Henry Goulburn

Image of Henry Goulburn as a young man (SHC ref 4348/2/57/11)

Henry Goulburn as a young man (SHC ref 4348/2/57/11)

Henry Goulburn (1784-1856) lived at Betchworth, near Dorking, for much of his life. He stayed with his family there at weekends, spending the week in Westminster where he worked as an MP for the majority of his career (1808-1846).  He was the eldest son of Munbee and Sussannah Goulburn and, to boost his parliamentary income, his inheritance included an estate in Jamaica, populated by a number of slaves who worked on sugar plantations in an area of over 2,000 acres.

Henry Goulburn’s  estate was named Amity Hall which was situated in the parish of Vere, Jamaica. The estate experienced a number of problems and Goulburn wrote perpetually to his agents and attorneys there, slowly realising that his plantations were not reaping the high revenue he had hoped for. In addition, Goulburn had to grapple with a moral dilemma, for the treatment of enslaved workers on his estate did not sit well with his evangelical conscience.

Image of Henry Goulburn in later life (SHC ref 304)

Henry Goulburn in later life (SHC ref 304)

As he was absent from the plantation and never visited Jamaica himself, Henry relied upon an attorney to do follow orders on the estate. One attorney in particular, Thomas Samson, held the top job at the estate from 1802-1818 and earned a poor reputation for cruelty towards Goulburn’s enslaved workforce.

To find out more about Henry Goulburn and his plantations, click here.

To read about Henry Goulburn’s troublesome relationship with his Jamaican attorney, Thomas Samson, click here (pdf).

Read about Thomas Samson in the Slave Compensation Commission records.

Click here to find out more about the problems of running a Jamaican estate (pdf pdf logo).

For details of the Goulburn Jamaican estates and the compensation awarded from the Slave Compensation Commission, see his entry on the UCL Legacies of British Slave-ownership website.

Image of an 1818 Bond by Thomas Samson to pay annuity to freed slaves (304/J/Box7(6))

This document, dated 20th May 1818, is a bond by which Thomas Samson divests Henry Goulburn of the responsibility to pay the annuity of £5 to each of a family of 7 enslaved, apparently Thomas Samson’s own mistress and biological children (Goulburn Papers at Surrey History Centre, Ref. 304/J/Box7(6)).

Image of an 1816 document calculating the amount required to be paid to manumit [set free] the enslaved

Also enclosed with this document is the valuation from 16th May 1816, calculating the amount required to be paid to manumit [set free] these enslaved, who were freed that year (SHC ref304/J/Box7(6)).

Sources on Henry Goulburn at Surrey History Centre:

Rev. J.W. Cunningham to Henry Goulburn, 1831 (SHC Ref.304/A1/2/8/16/1-2; 304/A1/2/8/20/1-2).
Correspondence between Zachary Macaulay and Henry Goulburn, 1831 (SHC Ref.304/A1/2/8/2/1-6; 304/A1/2/8/24).
Correspondence between Henry Goulburn and the Bishop of Jamaica, 1831-2 (SHC Ref.304/A1/2/8/41; -/43; -/44; -/46).
Correspondence between Henry Goulburn and Rev. J. Smith, 1831-2 (SHC Ref.304/A1/2/8/42; -/44; -/45).
Correspondence between Henry Goulburn and George Elridge concerning sale of Amity Hall Estate, Jamaica (SHC Ref.304/J/Box1).
Correspondence relating to former attorney Thomas Samson during his period in England: between Samson’s deputy, George Elridge and Henry Goulburn, 1816-7 (SHC Ref.304/J/Box7).
Correspondence between Susannah Goulburn and Jamaica residents (SHC Ref. 304/J/1/8/1-20).
Correspondence between Henry Goulburn and Amity Hall attorney Thomas Samson (SHC Ref. 304/J/1/19/7-82).
Entitled ‘Sugar produced & Income derived from Amity Hall Estate in the following years:’ (SHC Ref.304/J/1/21/6).
Bimonthly Journal of Labour on Amity Hall Estate, 1825-31: includes lists of ‘Negro’ slaves and calculations of sugar production and profit (SHC Ref.304/J/1/23/1-17).
Bimonthly Journal of Labour on Amity Hall Estate, 1833-7 (SHC Ref.304/J/1/24/1-126).
Journal of Labour on Amity Hall Estate, from 1839, now including payment schedule (SHC Ref.304/J/1/25/1-67).
Journal of Labour on Amity Hall Estate, July 1839, counting 232 labourers (SHC Ref.304/J/1/25/59).
R.J. Warner’s letters from HMS FAWN offshore at Port Royal describing the uprising in Jamaica, 1864-5 (SHC Ref.1487/161/1-3).


Pamphlet: ‘A Slave Owner with a Conscience’ (SHC Ref. 07034710.326p).
Jenkins, Brian, Henry Goulburn 1784-1856: A Political Biography (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1996), chs. 1, 2 & 4.
Morgan, Kenneth, ‘Slave Women & Reproduction in Jamaica, c. 1776-1834’ in History, vol. 91, April 2006, pp. 231-53.


www.oxforddnb.com/public/index.html (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Details of Henry Goulburn’s Jamaican estates can be found in the records of the Slave Compensation Commission, see his entry on the UCL Legacies of British Slave-ownership website.

The BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? programme broadcast in July 2019, features actor Naomie Harris, and traced her family history back to Jamaica. Interestingly, she discovered that her ancestor William Goulburn/Golburne/Goulbourn was a free man of mixed race but whose children were enslaved on a small plantation property called Belle Vue, in the parish of St Anne’s, Middlesex, in the early 1800s. The family were later free but the surname is unusual and although we do not know if there is a connection it would be a coincidence if there were not. Enslaved people often took the surname of the owner of the estate they lived and worked on. Perhaps William had worked at Amity Hall?

One thought on “Henry Goulburn”

  1. John Hales says:

    UCL, after communications with them, have updated the entries for Charles Samson, http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/22382, Thomas Samson, http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146632353, and James Samson, http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146636635. I’ve also added entries for Frances Samson, http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146660933 and Rachel Samson, http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146660935.

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