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Henry Nantes

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Henry Nantes

A study of the life of an eighteenth-century merchant and bankrupt                 Site still  under Construction*

William Henry Nantes (born Wilhelm Heinrich Nantes) is believed to have been born in Bremen, Germany in 1764, where his family were merchants engaged in overseas trade. From Bremen he and his uncle Daniel Nantes moved to London. It was very usual in the eighteenth century for German merchant houses to set up branches in London as London had become the centre of world trade.  By the late eighteenth century Henry Nantes and his uncle Daniel were clearly recognisable as part of a community of German merchants trading from London.

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In 1793 Nantes married Marianne, the daughter of Henry Voguell, the head of another London-based German merchant family.  Based on a variety of evidence Henry would appear to have prospered. He became the managing partner in the merchant house of Muilman & Co. (also sometimes known as Muilman and Nantes) based at Warnford Court, Throgmorton Street, in the City of London.  Nantes purchased Sherwood House, a comfortable villa in Battersea that would later become home to Maria Fitzherbert, the Prince of Wales's (later George IV) mistress.  Muilman and Nantes's trading activities extended to many parts of the world including North America, the West Indies, Guyana, Haiti, and the Far East.  These commercial operations included plantation ownership and transportation of enslaved people.


Henry Nantes achieved notoriety in 1797 when, after unsuccessful speculation, his merchant house failed with debts of nearly half a million pounds. He had been in partnership with Richard Muilman, who was from a prominent Dutch merchant family, and who later adopted the name Trench Chiswell, becoming Richard Muilman Trench Chiswell.  Chiswell was elected Member of Parliament for Aldborough 1790 - 1797.  In 1797 serious financial problems, failed speculations and impending bankruptcy caused Muilman/Chiswell to shoot himself.  Meanwhile, a 'bankruptcy commission was issued against Henry Nantes as the surviving partner.  Subsequently Nantes decamped to the Isle of Man, where he lived for more than a decade.  This may have been for the purposes of avoiding his creditors.  By 1814 he had moved to Kenwith Lodge near Bideford in Devon, some sources list him again as a merchant. Much about his post-bankruptcy life remains unclear.  

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Henry Nantes, possibly before his bankruptcy.



German economic historian Margrit Schulte Beerb├╝hl has written extensively on Henry Nantes's business activities and also about his bankruptcy in a number of publications, in particular in The Forgotten Majority: German Merchants in London, Naturalisation, and Global Trade 1660-1815 (London, 2015).  The book can be purchased from online retailers.

  

This website has been created to support research into the life and activities of the London merchant of German origin, Henry Nantes (Bremen, 1764 - Devon, 1836).  This research is being conducted as part of wider research into the experiences of eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century English bankrupts.

* This is not a complete and comprehensive account of the life and trading activities of Henry Nantes.  The study is still 'work in progress' and is not yet ready for publication.


So far information and material on Henry Nantes has come from a wide variety of sources and individuals. If you are able to help with any information on Henry Nantes, it will be greatly appreciated.


 


Another English Bankrupt:


John Slade of Sherborne, Maltster and Bankrupt is the story of a provincial English bankrupt.  It was very much a small town affair and not a fraction of the scale and complexity of the bankruptcies of bankers and some London merchants.  It does, however, give considerable insight into what it was like to become a bankrupt in the early nineteenth century.  The second edition (2017) includes new information and a number of revisions.    Copies can be obtained directly from Sherborne Musuem, Dorset.

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This website has been created by Robert Nantes.  He is currently

researching eighteenth-century English bankrupts at the University of Exeter.  Henry Nantes is one of several dozen case studies of English bankrupts.


Robert graduated with a BA in Film and Television production from the radical and experimental film school that once existed at the London College of Printing (now part of London College of Communication UAL).  He also holds an MA in Education from UCL Institute of Education, and an MA in History from the University of Exeter.

 

Henry Nantes, possibly some years after his bankruptcy.

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