John Trotter

Personal data
Born 1713
Died 1790

This biography may be in need of a check-up - there seems to be conflicting information about the identity of the Trotter mentioned by Boswell. The below may be entirely correct, but it needs checking.

Upholsterer. Son of Alexander Trotter (d. 1767) and Anne or Jean Steaurt (1690-1767). Brother of Archibald Trotter. Married (1752) to Anne Locke (d. 1759) with whom he had four children. A niece of his mother's married John Coutts and another niece married William Cochrane, which explains (or confirms) the close ties between Trotter and the Coutts'.1  John Coutts and Archibald Trotter (John Trotter's brother) were also sometime partners in the banking firm which in 1762 was owned by Coutts' sons, James and Thomas.

Trotter came to London as a young man and became wealthy selling home goods to rich Londoners. He is registered as having had a business in Thrift Street, Soho, London from at least 17552  until at least 1789,3  at which point the street had long since changed name to Frith Street.4

Ca. 1780 he seems to have bought Horton Manor, Surrey. The sources are not entirely consistent as to whether this John Trotter was an upholsterer (History of Surrey), army contractor (Topograhy of Surrey) or possibly both, which does, of course, leave room for speculation as to whether it is the same man. It seems, however, that the army contractor John Trotter was, in fact, Trotter's nephew, which should explain the confusion.

Boswell clearly identifies the Trotter in London Journal as a bachelor, not a widower with four children. He may, of course, have been unaware of Mr. Trotter's family situation; the children may well have been taken care of by family members or schools. Perhaps Boswell was just referring to him as a bachelor because he was unmarried, notwithstanding that he had been.

Either John Trotter or his nephew of the same name - or both? - were sometimes referred to as John Trotter of Soho Square. Frith Street lies just next to Soho Square

  • 1
  • 2Kent's Directory for the Year 1755. 22nd edn., 1755, KENT, Henry. London
  • 3Kent's Directory, 1789 ... 57th Edition, 1789, KENT, Henry. London
  • 4Thanks goes to Anne Trotter and Tim Powys-Lybbe for supplying me with additional information about John Trotter
Life with Boswell

Boswell went to dine with a Mr. Trotter in the company of James and Thomas Coutts, and William Cochrane on May 19, 1763. Present were also a Mrs. Elliot, Mr. Stewart, Miss Rutherford and others unnamed. Trotter was described as" originally from Scotland, but has been here so long that he is become quite an Englishman. He is a bachelor, an honest, hearty, good-humored fellow".


Anonymous (not verified)

Sat, 05/28/2011 - 12:31

John Trotter ( b 1756 died 1844 ) was the son of Archibald Trotter ( m Jean Mowbray ) of the Bush near Edinburgh. He lived at 7 Soho Square and Dyrham Park, Herts.

John Trotter became Storekeeper General of the British Army in 1788s through the Napoleonic Wars after which in about 1815 the post was terminated.

He set up the the Soho Bazaar at Soho Square in 1816 and it was eventually closed in the 1880s.

The John Trotter of Horton you refer to is his cousin.



Anonymous (not verified)

Sat, 08/27/2011 - 20:32

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Just a correction: John Trotter died in 1833.  There is a copy of his Will at the National Archives in Kew.

Anne Strathie (not verified)

Wed, 06/12/2013 - 11:27

 I'm doing some research on John Bradford, a friend of James Trotter, who is one of the Trotters referred to in this entry. James Trotter is referred to in John Bradford's will (of which he is executor) as being his 'good friend' and living in Berners Street (which is in Soho) - I've found a London insurance record for 1791 showing a James Trotter living at 59 Berners Street with other properties with the name of Horton, Epsom, Surrey. John Bradford was a career soldier, including being a quartermaster and regimental agent (so involved in buying goods), so the fact that John and/or James Horton were army suppliers fits in perfectly. John Bradford banked at Coutts (although he's not gentry), so the fact the Trotters have links to the bank also fits in. I'm now left with the question as to which James Trotter this is - do you have any evidence of either of them having lived in Berners Street?
Thank you very much

Brian Bouchard (not verified)

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 13:35

James 1754 - 1833 was the son and heir of John the upholster, Soho Square and Horton Manor, Epsom, Surrey, Father died 1790. James had been admitted to Inner Temple on 12 July 1770.

The association of Horton with Berners Street suggests that he is the man you are seeking