Elihu Yale – The Great Welsh American

In London Dead

Elihu arrived from India in August 1699. He died in London on 8 July 1721. The last twenty-two years of his life were spent between his estate in Wales, Plas Grono, near Wrexham and his London residence in Queen’s Square, Great Ormond Street which he bought in 1710.

His homecoming was saddened by the knowledge of the deaths of his father, mother, elder brother David and his younger brother Thomas who had served him well in India. Sadness would also be tinged with the bitterness of a failed marriage and an estranged wife.

His strong constitution had survived the climate of India and in todays terms, he was a multimillionaire. He followed the practice of lending money and foreclosing on mortgages with two of his Welsh neighbours, Sir Richard Myddleton of Chirk Castle and Joshua Edisbury of Erddig. He continued to correspond with the new Governor of Fort St. George, Thomas Pitt, as both had a good eye and deep pocket for large diamonds. He collected objets d’art on a large scale and when he died left behind him more than 10,000 articles… ‘Pictures, jewels, fine chac’d Philigrew and Household Plate, Gold and silver Watches, Clocks with several motions, Velvets, Broad-Cloths, Silks and Muslins, Mathematical and Surgeons Instruments, curious Fire Arms, Swords and Canes, India Japan Cabinets, fine Snuffboxes with many Curiosities in gold and silver and Agate’.

His manner of life was reported by a mutual friend to Governor Pitt. Mr Yale sits ‘…in his choultry hid in tobacco smoke with a greasy night-gown, a scurvy painter or two drawing him in for some choice pieces in which he is become a very great virtuoso or a bubble. Sometimes you find him set between two diamond cutters, sometimes a broker or two about matching his daughters: and often with the ingenious Sir Charles Cotterell of the Ceremonies’.

Yale’s daughters had been well educated and cared for by their mother. Their father was intent on good marriages. Catherine, the eldest, married Dudley, son of Sir Dudley North, a Merchant with a dowry of £20,000. Of their five children, three sons died as infants. One daughter had several children but no grandchildren. A descendant of the North’s presented Elihu Yale’s portrait by Seeman to Yale University in 1789. His second daughter, Anne married Lord James Cavendish, third son of the first Duke of Devonshire, on 8 July 1708. Elihu Yale found a common interest with the Duke as a fellow collector. From his son-in-law he leased the Manor House of Latimer in Bucks which became the home of his enstranged wife Catherine and their unmarried daughter Ursula.

The old Governor was active in his religious devotions and described himself in his will as ‘a Christian… and an unworthy Son of the Church of England. As by Law Established which I hope God will prosper and increase to the world’s end…’ He subscribed to the publication of a Prayer Book in Welsh in 1711 and was elected a member of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts offering them a hundred guineas for administration and fifty pounds for the maintenance of bishops in America.

Elihu Yale died in London on 8 July and was buried with his family at St. Giles’ Church, Wrexham as recorded ’22 July 1721, Elihu Yale, Esq was Buryed’.

Reproduced from the booklet ‘Elihu Yale the great Welsh American’
ISBN:- 0 9517425 0 7
Copyright © Wrexham Area Civic Society