Catalogue description West India Relief Commissioners: Mortgage Indentures

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Details of PWLB 11
Reference: PWLB 11
Title: West India Relief Commissioners: Mortgage Indentures

These records of the West India Relief Commission are mortgage indentures, made out to the Crown, used as securities against loans granted by the commissioners.

They include supporting schedules of slaves, inventories of estates, and proof of ownership such as marriage certificates. Some schedules provide details of the projects the loan was to finance, such as new housing or improvements to plantations.

Date: 1767-1845

The records are arranged geographically by colony, and then by plantation, within 117 folders containing a mix of papers and large flat sheets which are sometimes bound together. The papers are arranged chronologically as items within a piece.

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

West India Relief Commission, 1832-1881

Physical description: 117 papers and flat sheets
Physical condition: These documents have undergone conservation work
Access conditions: Open
Immediate source of acquisition:

Public Works Loan Board

Custodial history: Transferred to the Public Works Loans Board in 1881 and then to the Public Record Office in c1978.
Accumulation dates: 1832 to 1881
Selection and destruction information: These records have been selected according to 0 the management of the economy of these islands when part of the British Empire;, providing evidence of the economic, social and demographic condition of a part of the British Empire as the files contain list of slaves, and give details of the management of plantations; 2.2.2 - providing evidence of the interaction of the state with an important section of the business classes in the West Indies; - providing evidence of the commitment to the maintenance of the security and well-being of the British Empire.
Accruals: No future accruals are expected.
Administrative / biographical background:

The West India Relief Commission was established by an Act of Parliament passed on 16 August 1832. It followed insurrections in Jamaica and hurricanes in other islands which damaged plantations.

The Act directed the issue of Exchequer bills to the sum of £1m, under the control of a Board of Commissioners, They were to distribute these on loan for relief purposes in Jamaica, Barbados, St Lucia, St. Vincent and Trinidad, British Guyana and, by an Act of 1835, Dominica. The loans were secured by the mortgage of estates to the Crown.

The commissioners appointed a secretary in London to whom all applications for loans should be submitted in writing. (This secretary was I S Brickwood, to whom most correspondence was directed through a certain H H Barnes of New Inn, or Ely Place or, latterly, St Helen's Place.) They also appointed Commissioners in Aid in the islands to direct the allocation of funds locally on their behalf.

The abolition of slavery in the British Empire (in 1833) and the declining prosperity of Jamaican sugar put a great strain on many estates. A series of Acts from 1840 to 1856 extended the period of repayment of the loans, at first to ten and then to twenty years, against additional security.

The Acts gave the commissioners powers to sell any estate in default of its annual instalment. The Jamaica Loan Act of 1862 commuted the repayments into an annuity on the revenue of the island and that annuity was then used to pay for the expenses of the government of the island.

The West India Loan Act of 3 July 1879 transferred the powers of the commission to the Public Works Loan Commissioners as from 1 January 1881. From that time all outstanding debts were cancelled and could be considered as a free grant from Parliament, and all moneys owing were transferred to the Exchequer and could be claimed through the Public Works Loan Commissioners and the Treasury.

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