Colonel John Bolton

WAG 3059


This artwork has been identified as having links to a person connected with transatlantic slavery. This research is part of the Walker Art Gallery’s ongoing work to be more transparent about the collection’s relationship to Britain's colonial past. Colonel John Bolton (1756 - 1837) was a Liverpool merchant in the Caribbean and South America. He was responsible for the enslavement of many African people. Originally apprenticed in Liverpool to the West India firm Rawlinson and Chorley, he later traded independently in sugar, coffee, rum, cotton and molasses, mainly from St Vincent and Guiana (now Guyana). He part-owned large plantations with his business partners John and Nathaniel Basnett Cropper (dates unknown). During the last decade of the British slave trade (1798 - 1807) Bolton financed 73 transatlantic voyages, transporting an estimated 20,000 enslaved African people to the Americas, principally Demerara, Surinam and Guiana. He was also president of the West India Association. After the Abolition of the Slave Trade in the British Empire (1807), Bolton continued to trade independently and with his wife’s brother Anthony Littledale (dates unknown). During the Napoleonic Wars, Bolton gave £500 to support the national voluntary subscription scheme to defend the country. In 1803 he raised and financed the first battalion of Liverpool volunteers, and acted as Lieutenant Colonel until 1806. He was a supporter of the Liberal Tories George Canning (1770 - 1827) and William Huskisson (1770 - 1830) and their headquarters were based at Bolton’s residence in Duke Street, Liverpool. After the Slavery Abolition Act (1833) he claimed compensation of over £35,000 for 783 enslaved African people and his estate was worth £180,000. On his death in 1837 he was one of the wealthiest merchants in Liverpool. The artist Joseph Allen (1770 - 1839) was born in Birmingham but built up an extensive practice in Northern cities. He was a founder member of the Liverpool Academy.