The Pinney Family
Bristol Merchants and Plantation Owners
Azariah Pinney (1661-1720)
Azariah was banished from England in 1685 because he was involved in a rebellion against the King. He was forced to leave England with £15 and sailed to the Island of Nevis in the West Indies. However, due to his skill as a businessman, he managed to make money and buy land. Using slaves, he turned this land into a profitable sugar plantation. When Azariah died, he left his sons £23,000.
John Pinney I (1686-1720)
Though he died young John Pinney added to the family fortunes. He married a rich young girl who owned a plantation next to his father's on Nevis. In those days anything owned by a woman immediately belonged to her husband when they married. This enhanced the growing Pinney firtunes.
John Frederick Pinney (1718-1762)
John Frederick only visited Nevis twice. He preferred to leave managers in charge and live the life of a country gentleman in England. He lived well, on the money made for him by his slaves working on his plantation. When he died he left £16,000.
John Pinney II (1740-1818)
John Pinney II was a cousin of John Frederick who had never married. He went to Nevis in 1764. He expressed concerns about the "rights and wrongs" of owning slaves but recognising the money he could make, convinced himself that owning slaves was acceptable.
In a letter dated 1765 he wrote:
"Since my arrival I've purchased 9 Negro slaves in St Kitts and can assure you I was shocked at the first appearance of human flesh for sale. But surely God ordained 'em for the use and benefit of us otherwise his Divine Will would have been made manifest to us by some particular sign or token"
For twenty years he stayed in the West Indies making his plantations as profitable as possible. He left Nevis in 1783 and came home to Bristol worth about £70,000.
In Bristol, he set up in business as a sugar merchant. He made even more money than he had as a plantation owner. He owned grand houses in the country and had a smart new town house built - 'The Georgian House' - now owned by Bristol Museum.
When he died he left £340,000.