Helmsman graphicMonitor graphicHelmsman graphic The Cozens/Byrnes Merchants Networks Project - Updated 27 March 2012

You can find an article in a timeframe near this in the file on Joseph Noy, Shipbuilder for Peter the Great.

More on British Bankers

Samuel Holden d.1740

By Ken Cozens

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Samuel Holden, Bank Governor,

Friend of the Colonies, British Agent for Peter the Great

The Hon. Samuel Holden was a merchant of London. By his talents, integrity, and great capacity in mercantile affairs, he raised himself to a seat in Parliament, and became a leading Director of the Bank of England. At the time of his death, 13 June, 1740, his estate was valued at £80,000 pounds sterling. Unfeigned piety and abounding charities added lustre and power to the other excellencies of his character.

(Samuel C. Damon, The History of Holden, Massachusetts 1667-1841).

Samuel Holden was a merchant, a governor of the Russia Company from 1728 to 1740, MP for Looe in Cornwall, and a director, deputy-governor and, in 1728, governor, of the Bank of England. (Note1)

He was a man who wore many hats throughout his life. He first learnt his merchant's trade as a young man in Riga, where the Thornton family were also a significant force. (As described in The Bank of England and Slavery, by Suzanne J. Davis in the March 2006 issue of a Bank of England in-house magazine, The Old Lady.)

In Russia, Samuel was to meet his future business partner, Matthew Shiffner, whose wife Agnata had been a governess to the niece of Peter the Great, and who had extensive contacts in the Baltic trade. This connection might explain why Samuel was later chosen by Peter the Great to act as a London agent for Peter's shipbuilding ambitions, by arranging for Russian apprentices to learn English shipbuilding techniques in the dockyards of London, and to act as an agent for the procurement of cloth for Russia's army uniforms.

Other City merchants, such as Andrew Stiles, friend and confidant of Peter I, had personal contact with Peter, but Samuel Holden was the one chosen by the British government for many delicate diplomatic negotiations. Stiles had personally financed most of the arrangements for Peter's "embassy" to England in 1698.

Stiles and Holden also secured lucrative monopolies on the import and export of certain goods. After returning to London from Russia, Samuel became a partner in a counting house in Winchester Street, together with Matthew Shiffner. Undoubtedly, this was when his business expertise came to the attention of many in the City fraternity.

But Samuel had strong sympathies towards the Dissenter's cause, which later led to him becoming elected to the politically sensitive position of Chairman of the Dissenting Deputies Committee, at the time of the Walpole Administration, a role which required great skills of diplomacy considering Samuel Holden's gatheringly prominent position in The City.

Holden had many interesting business, social, and family connections, often as a result of his acting in different guises on other people's behalf. Sometimes he worked as a banker, agent, merchant, or an attorney. An example of this can be found in a document dated 1726, now held at the Hampshire Record Office.

Here he is found acting as an attorney on behalf of Richard Cozens (an English Shipwright to Peter the Great, then resident in St. Petersburg), with regard to some property held by Cozens in Gosport.

Although Samuel's family later had family connections in Hampshire through the Jolliffes, (another prominent merchant family, who were trading in rice and tobacco with the American colonies), it does appear that he may have had some earlier dealings with Richard Cozens the shipbuilder, who at one time had been building ships on the Isle of Wight with another important British shipbuilder, Joseph Noy.


To find your way to more files on Merchant Networks topics related either chronologically, or alphabetically by merchant surname, go to the main file of Listings.

Isle of Wight then was a centre for the re-export of rice and tobacco, which was off-loaded at Cowes, and then re-exported to the Continent. The Jolliffes, who used the Port of Poole for other aspects of their business, were also related to another very prominent Hampshire merchant family, the Goodfellows, who again were involved in the tobacco trade, and also had links with the Baltic states.

The fact that there were a number of the prominent merchant families living in Hampshire that the Cozens family knew, such as the Paggens of the Isle of Wight and of London, the Nortons and the Flowerdews, plus the Baylys, who all had connections with the Virginia tobacco trade, does also raise the question of whether any merchant ships were actually built for them by the Cozens family of shipbuilders.

As to the name Cozens, the Beckford family, with their great wealth based on West India plantations, and another famous city family name, became patrons of both Alexander and John Robert Cozens, (the latter the famous landscape-artist son, and grandson of Richard Cozens the shipbuilder), might also have been connected to Holden, especially through his numerous city dealings, where face-to-face dealing was conducted best within trusted circles. After all, the Beckfords were an influential and extremely rich merchant family who not only lived in eighteenth century London, but also owned property in Bath, (where John Pine and his family also resided), which may partly explain the connection between Richard Cozens Senior, and Holden.

Richard Cozens may indeed have had some personal knowledge of William Beckford Senior, it seems more likely that any such acquaintance came about through Samuel Holden, in his capacity as an agent for the British shipbuilders working for Peter the Great. Although, there is the possibility that Cozens may have been a small investor in one of Holden's commercial enterprises, such as tobacco, property, or even the West India trade, in which the Beckfords were also represented.

Samuel Holden and his family lived in a magnificent Palladian mansion, Roehampton House, now a Grade I listed building of the UK, which dates back to 1712, when it was built to the design of Thomas Archer as the country villa for Thomas Carey. The original house was noted for its frescoes and ornate ceilings and survives today as Queen Mary's Hospital; it appears in Vitruvius Britannicus c.1750. With its ceiling subject The Feast of Gods, painted by Sir James Thornhill, and the great marble cistern in the dining-room, together with a fine tapestry, and marble tables in the hall, the mansion enabled the Holden family to play host to some of London's eighteenth century "great and good".

The strong interest and involvement that Samuel had with movements for religious and social reform are highlighted by his connection to Reverend Colman and Reverend Bray, whilst for the Holdens, the Jolliffes, Goodfellows, Flowerdews, and Russia Company associates represented some of the best 18th century connections for merchant society. One factor which may have influenced Holden's great concern for the American colonies, in particular Massachusetts, was his lifelong correspondence with the Rev. Colman, who advocated greater religious freedom and social equality. Perhaps this could partly explain why Samuel often contributed towards the furtherance of reform groups, particularly through his many donations for Bibles, religious education and charititable activity in the American colonies.

In fact, after Samuel Holden's death, his widow Jane fulfilled a wish specified in his Will, and made a further bequest in excess of £5000 sterling (£5000 in 1740, the year of Holden's death, was equivalent to £490,261.75 in 2002 values), which helped fund the building of the Holden Chapel, which still stands today on the Harvard University campus.

Samuel Holden played an important part in advocating religious freedom as well has encouraging the development of the American colonies. Through his astute business acumen he was successful enough to be able to bestow many charitable acts, but skilled enough to play a vital diplomatic role for the government at the same time, thereby helping to cement Anglo-Russian relations while British interests were expanding on the global stage. Holden's efforts helped further international trade, provide economic stability, but also importantly produced revenue for the state, through the increased standing of British institutions overseas.

Men such as Samuel Holden played another important role during the eighteenth century, helping to foster international relations and build British infrastructure. It is also evident that he was a man immensely respected for his honesty, integrity, and charity.

Perhaps some of the words expressed in the dedication to Mrs Holden in Samuel Holden's eulogy by his life-long friend, the Rev. Colman, can best sum up his achievement and give us the measure of the man:

The tears of New England flow over to you in the sermon, herewith presented; nor those only of the Preacher who owns himself the most obliged to weep with you, nor those of the poorer ministers and members of Christ alone who have tasted alone his Bounties, …, also the Rulers and Fathers of our Province in General Court assembled, His Excellency our Governor appearing at their head as Chief Mourner, present themselves here as following the heart of the most Generous Patron and Benefactor of our Country.

(Taken from: Dr Colman's Sermon on the Death of Samuel Holden Esq., of London. Preached at the Public Lecture 4 Sept 1740, Boston, New England).







Holden was Chairman of the Dissenting Deputies Committee (1732). He also corresponded regularly with many eminent churchmen of the day, including Reverend Bray and Reverend Colman, and was to become a prominent supporter of religious freedom, particularly in the American colonies, where the town of Holden, Massachusetts, was later named in his honour

Note1: Greenwich Maritime Institute, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich.

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Arrow graphicReferences other: (This article first uploaded to the Net on 26-5-2006) Suzanne J. Davis, The Bank of England and Slavery, The Old Lady, March 2006 (A Bank of England in-house magazine.)

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