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George Richards of St Botolph Aldgate

George Richards


Tobacco Merchant


St Botolph Aldgate

Researched by Clifford Godfrey

George Richards was a leading tobacco merchant in a rapidly expanding trade. John Rolfe had first planted Virginia tobacco in the newly established colony in 1612. Initially cultivated through the labour of indentured workers, the production of tobacco saw a shift as demand surged, leading to its cultivation by enslaved Africans on expansive plantations. London merchants arranged to buy the tobacco in Virginia and had it shipped across the Atlantic.

Born in Southampton to a prosperous family George Richards was sent to London to be apprenticed to a member of the Weavers’ Company. He was later to serve on their Court of Assistants and served under a Captain Philip Foster whom George remembered in his will.

A tobacco label for The Virginia Planters Best Tobacco, showing a pipe-smoking white planter surrounded by slaves with long-handled hoes; one of latter shades the former from the sun with an umbrella - Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

George later lived in Gravel Lane near St Botolph Aldgate with his wife Anne and children. He attended meetings of the parish vestry which governed the parish, one of the poorest in London. Membership was restricted to a very small minority, perhaps just 3% of the local population, who were entitled because they owned property. George was also appointed as local assessor of the 4/- in the pound tax levied in 1693 to finance King William’s war with France.

When George died in 1694 he was buried in the St Botolph’s church. His substantial fortune was inherited by his daughter Sarah who married Richard Perry, another prominent tobacco merchant.


Local churches were the focal point of sixteenth-century City life. Weekly worship and all the milestones of parishioners’ lives took place here: christenings, marriages and funerals. Many churches were lost in the Great Fire.

Read the stories of four that either survived or succumbed to the flames, and how they reemerged from the ruins.

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