William Lambton


  • Richest of the Rich position: 137
  • Birth/Death: 1764-1797
  • Origin of wealth: Coal mine owner
  • Wealth: £1m
  • Net National Income: £220m
  • Net National Income Percent: 0.45%
  • In Today’s Money: £4.994 billion

The Lambton family went back to the twelfth century in north Durham, but they moved from prosperous gentry to the super-rich class and one of the wealthiest commoner families in England in the eighteenth century. Coal was discovered beneath the Hedworth estate (which had come to the Lambtons by marriage in 1696) on the banks of the Wear.

Lambton’s father, an army general, became an MP and was succeeded in parliament by his son in 1787. Young Lambton was a radical firebrand, closely aligned with Fox and in favour of parliamentary reform. He spoke eloquently and passionately in the Commons against war with France in 1793, in favour of press freedom and against the suspension of habeas corpus in the early and difficult days of the war with revolutionary France.

In 1794, his father died leaving him an annual income of around £35,000 a year. But Lambton’s health was poor. He went to Italy to recover in 1796, but died of consumption at Pisa a year later. He was worth around £1m, or 0.45% of the £220m net national income at the time. In today’s terms that would be £4.9bn.

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