Robert Milligan

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Robert Milligan (1746 – 21 May 1809) was a prominent Scottish merchant and ship-owner, and was the driving force behind the construction of the West India Docks in London.[1]

Having grown up on his wealthy family's sugar plantations in Jamaica, Milligan left Jamaica in 1779 to establish himself in London,[2] living in Hampstead for a period.[3] In 1809, the year of his death, Milligan owned 526 slaves who worked at his sugar plantation called Kellet's and Mammee Gully.[4]

West India Docks[edit]

Outraged at losses due to theft and delays at London's riverside wharves, Milligan headed a group of powerful businessmen who planned and built West India Docks,[5] which was to have a monopoly on the import into London of West Indian produce such as sugar, rum and coffee for a period of 21 years.[6] The Docks' foundation stone was laid in July 1800, when Milligan was Deputy Chairman of the West India Dock Company – his strong connections with the political establishment of the day were evident from those attending the ceremony, the stone being laid by Lord Chancellor Lord Loughborough and Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger as well as Company chairman George Hibbert and himself.[7]

The Docks officially opened just over two years later in August 1802. Milligan later also served as Chairman of the Company.


Statue of Robert Milligan in front of the Museum in Docklands, by Vincent Butler RSA

Following his death in May 1809, the Company commissioned a commemorative statue from sculptor Richard Westmacott.[8] The statue currently stands in front of the Museum in Docklands on West India Quay, where it was originally erected (1813–1875) before being relocated to the nearby Main Gate (1875–1943), held in storage and later re-erected at the London Docks. It was re-erected at West India Quay in February 1997 by the London Docklands Development Corporation.[9]

Milligan has also had a local street named after him: Milligan Street is located near Westferry DLR station, just off Narrow Street, Limehouse.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "The Regarde Bien". Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  2. ^ "The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce – History". Archived from the original on 12 March 2007. Retrieved 19 July 2006.
  3. ^ "'Hampstead: Belsize', A History of the County of Middlesex". Hampstead, Paddington. 1989. pp. 51–60. Retrieved 19 July 2006.
  4. ^ "1811 Jamaica Almanac - Clarendon Slave-owners". Retrieved 2016-01-31.
  5. ^ "Robert Milligan (c.1746-1809). - The working Thames". Port Cities. 2012-11-19. Retrieved 2016-01-31.
  6. ^ "Docklands Light Railway - Teachers' Resource Pack" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 June 2006. Retrieved 19 July 2006.
  7. ^ J. Burrow & Co. Ltd., ed. (1927). "Official Guide to the Metropolitan Borough of Poplar". Cheltenham. Retrieved 2016-01-31.
  8. ^ Robert Milligan statue
  9. ^ "Public Monument and Sculpture Association – Robert Milligan". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 19 July 2006.