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Henry Nantes

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The Henry Nantes Project

An exploration of the life 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 the English capital 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 Henry 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 ran a merchant house from Warnford Court, Throgmorton Street, in the City of London.  He also owned Sherwood House, a comfortable villa in Battersea that would later become home to Maria Fitzherbert, George IV's mistress.  Henry's trading activities connected him to many parts of the world including North America, the West Indies, Guyana, Haiti, and the Far East.


Henry Nantes hit the headlines in 1797 when, after unsuccessful speculation, his merchant house failed and he became a bankrupt with debts of nearly half a million pounds, no small sum for that time. Henry had been in partnership with Richard Muilman, who was from a prominent Dutch merchant family. Muilman later adopted the name Trench Chiswell, and was elected Member of Parliament. In 1797 the serious financial problems caused Muilman to shoot himself.  A 'Commission of Bankrupt' was issued against Henry Nantes, and he subsequently appears to have decamped to the Isle of Man, where he lived for several years.  This may have been for the purposes of avoiding his creditors.  By 1814 he had moved to Kenwith Lodge near Bideford in Devon, where he was again listed as a merchant. It is largely as a result of these unfortunate events that information on Henry Nantes has survived.

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Henry Nantes, probably before his bankruptcy.

  

The Henry Nantes Project 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 English bankrupts.

The Henry Nantes Project 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 English bankrupts.


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.

 


Recenty published, the story of a provincial English bankrupt.  This was very much a small town affair, and not a fraction of the scale and complexity of the bankruptcies of some London merchant houses.  It does, however, give considerable insight into what it was like to become a bankrupt under a legal system that had essentially been shaped in the sixteenth-century.

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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 his case studies.


Robert graduated with a BA in Film and Television production from the now sadly disappeared radical and experimental film school that once existed at the (now merged) London School of Printing.  He also holds an MA in Education from the Institute of Education, University of London, and an MA in eighteenth-century English social history from the University of Exeter.

 

Henry Nantes, probably some years after his bankruptcy.

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nantes.me.uk

 

 

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