Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: September 21, 2019
Webpage updated: January 03, 2020



JOHN COLLIER (1769-1849)

The Collier family were for long known in Plymouth as wine and spirit merchants.  The first to arrive in the Town was Mr Jonathan Collier.  In 1676 he purchased a wine importing business in Southside Street, close to Plymouth's Barbican.  It is said that it was already well established but the family were to make their own mark on the Town over the succeeding two centuries and more.

Mr John Collier is the first of whom we have much information.  He was born on April 18th 1769 and entered his father's business in 1797.  In 1816 he married Miss Emma Porrett, the fourth daughter of Mr Robert Porrett, of North Hill House, Tavistock Road, Plymouth.  They (or more likely, their parents) actually had a pre-nuptual agreement drawn up on April 17th 1816, which is still preserved in the Plymouth & West Devon Record Office.

He was appointed the local agent for Lloyd's, which he remained for some fifty years, and Vice-Consul for Norway, Portugal and Sweden.   He became so well-known as a rare judge of wines that during the war with France he was employed to value the wines seized from the French ships.  He enjoyed good connections with the Royal Navy during that period, which helped him to expand his trade.

Like many businessmen of his era, Mr Collier was a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and was always respected for his integrity and general benevolence.  He was chosen as an Alderman of the Town, a Justice of the Peace and in 1831 was commissioned as a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the County. 

He was elected as Liberal Member of Parliament for Plymouth at the first election after the enacting of the Representation of the People Act in 1832 and served until 1842.

His death came extremely suddenly.  He was at work as normal on the Tuesday but became unwell the following morning.  Mr John Collier died at his home in Old Town Street, Plymouth, on the morning of Wednesday February 28th 1849.

Such was the esteem with which he was held that the flags were lowered on the Guildhall and on the ships in the Port.  The funeral took place on Monday March 5th 1849 and the body was laid to rest in the family vault in the Westwell Street Burial Ground.

The business passed into the hands of his younger brother, Mr William Collier, who had been a partner for many years.  However, he retired on January 18th 1850 and died in 1851 at Plympton.  Control of the firm then passed to Mr William Frederick Collier and Mr Mortimer John Collier, sons of Mr John Collier.