Colston, Edward (DNB00)
|←Colson, Lancelot||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 11
COLSTON, EDWARD (1636–1721), philanthropist, eldest son of William Colston, merchant and sheriff of Bristol, and Sarah, daughter of Edward Batten, barrister-at-law, of the Inner Temple, was born at the house of his mother's parents in Temple Street, Bristol, on 2 Nov. 1636, and is said to have passed his infancy at Winterbourne, Gloucestershire, where his father owned an estate. William Colston was a royalist; he was to some extent concerned in the attempt of Boucher and Yeomans to deliver Bristol to Prince Rupert in March 1643, and in the September following entertained Charles I at his noble house in Small Street, now virtually destroyed, though partially incorporated with the modern Guildhall. Accordingly in October 1645, after the surrender of the city by Rupert, he was removed from his office as alderman by order of the parliament. The disturbed state of the city and the part thus taken by his father in the struggle between the king and the parliament account for Colston's removal to London. He received his education at Christ's Hospital. The next fact known about him is his nomination as a governor of the hospital in 1680. At different dates he gave 2,000l. to this institution. The statements that he resided some time in Spain and was largely engaged in trade with that country (Barret, p. 655) do not appear to rest on any satisfactory ground. His trade lay chiefly with the West Indies, and having been admitted to the freedom of the city of Bristol on 10 Dec. 1683, and becoming a member of the Merchants' Hall a few days later, he is described as 'a free burgess of Bristol and a meire (or St. Kitts') merchant.' At this time he appears to have been residing in Bristol. By 1689, however, he had become a resident at Mortlake, Surrey, and was taking part in parochial affairs there. He visited Bristol occasionally, and his charities there were very large. He founded and endowed almshouses on St. Michael's Hill, and placed them under the care of the Merchant Venturers, 1690-6, and in conjunction with that society enlarged the almshouses for poor sailors in King Street, 1695-9. He also endowed Queen Elizabeth's Hospital, a school for boys, chiefly from lands in Somersetshire, and urged the corporation of the city, the governors of the hospital, to raise the number of scholars from 44 to 120. Hi a desire for the increased efficiency of the school was not warmly received by some of the members of the corporation, who, from one of Colston's letters, appear to have considered an institution of that kind 'a nursery for beggars and sloths.' Accordingly, in 1705, he wrote to the Society of Merchant Venturers offering to build and endow a school for fifty boys and place it under their charge. The society gladly accepted the trust they have ever since nobly fulfilled. During the progress of the building Colston added another fifty boys to the foundation. Colston's School, now removed to Stapleton, Gloucestershire, was founded on St. Augustine's Back, on the site of a Carmelite friary, and was opened by the founder in July 1710. In 1712 he built and endowed a school for forty poor boys to be clothed and educated in Temple parish, which became the origin of the present school in Victoria Street, opened in 1866. He also gave money to various other charity schools in the city. To St. Bartholomew's and four other hospitals in London he gave 5,500l. At Sheen, Surrey, he founded and endowed an almshouse for six poor men, and gave 900l. for the education and clothing of twelve boys and twelve girls at Mortlake.
Colston, though not a nonjuror, was a strong tory and high churchman, and gave large sums to the repair of various churches in Bristol. All his foundations were in strict connection with the church. Writing to the Merchants' Hall in 1717 on the subject of the appointment of a master to his school, he reminds the governors that his object in endowing his 'hospital' was 'not the bare feeding of the one hundred boys,' but that they should 'be bred up in the doctrine of our present established church of England.' When in Bristol he attended I daily service at the cathedral, and each Sunday used to stand at the door to see his boys enter the church. In 1709 he was elected a member of the Society for Promoting Chris-
tian Knowledge, and the next year he instituted a course of Lent lectures in various parish churches in Bristol on 'the primitive discipline and usages of the church of England.' He gave 6,000l. to the governors of Queen Anne's Bounty for the augmentation of small livings. Much that has been said of his narrow-mindedness was the natural consequence of the times in which he lived. His dislike and distrust of whigs and dissenters were shared by all his party, and both sides in politics and religion were equally violent in their words and actions. He was peremptory in his dealings and strict in exacting the deference and obedience he thought due to him from those whom he entrusted to carry out his benevolent schemes. As a strong party man he had many enemies, who misrepresented and hindered his plans and spread untrue reports as to his private life. At the general election in October 1710, Colston, after a four days' poll, was returned as the senior member for Bristol. He did not take an active part in parliament, and seems to have confined himself to presenting petitions on matters which concerned the commercial interests of his constituency. He did not seek re-election after the dissolution of 1713. On his retirement a gross of bottles of sherry of the value of 16l. 18s. 6d. was presented to him by the corporation in acknowledgment of his services. Colston never married, and his house at Mortlake was kept first by his sister and after her death by a niece. He died at Mortlake on 11 Oct. 1721, in his eighty-fifth year. Although he left minute directions for his funeral, which was to be simply conducted, he was buried with much state in All Saints' Church, Bristol. His public charities are known to have amounted to 70,695l., besides the large sums he gave away each year in an unostentatious manner. Nevertheless he died very wealthy. Four portraits of him exist; one belongs to the school he founded on St. Augustine's Back; another, painted by Richardson and engraved by Virtue, was executed by order of the corporation in 1702, at the cost of 17l. 11s., and is still in the council house; a third is in the Merchants' Hall; and the fourth, painted by Kneller in 1693, is in St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London. The effigy on his tomb was executed by Rysbrach from Richardson's portrait. Flowers are still placed on this tomb every Sunday. His memory is also celebrated on 13 Nov. of each year by the Colston or 'Parent' Society, founded in 1726; by the Dolphin Society, established by the tories in 1749; by the Grateful Society, founded in 1758, which belongs to no political party; and by the Anchor Society, founded by the whigs in 1769. At each anniversary large sums are raised by subscription, which are expended on charitable purposes.
[Garrard's Edward Colston, ed. Tovey; Seyer's Memoirs of Bristol, ii. 359; Nicholls's and Taylor's Bristol Past and Present, iii. 121-38; Manchee's Bristol Charities, i. 174, 247, 253, ii. 52.]