BOYD, Walter (1753-1837), of Plaistow Lodge, nr. Bromley, Kent

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1796 - 1802
3 Apr. 1823 - 1830

Family and Education

b. 18 Nov. 1753, in Scotland. educ. Amsterdam and Switzerland. m. c. 1785, Harriet Anne, da. of Thomas Goddard of 30 Sackville Street, Mdx., 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 4da.1 d. 16 Sept. 1837.

Offices Held

Vol. London and Westminster light horse 1794-5.


Boyd, whose origins remain a mystery, had an eventful career as a banker and financier before 1820.2 After his Paris bank of Boyd, Ker et Cie fell victim to the Revolution he fled to London, where in 1793 he resumed business as a partner in Boyd, Benfield and Company. He became a substantial government contractor and an ‘intimate and warm friend’ of Pitt, whose government he supported on entering Parliament.3 His firm failed in 1799, however, and next year he was declared personally bankrupt. In order to pay his creditors, he returned to France in 1802 to attempt to recover his confiscated property, but on the resumption of hostilities the following year he was detained as a hostage for twelve years. On his release he continued to pursue his lost assets, filing 35 separate cases with the commissioners for French claims before October 1817. By 1821 he had recovered sufficient funds to discharge his debts, and his Paris business was at last dissolved, 31 Aug. 1822. His creditors allowed him about ten per cent of the amount received, which brought him some £50,000, and he purchased Plaistow Lodge for £17,000 later that year and invested the rest in government stock.4 The upturn in his fortunes continued. In 1823 the privy council ruled in his favour on a number of claims refused by the commissioners and awarded him a further £39,000. According to Lord Colchester, his claim on the duchy of Valois was ratified by a split decision, in which the council deferred to the ‘decided opinion’ of Lord Stowell. The length to which Boyd went to satisfy his creditors was widely applauded, Lady Stafford later recalling how he had ‘behaved so honourably in the vicissitudes of his fortune’.5 Another admirer was Sir Walter Scott, who had subscribed to a fund to assist him in his hour of need. On meeting Boyd for the first time in 1828, he appended a physical description to a somewhat embroidered account of his career:

He is good looking, but old and infirm. Bright dark eyes and eyebrows contrast with his snowy hair, and all his features mark vigour of principle and resolution.6

Boyd was returned unopposed for Lymington on a vacancy in 1823 by its patron Sir Harry Neale*, but made no impression on the records of the House that year. A silent and very lax attender, whose opinions were ‘not known’ but were ‘said to be independent’ by a radical commentary of 1825, he voted with the Liverpool ministry against reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 26 Feb. 1824, paired for Catholic relief, 10 May 1825, and divided against condemnation of the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar. 1826.7 No other activity has been found for this Parliament. At that year’s general election he was again returned unopposed for Lymington. He voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828 (as a pair). He was in the Wellington administration’s majority against inquiry into chancery delays, 24 Apr. 1828. That year he published Observations on Lord Grenville’s Essay on the Sinking Fund, in which he denounced Grenville’s ‘singular and inexplicable’ repudiation of one of the central planks of the financial policy of Pitt, ‘the greatest and most disinterested minister that this country ever had’, as political heresy and an indication of his tenuous grasp of national finance. More pragmatically, he contended that abandoning the sinking fund would constitute a breach of faith with the public creditor, but his hopes that Wellington would not adopt such a policy were dashed the following year. That year he also republished his 1814 Reflections on the Financial System of Great Britain, written during his confinement in Paris. No trace of parliamentary activity has been found for 1829, though Planta, the patronage secretary, predicted that he would side ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation. He was granted a month’s leave on account of ill health, 5 Mar. 1830. At that year’s dissolution he retired.

Through the ‘numerous improvements’ initiated by Boyd, Plaistow Lodge became ‘one of the most elegant seats in the country’, where he could entertain freely.8 According to a local account, ‘fifty persons slept under its roof every night ... and it was no uncommon thing to hear three or four fiddles going on in the servant hall of an evening’.9 He died there in September 1837, having outlived his wife by four years.10 By his will, dated 21 Feb. 1833, he left each of his four daughters £5,000, together with equal portions of £14,000 to add to the £16,000 already settled on them. Plaistow and investments worth £187,500 passed to his surviving son Robert Boyd (1796-1863), with an explanation that

making a larger provision for my son than for my daughters is not from any greater affection or preference for him ... but because he and his male descendants are the representatives of my house and name, which in former times have been in great renown in Scotland.

Unspecified Scottish property was to descend according to local custom, while the residue of his estate, which appears to have been around £50,000, was divided equally between his children.11

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Howard Spencer / Philip Salmon


See S.R. Cope, Walter Boyd (1983).

  • 1. R. Holworthy, M. I. in Bromley Church, 16.
  • 2. Oxford DNB.
  • 3. Gent. Mag. (1837), ii. 548.
  • 4. Cope, 170-1; E.L.S. Horsburgh, Bromley, 182.
  • 5. Cope, 172; Colchester Diary, iii. 314; Add. 38758, f. 245.
  • 6. J. Lockhart, Life of Scott, vii. 127.
  • 7. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 452; Appendix to Black Bk. (1826), 4.
  • 8. E. Strong, Hist. Bromley, 118.
  • 9. Horsburgh, 182-3.
  • 10. Gent. Mag. (1837), ii. 548; Holworthy, 16.
  • 11. PROB 11/1884/698; IR26/1442/909.