Continuing with my series about the children of William and Alice Boulton, in this post I’m exploring the life of their son Captain Richard Boulton, sea captain, merchant, ship owner and director of the East India Company.

We know very little about the early life of Richard Boulton, besides the fact that he was born some time in the late 1660s, almost certainly in his parents’ home in the parish of All Hallows, Barking, in the City of London. Searching for information about Richard’s life in the contemporary records is made difficult by the fact that he shared a name, rank and profession with his nephew, Captain Richard Boulton the younger (whose life I’ll explore in a later post), and that even quite reputable historical accounts tend to confuse the two men. To complicate matters further, later in the eighteenth century there would be a third East India Company captain with a similar name: Richard’s great-nephew Richard Crabb Boulton.


Section of Rocque’s London map of 1746, showing Crutched Friars, Captain Richard Boulton’s address for much of his adult life

Richard Boulton’s personal life is something of a mystery. His will, drawn up shortly before his death in 1737, makes no reference to a wife or to any direct descendants, bequeathing all his money and property to his siblings and their offspring, and to a charitable foundation. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, one is drawn to the conclusion that he never married.

From what we know of his later career, it seems likely that Richard Boulton went to sea at an early age, in the service of the East India Company. By 1701 at the latest, when he would have been around thirty years old, Richard had achieved the rank of captain. The first definite records we have for him date from 1701 and 1703, when he captained the Loyal Cook, an East India Company ship, en route to Amoy in China. There’s a record of the despatch of the Loyal Cook, under Richard Boulton, from Fort St George in Madras, India, in October 1702, arriving in England in May 1703: a long journey of eight months, presumably around the Cape of Good Hope. This may have been the voyage on which Captain Boulton was entrusted with the safe delivery from India to England of a priceless diamond.

Richard Boulton may also have been the unnamed captain of the Loyal Cook who, in 1699, was responsible for capturing the pirate captain Samuel Burgess and his ship and crew at the Cape of Good Hope, and for delivering them to justice in Madras, ‘in fair revenge for much that his company had suffered’ at their hands.

Fort St George on the Coromandel Coast. Belonging to the East India Company of England

Fort St George, Madras: owned by the East India Company

It’s unclear exactly when Richard Boulton retired from active service with the East India Company, but it was certainly before 1718, when he became a director of the Company, a post he would hold until his death. Three years earlier, tax records find him living in the sixth precinct of Aldgate Ward, where he would continue to live until his death in 1737. The name of his street isn’t given, but on the next page are the records for Blanch Appleton Court and Mark Lane, which were both close to Crutched Friars (not far from the Navy Office), where Richard would be living when he made his will.

In addition to his senior position with the East India Company, Richard Boulton also embarked on a second career as a merchant and shipbuilder. In June 1724 he and a group of business partners formed a syndicate and purchased a 20½ acre plot of land at Blackwall Yard, to the east of the city, for £2,800 from the Earl and Countess of Strafford . The purchase was made on their behalf by a certain Captain John Kirby, who was already resident in the area. According to one source:

Kirby’s purchase of the yard was made on behalf of a four-man syndicate, of which he was one, all of whom were retired sea captains who had worked for the East India Company and were members of London’s shipping community. On the same day as the sale, therefore, Kirby assigned three quarter-shares in the yard to his three partners, Jonathan Collett, Richard Boulton and Edward Pierson. Collett, an active ship’s husband, was described as a gentleman of Trinity Minories, and Pierson as a gentleman of Stratford Langthorne in Essex. In 1720 Pierson had been the instigator of an abortive scheme to establish a company trading to India from the Continent. The fourth partner, Boulton, was a London merchant and an important figure in the East India Company, of which he was a director from 1718 to 1736 and on the Committee for Shipping from 1723 until 1726. He was also a member of the Honourable Company of Shipwrights.

The same source informs us that Jonathan Collett was a business partner of Richard Gosfright, who was of course the son-in-law of Richard Boulton’s brother Major Peter Boulton.


Blackwall Yard from the Thames

Richard Boulton made his will in April 1737. He describes himself as a member of the East India Company and his bequests include stock in Blackwall Yard and money for a hospital at Poplar. As executors Boulton appointed two of his nephews, as well as ‘Captain Richard Gosfreight’. The will is a useful resource for understanding the complicated connections between members of the Boulton family, many of whom are its beneficiaries. Some of their stories will be told in future posts.

An announcement in a publication entitled The Political State of Great Britain recorded the death on 26th October 1737 ‘at his house in Crutched Friers [sic]’ of ‘Captain Richard Boulton, late a Director of the East-India Company’.