2007).
Ken Cozens refers to the Trial documents at TNA, HCA 1/24, as containing crew references to King’s character as a Master.
 For the transcription of Thomas King’s evidence to the Parliament enquiry into the slave trade of 1789, including details of the slaving voyages he made, see here
 for an investigation of the partners and business of CC&K cf Ken Cozens' dissertation
and for a full account of the merchants of Wapping, see Wapping 1600-1800: A Social History of an early modern London maritime suburb by Derek Morris and Ken Cozens, (pub The East London History Society 2009).
Ken Cozens’ dissertation predates my chance meeting with Derek Morris at the County Record Office in Northallerton in 2008. I happened to be within hearing when Derek was talking to one of the staff of the difficulty in finding the family of Thomas King.
 Miss Grace Dixon found the letter from William Croydon in Essequibo to Thomas King regarding John Jackson in the Archives of the Wilberforce Museum, Hull
 cf Ken Cozens for Anthony Calvert’s will, with its annuity for Susannah Manley