William Watts (1722 - 4 August1764) was chief of the Kasimbazar (or Cossimbazar) factory of the British East India
Company. He lived in Bengal for a long
time and he was proficient in Bangla,
Hindustani and Persian languages.
His long interactions with the people of the country enabled him to
know about the native customs, habits and manners. In business
affairs, he was in close contact with the great merchant princes of
the time. This led Robert
Clive, known as 'Clive of India' to entrust William Watts with
the responsibility of acting as the representative of the company
to the Nawab's court at Murshidabad.
Robert Clive engaged him to work out a secret plan for the final
overthrow of Siraj Ud Daulah
install a favourable Nawab
on the masnad
. Watts thus set up contact with the dissident
amirs of the Murshidabad durbar including Mir
Jafar, Rai Durlabh and Yar Latif Khan.
William Watts played a
vital role in forging the grand conspiracy against Siraj Ud Daulah
which led to his final overthrow at the Battle of Plassey
. On 5 June 1757 he
personally visited Mir Jafar and obtained his oath of
recognition of his services he was given £114,000 from the Nawab's
treasury and made the governor of Fort William on 22 June 1758, in place of Roger Drake who had
deserted the fort when it was attacked and captured in June
This had been the location of the Black Hole of Calcutta
on June 20
Four days later he resigned in favour of Robert Clive to return to
He wrote a book Memoirs of the Revolution in Bengal
was published in 1764.
return to England he built the South Hill Park mansion which lies to the
south of Bracknell, Berkshire which is now an
1764, he was in the process of buying Hanslope Park, Hanslope, Buckinghamshire, but died in that
The sale was completed for his son Edward, who
became Lord of the Manor
William is buried in the Watt vault in Hanslope church.
William was born in 1722 in Glasgow, Scotland.
On 24 March 1749 William married Frances Altham, née Croke (10
April  1728 - 3 February 1812) in Calcutta, the twice-widowed
second daughter of Edward Croke (1690 - 12 Feb 1769) the Governor
of Fort St. David, Bengal and Isabella Beizor.
Watt died August 1764, leaving three surviving children (one child
William died in infancy):
- Edward Watt (1750 - 9 April 1830) later of Hanslope Park in the
County of Bucks; he married Florentina Wynch (1761 - 21 February
1832), daughter of a Governor of Madras, and had a daughter Amelia
(1781 - 1862). Edward and Florentina also had two sons, the elder
dying aged 22, and the younger William Watts (d. 1847) succeeding
to the manor in 1828.
- Amelia Watt, a lady of great beauty (22 Dec 1750 - 20 Jul 1770
bur.) married (as his first wife) British politician Charles Jenkinson, 1st
Earl of Liverpool on 9 February 1769, and died aged 19 not long
after giving birth to the future British Prime Minister
- Sophia Watt, later Mrs Ricketts (1755 - 8 June 1830) married
George Poyntz Ricketts (1749 - 8 April 1800) of Grove Place,
Hampshire, Governor of Barbados 1794 - 1800, eldest son of Jacob
Ricketts of Midgham, Jamaica, by his wife Hannah Poyntz, daughter
of Joseph Poyntz, and had five children:
- George Poyntz Ricketts the younger (1774-1815) who left issue,
one son and two daughters,
- Charles Milner Ricketts (1776-1867) who was Consul-General of
Peru 1825. He served in the Bengal Civil Service 1791 to 1823, and
was appointed to the Supreme Council in 1817. He was thus probably
in Bengal when his maternal grandmother died.. He served as
Dartmouth 1820-1822. He had issue including:
- Poyntz Ricketts(1803 - 1825), his son, served in the Bombay
- Anna Fane Ricketts, who md 9 July 1846 (as his 2nd wife)
Chandos Wren-Hoskyns (1812-1876), of Wroxall Abbey, writer on
agriculture, and second son of Sir Hungerford Hoskyns (1776-1862),
seventh baronet, of Harewood, Herefordshire; their three children
all had tragic fates.
- Mordaunt Ricketts (1786-1862), who left issue
- Rev. Frederick Ricketts (d. 1843), Rector of Eckington, who
left issue, and
- Isabella Ricketts, md Stanlake Batson of Horseheath Lodge and
.Sophia Ricketts outlived her husband and her mother.
- William (b ca 1757-1758) who died an infant
The 'Begum' Johnson
When William Watts died in 1764, Frances returned to India
reportedly to settle his estate, but probably because she had never
been comfortable in Britain. Although a wealthy young widow aged 36
it was ten years before she married William Johnson in 1774, a
chaplain of the Presidency of Fort William. Frances became known
as the 'Begum' Johnson and was the 'grand old
dame' of Calcutta (now Kolkata) society for
By 1787, the Johnson marriage was declared at an end, and Frances
offered William a settlement and an annuity, with which he returned
to England. Frances was 59 years old and never married again.
When she died in Calcutta on 3 February 1812, her funeral was a
grand affair that brought many of Calcutta's most prominent men and
women, including the governor-general, Earl
, together to celebrate the passing of a great life.
Her memorial in St Johns Church, Calcutta 
states 'The oldest British resident in
Bengal, universally beloved, respected and revered'.
- Begum Johnson's memorial at St. John's Church,
Calcutta. This was Frances' third marriage. She had first
married in 1738, in her thirteenth year, one Parry Purpler Templer
who died five years later; both their children died young. She then
married 2ndly James Altham, who died shortly after their wedding
circa 1747. She remained a widow for two years, and then married
William Watt, aged about 23/24. Frances would be known to history
as Begum Johnson, by the name of her last husband, Rev William
Johnson, principal chaplain of Fort William, whom she married in
1774, ten years after the death of her third husband. For a fuller biography, which details her career in
1756, when she and her husband were honorably treated by the Nawab
of Bengal. Mrs Watts returned to India around 1769, possibly
because she didn't feel comfortable in England, having grown up in
warmer India, and ostensibly to settle her late husband's tangled
- Ibid. The dates are from elsewhere.
- Six generations of the Watts family, four of
them descendants of Edward, were Lords of the Manor of Hanslope,
before selling up to the Heskeths between 1931 and 1939. Retrieved
11 November 2007.
- [www.stirnet.com/HTML/genie/british/qr/ricketts1.htm Ricketts
family genealogy]. The dates for George Poyntz Ricketts are from
- Ibid and Ian Poyntz. "Re: Poyntz family" INDIA-L 15 July 2000,
retrieved 27 November 2008. The younger daughter Frances Ricketts
(1802-1827) married General Sir Abraham Roberts (1784-1873), and
had issue, one son and two daughters. By his second wife, he was
father of Field Marshal Lord Roberts
- Ian Poyntz. "Re: Poyntz Ricketts" INDIA-L 27 November 1998,
message replying to one of his descendants.
- Simon Reynolds et al. "SIR WILLIAM BLAKE RICHMOND, R.A. (1842-1921) Amy,
Dorothea and Hungerford Wren-Hoskyns". Description of a
picture. Retrieved on 27 November 2008.
- [www.stirnet.com/HTML/genie/british/qr/ricketts1.htm Ricketts