PRESTON, Robert (1740-1834), of Valleyfield, Perth and Woodford, Essex
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 21 Apr. 1740, 5th s. of Sir George Preston 4th Bt., and bro. of Sir Charles Preston, 5th Bt. m. 27 Apr. 1790, Elizabeth, da. of George Brown of Stockton, s.p. suc. bro. as 6th Bt. 23 Mar. 1800.
Elder brother of Trinity House 1781- d.; director of Greenwich Hospital 1789- d.
Preston entered the East India Company’s sea service; returned with a great fortune in 1777; rescued his family from financial difficulties; and set up in business in London as an insurance broker in association with his friend Charles Foulis. He soon became prominent as an East India Company proprietor and shipowner. Described by General Paoli as ‘Floating Bob, who thinks the landed interest not worth a pinch of snuff’, Preston consorted mainly with city merchants and India captains, many of whom were strongly anti-ministerial. Boswell records in April 1781 a visit at Woodford to Charles Foulis, who ‘rallied’ Preston ‘as joining a little with Lord Sandwich as an elder brother of Trinity House’:
Here’s this elder brother ... a pretty fellow indeed who drinks the health of Palliser, damn him. However, Bob is right. Let him go on with them a little till he is well established and then let him tell them a piece of his mind.1
Preston was strongly opposed to Fox’s East India bill, and at the 1784 election he was returned for Dover as a ministerial candidate. As a Government supporter his division record was identical with his brother’s. Nevertheless Preston, as chairman of the ‘Old’ shipping interest management committee, had reason to be dissatisfied with Pitt’s India Declaratory Act and Dundas’s conduct at the Board of Control.2 Before 1790 there is no report of his having spoken in the House.
He died 7 May 1834.