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Robert Hibbert

Life                                1790 - 1829
Matriculation year     1809
Place connected          Jamaica

Born in Jamaica, Robert was sent to school at Eton, before matriculating at Christ's in 1809. He obtained B.A. in 1813, and married twice consecutively before his death in 1829.

Connection to enslavement

Robert was the son of Robert Hibbert of Chalfont Park and Birtles Hall and Letitia Hamilton Nembhard.¹ ² For ease, the Legacies of British slavery project refers to Robert (the Christ's alumnus) as 'Robert Hibbert the younger of Chalfont House', to distinguish him from his father, whom he predeceased.² The Christ's alumnus is referred to herein as 'Robert (the Younger)'.


Robert (the Younger) was evidently wealthy at his death: he left £20,000 in government securities to his father in his will.²


His father (Robert the Elder, born in 1750) had been sent to Jamaica in 1771 to join his uncle's merchant house.  There, he worked alongside his elder brother, Thomas.³ The Legacies of British slavery project suggests that 'the Hibbert merchant house was involved with both slave factorage and the supply of credit'.³ When his uncle died in 1780, his estate was divided between Robert (the Elder), his brother Thomas, and one of their cousins.³


Robert (the Elder) married Letitia Hamilton Nembhard in 1785.³ Letitia's father owned a 300 acre estate in Jamaica called Konigsberg, which appears to have left their family's ownership in 1790.⁴ As a indicator of the enslavement on the estate (from which Letitia may have benefitted), 493 enslaved people were registered on the same estate in 1810.⁴


Robert (the Elder) was able to buy land in Jamaica, including the Great Valley Sugar Estate and the Albion plantation.³ He also owned the Mullet Hall estate for approximately 15 years.³ ⁵


Robert owned a significant number of enslaved people on these estates. On the Albion estate (which Robert purchased for £40,000 in 1791), he owned 435 enslaved people in 1809, rising to a peak of 525 enslaved people there in 1819.⁶ In 1815, the first year in which Robert was registered as the owner of the Great Valley Sugar Estate, he registered 486 enslaved people on the plantation.⁷ On the Mullet Hall estate, Robert registered 196 enslaved people as his property in 1811 (the last year in which he appears to have owned the property).⁵


Furthermore, Robert lodged two claims for compensation when enslaved people were emancipated. Both claims were awarded in 1835, the year in which he died, meaning his executors and trustees received £8291 7s 0d for 451 enslaved people on the Albion estate, and a further £7262 16s 6d for 438 enslaved people on the Great Valley Sugar Estate.⁸ ⁹


Robert (the Elder) evidently profited significantly from his activities during his lifetime. In addition to those in Jamaica, he acquired properties in England: in 1791, he purchased Birtles Hall in Cheshire and entirely rebuilt the property. He also bought the 230 acre property of Pains Hill in Surrey in 1798, before selling it on four years later.³ At his death in 1835, he left c. £250,000 in personal property (the equivalent of c. £35 million in 2022) in his will.³


It would be reasonable to suggest that the education of Robert (the Younger), first at Eton and then at Christ's, was financed with the proceeds of enslavement, given that his father evidently owned two estates (the Albion estate and the Mullet Hall estate) worked by enslaved people during Robert's childhood and at the time of Robert's matriculation at Christ's. Robert (the Elder) appears to have concurrently owned perhaps 1,000 enslaved people in Jamaica after 1815, and his involvement in enslavement might well explain his extraordinary wealth at his death in 1835.


The over £15,500 awarded in compensation in 1835 for Robert's ownership of 889 enslaved people represented just 6.2% of the value of his estate. Enslavement had benefitted him greatly, and probably thereby benefitted his son, Robert (the Younger), not least in how his education across the Atlantic had been funded.


¹ Venn, J.A., ed. (1947). "Hibbert, Robert". Alumni Cantabrigienses (Part 2). Vol.3, Cambridge University Press. p. 357 - via Internet Archive. ² Legacies of British Slavery database, 'Robert Hibbert the younger of Chalfont House', [accessed 15th September 2022]. ³ Legacies of British Slavery database, 'Robert Hibbert of Chalfont Park and Birtles Hall', [accessed 15th September 2022]. ⁴ Legacies of British Slavery database, 'Konigsberg Castle [ Jamaica | St Mary ]', [accessed 15th September 2022]. ⁵ Legacies of British Slavery database, 'Mullet Hall estate [ Jamaica | St Thomas-in-the-East, Surrey ]', [accessed 15th September 2022]. ⁶ Legacies of British Slavery database, 'Albion [2] [ Jamaica | St David ]', [accessed 15th September 2022]. ⁷ Legacies of British Slavery database, 'Great Valley Sugar Estate [ Jamaica | Hanover ]', [accessed 15th September 2022]. ⁸ Legacies of British Slavery database, 'Jamaica St David 45 (Albion)', [accessed 15th September 2022]. ⁹ Legacies of British Slavery database, 'Jamaica Hanover 80 (Great Valley Sugar Estate)', [accessed 15th September 2022].

More information about our research, including searchable databases, can be found here.

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