Login
Get your free website from Spanglefish

Walter Boyd (financier)

Boyd & Benfield (Walter Boyd and Paul Benfield)

Walter Boyd [1753−1837] was a Scottish banker who ran banks in Brussels and Paris before opening a bank in London, along with Paul Benfield, a ‘wealthy Indian nabob of extremely doubtful reputation’. The venture was a combination of Benfield’s money and Boyd’s financial skill. This was in 1794, a month after Britain had gone to war with France and when the prime minister, William Pitt, was seeking large loans to finance the army, navy and home defence. Boyd & Benfield contracted for an £18m loan in a consortium with Goldsmid’s and two other banks; and in 1795 the won a further contract for £18m. There were strong suspicions of underhand dealing since the government offered safeguards against loss on the second loan and no competition was allowed from other banks. When they won yet another contract in 1797 there was an outcry with one newspaper, the Morning Chronicle, declaring that ‘. . . to talk of competition is ridiculous. There is bit one booth in the fair.’ By this point the major private banks would have no dealings with Boyd & Benfield. [Jenny Uglow, In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s War, 1793−1815 (Faber & Faber, London: 2014), pp.94−96; ODNB.]

In 1798 the partnership acquired ten plantations in Berbice: three on the west sea-coast (Mon Choisi, Edderton, and Zeelust); six on the east bank of the Berbice River (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belmont, Union, Welgelegan and Nieuw Welgelegan; and Herstelling on the west bank the river [Naam-Lyst, 1794].

The partnership was dissolved in 1799 and by March 1800 Boyd was bankrupt. Boyd eventually recovered his fortune but Benfield died in poverty in Paris in 1810 [ODNB]. The Berbice plantations passed to Benfield whose two daughters (with their husbands, both with the surname Berkeley) received compensations for 292 slaves on plantations Herstelling and Welgelegan.