George Brown

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In spite of the considerable part that he played in securing naval transports throughout the Anglo-French wars from 1794, little is known about George Brown. The following profile is a first attempt.

Business Profile

Address was given as 93 Jermyn Street in 1782, New Lloyd’s Coffee House in 1783, 1785 & 1786 and at 15 Throgmorton Street in 1785 & 1790.

The partnership of Welbank Sharp & Brown is listed in directories at 3 Sun Court, Threadneedle Street, from 1782 to 1791, a year after William Welbank died. In his will, his partners are listed as George Sharp and George Brown the Younger. (TNA Prob 11/1212)

Welbank & Sharp had operated from 1775 to 1779, at 3 Broad Street Buildings and then from 1778 at 37 Threadneedle Street and Sun Court. The broking firm of Gibson & Welbank had operated from 1768 to 1774 at 1 Crown Court, Threadneedle Street.

1779 – The Navy Board commissioned Welbank & Sharp to buy 600 tons of hemp ‘without giving an alarm whereby the holders of hemp might be induced to raise the price’. (Bernard Pool, Navy Board Contracts, 1660-1832, London: Longmans, Green & Co Ltd., 1966, p.99)

24 August 1789 – Welbank Sharp & Brown wrote to the Navy Board in response to the advertisements for the Second Fleet, expressing concern that the convicts were to be sent without troops as a guard. This would add to the danger and thus the expense of the voyage. The underwriters would not insure their property. (TNA T1/671/232)

7 June 1790 – Welbank Sharp & Brown offered a ship to the Navy Board. Orders were given for her to be surveyed. (TNA ADM106/2633)

6 October 1790 – Welbank Sharp & Brown wrote to the Navy Board offering eight ships for transports. The Deptford officers were to join Mr Bowen in inspecting the ships and report if they were fit to carry troops. (TNA ADM106/2634)

8 October 1790 – Welbank Sharp & Brown offered the ship Trio for a transport in lieu of the William reported unfit. The Deptford officers were to survey her. (TNA ADM106/2634)

24 November 1791 – Brown won a contract for 2,400 tons of shipping. (TNA ADM106/2639)

1792 – Brown was the broker for the Royal Admiral (1792).

13 December 1792 – The Navy Board contracted with George Brown for the Kitty, apparently without a tender. (ADM106/2639)

Mary Ellen Condon on the establishment of the Transport Board in 1794:

Before the Transport Board was established nearly two thirds of the ships that were hired as transports by the several boards were tendered by not more than a dozen persons and had been in the charge of one broker, George Brown & Co. When the tendering of transports was in the hands of George Brown the price at which the public wold be supplied with transports was rather fixed by him and he would recommend to the owners not to tender their ship until they obtained their price. After the establishment of the Transport Board more and more brokers were used as part of a deliberate policy to break the monopoly held by a few brokers. . . (Mary Ellen Condon, ‘The Administration of the Transport Service During the War Against Revolutionary France, 1793-1802’, Thesis presented for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Department of History, University College London, September 1968, pp.74 & 77)

Brown and Duncan still dominated in the period that followed.

1795 – Broker for the Young William.

1796 – Broker for the Ceres.

From late 1792, Brown was virtually the sole broker supplier ships to the Navy Board. Given the quantity of ships being engaged, he must have made a massive amount of money. Numerous entries are to be found from TNA ADM106/2643 onwards, but see TNA ADM106/2643, 28 December 1792.

3 May 1798 – John Schank gave evidence to a parliamentary inquiry that when they wanted transports to any part of the world, ‘we generally employ Mr George Brown and Mr Duncan, as Brokers for the Board, to take up Transports; but we also accept of tenders from other individuals’. (Select Committee on Finance, Appendix G.3, Reports from Committees of the House of Commons, Vol. XIII: 1798, Reprinted by Order of the House, 1803, p.503)

20 February 1799 – Brown advised the Transport Board that he had formed a partnership, Brown, Welbank & Petyt – George Welbank was a relative. John Petyt was his chief clerk (TNA ADM108/58/407)

1799 – Brown, Welbank & Petyt were brokers for the Walker.

1800 – Brown, Welbank & Petyt were brokers for the Royal Admiral.

1800 – Brown, Welbank & Petyt were brokers for the Earl Cornwallis.

1801 – Brown, Welbank & Petyt were brokers for the Coromandel and Perseus.

31 May 1805 – The partnership of Brown, Welbank & Petyt, on Sun Court, Threadneedle Street, Russia ship and insurance brokers, was dissolved. (London Gazette, 1806)

February 1821 – The partnership of Welbank & Petyt was dissolved. (London Gazette).