CRABB BOULTON, Henry (c.1709-73), of Crosby Sq., Bishopsgate, and Thorncroft, nr. Leatherhead, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1754 - 8 Oct. 1773

Family and Education

b. c.1709, s. of Hester Crabb, described in 1741 as ‘of Tower Hill’, wid., in will of her cos. Richard Boulton, director of E.I. Co. 1718-36; he, dying in 1746, left all his ‘manors, messuages, lands etc.’ to Henry Crabb who thereupon took add. name of Boulton.  unm.

Offices Held

Entered office of E.I. Co. 1727; clerk in the Company’s pay office 1729; assistant to the paymaster 1730; jt. paymaster 1731; paymaster and clerk to the committee of shipping Aug. 1737-Apr. 1752.

Director E.I. Co. 1753-6, 1758-61, 1763-5, 1767-70, 1772- d.; dep. chairman 1764-5; chairman 1765-6, 1768-9, 1773- d.


Richard Boulton, Henry’s patron, after some 20 years in the East India Company’s marine service and 18 in its direction, retired a wealthy man to Worcestershire whence the family apparently derived. Henry’s brother Richard Crabb similarly served some 20 years in the East India Company’s marine, and on retiring from it in 1750 became one of the most prominent managing owners or ship’s husbands of Indiamen, who at this time dominated the monopoly East India shipping interest.1 Henry Crabb Boulton, after his resignation from the Company’s employment, concerned himself in his brother’s shipping interests, and in 1753 became a director of the East India Company, primarily no doubt to further these interests. From 1755 on he is listed in the London directories as a merchant of Crosby Square, Bishopsgate.

At the general election of 1754 Boulton, possibly influenced by his family’s Worcestershire interests, became a candidate for Worcester, and after an expensive campaign was returned unopposed. In Dupplin’s list of 1754 he was classed as ‘doubtful’; but on 24 Dec. 1755 Sandwich informed Newcastle that Boulton had ‘attended and voted in every question in support of the measures of Government’.2 In 1761 Boulton was re-elected at Worcester after a contest. Bute’s list of December 1761 classes him as a supporter of Newcastle, and he voted with the Opposition on the peace preliminaries, 9 and 10 Dec. 1762; and on Wilkes, 15 Nov. 1763, and general warrants, 15 and 18 Feb. 1764.

Originally a follower of Laurence Sulivan in East India Company politics, Boulton later attached himself to Clive, and went over to Administration with him; Jenkinson reported to Grenville on 20 Apr. 1764 that Clive had said Boulton might be depended on, though ‘a great rogue’.3 Harris notes that during the debate of 1 Mar. 1765 on the bill to regulate splitting East India Company votes, Boulton was ‘at the head of the government party’.4 In Rockingham’s list of July 1765 Boulton was classed as ‘pro’, and in that of November 1766 as ‘Whig’. When, on 9 Dec. 1766 Beckford moved for an inquiry into East India Company affairs, Boulton voted for the motion, and though he ‘said much against it, owned that the Company could not govern their servants, nor could Clive go on without the interposition of Government’.5 No other votes by him are reported in this Parliament, but he spoke several times on East India affairs, and on 1 May 1767 when Beckford was again to move for an inquiry, Boulton, on behalf of the Company, informed the House that there ‘was now a prospect of accommodation with the ministry’. In Townshend’s list of January 1767 he was classed as ‘doubtful’, and in Newcastle’s of 2 Mar. as ‘doubtful or absent’. In 1768 Boulton was returned unopposed for Worcester.

He continued to play a considerable, though not a leading, part in the affairs of the East India Company in association with Lord Clive, George Wombwell, and Sir George Colebrooke, with the last of whom he engaged in speculative dealings in East India stock in 1771, which received adverse comment in the report of the committee of secrecy 1773.6 Despite his tendency to oppose Administration in the House, he was often in sympathy with their supporters in the Company, and after the debacle of 17727 he was with Government support elected chairman of the Company, as the most experienced director left to control its affairs. Generally following Clive’s line, he may by then have drifted to the Government side also in Parliament, but the only vote recorded by him is with the Opposition on the motion concerning the Middlesex election, 26 Apr. 1773.

He died 8 Oct. 1773.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Mary M. Drummond


  • 1. For Richard Crabb’s career see E. I. Co. ships’ ledger receipt books 329E and 659E, ships’ logs and ledgers 613 A-D, F-I, court minutes 10 and 17 Nov. 1738 and 14 Mar. 1739/40; and L. S. Sutherland, London Merchant.
  • 2. Add. 32861, f. 427.
  • 3. Grenville Pprs. ii. 46, misdated 1763.
  • 4. ‘Debates’.
  • 5. Walpole, Mems. Geo. III, ii. 289.
  • 6. See COLEBROOKE, Sir George.
  • 7. SULIVAN, Laurence, and PURLING, John.