Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Watson, Brook

WATSON, Sir BROOK (1735–1807), first baronet, merchant and official, born at Plymouth on 7 Feb. 1735, was only son of John Watson of Kingston-upon-Hull, by his second wife, Sarah Schofield. He was left an orphan in 1741. He went to sea, and had his leg taken off by a shark at Havana when he was fourteen. He served as a commissary under Colonel Robert Monckton [q. v.] at the siege of Beauséjour in 1755, and under Wolfe at the siege of Louisbourg in 1758. In 1759 he settled in London as a merchant. He took a leading part in 1779 in the formation of the corps of light-horse volunteers which helped to suppress the riots in the following year. In 1782 he was appointed commissary-general to the army in Canada, under Sir Guy Carleton [q. v.], but returned to England when peace was made in 1783. A pension of 500l. per annum was granted to his wife. He was elected M.P. for the City of London on 6 April 1784, and held the seat till 1793. He was also chosen as a director of the Bank of England. In 1786 he became alderman of the Cordwainers' ward and sheriff. He was chairman of the House of Commons' committee on the regency bill in 1788.

On 2 March 1793 he was appointed commissary-general to the Duke of York's army in Flanders, and resigned his seat in parliament. He served with the army till it returned to England in 1795. Many of his letters are to be found in the war office papers (original correspondence) in the public record office. Lord Liverpool spoke of him as ‘one of the most honourable men ever known’ (Wellington Despatches, Supplementary, ix. 428).

Watson was elected lord mayor of London in November 1796. His year of office was a troubled one. At a common hall on 12 April 1797 a resolution was brought forward ‘to investigate the real cause of the awful and alarming state of public affairs.’ He ruled this out of order, and closed a heated discussion by having the mace taken up. At another hall, on 11 May, he was censured, and a resolution was passed denouncing the ministry for having plunged the country into an unnecessary and unjust war; but he had many supporters.

On 24 March 1798 he was appointed commissary-general to the forces in Great Britain, and on 5 Dec. 1803 he was made a baronet, with remainder to his nephews. He died at East Sheen, Surrey, on 2 Oct. 1807, and was buried at Mortlake. He married, in 1760, Helen, daughter of Colin Campbell, a goldsmith of Edinburgh, but he had no children, and was succeeded in the baronetcy by his great-nephew, William Kay.

[Gent. Mag. 1807, ii. 987; Welch's Modern Hist. of the City of London; Betham's Baronetage, 1805, v. 540.]

E. M. L.