LINDSAY, James, Lord Lindsay (1783-1869), of Muncaster Castle, Cumb.; Haigh Hall, nr. Wigan, Lancs. and 21 Berkeley Square, Mdx.

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



1820 - 27 Mar. 1825

Family and Education

b. 23 Apr. 1783, 1st s. of Alexander, 6th earl of Balcarres [S], and his cos. Elizabeth, da. and h. of Charles Dalrymple of North Berwick, Haddington. m. 21 Nov. 1811, Hon. Maria Frances Margaret Pennington, da. and h. of John Pennington†, 1st Bar. Muncaster [I], 4s. 1da. d.v.p. suc. fa. as 7th earl of Balcarres [S] and de jure 24th earl of Crawford [S] 27 Mar. 1825; cr. Bar. Wigan [UK] 5 July 1826. d. 15 Dec. 1869.

Offices Held

Lt. 83 Ft. 1795; capt. army 1796; capt. 20 Drag. 1797, maj. 1803, ret. 1804; a.d.c. to ld. lt. [I] 1801-4.

Maj. Wigan loyal vols. 1806.


The Lindsays were an old Fifeshire family with an estate at Balcarres and a tradition of support for the Stuarts. The 5th earl of Balcarres (1691-1768) fought with the Pretender at Sheriffmuir in 1715, but was pardoned on account of his youth and obtained a commission in the British army. He distinguished himself at Dettingen in 1743 but, having been refused promotion by George II, retired in 1745 and devoted the rest of his life to agricultural improvement and literature. He did not marry until he was 57 and died when the youngest of his 11 children, who included eight sons, was only two. He was resigned to the fact that his eldest son Alexander, who became 6th earl of Balcarres at the age of 16, after joining the army, would have to part with the Fifeshire estate, as he told his eldest child Lady Anne (the composer, as Lady Anne Barnard, of the ballad ‘Auld Robin Gray’):

Your brother will not find it possible to keep Balcarres unless he marries a woman of large fortune, and I should be sorry if my boy were to sell himself for this purpose. I do not reckon it the family estate of our ancestors; that passed away from us long ago ... Balcarres has not been 200 years in our family, and never was an estate of value; I shall leave it loaded with debt for the portions of my younger children, though they are but small, and my son must be obliged to sell it.

He had advised his heir in 1765:

As your nine brothers and sisters must be provided, and as you will have two jointures to pay, your condition will be but mean at first, and will require good management ... But if you can learn to be temperate and frugal, you may be easy and happy in body and mind. When your circumstances become better, never save your money when justice, charity, or honour, require you to part with it.1

On succeeding to the peerage Balcarres, who later claimed that his patrimony yielded him an income of only £150 a year, spent two years at the University of Gottingen before resuming his military career. He served under Burgoyne in North America, was wounded at Ticonderoga and was in American hands until 1779. The following year he married his cousin Elizabeth Dalrymple, the heiress of the former Bradshaigh estate at Haigh, near Wigan, which, though neglected and dilapidated, and, thanks to the feudal basis on which its farms were rented, yielded virtually no annual income, held potentially lucrative deposits of top grade cannel and coal.2 In 1784 and 1790 Balcarres, a pro-Catholic Tory, was elected a Scottish representative peer; and in 1789 he obtained the colonelcy of the 63rd Foot, which he held until his death.3 At about this time he gave up his struggle to retain the Balcarres estate and sold it to his younger brother Robert, who had prospered in the Bengal civil service, in order to pay debts and, with the modest surplus, to finance his operations at Haigh. He also borrowed £4,000 from the 3rd earl of Hardwicke, who had married his sister Elizabeth in 1782.4 On the outbreak of war in 1793 he was appointed to the command in Jersey, where he carried on communications with the army of La Vendee. His appointment as lieutenant-governor of Jamaica in 1795 came to his financial rescue, enabling him to liquidate his debt to Hardwicke and invest more heavily at Haigh. During his six years in Jamaica he suppressed, not without controversy at home, a serious rebellion by the Maroons.5 Lady Nugent, the wife of his successor, was nauseated by his filthy habits at table:

I wish ... [he] would wash his hands, and use a nail-brush, for the black edges of his nails really make me sick. He has, besides, an extraordinary propensity to dip his fingers into every dish.

Tales of the ‘profligate and disgusting scene’ which marked his ‘domestic conduct’ convinced her that he was ‘more than half mad’.6 Returning home ‘ready for anything and anywhere’ and with a pension of £300 a year, he was chosen again as a representative peer in 1802 and at the five subsequent general elections. He settled at Haigh and applied himself to the exploitation of its coal, buying hundreds of small plots of land to monopolise mining in the vicinity. He established an ‘aggrandising fund’ to accumulate capital and interest for his descendants. Twenty years later he was making £5,000 a year from the mines and their associated ironworks, which manufactured pit and cotton factory machinery, steam pumps and, later, locomotives, and paying £20,000 in wages; he boasted in 1822 of having restored his family to ‘a handsome competence’.7

He secured the nominal entry of his eldest son Lord Lindsay to the army at the age of 11, and in 1797 obtained for him a company in the 20th Dragoons, who were then stationed in Jamaica; it is not clear whether Lindsay went out there.8 In 1801 he was made an extraordinary aide-de-camp to his uncle, Hardwicke, as viceroy of Ireland; and in December 1803 he purchased a majority in the 20th. Soon afterwards the question arose of whether he should join the regiment, which was now at home, or give up the majority in order to raise a hundred men for the rank of lieutenant-colonel. His father strongly favoured the former course, pointing out that apart from the expense of the latter, it would bind him to the army for life, whereas at present he was

possessed of a majority in an old regiment of dragoons with a prospect of being eldest major in a short period of time. What a situation for a young man ... a pleasant service, a delightful and interesting command, a handsome income arising from it, not liable to be sent to noxious climates, on the spot to follow out any object in life to which either your interest or turn of mind may direct you, a situation peculiarly valuable to you, as ... you have not that fixed and robust constitution to be dashed about the world as I have been.

He had in any case, as an ‘effective field officer’, to relinquish his duties as aide-de-camp. Balcarres, feeling that the attempt to raise men would be ‘extremely difficult and hazardous’, presented him with the choice between joining the 20th and taking a lieutenant-colonelcy in one of the six new regiments. He opted for the former, left Ireland in March 1804 and eventually located his regiment in Dorset. He retired altogether from the army at the end of the year.9

In 1811 he married the only child of the 1st Baron Muncaster, who was apparently not without misgivings over the extent to which the Lindsays’ wealth was dependent on ‘commercial speculation’. A year later Lindsay became embroiled in a squabble with his uncle Robert, who evidently thought he could have made more effort to persuade Muncaster to give Balcarres some financial assistance, and was accused in turn of having ‘by some unwarrantable transaction debarred you from the right of succession to the family estate’.10 On her father’s death in 1813 Lady Lindsay inherited a life interest in the rents of his Cumberland estates and was confirmed in the 21-year lease on Muncaster Castle granted on her marriage, though it may have been technically invalid; and in March 1820 they were legally obliged to ‘leave Muncaster’.11 Lindsay took a close interest in the Haigh coal mining enterprise, and in 1821 clashed with his father over its financial management, in which he seems to have wanted a greater say. His apparent threat to withhold supplies of coal from Haigh to the iron works was countered with a warning that ‘a clause has always stood in my will that if you refused to furnish such supply ... my destination of the personal capital goes from you immediately’. Balcarres argued that to draw more than the £3,000 a year which he took from the pits ‘would very shortly kill the hen that lays the precious egg’.12 Their differences seem to have been resolved.

Lindsay had staked his future claim to a seat for Wigan on the former Bradshaigh interest in 1806, and Balcarrres subsequently cultivated good relations with the sitting Members, Robert Holt Leigh, a local squire, and John Hodson, a cotton manufacturer.13 Both retired at the dissolution in 1820, when Lindsay stood with Hodson’s nephew. They were returned after a contest forced by an attempt to revive the Bradford interest.14 A very poor attender, who is not known to have spoken in debate, Lindsay supported the Liverpool ministry when present.15 He voted in defence of their conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. Soon afterwards he sought treasury patronage for some constituents, ‘myself and family being firm supporters of ... government’.16 He was absent from the division on Catholic relief, 28 Feb., but divided against Canning’s bill to relieve Catholic peers of their disabilities, 30 Apr. 1822. He was given six weeks’ leave to attend to urgent private business, 7 May 1821. The following year he went to live at Haigh Hall, and his father advised him:

Your residence there will be the best guarantee for the success of our objects ... The strong claim which you have to two seats in Parliament will afford to your pretensions a more respectable position in the empire than any other which you can otherwise acquire, provided, however, that you are successful in maintaining your interest and weight in the corporation of Wigan. This is of high importance because your elective seat in the House of Lords would be much endangered if you were to lose the hold which we will have of this borough. Your residence here will be delightful to yourself and the pleasing reflection that we have extricated ourselves from the mire of corroding poverty and acquired independence in fortune, without which all is dark and dismal.17

Lindsay voted against abolition of one of the joint post-masterships, 13 Mar. 1822, repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. 1823. Later that session he contemplated making way at the prorogation or the next dissolution for his uncle Robert or his youngest uncle, Hugh Lindsay, Member for Perth Burghs.18 No trace of parliamentary activity has been found for 1824. He was given a month’s leave for private business, 17 Feb., but attended to vote for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 28 Feb., and against Catholic claims, 1 Mar. 1825. He presented a Wigan petition for repeal of the assessed taxes, 3 Mar. 1825.19

Balcarres’s death later that month removed Lindsay from the Commons. In July 1826 he obtained the British peerage, as Baron Wigan, for which his father had unsuccessfully applied eight years earlier.20 As a peer he took little active part in national politics, but he remained attached to the Conservative party of Wellington and Peel. The reform crisis of 1831 overturned his electoral interest at Wigan, but it was restored by the return of his son in 1845.21 He devoted most of his energies to the expansion, consolidation and modernisation of the Haigh coal and iron businesses, on which he laid his personal stamp as a practically minded and enterprising owner. In 1865, when his collieries produced over 1,000,000 tons of coal a year, he merged his interests with those of other local proprietors in the Wigan Coal and Iron Company.22 He rebuilt Haigh Hall and acquired a Scottish estate at Dunecht, 12 miles west of Aberdeen. On the death in 1808 of the 22nd earl of Crawford the senior branch of the Lindsays had become extinct in the male line. Lindsay’s father had then become de jure 23rd earl of Crawford, but had never assumed that title. Lindsay’s claim to it was admitted by the Lords in 1848, but his subsequent attempt to establish his right to the dukedom of Montrose was unsuccessful.

He died at Dunecht in December 1869. By his will, dated 8 Mar. 1849, and proved under £70,000, 14 Mar. 1870,23 he left his wife £5,000 and an annuity of £1,700. He bequeathed £25,000 to his second son James Lindsay (1815-74), a soldier and Conservative Member for Wigan, 1845-57, 1859-65. He devised legacies totalling £28,000 and £31,000 respectively to his third and fourth sons, Charles Hugh (1816-89), Conservative Member for Abingdon, 1865-74, and Colin (1819-92), who became a Catholic in 1868. He was succeeded in the earldom and settled estates by his eldest son Alexander William Crawford Lindsay (1812-80), a bibliophile, genealogist and family historian, who in 1846 married his second cousin Margaret Lindsay. Their son, the 26th earl of Crawford (1847-1913), bought back the Balcarres estate for £150,000 in 1886.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Stephen Bairstow / David R. Fisher


  • 1. Oxford DNB; Lord Lindsay, Lives of the Lindsays (1858), ii. 342-3, 364-5.
  • 2. D. Anderson and A.A. France, Wigan Coal and Iron, 9, 52.
  • 3. Lindsay, ii. 343-53; Geo. III Corresp. i. 78.
  • 4. Lindsay, ii. 364; Add. 35645, f. 213.
  • 5. Lindsay, ii. 357-9; Anderson and France, 52; Colchester Diary, i. 46; Farington Diary, ii. 619-30.
  • 6. Lady Nugent’s Jnl. ed. F. Cundall (1939), 18, 19, 22, 53-54.
  • 7. Add. 33109, f. 266; 35730, f. 97; Lindsay, ii. 360-1; Crawford Pprs. ed. J. Vincent, 4-5; Anderson and France, 54-60, 200-1.
  • 8. Add. 35916, f. 207.
  • 9. Add. 35746, ff. 163, 165; 35747, f. 273.
  • 10. Add. 35649, ff. 246, 332; NLS, Crawford mss 25/1/608, 610, 611.
  • 11. PROB 11/1551/28; Crawford mss 25/1/644; Northumb. RO, Middleton mss ZMI/576/35/1.
  • 12. Crawford mss 25/1/182, 185, 186, 190, 191.
  • 13. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 239.
  • 14. Liverpool Mercury, 18 Feb., 3, 10 Mar. 1820.
  • 15. Black Bk. (1823), 170.
  • 16. Crawford mss 25/13/219.
  • 17. Anderson and France, 53.
  • 18. Crawford mss 25/1/415, 416, 418.
  • 19. The Times, 4 Mar. 1825.
  • 20. Add. 38271, ff. 358, 414; 38371, ff. 162, 165.
  • 21. Add. 40392, f. 210; 40575, f. 427; Wellington mss WP1/1010/12; 1100/19; 1102/7; 1149/12; Wellington Pol. Corresp. i. 444.
  • 22. Crawford Pprs. 5; Anderson and France, 60-69.
  • 23. Not under £7,000, as stated in CP, iii. 524.