fonds Lascelles - Harewood West Indian Archive

Identity area

Reference code



Harewood West Indian Archive


  • 1697-1857 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

0.82 cubic metres

8 boxes and 1 oversize folder

Context area

Name of creator

(fl 1648-)

Biographical history

The Lascelles family’s connection with plantations in the Caribbean can be traced to at least 1648 when Edward Lascelles was part of a syndicate of three merchants who took ownership of a sugar plantation on Barbados.

However it was his descendant Henry Lascelles (c.1690-1753) who established the family as a major mercantile power. Henry was appointed customs collector for Bridgetown, Barbados, in 1715 and, together with his brothers George and Edward, founded a London commission house to import sugar from the West Indies. In 1743 George Maxwell of Haddingtonshire and Barbados joined the brothers as partner and the commission house was renamed Lascelles and Maxwell. In 1763 it became Lascelles, Clarke and Daling.

Henry returned to England in the 1730s where he purchased the manors of Gawthorpe and Harewood in Yorkshire and obtained lucrative government contracts to victual British troops and wounded seamen in Jamaica, Barbados and the Leeward Isles. Using the contacts he made, he financed slave ships through Lascelles and Maxwell and offering loans and mortgages to Barbados plantation owners. Between 1736 and 1743 he joined with eight other merchants to create a series of permanently moored vessels off the coast of Guinea to receive slaves for shipment to the Caribbean. He invested his wealth in the East India Company, becoming a company director by 1740.

Henry’s brother Edward had succeeded him as customs collector in Barbados and in 1746 was appointed to the Barbados Council, while at home Henry bought control of the parliamentary seat of Northallerton in Yorkshire, taking up his seat in the House of Commons in 1745.

At his death in 1753, Henry Lascelles left a significant estate, including shares in twenty-one ships engaged in trade in the West Indies, to be divided between his two eldest sons, Edwin (1713-1795) and Daniel (1714-1784). Edwin had already been installed as Lord of the Manor of Harewood by his father and would later built Harewood House between 1759 and 1771, becoming 1st Baron Harewood of Harewood in 1790.

Edwin and Daniel were able to greatly increase their family’s wealth and estates through the acquisition of land from debtors unable to meet the terms of their mortgages following the American War of Independence. Between 1773 and 1787 they obtained plantations and other property in Barbados, Jamaica, Grenada, and Tobago, as well as taking over the management of other estates heavily mortgaged to them. By 1787 the family controlled twenty-four Caribbean properties, comprising 27,000 acres and nearly 3,000 slaves.

Daniel and Edwin Lascelles both died childless and in 1795 the estate passed in full to their cousin Edward Lascelles (1740-1820), who had also inherited the Caribbean interests of his father, Edward, brother to Henry Lascelles, bringing the family’s wealth and estates together as a single inheritance. The new owner undertook a detailed review of his holdings, selling off unproductive plantations in order to expand others, improving accountancy procedures and recovering debts owed. In Britain his wealth and influence ensured him a prominent role in political life. He served as Member of Parliament for Northallerton and in 1796 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Harewood. In 1812 he was made Viscount Lascelles and Earl of Harewood.

Edward died in 1820 and the title and estate was inherited by his son Henry, 2nd Earl of Harewood (1767-1841). In 1833 Parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act. By this time, the Lascelles owned only six plantations in Jamaica and Barbados and Henry received £26,309 in compensation for the loss of his slaves. He subsequently sold his Jamaican property but retained his four Barbadian estates which remained part of the family inheritance until the end of the First World War when two were sold and the remaining two devised to the youngest son of the then 5th Earl of Harewood, permanently separating the family title from the Caribbean properties.

In 1922 Viscount Lascelles (1882-1947), eldest son of the 5th Earl, married Princess Mary, the only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. He became the 6th Earl of Harewood in 1947 and was a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II. The family sold their last two Barbadian plantations in 1975, bringing to an end 327 years of involvement with trade in the Caribbean.

Today the earldom is held by David Lascelles, 8th Earl of Harewood, who inherited the title from his father in 2011 and still resides at the family seat at Harewood House in Yorkshire.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The archive was deposited at the Borthwick Institute in 2005 by Harewood House Trust.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Records of Lascelles & Maxwell, London commission house, comprising business dealings with individuals, including individual debts, 1697-1817, one off account papers, 1734-1805, and general administrative company papers, 1730s-c.1817; Lascelles plantation papers, 1736-1857, comprising general estate papers for West Indies properties, including letters, reports and accounts, 1795-1824, and papers relating to Jamaica, 1790-1801, Grenada, 1788-1802, and Barbados, 1736-1857; appeals by Tobago and Barbados planters, 1788-1803.


Further accruals are not expected.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation, including data protection laws. 24 hours' notice is required to access photographic material.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copying of records is by permission only. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought from Harewood House Trust in writing.

Language of material

  • English
  • French

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

The archive can be searched online at the Lascelles Slavery Archive project website:

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Scans and transcripts of selected items are available on the Lascelles Slavery Archive project website:

Related units of description

The Lascelles family archive is held by Harewood House Trust.

Related descriptions

Publication note

S. D. Smith, 'Slavery, Family, and Gentry Capitalism in the British Atlantic: The World of the Lascelles, 1648-1834' (Cambridge, 2006)

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

GB 193

Rules and/or conventions used

ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2000); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Created 19.10.15




Accession area