Jamaican Family Search Genealogy Research Library


By F. J. DuQuesnay

The Colonial branch of the Scarlett Family trace their descent from Thomas Scarlett who distinguished himself at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.

The Scarletts became large land owners in England shortly after the Conquest and settled on estates in Kent.  It is further recorded that well into the 17th. Century they had estates in Norfolk, Suffolk, York, and Sussex.  That branch of the family which emigrated to Jamaica in the 17th. Century came from Eastbourne in Sussex.

According to one source of information, Captain Francis Scarlett was the first member of his family to come to Jamaica, where he was believed to have been present at the taking of the Island in 1655; after which he was given large grants of land in the Parish of Saint Andrew for his services.  However, other information which seems to be more accurate, namely a biography of the Hon. James Scarlett, 1st. Lord Abinger, by a descendant Peter Campbell, tells us that Francis emigrated to Jamaica in the reign of Charles II.

We do know that Francis was well settled in Jamaica by 1670, for in a survey of the Island for that year, he is listed as the proprietor of 1,000 acres of land in St. Andrew.  Francis' father, Benjamin, was a grandson of the Thomas Scarlett already mentioned who fought at Agincourt*.

Benjamin was twice married, and had two sons, Francis, the Jamaican settler, by one wife, and Thomas, by another wife.  On the death of their father in 1659, Francis was apparently disinherited and lost all his rights to the property in England, which was inherited by Benjamin's other son Thomas.  Fortunately, however, Francis obtained grants of land on the Wag Water River in Jamaica amounting to 1,000 acres.  This land was possibly the same as that referred to above, since the Wag Water River flows from the Parish of St. Andrew through the adjoining Parish of St. Mary.  Also, Frank Cundall in his "Historic Jamaica", says that Francis Scarlett "patented lands on the Wag Water in the 28th year of Charles II, and bought neighbouring land in the vicinity of Temple Hall Estate."


Francis was a Member of the Assembly in 1680.  He died unmarried at Eastbourne in Sussex in 1685, leaving his estates to his Nephew, William Scarlett, son of his half brother Thomas.  This William, Cundall tells us, might be identical to the William Scarlett, who is recorded as a merchant of Port Royal Jamaica in 1685.  William was of the Middle Temple, and resided at Eastbourne, which had been the family seat for many years.

He married the daughter of Major Thomas Smallman of Shropshire, and emigrated to Jamaica evidently around the time when he inherited the estates there.  His son, William (the 2nd.) married Judith, daughter and co-heiress of Gideon Lecount of St. Jago de la Vega, now Spanish Town, in 1705, at the Parish Church of St. Andrew.  Some time after this, they sold the Wag Water estate and went to seek their fortunes in the Western section of the Island.

William, (the 2nd's) son, James Scarlett had a large estate in the Parish of St. James, near Montego Bay.  James married a relation of General Wolf, who fell at Quebec in Canada, and left his estates to his children in his "Will" proved in 1777.  His son Robert, born in 1737, married Elizabeth Anglin, daughter of Philip Anglin of Paradise estate in 1765.  She was the widow of John Wright, a planter, who had been murdered before her eyes by rebellious slaves, circa 1763, Robert Scarlett owned Duckett's Spring estate, situated in the hinterland of St. James.  He also owned Success and Forest Pen estates in the same Parish.  He died in 1798, and was buried in Montego Bay.

From notes in the Feurtardo Manuscripts in the Institute of Jamaica, we find that his wife Elizabeth, died at Upton near Montego Bay, on the 27th of August 1828, aged 81 years.

According to Cundall, Robert and Elizabeth had thirteen children, and he goes on to say that only four sons and three daughters survived their father.  We do not know where he got this information, but the four sons mentioned below are well established and documented:


Philip was born in 1767.  He was Custos, and a Member of the Assembly for the Parish of Hanover.  He married Bonella, daughter of Robert Bowen, and owned Cambridge estate near Duckett's Spring, which today is an important station for the Railway which travels across the Island from Kingston to Montego Bay.  Philip died in 1823.


James left Jamaica at an early age to be educated in England.  He studied as a barrister and was created Lord Abinger in 1780.  He had a successful career, and was often referred to as "Silver-Tongued Scarlett."  He never returned to the Island of his birth.  While he was studying in England, he became the guardian of Edward Moulton, who later assumed his mother's family name of Barrett, and became the father of Elizabeth Barrett of Wimpole Street fame.

The Scarletts and the Barretts had been friends for many years in Jamaica, and it seems natural that James Scarlett would have been selected to keep an eye on young Moulton, while the boy was at school in England.  In a note prefixed to the Collected Edition of his wife's poems, Robert Browning tells us that "On the early death of his father, he (Edward Moulton) was brought from Jamaica to England when a very young child, as ward to the late Chief Baron Lord Abinger, then Mr. Scarlett, whom he frequently accompanied in his post-chaise when on pursuit."

Robert Browning's statement concerning 'the early death' of Edward Moulton's father, seems strange, for Charles Moulton did not suffer an early death.   In fact he lived to see Edward married and with children, but apparently the alliance had been an unhappy one, and maybe the Barrett family did consider Charles Moulton as dead.  Probably too, this was the reason for Edward Moultons taking the name of Barrett.  Surely Robert Browning, who became Edward Moulton Barrett's son-in-law, must have known the truth?


Robert obtained his M.D. at Edinburgh in 1795.  He was a Member of the Assembly for St. James between 1803 and 1807, and later became a Member of the Council.  He inherited Duckett's Spring and Success estates, which his father had owned.


William was born on June 24, 1777.  He died at Grove Pen in Manchester, and lies buried in Mandeville Parish Churchyard.  His tombstone bears the following inscription:
"Here rests the mortal remains of he Hon. Sir William Scarlett, Knight, ten years Chief Justice of Jamaica.  He died October 9th. 1831, aged fifty-four.  The memory of the just is blessed."

William married Mary, daughter of Joseph Williams of Luana estate in St. Elizabeth, in July 1809.  He became Chief Justice in 1821, and was Knighted in 1829.  His widow died at Worthing in Sussex England, in 1832.

In 1823 William presided over a law suit concerning the proprietor of a scandal sheet, called "The Trifler", whom the Duke of Manchester, then Governor, was suing for libel.  The trial took place at the Court House in Kingston (destroyed by the 1907 earthquake.)  The case lasted for fourteen hours, finally ending in a verdict of "not guilty"; but on leaving the Court House, William Scarlett, the Chief Justice, was hissed and pelted with stones.

The oil painting of William Scarlett, now in the possession of Lord Abinger, shows him as a boy wearing long hair, and playing with a dog.  Another portrait, also in the possession of Lord Abinger, shows Williams father Robert Scarlett, attended by his slave Oliver holding a game-bag.

Cundall tells us in "Historic Jamaica" that both the greathouses and works on Duckett's Spring and Cambridge estates were destroyed in the slave rebellion of 1831, and at the time of Emancipation, nine Scarletts owned estates in Hanover, Trelawny, St. James, St. Ann, St. Thomas-in-the-Vale, and Kingston.  He also mentions that there was a family vault at Cambridge up to the early part of this Century, and also the ruins of the greathouse and works at Duckett's Spring.  The greathouse had loopholed circular towers at diagonally opposite corners.

Thus, with the change brought about by Emancipation, coupled with the falling price of sugar, the Scarletts who had owned property in Jamaica from the early days after the capture of the Island, drifted away to seek their fortunes elsewhere.  Nonetheless, there is still one small family in Jamaica bearing the name today, who like those early pioneers also own property on the Island.


*Note from JFS: Benjamin may have been a descendant, but he could not have been the grandson of a Thomas Scarlett who fought at Agincourt in 1415.

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