INNES, John (1767-1838), of 9 Broad Street Buildings, London

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



1818 - 1826

Family and Education

bap. 28 Dec. 1767, s. of William Innes of Auldearn, Nairn and w. Anna née Smith.1 m. Mary Anne, 2da.2 d. 24 Nov. 1838.

Offices Held

Dir. Alliance Life and Fire Assurance Co. 1824-d., London Dock Co. 1829-d.; commr. for issuing exch. bills 1829-30.

Capt. 6 Loyal London vols. 1803.


Innes, who was born in Nairnshire, was established in London by the beginning of the nineteenth century as a partner in the East India agency of Scott, Bonham, Hartwell, Innes and Company (later Fairlie, Bonham and Company) at 9 Broad Street Buildings.3 He was connected in some way with the dissolute 4th duke of Gordon, who in 1816 offered him a superiority in Inverness-shire for £416 and later made him one of his trustees.4 Indeed, Gordon was reputed to be the real father of Innes’s younger daughter Matilda, who had the given name of Maxwell, the family name of the duke’s first wife.5 Innes lent money to and was on familiar terms with Gordon’s eldest son Lord Huntly, who succeeded as 5th (and last) duke in 1827, and whose pious wife Elizabeth, the daughter of the Scottish nabob Alexander Brodie†, became a close family friend.6

At the general election of 1820 Innes was returned again for the venal borough of Grampound, which had been earmarked for disfranchisement as punishment for the corruption exposed by investigation of the 1818 election, but was temporarily reprieved by the intervention of the Lords.7 He continued to give general support to Lord Liverpool’s ministry, but was evidently a lax attender and is not known to have spoken in debate.8 He was credited with presenting the Colchester election petition, 26 July 1820.9 He voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb., and rallied to them against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. 1821. He divided against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. He voted in the minority against the imprisonment of the author of an article in John Bull for breach of privilege, 11 May 1821. He divided against more extensive tax reductions, 11, 21 Feb. 1822. He voted against the removal of Catholic peers’ disabilities, 30 Apr., and inquiry into Irish tithes, 19 June 1822. He voted against inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., but was in the minority, with his colleague Alexander Robertson, against the reciprocity of duties bill, 4 July 1823. He may have been the ‘J. Inglis’ who divided against the motion condemning the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June 1824. He voted for the Irish insurrection bill three days later. He divided for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., paired against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., and voted against it, 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He was in the minorities against the government’s emergency currency proposals, 13 Feb., and for revision of the corn laws, 18 Apr. 1826. The disfranchisement of Grampound, which became effective at the dissolution that summer, left him without a seat, and he is not known to have sought election elsewhere.

In March 1830 Innes observed stoically to Matilda (who in 1828 had married the impecunious Rev. William Scott Robinson, third son of Sir George Abercrombie Robinson†, an East India Company director) that he had ‘met with so many disappointments for some time past and ... had to struggle against such a number of unexpected difficulties’, that he was ‘unable to gratify the anxious desire to add more amply to your [financial] comforts’.10 The following year his other daughter Eliza married, rather against his wishes, Edward Grey, a younger brother of the prime minister, who was made bishop of Hereford soon afterwards. Grey was 20 years her senior, already had 13 children by two previous marriages and died in debt in 1837, leaving her with three infant children of her own.11 On 4 July 1833 the Broad Street Buildings agency, ‘one of the first standing in the East India trade’, and now styled Fairlie, Clarke, Innes and Company, stopped payment. The duchess of Gordon wrote fatuously to Matilda four days later:

How very deeply I feel with you, and as another daughter, the affliction of your dear father. I have told him if all who had felt his kindness joined in prayer for his comfort what a rich treasure he would have yet in store. I am sure there are many who will remember him at the Throne of Grace.

In the interim Innes, though doubtless consoled, had to sell ‘sundry plate’ for £70 in 1836.12 He died in November 1838. By his brief will, he directed that two farms in Berkshire and Surrey and a total of 400 shares in the Alliance Fire and Life Assurance Company and the Alliance Marine Insurance Company, which he held as trustee for ‘the late firm’ of Fairlie, Clarke and Innes, should be sold for the benefit of its current representatives. He divided his personal estate, which was nominally sworn under £1,500 but realized only £165, between his two daughters. His Scottish friends drew up plans for the erection of a school at Auldearn ‘to perpetuate the memory of a man of worth’.13 One of the mysteries surrounding him is his relationship with Sarah Holder, ‘otherwise Innes’, who died at Bath in 1865, aged 85. On the burial certificate (14 Jan.) she was described as a widow, but the probate record of her will, which was executed by the Rev. William Scott Robinson, referred to her as a spinster. She divided the meagre residue of her estate between Matilda Robinson and Eliza Grey. Her unmarried daughter Sarah was probably Innes’s child.14

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. IGI (Nairn).
  • 2. Ibid. (London).
  • 3. Scott Corresp. ed. C.H. Philips (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, lxxvi.), 418, 443.
  • 4. BL OIOC, Robinson Coll. MSS. Eur. F. 142/38, Anderson to Innes, 6, 20 Apr. 1816; LJ, lxv. 49.
  • 5. Intro. to NRA report (27534) on Robinson Coll.
  • 6. MSS. Eur. F.142/38, Huntly to Innes, 19 Aug. 1826, 13 Nov. 1829; 44, Innes to Matilda Robinson [3 Aug. 1830]; 45 passim.
  • 7. West Briton, 3, 10 Mar. 1820.
  • 8. Black Bk (1823), 167; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 470.
  • 9. The Times, 27 July 1820.
  • 10. MSS. Eur. F.142/44, Innes to Matilda Robinson, 11 Mar. 1830.
  • 11. Ibid. F.142/45, duchess of Gordon to Matilda Robinson, 24 Nov. 1831; Gent. Mag. (1837), ii. 311; Grey mss, Innes to Grey, 10, 15 Apr., reply, 11 Apr. 1838.
  • 12. The Times, 5 July 1833; MSS. Eur. F.142/38, 45.
  • 13. PROB 11/1904/763; IR26/1488/721; MSS. Eur. F.142/40.
  • 14. MSS. Eur. F.142/51 passim.