Hibberts in Jamaica

Thomas Hibbert 1710-1780 (The Eldest) was the first of the Hibberts to settle in Jamaica arriving in 1734. His original remit was to protect the Hibbert family’s financial interests in the slave trade.  The family cotton mills in and around Manchester were suppliers of barter goods to the slave shippers.

Thomas Hibbert was dispatched to the West Indies to redeem the slave traders bonds at the point of sale of the slaves. In the next 20 years he became immensely wealthy and powerful and in about 1754 started construction of Hibbert House after a notorious bet with three other Merchants. The bet… to see who could build the finest house in Kingston. The prize…  the hand in marriage of a famous beauty. Thomas Hibbert won the completion but declined to marry the beauty, recognizing her as the most avaricious capricious and dangerous gold digger of the age.

Hibbert  House was completed in 1755 and the following year Thomas became Speaker of the House of Assembly which often sat at Hibbert House rather than at Spanish town. From 1872 Hibbert House became the Parliament of Jamaica.

Hibbert House, when sold in the early 1800’s  became the Headquarters of the Army and was renamed Headquarters House, now it is the home of the National Trust of Jamaica. Unfortunately the house has been remodeled beyond all recognition.

Instead of marrying Thomas Hibbert appointed Charity Harry to be “housekeeper” of his  Mansion.  Built on an entire city block above The Parade Ground in Kingston, with clear views to the Palisades and Port Royal. This was no bachelors residence it had a domestic staff of about 30, presided over by Charity Harry a very well educated and elegant mulatto presumed to be the illegitimate daughter of another Planter or Merchant (this is continuing research) but also technically a slave.

Charity Harry and... the issue of her body... were technically released from slavery by a private Act in The House of Assembly in 1775.

Recently an unpublished Hakewill Watercolour of Hibbert House was discovered in a private collection in England and will be published by Yale University in an ‘Atlas of Slavery’ by Prof. David Richardson and David Eltis later this year (2010).

By Charity Harry Thomas Hibbert had 3 daughters, the eldest two Jane, and her younger sister Margaret were educated in England, (the youngest having died early) unfortunately Margaret also died whilst at school. On the death of her sister Jane started to question her faith and ultimately left the Anglican Communion to embrace Quakerism. In so doing, at the age of 20, she wrote probably the finest polemic on the state of organized religion. In 7,000 well chosen  words she exposed the hypocrisy of the politicized form of an organized and unaccountable Anglican Theocracy. Whether Jane was aware of it or not, her views were very much those of her grandfather Robert Hibbert whom she had never met. Robert Hibbert being very much a dissenter and Unitarian. The cause of the dissenter form of religion was later espoused by another Robert Hibbert (Junior) more of whom later, who founded the Hibbert Trust to spread Christianity ‘In its simplest form’….as he believed that the priest hood had too much power and influence in the matters of personal belief.

Jane Harry studied painting under Sir Joshua Reynolds and won The Gold Medal for painting and moved in the best of circles, often debating the aging Dr Johnson. Jane married a fellow Quaker, Joseph Thresher, a surgeon from Worcester and died from complications after childbirth, her son also did not long survive her.

Thomas Hibbert purchased 3 properties on the North coast of Jamaica, Agualta Vale, Agualta Vale Pen and Orange Hill, of about 3,000 acres employing about 900 slaves. Here Thomas Hibbert Died in the company of his long term lover Charity Harry, he originally wished to be buried in a vault at Hibbert House, however he was entered on a hill with a view over Anotto Bay. A monument was raised in his memory which is now much vandalized. There is a portrait of him in a private collection and a copy of that portrait hangs in Hibbert House.

Further reading
James Hakewill, A Picturesque Tour of the Island  of Jamaica, 1825.
Jamaican material in the Slebech Papers.
Headquarters House, Kingston, Jamaica 1755-1990. Goodman, Seebohm and Stewart in association with Marguerite Curtin. (This is somewhat out of date now).
History of the Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica. Caribbeana.
The Dynamics of the Slave Market and Slave Purchasing Patterns in Jamaica, 1655-1788. Trevor Burnard and Kenneth Morgan.

Richardson Wright, Revels in Jamaica

For Jane and Charity Harry see:
Dr Judith Jennings.
A Trio of Talented Women: Abolition, Gender and Political Participation, 1780-1791  ..and..  Jane Harry Thresher and Mary Morris Knowles Speak Out for Liberty in Jamaica and England.
Jenny Harry, Later Thresher 1756-1784 Artist; Friend of Dr Johnson, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Molly Knowles, &; Convert to Quakerism; Philosopher, Philanthropist, And Saint….Joseph J. Green, Friends Quarterly Examiner.

John Hibbert 1732-1769, brother of Thomas above and Robert Hibbert (who is not known to have spent any time in Jamaica), arrived in Jamaica in 1754 just as Hibbert House was being completed. He entered into partnership with his brother in the slave factoring business. Shortly after arriving he started an ‘outside family’ firstly with Dorothy Wynter which produced a son Samuel Wynter born 1756 and then with Henrietta Smith by whom he had three children who seem to have taken the name Hibbert which was unusual at the time. The outside families usually took the mothers surname. He then married the 21 year old Janet Gordon, two of his sons returned to Jamaica after being educated in England at Eton and Cambridge. Thomas Hibbert (Junior) and Robert Hibbert (Junior) founder of the Hibbert Trust, of whom more later. Thomas Hibbert died in Jamaica  aged 37. Janet Gordon Hibbert returned to England in 1771 after a torrid affair with Dr David Grant. She died in 1779 aged 39.

Thomas Hibbert (The Elder) 1744-1819. Nephew of Thomas and John above arrived in Jamaica in November 1766 where he remained until 1777 returning to Jamaica in 1778 finally in 1780 returning to England shortly after the death of his uncle. He was a partner in the slave factoring business. On returning to England he married Sophia Boldero in 1784, they were both painted by Gainsborough in 1786. He separated from her 10 years later. In England he purchased Chalfont Park in 1791 and was appointed High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire in 1795. In the 1780’s he sold his remaining interests in Jamaica to his brother Robert (The Elder) from the sale contract we get a very clear view of the value of the Jamaican holdings. Various Portraits  and engravings known. From the Robert Hibbert Diaries it is known that he had any number of mistresses and some illegitimate children, however what is not clear is if any of them survived.

John Hibbert 1748-1770. Brother of Thomas (1744-1819) above arrived in Jamaica in 1769 and died in Jamaica a bachelor August 1770 aged 22.

Robert Hibbert (The Elder) 1750-1835. Brother of Thomas and John above, arrived in Jamaica March 1772 and kept a daily journal of the daily ‘goings-on’ at Hibbert House for the next 8 years. The first series of diaries for the years December 1771 to 1780 are to be published shortly. It is from this chronology that it is possible to rebuild the past for much clearer understanding of the dynamics of the slave trade. Known to have fathered a number of illegitimate children. He married the 20 year old Letitia Hamilton Nembhard, daughter of Dr John Nembhard of Jamaica in 1785. Her sister  Elizabeth Jane later married Robert’s cousin also Robert Hibbert (Junior).

Further Reading
Robert Hibbert Evidence to Parliament 1790

William Hibbert 1760-1844 Brother of Thomas, John and Robert above. It is unclear when William arrived in Jamaica, but finding it not to his liking left after winning £20,000 (or a portion of it in 1782) in a lottery. He then joined the Hibbert's Jamaica House in London. In England he lived on Clapham Common along with his brother George and the widow of his brother Samuel. He married Elizabeth Greenhalgh, her sister, Mary having married William’s brother Samuel. 8 children, 5 daughters, 3 sons. Of his daughters two of them built Almshouses on the Wandsworth Road in his memory. A short of biography was written by his grandson.

Thomas Hibbert (Junior) 1761-1807 Born in Jamaica the son of John Hibbert 1732-1769, educated in England and returned to Jamaica 1778. He became a partner in the slave factoring business. After the death of Thomas Hibbert (The Eldest) Thomas (Junior) sold his interests in the slave factoring Business and purchased the interests of Thomas (The Elder) and Robert (The Elder) in Agualta Vale, Agualta Vale Pen and Orange Hill. On his death in 1807 his inventory of the Agualta Vale properties gives an absolute valuation of the estates and names and values each and every of the approximately 900 slaves on Agualta Vale. This is one of the largest inventories ever found in the Spanish Town Archives. He married Dorothy Mansfield, of his three sons two are worthy of note, Julian and John-Hubert Washington Hibbert, of whom more later.

Robert Hibbert (Junior) 1769-1849 Founder of The Hibbert Trust. Born in Jamaica the son of John Hibbert 1732-1769, younger brother of Thomas (Junior). Educated at Eton and Cambridge University, admitted into Lincoln’s Inn as a Lawyer . Returned to Jamaica in 1791 and purchased two sugar plantations Georgia and Dundee both in Hanover Parish. Whilst at Cambridge he formed a lifelong friendship with William Frend, who was ordained into the Church of England but left to become a Unitarian. Frend was unable to convince Hibbert that the ownership of slaves was immoral.

“ Hibbert’s view was that as a benevolent parliament had, through various acts and proclamations from the reign of Elizabeth I had sanctioned and encouraged the colonial slave based economy, then it was for parliament to dismantle and compensate those that had relied upon settled law in their investments. Then he pointed to those texts in the Bible that sanctioned slavery whilst asking where he might find specific text that forbade the ownership of slaves.”

In 1847 he founded The Hibbert Trust to come into existence on the death of his wife by conveying to the Trustees $50,000 in 6% Ohio stock and £8,000 in railway Shares. The income, initially producing about £1,000 p.a. to be applied by the Trustees…

“in such  manner as they in their uncontrolled discretion shall from time to time deem most conducive to the spread of Christianity in its most simple and intelligent form, and to the unfettered exercise of the right of private judgment in matters of religion.”

He Married Elizabeth Jane Nembardt, his cousin Robert (The Elder) having already married her sister.

In October 1817 he sent the Unitarian Minister Rev. Thomas Cooper and his wife to minister to his slaves on his Georgia plantation in Hanover. Cooper, remained in the island till 1821, endeavouring, with little success, to improve the slaves moral and religious condition. A somewhat acrimonious controversy followed the publication of Cooper’s report entitled, Facts illustrative of the condition of the Negro Slaves in Jamaica with notes and an appendix 1824.

Further reading
Memoir of Robert Hibbert, Founder of The Hibbert Trust: With a Sketch of its History. Jerom Murch 1874.
Henry Robarts Hibbert 1806-1825. Son of George Hibbert M.P. Arrived Jamaica 1825 and died aged 19  within a few months. Buried at Kingston Cathedral.

George Hibbert Oates 1791-1837. Nephew of George Hibbert M.P. (son of his sister Mary)  Attorney to Robert Hibbert (Junior) Hanover Estates of Georgia and Dundee and complied with his wishes. Shown as attorney to other Estates and Pens it is unclear if these were all Hibbert Estates. Died in Jamaica aged 45 and buried at Lucea Parish Church.

John Beeston Hibbert xxxx-1833 Doctor of Physic, practiced in Hanover Parish, Jamaica. Died Young, little known. May or may not be related to the other Hibberts listed. However Beeston is the name of one of the other important merchant families of Jamaica. Beeston Long being a notable Jamaican Merchant. Beeston Street is one of the boundary streets of Hibbert House.