Material Relating to the West Indies from the Senhouse Papers : 1762 - 1831.

Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LFR .S4J6P3
Category: Family
Creator: Senhouse, Joseph, Sir, fl.1770-1790, and Senhouse, William, 1741-1800.
Description: 2 microfilm textual records () ; 35 mm
            William Senhouse and his brother Joseph (later Sir Joseph Senhouse) were the sons of Humphry and Mary Senhouse of Netherhall, near Maryport, Cumberland, England. After their early education, both men spent several years at sea; William as a midshipman in the Royal Navy from 1755-1769, and Joseph as a midshipman in the India trade. 

In 1770, William Senhouse was appointed surveyor-general of customs in Barbados and the Windward and Leeward Islands. Joseph Senhouse became the collector of customs in Dominica in 1774. During the period of the American Revolution when Dominica was occupied by the French, Joseph was appointed by his brother, William, to the office of collector of customs at Bridgetown, Barbados. In 1779, Joseph left the Islands and returned to England. He resided in Carlisle where he was elected mayor of the city. Later, through the influence of the family benefactor, Sir James Lowther, 5th Baronet and member of Parliament for Carlisle, he received a Knighthood.

Meanwhile, William Senhouse remained in Barbados and continued with his duties until the customs office there was abolished in 1787. From that time until his death, his focus became the improvement of his extensive sugar plantations where he and his wife, Mary Samson Wood, raised a large family, and he lived the life of a prosperous gentleman planter.

            The microfilm of the Senhouse Papers consists, primarily, of the records of Joseph Senhouse together with a 363 page memoir entitled, Recollections of William Senhouse. The Joseph Senhouse papers contain memoirs; letterbooks; several waste books and account books; observations; maps; leases; plantation estimates and a memorandum book; as well as a record of his experiences as a customs officer. General topics and subjects covered in the Papers include agriculture, slavery, race, Black history, geography, natural history, weather, ships, shipping, commerce, and trade.

Unfortunately, Volume 1 of the Joseph Senhouse memoirs is missing. Plantation and slave records make up a substantial portion of the Papers. Other topics of interest in the Joseph Senhouse memoirs include the discussion of privateering activity and the notes in "Observations of Barbados" on "An unsolved Barbados mystery" concerning a purported poltergeist. The Recollections of William Senhouse, record his activities and travels as a customs officer and as a planter. He describes his difficulties with bad crops, drought, insects, and in particular, records a vivid description of a hurricane in 1780 that killed over two thousand slaves, thousands of horses and cattle and caused damage amounting to over one million pounds sterling on the island of Barbados.

The Senhouse Papers are valuable for the fascinating glimpse they provide into the life and society of the West Indies, before, during, and immediately following the American Revolution. NOTE: An index card created by the Cumbria Council Archives Department is filmed at the beginning of each document section.



1. Account book of private trade shipped on a voyage of the Earl of Middlesex to the East Indies, 1766-8

2. Book containing estimates and other memoranda concerning Joseph Senhouse's plantations in Tobago and the Ellenborough Estate, 1772, coast guard vessels in the West Indies; duties collected at Roseau, Dominica; accounts for the sloop Polly; plantation operations; crops (cacao, cotton, sugar); expenses surrounding enslaved people; etc., 1768-74

3. Joseph Senhouse's summary account book for Dominica, 1771-3

4. Lease for 40 years of 10 acres of land in St. David's parish, Dominica to Bartholomew Rosseau, 18 May 1772; also two related letters

5. Memoirs of Dominica by Joseph Senhouse, includes discussions of natural history, colonialism, military, climate, diplomacy, agriculture, geography, and government.Appendix titled "Of the Cultivation and Manufacture of Indigo."(see transcription under Electronic Finding Aids)

6. Joseph Senhouse's account book relating to the West Indies and Cumberland transaction, 1772-3. Includes cash accounts, duties accounts, stock accounts, incidentals, expenses, bills of exchange, accounts of William Senhouse, the Ellenborough Estate, Bartholomew Rosseau and the sloop Polly, profits and losses, officers, various individual accounts

7. Joseph Senhouse's letters and general memorandum book for Dominica and Barbados, 1772-7. Copies of letters written from Barbados together with memoranda on past and future correspondence; letters and memoranda from London and Dominica; accounts from Barbados; includes list of books purchased.

8. Joseph Senhouse's waste book (rough entries of transactions created before journal) accounts and memoranda for Barbados, Dominica, London and Cumberland, 1772-88

9. Joseph Senhouse's cash journal for Barbados and Dominica, 1776-7; also includes accounts of William Senhouse and other individuals and cash account current in England for 1773-5 etc.

10. Joseph Senhouse's cash account book for Barbados, Dominica and London, 1778-80

11. Joseph Senhouse's waste book accounts for London and Cumberland including Arkelby Hall farming accounts, 1789-90; includes household goods, servants wages, varieties of plants bought, clothes, bedding, tools, spices, alcohol, furniture, etc.

12. Lowther Hall (Dominica) cash account books, 1772-6: Ledger, Journal, Cash book; Memoranda of purchase of property and accounts of purchase of miscellaneous items relating to the estate; Map of location

13. Account book of remittances made by Joseph Senhouse as Collector of HM Customs at Port of Roseau, Dominica, 1772; Also includes several copy letters written in Barbados concerning bills of exchange

14. Account book of fees etc. received by Joseph Senhouse as Comptroller of HM Customs at Roseau, Dominica, 1774-6; lists of ships

15. Settlement upon the marriage of Sir Joseph Senhouse with Mary Ashley of Ashby St. Ledgers, 29 October 1787

16. Memoirs of Joseph Senhouse, journal format, volume 3, commencing in Barbados, 1 January 1779; records many social enagagements

17. Recollection of William Senhouse (1741-1800), Surveyor General of Barbados and the Leeward Island

18. "Observations on Barbados" by Joseph Senhouse, 1780

19. Printed copy of a letter on Graham Island, near Sicily, written on 5 August 1831 by Captain Humphrey Fleming Senhouse

20. Joseph Senhouse's cash account book, 1762-6; Accounts of transactions in Calcutta, Madras, Bengal, Falmouth, St. Helena, etc.; genealogical lists


20. Joseph Senhouse's account books, 1762-6 continued

21. Memoirs of Joseph Senhouse, volume 2, commencing in Barbados, 2 June 1776

22. Notes on Joseph Senhouse's lands in Dominica, 1771-6

23. Plans and notes on woodlands purchased, 1772

24. Grant of land by George III to Joseph Senhouse, 7 April 1772

25. Two letters, 1826-7

26. Map of Lowther Hall, Barbados, nd.

Originals: The original records are held by the Carlisle Record Office (now Carlisle Archive Centre, Cumbria County Council).
Archival Ref. No.:
Finding Aids:
            A finding aid, prepared by Richard B. Sheridan, University of Kansas, consisting of biographical notes on the lives of William and Joseph Senhouse, a general description of the Papers, a numbered contents list with microfilm reel numbers, and a bibliography accompanies the microfilm. Note that the document numbers are not evident on the film and documents were not filmed in chronological order. 

Online: The finding aid can be accessed online from  Microform Academic Publishers.

A subject-specific finding aid detailing material relating to privateering is also available electronically; see Electronic Finding Aid section.            
Electronic Finding Aid Record: Privateers in the Senhouse Papers.pdf
Notes: The Senhouse Papers is one of several titles in the series, British Records Relating to America in Microform, which are published under the auspices of the British Association for American Studies by Microform Limited.

The background material provided by the author of the Introduction has been a source of much useful information in the preparation of this Inventory description.

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