Judith Philip was born to a French baker turned planter Honore Philip and his ex-slave wife Jeannette sometime in the late 1760s. Upon the death of her father around 1779 she, along with her seven siblings, Honore junior, Michel, Susannah, JB Louis, Joachim, Nicholas Regis and Magdalene inherited Honore and Jeannette’s accumulated property worth some 400,000 livres. This property included Lots in Grenada and the outlying islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique. The family was a close knit one and repeated transactions show all of the siblings interacting with one another continually throughout their lives. Judith, her brothers and sisters also had white French uncles who also lived in Grenada and who owned property. One of them, Francois was particularly prominent as a Justice of the Peace and a Protector of Slaves.
This property inheritance was divided up among the children in portions with Judith taking the main plantation – Grand Ance, Carriacou where she lived, along with several smaller parcels of land. Rapidly Judith added to this initial inheritance by buying more land from her siblings when some of them moved out of planting and others moved to Trinidad to start successful branches of the family there. Further gains were made in the late 18th century when her brother Nicholas Regis died and another family friend Louis Monque also passed away leaving his wealth to Judith and her siblings.
Sometime in the 1770s she began a relationship with Englishman Edmund Thornton (q.v.) who was then a junior attorney and plantation manager looking after estates on Carriacou. It is quite likely that at this stage it was Judith who was the wealthier of the two. While on Carriacou the couple had three children: Ann Rachel Thornton, Louis-Edmund Thornton, Magdalene Thornton.
In the 1790s with war and revolution tearing through the Caribbean the situation on Grenada had become precarious. By 1794 Edmund Thornton and Judith Philip decided to go to England. Possibly connected with this relocation was the education of their children. Judith Philip’s property, that now included not just property in Grenada and its dependencies but Trinidad as well, was placed in the hands of managers and her extended family.
This move to the UK was fortuitous. In the 1790s Judith’s younger brother Joachim, in contrast to the rest of his siblings, fell deeply into debt. In 1795, a short while after being sued by his creditors he took up with the revolutionary Julian Fedon, becoming one of his most trusted lieutenants. While it was ultimately unsuccessful, the 1795 Fedon Rebellion destroyed Grenada’s prosperity. It was to be years before it recovered to its pre 1795 levels. The British reprisals were savage and uncompromising particularly to those of mixed race who were seen as the main instigators of the conflict. Despite initially escaping, Joachim was eventually caught in 1803 and hung in the market square St Georges. Despite her brother’s involvement it is a testament to Judith Philip’s standing that she and the rest of the extended family escaped recrimination.
After purchasing a house in London at 33 Great Coram Street Judith left Carriacou and lived in London round the corner from Edmund Thornton. Judith and Edmund’s relationship became a complex one however when, in 1796, Thornton married Jane Butler the daughter of wealthy Cheshire gentry. Despite Thornton’s marriage he and Judith shared two more children together: Philip Thornton born sometime in the nineteenth century and Judith Thornton born in 1807.
In 1808 Judith left Thornton and returned to Carriacou where until her death in 1848 she remained a prominent and respected part of the Grenadian plantocracy with connections to some of the empires biggest merchant families such as the Campbells, and the Baillies. Her extensive property that included, not only the land she owned in Grenada and the house at Great Coram Street (in England) but other property in London (England) as well was divided up among her surviving children; Ann Rachel, Magdalene and Judith. Her two sons Louis Edmund (a London based merchant) and (who was training to be an attorney) died in the 1820s. Louis Edmund however had five children who also inherited from their grandmother: William Wheeler Thornton, Ellen Ann, Magdalene, Francis Catherine and Jeannette Rose Thornton. With the death in 1848 of Ann Rachel Thornton, the two surviving daughters of Judith Philip moved to London to be with their nieces and nephews. By 1855 the family had sold all the remaining property in Carriacou, Petite Martinique and Grenada and Judith Philip’s well-managed wealth was divided between them.
Following the act of 1811 abolishing the slave trade the colonies instituted registers of negroes lawfully held in slavery. A further act of 1819 established an Office for the Registry of Colonial Slaves in London, England. Then in 1834 slavery was abolished in British colonies and to ensure it effectiveness the act of 1833 provided a sum of £20 million to ‘compensate slave proprietors‘. Its distribution was entrusted to a Slave Compensation Commission which began to meet in October 1833 and was terminated at the end of 1842.
Judith made three uncontested claims to this Slave Compensation Commission. In 1834 she registered her slaves and made her claims the following November of 1835 for 64 slaves at ‘Petit Ance Estate‘ (£1,499 18s 9d, Claim No. 912), 68 at ‘Susanna Estate‘ (£1,558 8s 5d, Claim No.944), and 143 at ‘Grand Ance Estate‘ (£3,546 17s 5d, Claim No. 948). [T71/328 p. 105]
While her two surviving daughters would die as spinsters, three of Judith Philip’s grandchildren married and had issue – William Wheeler who became a prominent Anglican Minster would die in the 1890s worth well over £30,000 pounds which was inherited by his son Edmund. Ellen Ann married the Anglican Minister Thomas Boys the brother of William Wheeler’s wife and had a least three daughters. Magdalene married a prominent academic Henry Amedroz – one their two sons was killed in the Boer war while the other died a wealthy barrister in 1917 without issue. Jeannette Rose and Francis Catherine remained as spinsters. When Magdalene Thornton died in London in the 1890s she left an estate worth over £35,000.
- Lorna McDaniel ‘The Philips: A ‘Free Mulatto’ Family of Grenada’, Journal of Caribbean History 24 (2) (1990), pp. 178-94.
- Kit Candlin, The Last Caribbean Frontier 1795-1815 (Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan, 2012), ch. 1, ‘What Became of the Fedon Rebellion’, pp. 1-23.
- ‘Carriacou Plantation Slave Registers’, 1833, pp. 2-12, T-71/319, National Archives of the United Kingdom (NAUK) and ‘Grenada Compensation’, 1836, no.780, ‘Judith Philip’, NDO 4/10, NAUK.
- ‘Judicial Report of the Evidence in the Case of Jose’, 1834, pp.136-138, CO 101/78, NAUK.
- Honore Philip to the Heirs of Honore Philip, 10 Sep 1785, p.50, Deeds K3, Supreme Court Registry of Grenada (SRG).
- ‘Judith Philip to Michel Philip Release’ 26 May 1789, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Deeds: Unnumbered Box, SRG.
- ‘Catherine Philip to the Heirs of Honore Philip Deceased’, 15 Jun 1786 pp.560-562, Deeds V1, SRG.
- ‘Marie-Magdalaine Vigi Philip to Henry Hilaire de Moussacq’, 27 Jan 1807, pp. 61-66, Deeds S4, SRG.
- ‘Articles of Agreement between the heirs of Honore and Jeanette Philip (Deceased)’ 7 Sep 1778, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Deeds: Unnumbered Box, SRG.
- ‘Description of the Grenadines’, S.V. Morse, 1778, CO 101/16, NAUK.
- ‘Philip Family Indenture’, 10 Sep 1785, Deeds K3, SRG.
- ‘Articles of Agreement Between the Philip Family’, 10 Sep 1785, pp.51-61, Deeds K3, SRG.
- ‘Last Will and Testament of Judith Philip’, 25 Nov 1848, Probate, 11/2105, NAUK.
- ‘The Children of Edmund Thornton and Judith Philip to their Attorneys’, 09 Apr 1855, pp.289-292, Deeds W-C3, SRG.
- UK Articles of Clerkship 1756-1874, ‘Philip Thornton to Stacey Grimaldi witnessed by Edmund Thornton’ 15 Feb 1816.
- H. Gordon Slade, ‘Craigston and Meldrum Estates 1769-1841’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 114 (1984), pp. 481-537.
- ‘Judith Philip about to Depart for England and May be Absent For Some Time Appoints Duncan Campbell, James Baillie and Suzanna Philip as her Attorneys’, 24 Jun 1794, Deeds E2, SRG.
- ‘Judith Philip About to Depart for England Appoints Pierre Charbonne and Joseph Newton as Attorneys’, 30 May 1803, pp.492-493, SRG.
- For Thornton’s Address and his marriage to Jane Butler see ‘Edmund Thornton sale of Morne Rouge’, 9 Jul 1814, pp.448-451, Deeds Y2, SRG.
- ‘Joachim Philip with William Scott’ no.3288, Court of Common Pleas 1794-1796, SRG.
- ‘Secretary of State Portland to Houston’ pp.238-242, Governors In Letters Grenada, CO 101/34, NAUK.
- ‘Children of Judith Philip: Intention to sell’, 9 Apr 1855, Deeds W-C3, SRG.
- ‘Last Will and Testament of Ann-Rachel Thornton’, 04/04/1849, Deeds B4, SRG.
- 1631 volumes of Slave registers and records of the Slave Compensation Commission (1812-1851), CO T71, NAUK.
For details of the lives of her descendents, such as inheritance, estate value at death, marriage etc see the various items for the family at Ancestry.com. We are grateful to Kit Candlin for compiling this biographical-outline.
Aunt Marie Magdalaine Vigi Philip
Niece Jeanne Rose Philip
Nephew St Luce Philip
Tagged: Grenada Plantations