Sir Charles Raymond

Charles Raymond was born in 1713, the son of John Raymond, a gentleman of substance who had connections with the East India Company. He was brought up at Withycombe Raleigh, now a part of Exmouth, Devon, and the sea must have been in his blood. At the age of about 16 he served as a purser on the Dawsonne on a trip to Madras and Bengal. He returned to India five more times, once as 3rd mate on the Prince of Wales and four times as the captain of the Wager.

The last voyage Charles Raymond made involved 117 weeks away from the coast of Britain, from May 1744 to September 1746. The Wager spent a total of 64 weeks at sea at a time when scurvy was a major threat and navigators still had no means of locating longitude. While at anchor in the "River of Bengall" eight of the crew died of a "malignant fever" and the captain must have had a heavy heart when he recorded the death of the purser, Thomas Webster, in the ship's log. Thomas has become his brother-in-law a few months before the voyage started and this was his first voyage.

As captain, Charles was entitled to engage in private trade which allowed him to build up sufficient funds to invest in ships working for the East India Company. As soon as he retired as captain, in 1747, he became a "ship's husband", the Principal Managing Owner of a ship responsible for the organisation of the voyage, engaging the captain and crew and negotiating with the Directors of the East India Company. In the following forty years, until his death, he was by far the most important and influential Principal Managing Owner of his time, responsible for 113 voyages.

The wealth that he accumulated with these voyages enabled him to invest in many ways and in the early 1760s he purchased the original painting of Southwark Fair by William Hogarth. He became a founder member of a bank known as Raymond, Williams, Vere, Lowe and Fletcher. This later became Williams Deacon's Bank and is now part of the Royal Bank of Scotland. He was also involved with Harley, Cameron & Co. another banking firm in which Donald Cameron (who later lived at Valentines) was a partner. Cameron later took over Raymond's shipping interests.

Charles Raymond married Sarah Webster in 1743 and by this time I think Charles had inherited the family property in Devon while Sarah was co-owner of an estate in Bromley as well as having connections with Wapping. Parish records show they had several children who died young. Their eldest surviving child was a daughter, Sophia, who was born on 11 April 1753. Two younger sisters, Juliana and Anna Maria, also grew up at Valentines which their father purchased in 1754.

At that time the building was more compact than the mansion we know today. The dairy wing was a separate entity with large glass windows, used as a conservatory or orangery. The main entrance was on the opposite side of the building, under the balcony - the porte cochere was not added to the house for another fifty years. In 1769 it was substantially rebuilt and three rain-water hoppers still bear that date with the Raymond symbol today. The line drawing frequently used as an illustration of the Georgian house dates from 1771, not long after the work was completed.

Charles Raymond took a keen interest in his garden, planting a Black Hamburg Vine in 1758. A cutting of this was taken to Hampton Court ten years later and it is still flourishing there now. In 1771 it is recorded that there was a collection of "curious birds and other animals" in the garden and, I suspect, the Cedar of Lebanon tree was probably becoming established by then. The estate owned by Raymond covered a substantial amount of land stretching from the Roding to Ley Street, with other properties in the district.

The early 1770s were happy years for Charles Raymond. In 1771-2 he was Sheriff for the County of Essex and in 1774 he was created a baronet. In 1773 his eldest daughter, Sophia, married William Burrell, a close relative. Sophia was a very good catch - the announcement of the marriage in the Gentleman's Magazine mentions she was worth £100,000. William was twice her age and a very learned man, interested in "antiquarian pursuits". The couple had three sons and two daughters but Sophia still found time for writing and it is for this that she was given an entry in the Dictionary of National Biography. Her work included poetry, two volumes of which were published in 1793, and two tragedies.

Lady Sarah Raymond died in 1778 and soon after this Charles moved from Valentines to live at Highlands, a house he had built not long before on land he owned. This had been home to fellow East India captain, managing owner and banker William Webber. Webber and Raymond had grown up together in Devon and married two sisters. The tower he built in the grounds at Highlands, intended as a family mausoleum, later became known as Ilford Castle.

In 1781 Raymond's youngest daughter, Anna Maria, married a young man well known to her father. Thomas Newte had served on a number of ships owned by Sir Charles Raymond, and made two voyages as a captain. He also became a Principal Managing Owner himself, although sadly Anna Maria died two years after they married.

Sir Charles Raymond died in 1788. His obituary in the Gentleman's Magazine reported that on 24 August Sir Chas.Raymond, bart., banker died at Highlands, his house near Ilford, and that he left his whole fortune equally divided between his two daughters, independent of their husbands, and afterwards to their children. By this time Juliana was married to Henry Boulton, Esq, of Leatherhead, Surrey, of which county he was Sheriff in 1783. His father had served with the East India Company much as Raymond had done, and he became a Managing Owner for the Company himself. The baronetcy passed to William Burrell. The couple inherited considerable wealth and property, including half the manor of Knepp in West Sussex which Charles had purchased the year before he died.